All Time Low is one of those bands that occupies a strange and special place in my heart. Despite listening to them for years, I just recently got the opportunity to see them live for the first time at the San Diego date of the final Warped Tour. Their set was incredibly fun and definitely unforgettable ,but for me at least, one thing was missing: Stella. Was it surprising that my favorite All Time Low song, track 2 off 2009's Nothing Personal didn't make the six-song Warped cut? No, but after waiting so long to see this band and getting a taste of their contagious onstage energy, I wanted absolutely nothing more than to experience that again; this time magnified by Jack Barakat's fast-paced guitar, Rian Dawson and Zack Merrick's killer rhythm section, and Alex Gaskarth's vocals belting out a desperate love song to a controlling vice. I wanted "Stella".
So, when I watched the band's Summer Ever After pre-tour diary confirming that they were indeed playing this song live again, I jumped at the opportunity and rushed to check out tour dates. I soon realized, however, that there were no SoCal dates to be seen. The band was slated to stop in San Francisco, there was only a vague tweet from Gaskarth promising that they had "something special" planned for LA to be announced (this turned out to be their headliner at Emo Nite Day, a story for another day!). A guaranteed shot to hear "Stella", but no shows around me within a hundreds of miles? I could not let that stand in my way.
So, naturally, I did what I thought was logical in this situation: buy a ticket, an All Time Low Meet & Greet, and start looking up airfare from LAX to Phoenix Sky Harbor. My efficient plan went like this: I'd be in and out of Arizona in less than a day. On Monday, skip class, fly out at 8 am, arrive to my destination around 9:30, get a Lyft from the airport to the venue, and sit out until meet and greet/showtime. Since it was a GA show, lining up ensured I had somewhere to be all day and a secured barricade spot. Then I watch the show, Lyft back to the airport, and crash on the floor in lieu of a hotel until my 6 am return flight to LAX, after which I'd get home and take a huge nap. Despite some anxiety over all this (and concerned responses from friends and family), I told myself this was all part of an important personal journey.
It seemed risky for a 19 year old girl to travel solo to an unknown state for a concert, but it was in the name of bravery and independence (and "Stella"). I figured that I had to practice doing things on my own more, and although this isn't the most typical or the safest example of that, this day-trip was one of the best experiences I've had this year. Although I basically knew how I was going to get there, this piece belongs in this series because it took a lot for me to decide that I was actually going through with it, and the personal uncertainty was mind-numbing. I dealt with a pretty bad anxiety disorder during high school, and even though through the years I've made great leaps of progress managing and overcoming it, the idea of this trip definitely made it flare up. In fact, the Meet & Greet I purchased was solely a push to actually go to this show, since it's much harder to bail on yourself when you spent extra money to meet one of your favorite bands. The days leading up to the trip were stressful, comprising of me making frantic trips to the dollar store for snacks and triple-checking my flight information and single carry-on to make sure everything was in order. Suffice to say, I did not get any sleep before I left. Monday, October 8th, at the crack of dawn, I was on my way to the airport, ready for this little great adventure.
When I arrived after my short flight, I bought an overpriced salad at my terminal and made my way to the rideshare pickup area. I made lovely small talk with my driver for about 4 minutes, until we arrived at my destination, The Van Buren in Phoenix. From across the street, I looked around, seeing a very calm and empty area, with the exception of the band's tour buses parked to the side. Walking past the box office and main entrance, a feeling of dread set in, as I realized I was probably going to be sitting on a sidewalk alone in a slightly sketchy part of town. Luckily, it didn't come down to that, as I turned a corner to see a singular girl in a Motionless In White hoodie sitting against a wall. I instantly knew I'd found the right spot and the right person. Her name was Alicia; I sat down next to her and we started talking, kicking off our hours-long wait with previous concert stories and hilarious anecdotes. As time went on, a few more people arrived, and Alicia and I soon had our very own concert squad of friends we'd made in line (including a wonderful security guard we'll call SG). These people were what made my day so wonderful. To my surprise, I wasn't the only one who had flown out for the show! We came from all over the southwest and clicked instantly over our common passion for music. What's even better is that we all had each other's backs.
Every good concert I go to is like this- from sharing food, to playing Heads Up to pass the time, or holding your spot at barricade while you get merch, the friends you make in line for a show are your family for that night. That good energy carried well into the meet and greet and show, which all left me smiling from ear to ear. All Time Low's meet and greet was a great experience, as I got to hug and talk to the four freakishly tall boys, make jokes about friendship bracelets and sorority poses for our picture, and my personal favorite moment: getting to tell Ashley Osborn how much I love her photography work, and telling Jack Barakat to shut up when he jokingly expressed his annoyance at it. The show was obviously fantastic, and I screamed louder than I ever have in my life for "Stella". After all this, I was ready to go home, with the best day ever and a handful of show confetti in my back pocket. Alicia very kindly offered me a ride back to the airport, and remarked, "We're sisters now, text me when you get home safe". Later that night, as I tried to fall asleep on the hard carpeted floor of Terminal 3, the happy memories of the past 24 hours flooded my mind. As my eyes slowly closed, I let the music in my headphones say everything that was left to say. "... Stella, would you take me home?".
This piece is a re-post from our November issue, serving a new and important purpose: if you liked hearing about the first time I ever traveled for All Time Low, keep an eye out for this month's magazine issue covering the exciting trip halfway across the world to catch them headlining Slam Dunk Fest 2019!