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I'm Still Here: One Band, One Journey A Dream Come True

Kristina Mondo Kristina Mondo
June 25th, 2012 10:05pm EDT

I can't really tell you how I got to this point except that I heard the music and followed it.  In discovering the music of Vertical Horizon, I found more than just great music, I found my passion and myself. I am a writer and I was meant to write about music. Sometimes one decision can change your life, sometimes fate steps in to show you the way and help you recognize your purpose and passion, for me it was a little bit of both. I had always loved music and writing but to think I could combine the two didn't happen until I found the one band that would change my life forever. 

February 23, 2001 Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC My college roommate and I attended a concert by one of the hottest up and coming bands whose hit single "Everything You Want" was climbing the billboard charts that band was Vertical Horizon. Vertical Horizon was headlining the show where the Pat McGee Band and Sister Hazel would be supporting acts but before the show even started the music had invaded my soul. My roommate had brought home the band's album "Everything You Want" and one listen to "Best I Ever Had" and I could have sworn I had heard the music before. As I  listened to the rest of the album that feeling got even stronger and I felt a connection to the lyrics and melodies that I had never felt before.  

As I stood there in the ballroom waiting for Vertical Horizon to take the stage, I wondered if they would sound as good live as they did on the album and they didn't disappoint. As I watched the band walk out on stage and play their first note and saw lead singer/songwriter Matt Scannell's smile, charisma and reaction to the crowd I knew that night that this band was going to change my life and they have.  Eleven years later, things have come full circle and I have been able to work with the band professionally as both journalist and a roadie. 

 

In the excitement of going on tour and being able to help out my favorite band, I didn't think about all the time preparation and energy it takes on each person's part in preparing for a tour. There is definately more going on behind the scenes then the fans'realize. It's more work than it looks like and certainly isn't all glamorous. It really takes planning, energy, stamina, the ability to adapt to things at a moments notice from broken down vans, getting lost on the way to your venue or hotel, remembering what city you're in or where you're going,  sleep deprivation, eating at odd hours or not eating at all.  However, I wouldn't trade any of it because it was one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of my life. 

 

My journey began in Huntington, NY at the Paramount Theater. Pulling into the parking lot I was greeted by Matt Scannell, who upon viewing my "new" look told me " You look fantastic" you could say we were off to a good start. After exchanging pleasantries and gifts, he led us inside the venue backstage to where the rest of the band was to say hello. He told us to relax and make myself at home. I chatted with Matt and the rest of the band for a bit and then went to set up where the merch would be sold. Afterwards, I got to go downstairs and watch sound check. Sound check was amazing you could hear every little nuance and effect of each instrument and the purity and beauty in the tone of Matt Scannell's voice. It was also neat to see new arrangements of some of the band's older songs as well as some new takes on their latest ones. However, perhaps the biggest surprise was the vocal chops of bassist Jen Oberle in addition to being a killer bassist she can certainly sing.  Soon enough it was time for the show to start as the crowd filtered in the excitement continued to build. 

The night was a mix of genres as the opener Rebecca Perl wowed the crowd with some bluesy acoustic rock and on the opposite end of the spectrum was The Cringe whose name was appropriate since they made you well "cringe".  Finally it was time for Vertical Horizon to take the stage to a pumped up crowd. The venue lent itself to great acoustics and a view from anywhere.  There were screens all over the venue so not even being able to be in the venue itself, I was still able to watch the show. I have to say though perhaps my favorite part of the night is selling merch after the show,  not only do you get to meet the "fans" of the band and make some new friends but it's also the true test of a band's character on how they interact with their fans. With a fan base from five to fifty Vertical Horizon tailors their responses and attitudes to each fan genuinely trying to get to know them rather than following a standard meet and greet procedure. They listen to their fans and will stay and greet all their fans until they have met everyone.  Seeing how amazing the first night of the tour was I was already looking forward to the band's show the next day, which was an acoustic show at the Beekman Beer Gardens in New York City. Since the venue was so close to home, I drove home and geared up for another exciting but very different kind of show the next day. 

