Maren Alford: Hitting the Road…
On Our Very First Tour!
Enjoy another guest blog submission from Maren Alford, young drummer of the all-girl band from Texas, Not Ur Girlfrenz. Maren, Liv, and Gigi are an inspiration to other young musicians hoping to make their musical dreams come true!
April 2018 –
It started out like any other Sunday. Ate some waffles, did some homework, got ready for band practice, and waited to help my parents unload the week’s groceries. But suddenly, this Sunday became extraordinary. My parents came home with the most amazing news! They said that my band, Not Ur Girlfrenz, had been asked to be the opening band on the “Bowling For Soup Spring Mini Tour”–5 cities in 5 days playing shows with pop punk icons! And to make it even better, a super cool band we’d played with once before, The Dollyrots, was also on the tour! UMM COME AGAIN, I DON’T THINK I HEARD YOU RIGHT. It would be a lot of hard work and little sleep, but we were going on tour! With Bowling for Soup and The Dollyrots! A dream come true! Who tours when they’re 13 years old? I still couldn’t believe it.
In the days leading up to the first show, we worked up our set–half were our original songs, and half were covers of favorites by Paramore, Fall Out Boy, Heart, and The Rembrandts. We practiced and practiced the set until it was perfect…we were as prepared for this as you can be.
The first show day finally came. But first things first, I had to go to the first-half of the school day, since the show was in our hometown of Dallas, and not until evening. I was jittery and counting down the hours the whole time–luckily I didn’t have any test or quizzes that day! I had many words of encouragement from friends and faculty. One of my friends even made me a home made card wishing us luck.
We finally arrived at the venue, Lava Cantina, mid-afternoon, loaded in and waited for our sound check. It was really hard to contain my excitement while we waited. To pass the time, we had a fun “mini photoshoot” full of us being goofy and having fun, made some Instagram stories, and had a snack.
Finally, it was show time. My heart felt like it was about to thump out of my chest, but I was confident as we all fell into sync with each other, calming each others’ nerves and putting us into our own state of calm, mixed with excitement. Our shows are always kind of blurs to me since I’m so focused on what I’m doing and so involved in everything going on, but I know it went great and that we couldn’t have had a better first night.
After our set we went to the merch table signing autograph after autograph, taking picture after picture, and making memory after memory. Since we were in our hometown, a lot of our friends were there–but we met lots of new people too. There were even people there who were actually nervous to talk to us. That was a new and kind of weird-feeling experience! Next on stage were The Dollyrots, one of the nicest, and funniest bands we know.
Then it was time for the most nerve-wracking moment of the night: the Bowling for Soup “song takeover.” They had invited us to “take over” their awesome hit “Ohio” during their show and finish the song for them. How cool is that? Except we hadn’t exactly had the chance to practice the switch with them in advance. We did know our cue, so when we heard it back onto the stage we went, right alongside BFS before a huge sold-out crowd. The switch was a little awkward at first, but the end of the song went really well and the crowd loved us. The most “interesting” part for me was that I was playing a grown man’s drum kit, where the hi hat stand was almost as tall as I was, so I had to pay extra attention to where I was playing and couldn’t even really reach everything. Our first night was AMAZING and I was so excited for the other 4 shows, but was ready to go to bed after a very late night, the first of many.
Early the next morning we loaded our rented minivan and headed to our next destination, Houston, in time to get ready and be there for sound check. During the drive I worked on a group project for ILA, studied for an Algebra test, and did US History homework. I was not super happy that I still had to do homework on tour, but didn’t want to get behind.
This day saw the beginning of our tour routine: arriving at the hotel, getting ready for the show, and heading to sound check. We were playing a brand new venue in Houston, White Oak Music Hall, and it was AMAZING. I was fortunate enough to get some great advice for tuning my snare drum from the BFS drum tech during setup, and then we were shown to our very first green room. It was a pretty big room with a forest mural painted on the wall (just like any true green room should) with a big couch and some huge beanbag chairs.
After sound check we found out that we would be getting makeshift in-ear monitors for the “Ohio takeover”, which made me feel pretty darn cool and professional. On this second night, I felt was the first time that we really interacted with the crowd, having lots of good banter, and we were all really calm, keeping cool heads. This was a good thing because in the middle of a song, in the middle of the set, Liv (our guitarist and lead singer) broke a string. They didn’t have a backup guitar set up for her, but everyone stayed calm, and Jaret (the lead singer for Bowling For Soup and our manager) let her use one of his while their tour manager re-strung her guitar. The crowd was awesome, and we managed to handle what could have been a really stressful moment well. We got to use in-ear monitors for the first time, which went great, and we began to learn the importance of power naps. We had wondered how a crowd that had never seen us before would react, but overall, Houston was a great show.
