Allen Stone is no stranger to wacky ideas. Back in 2019, Al and his best friend Julian Gavilanes embarked on a karaoke tour of the United States. This year, they decided to bring it back, bigger and better than ever – a multi-state tour, a full crew, with a polished story, and 100x the fun and hijinks. It was a blend of an acoustic concert, with Allen performing intimate renditions of beloved songs, as well as new material, along with pre-show VIP meet and greets, an audience participation segment (that’s the karaoke y’all), games, more than one or two surprises a night, and more! Uncle Al even serenaded my own mother one night, who gave the show 5 gold stars of mom-stamped approval.
I happened to be in Texas the same time as the boys so I hopped on tour with them and it was quite the experience. Photographing the same show multiple times has immense benefit – you learn the cadence and the movements of the artists, which allows you to pre-emptively set yourself up for success because you get repetitive chances to capture the same moments. It also keeps you on your toes, because the venue changes every night and the constraints you have in one location may be exacerbated, or, non-existent in another. In addition to joining them in Texas, I finished out my tour with them in Los Angeles giving me ultimately four chances to create unique images for their use as Allen Stone’s Texas concert photographer.
It was an incredibly experience and one that left me reeling with awe and inspiration at Allen and Julian’s collective energy and willingness to share that energy with others. It’s one thing to stand on stage night after night performing (and a big thing at that), but to embark on a tour that included SO much audience participation is a level above. Night after night, I watched Allen and Julian meet and greet fans, lead them in audience participatory games and songs, answer questions, and in general just be available. For a music lover, it was unparalleled access to someone you hold in high regard. For me, it left me incredulous that they had the kind of energy required to attune yourself and your delivery to an audience of hundreds night after night.
Photographing family portraits is one of the most exhausting parts of my job because it requires me to attune my delivery, energy and presentation to a group of unknown people VERY quickly. I have only an hour to get what I need out of up to 20 different people – all of whom have different desires, goals, moods and energy. I saw a lot of that process in what Allen and Julian did on stage every evening: feeding off the energy of the crowd, or, in some cases, shaping and moving it to where they needed it to be. The extravaganza was aptly named: it was a blend of performance, concert, and audience participation. It was a unique experience that was designed for intimacy and interaction. Allen had a fantastic team both behind the curtain, and, in front of it as well, as is the case of Ryan Drozd, aka Bear, who also spent the weeks double timing as both DJ and his usual job of tour manager. This, in fact, may be the most herculean feat of the entire tour.
Houston: The White Oak | Dallas: The Granada Theater | Austin: 3Ten ACL Live | Los Angeles: The Roxy
Hype Man: Julian Gavilanes | Tour Management and DJ: Ryan Drozd | Merch: Steven J Libby | Lights: Carter Adams | Sound: Natalie | All hands on deck: Mistah Cheeks | Videography: John DuPre