Music to my ears

On May 5, 2012 Bassnectar performed in San Jose. Charlotte Zoller |

I spent the first weekend of May as an AmBASSador on tour with Bassnectar (Lorin Ashton), a dubstep artist who fuses elements of other genres (rock, hip hop and ambient) into his music. His albums and shows sell out across the country.

So, what is an AmBASSador? According to Ashton, it’s an opportunity for “enthusiastic fans to give back to the people around them, to volunteer their time and their passion to contribute creatively to the atmosphere of each event.”

It doesn’t mean we just get to hang around backstage in a big-headed clique being introverted. It is the complete opposite we must interact with the crowd and make sure people are enjoying themselves.

I joined the AmBASSador Program for my second year in a row during the California leg of the VaVa Voom tour, which hit Sacramento, San Jose and Santa Cruz.

The AmBASSador program’s other prime objective is to “promote health and safety [by] making sure everyone is hydrated, is acting with respect and keeping a watchful eye to make a network of roaming friendly guides throughout a room or space,” said Ashton. “Instead of focusing on the music alone, to also roam the event and focus on other people, contributing in positive ways to them as individuals and to the atmosphere as a whole.”

One hope of the program is that our supportive attitudes will catch on and people will help one another. We lead by example of being sober and helpful of strangers.  With acts of kindness for people we don’t know we hope to connect with each other and enhance everyone’s enjoyment of the experience.

The Sacramento crowd wasn’t as friendly as I would have liked. There were some people who seemed distrusting of random acts of kindness from strangers at these shows. I guess in the world we live in that is understandable but sad. The theme of distrust wasn’t only in Sacramento; the other events were similar. The Memorial Auditorium was full of BassHeads feeling the vibe.

AmBassador fans line up outside the Memorial Auditorium on May 3, 2012. Charlott Zoller |

We also had another volunteer group, Fresh Bakin,’ to help us. They did some face painting for attendees. He opened with an homage to MCA Adam Yaunch of the Beastie Boys, who died earlier that day from salivary gland cancer. We made ‘totems’ of his image (like signs) for people to hold up.

San Jose was the largest show that I worked at with 6,000 people in attendance. It was a college crowd as the venue was located on the San Jose State campus. This was Ashton’s first time playing in his hometown, and they loved it. With his remix of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by the Beatles, Ashton brought back a classic.

The original show in Santa Cruz (where he graduated from college) was canceled last minute due to a civic ordinance against loud music and was rescheduled for the following Sunday and Monday nights at a much smaller venue. I attended the Sunday show, where the audience was a bit older than the previous two shows. There was a mosh pit during Bassnectar’s remix of a Pennywise song. He also played a remix of “In Bloom” by Nirvana that pushed everyone over the edge. I jumped in to pick people up who had fallen or were pushed down. Everyone in attendance seemed to be into the high energy. He described the crowd as “feisty” on Twitter.

As an AmBASSador, I was in charge of the BASS book, a 50-page notebook that has been at every show the entire tour. It is sort of like a yearbook that people can write or draw in. I added another 50 pages to the book that was created by an ambassador from the east coast.
I also started name badges as a way to improve our “trophy crew.” We gave people fun names or trophies for their costume or commendable behavior, such as ‘best bass face’ or ‘best costume.’

We also came up with ideas to get the crowd participating in the event or in line. Every show was different. Since the San Jose show was on Cinco de Mayo, we handed out over 2,000 sombreros for the family photo, a picture he takes with the audience at the end every show.
The area in front of the stage has been dubbed “bass front property,” which was coined on the East Coast. It is reserved for the most dedicated of bassheads as it is very difficult to leave once you’re there. There are thousands of people behind you, making it almost impossible to maneuver, and we keep them hydrated as it gets extremely hot.

I loved being a part of the experience but it definitely came at a huge cost. My body, mind and pocketbook have been taxed. My soul is fulfilled though, as I made great connections with fellow AmBASSadors and attendees, and I enhanced the positivity and safety of the shows I worked at.

The fall tour will be even more epic and I am looking forward to the feeling of 140 decibels of bass (always with earplugs of course). Tinnitus (ringing in ears from prolonged loud sounds) is not for me but I do love the feeling of the bass moving through every fiber of my being.