Our next stop was Austin. We were playing another sold out show at the 3TEN Austin City Limits Live. I finished and turned in my ILA project that was due that day before getting ready for the show. The show preparations were running a little behind, so we had some time to wait. I had fun playing with The Dollyrots’ two little kids, River and Daisy (a.k.a. The Dollytots), the cutest and coolest children I’ve ever met (they’re much cooler than me). As showtime grew closer and we still hadn’t finished all the sound checks, a crowd began to form outside the venue which was was completely lined with windows. People waiting to get in were pressed up against the glass to get a sneak peek of the show! It was a little weird being watched like that, but cool at the same time. We were pumped for a great show! The jam-packed crowd was literally right up against the stage. We had a great set, even after having a little technical glitch at the start. Then a fun surprise! The Dollyrots asked if we would go up on stage with them for their song “Dance Like a Maniac” and be their back-up dancers! We agreed (of course, who wouldn’t) and went to dance our hearts out. The more we got into dancing, the more the crowd got into it too. So on the third night of the tour I got to bring back my “Just Dance” skills I had worked on for years at home, and we were now part of both of other bands’ shows!
Our next show was in Tyler, TX at Clicks Live. Every show of the tour so far had been incredible! You never really know what to expect until the show starts, but we really didn’t know what to expect with this show. There were 2 extra bands on the bill that night, and the weather was terrible. We had driven for hours in the pouring rain to get there, and it didn’t let up once we arrived. I wasn’t super excited to load in drums in the rain, but the crew at Clicks was super helpful and jumped in and helped with everything. It felt a little weird not going first in the show (we were 3rd to play that night), but that gave me and River some time to play with his Lego Ninjago and have some races around the venue before we went on (he’s way too fast for me by the way). We had a great set. The place was packed and going crazy! The highlight of the set was on our closing song, “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark” by Fall Out Boy, we got the whole crowd of the SOLD OUT show to jump in unison to the song. Now that was AMAZING! Then we got to dance our hearts out again with The Dollyrots during their set (my dancing improved as the tour went on). Then we took over “Ohio” from BFS, which went the smoothest it had so far. This quickly became my favorite show of the tour at the time, even if my Dad got pulled over by the local police on the way back to the hotel. Did you know that in the state of Texas you are required by law to signal within 500 feet of a turn? You do now. We all do. After that last bit of excitement for the evening, it was time to crash and get ready for our last show.
Our final stop was in Oklahoma City. Although sometimes the days seemed so long, they had gone by so fast and I started to feel a little sad that it was our last show. But we were so thankful for the opportunity, and had had so much fun! We were playing another sold out show at the Tower Theater. I was especially excited to play at this venue. It had been an old movie theater that had been renovated and turned into a live music venue. We had fun hanging out in the green room playing a game called Exploding Kittens…it was very interesting. We were so anxious to get out on the stage and play our show, but at the same time we didn’t want the tour to end.
It was time for us to go on. We centered ourselves, fell into rhythm with each other, and did our Not Ur Girlfrenz secret handshake…we were ready! I feel like our set went the best it had the whole tour, our banter was on point, and the crowd was AWESOME. They cheered, jumped, laughed and sang along. When we finished our set, we did something kind of crazy! To a huge chant of “house lights, house lights” the theater turned on the house lights and the entire crowd posed for a picture with us, everyone with their hands in the air! And I mean everyone! When I heard Liv utter the words, “We’re Not Ur Girlfrenz, peace” I knew we were going out in style. We danced with The Dollyrots one last time, giving it every little bit of energy I had left and making it count, knowing we had definitely made some new best friends. Then we took over “Ohio” and added a fun trash can ending to it, leaving BFS shocked. Afterwards, like at all the shows before, we met new friends and fans, took photos, signed autographs, and enjoyed watching our dream come true. And then, it was over. We packed up all of our gear and merch, loaded the van, and said goodbye to all the new people we had met. The amazing thing is, it wasn’t even as if we were seen as little kids by any of them, we were seen as equals–professionals just like they were. I would say this tour had been an ENORMOUS success! (I mean it’s not like I cried on the way back to the hotel…yes I did). It was “goodbye tour life” and “hello, algebra class” just that fast.
Those 5 days had been the best time of my life. I’m so thankful to our Manager Jaret Reddick, Bowling for Soup, The Dollyrots (and The Dollytots), the entire tour crew, the other ⅔ of Not Ur Girlfrenz (Liv and Gigi), and our parents. They’ve all touched me in different ways and made this whole thing possible. The whole band grew so much in a short amount of time both on stage and off. I’ve made new friendships, strengthened ones that already existed, and created new memories I’ll never forget. I couldn’t ask for better people to go on my first tour with. This just shows that dreams do come true, you just have to be willing to work hard for them. Never let anyone tell you to throw away your dreams, make sure to hold them tight and never lose them.
Since writing this blog, Maren & Not Ur Girlfrenz played on another tour…the Vans Warped Tour 2018 as the youngest touring band in Warped’s 24-year history!
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Make sure to check out Maren’s past blogs too!