 

The next day after some confusion, I arrived at the Beekman Beer Gardens. The venue itself is tucked into the South Street Seaport, which is filled with an array of shops and restaurants to peruse and explore, and on such a hot it was nice to spend some time in the air condition.  I got to the venue with time to spare and was able to set up the merch while getting to hear sound check once again.  The venue itself is a cross between a beach club and a tiki bar, with plastic couches on the sand it was the most low key venue on the tour and met some really cool and interesting people. There was just a good vibe overall from the band who were on point with an acoustic set made lots of new fans. I have never been to a venue where even all of the security guards were so into the music.  One guard in particular that I was talking to was big and burly he worked with the likes of Britney and Christina and even he was bopping along to the music and I happy to say I helped recruit another new fan but I wasn't the only one. Another act of VH love came in the form of another die-hard Vertical Horizon fan who went as far to purchase a cd for one of the security guards who couldn't afford both that's dedication my friends. It was also great getting to meet some of the band's family and friends and you can see why they are all so down to earth and sweet because they were raised that way and surround themselves with such great people. However, one downside to the night that due to the venue, there was no meet and greet. I was however able to make one special fan's dream come true. One man came all the way from Mexico to hear the band and wanted to meet and get lead singer Matt Scannell's autograph so I made him a promise since he bought their cd, I told him to give me the cover and I would get it signed by Matt Scannell and mail it back to him and I always keep my promise.  However, we had to leave straight from New York City and head up to our hotel in Connecticut the same night. After getting lost and what seemed like hours of driving I checked into my hotel room at 230 in the morning and being deliriously tired I accidentally took two sleeping pills instead of one. However, when I awoke the next morning I was sure well rested.  After waking reasonably late, I headed from our hotel in Danbury to the Ridgefield Playhouse. I was excited about this one because I had been to the venue once before to see Richard Marx and lead singer Matt Scannell play a "Duo" show. I was also excited because I had been training hard to get in shape before the tour and wear my signature polka dot dress that gave new meaning to the word "Plunging" neckline. Apparently, I shocked Matt Scannell, myself and some fans because one of my VH friends said, " I know I'm a girl, but you can't help but look" so it was definitely an interesting night. After a short VIP meet and greet, I met Matt Scannell backstage and had him sign the cd cover of the man I had met the night before. then graciously asked Matt and the band for a picture with the group and they obliged.  I also got to tell Steve Fekete my sleeping pill mishap and the fact that once you go on tour, diet and exercise go out the window. It's all well and good when you keep telling yourself you "intend" to exercise but we both agreed it never happens. After the show, the crowd had gone, and Matt Scannell decided it was time to pick on me. After taking the cutest picture, I told him I wanted to say hi to one of his family members that I knew was going to be at the show  When I told him I didn't get a chance to speak with her he jokingly replied back " that's because she didn't want to talk to you" only Matt Scannell could get away with that. Then he proceeded to continue to make fun of me when one of his fans that was still around asked for a pic and he asked me to take it with her iphone my response "oh lord". I for one am not great with technology, I just got a smart phone myself not too long ago so when I proceeded to take what I thought was a decent picture he took one look and said " No, not good".  He then took it upon himself to take the picture with her and the rest of the band until he and guitarist Steve Fekete did some verbal sparring and agreed Matt should be in the picture so he took it. Thanks for making me feel bad Matt! After a pic with the full band and one alone with Matt Scannell all was forgiven.  However, there was no time for small talk, because from Ridgefield I headed up to Mohegan Sun with the band. 230 seems to be the magic number because that's when we arrived at Mohegan we ran into Matt Scannell and some friends as we were checking in at the desk and Matt Scannell joked with the clerk that she better watch me because I might trash the room. You're right Matt it's always the quiet ones. 

Once in the room, I was amazed and awed it was beautiful, it smelled so good, I had a phone in my bathroom and the bed was one of the most comfortable beds I've ever slept in. I have been to Mohegan Sun many times but have never stayed over so it was a treat to say the least.

The next day I woke up well rested and ready to face the day. After a leisurely breakfast, perusing the shops and taking some pictures in the beautiful scenery. I headed to the "Wolf Den" where VH would be performing.  When I walked into watch sound check who is the first person I see Matt Scannell, surprise, surprise. Since I was early and there was some time before sound check he invited me downstairs to hang out backstage saying he wanted to give me the full experience and we went downstairs hung out and chatted with him and some friends.  I recounted the beginning of my VH love affair and meeting Matt himself to which he got a chuckle.  I had a chuckle of my own when I got back upstairs to set up the merch and a new fan asked me if I was the "lead singer" of the band when I asked why he said because you're dressed like one. He would soon find out later that evening that a charismatic bald man is the core that holds Vertical Horizon together. The band rocked the "Wolf Den" tearing people away from their machines and out of the crowd to the gates where people who had never heard of the band bought t-shirts and cds and became new fans. Although they couldn't do a meet and greet the crowd wasn't too disappointed because it was certainly a night to remember.  So this blog is a "Thank You" because I believe everything happens for a reason and this band has brought me so much joy and opportunity and proved to me that some of the greatest gifts in life are the ones you never see coming. Thank you Matt, Gabe, Ron, Steve, Jenn, Derick, Jay Frank and Jill.  You are all just the sweetest people anyone is lucky to know.