Where the hell does the time go?
I know that phrase is cliché as fuck, but the older you get the more true it is.
We all remember growing up sitting in class looking at the clock whose hands never seemed to move. Seconds felt like hours. Hours felt like days. Days like weeks.
Counting down the days until the holidays, or birthdays, or summer vacation seemed like an eternity. Always being told you couldn't do shit with the, " you can't until you're older" line felt like being told "not in your lifetime", because the possibility of actually getting older seemed like nonsense. It would never happen.
Then sometime around college when real life starts to whip you in the face with its dick every morning, the days start to get shorter. Suddenly you don't have enough hours in them to get everything done. Then weeks start moving quicker.
Post-college and into actual adulthood it's a wrap.
Time doesn't even transpire in months anymore. By this point, it's actually, seasons.
You're measuring your years by summer and actually getting to live a little, into football season, the holidays, misery and working nonstop in the winter, wash rinse repeat.
Back in the early Barstool days, I managed to cheat father time. Pretty hard.
I postponed law school in favor of every parent's dream career for their child, djing. I made the hard decision at the time to forego a steady bi-weekly paycheck, and more student loans and studying, to instead "hustle" by playing music for a living and decided to see where it'd take me.
I saw the writing on the wall with what would eventually become the "law school bubble" first hand. Kids I had been in school with at Loyola for 4 years, who'd studied business, history, or philosophy, all of a sudden realized that school life was over in 6 months and they'd be thrust out into the real world. The solution for an alarming amount of these kids was to start studying for the LSAT, apply to law school, and bury themselves in even more debt while extending the amount of time they'd have before having to deal with the real world.
The result was some of the largest application rates for law schools in history. The more competition meant it'd be even harder to get into a school worth ̶w̶a̶s̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ investing $200,000 into.
At that same time, I'd already had two years of experience in the legal world under my belt. I worked my sophomore year in Evanston for State of Illinois ombudsman's office, representing elderly, and incapacitated individuals. Mostly in insurance, Medicaid, and nursing home abuse cases. Awful, soul-sucking stuff.
I moved from there over to the records department at Arnstein & Lehr, LLP downtown on the Chicago River and Adams St.
I ran conflicts checks by day, and sorted and organized red wells of files by afternoon. I also basically lived in the basement of the Sears Tower where the "who's who" of Chicago business, politics, and blue-blood have their wills and testaments housed in safety deposits inside a giant vault.
It was at Arnstein where I met a man who became somewhat of a mentor to me.
Mr. Stephen Chesler.
Aside from being an extremely sharp attorney, he was a very, very eccentric character.
For starters, if he didn't have court that day, you could find him seated in his office, with his boots up on his desk, having traded in a suit for some jeans and a flannel shirt. With a straw cowboy hat on his head, tucked down over his eyes, and a long piece of straw in his mouth.
He was one of the first, and only, lawyers there that took a liking to me and took me under his wing.
Instead of berating me over not finding a hit in Lexus Nexus because of a secretary's misspelling, he'd coach me on tricks he'd picked up over the years. He gave me the lay of the land of the entire firm. Their Florida branch included. Told me who was good people, and whose calls to let ring and head down the hall on.
He also took my broke-as-a-joke ass to a nice lunch in the loop once every or every other week and talked about life with me.
I've always wanted to write a blog about Mr. Chesler because of the impact he had on my life, and the lessons he taught me in such a short amount of time knowing him. He died tragically on his farm doing what he loved a few years after I left. His memory still sticks with me and his constant preaching to me to "fuck law school. Do something that will actually make you happy" feels like a guardian angel was looking out for me. (Maybe I will get to that blog on him one day.)
After working 8-4 at the firm, I'd head to Loyola's downtown campus and have class until 10:30 at night.
I did the same thing, full-time, for my senior year. But this time I'd moved across the street to Katten Muchin Rosenman, LLP (Jerry Reinsdorf's old firm).
I was in the conflicts department and doing paralegal work and to put it simply, it was hell.
Our entire department was in a windowless, characterless floor that was more funny-farm than office setting.
I was given my own office, with a door, which seemed like a huge perk at the time I made the jump from Arnstein. It was actually miserable though. I no longer had people to talk to, or shoot the shit with to help pass the time. People I didn't want to see or talk to were the ones always knocking on the door or stopping by. And the stacks of folders and papers never stopped piling up.
Everybody I worked with was also miserable.
I remember one time joining my old co-workers over at Blackie's for a happy hour and realizing how much upbeat and happy they'd seemed by comparison, even though while I was actually working there it hadn't seemed that way.
I still played on the Arnstein lawyer's league softball team (they didn't want me to leave and I don't even think Katten had one to be honest) so I was still tight with a few of the guys there.
They were good guys at the end of the day but they also did everything in their power to have zero life outside their work. I didn't know if it was truly that demanding that these guys (and women) really needed to dedicate 80-90 hours a week to their work. Or if they just couldn't stand their families and didn't want to have to go home and deal.
Is this really the life, or rather lack of, that I wanted to sign up for?
Not to mention, my boss in the conflicts department was a pretty brilliant woman. She had her JD from Georgetown Law. One of the best law schools on the planet. And she wasn't even practicing...
Even if I did go to law school and bust my ass to graduate, who's to say I'd be guaranteed to pass the bar AND find a place at a legit firm where I could hope to work my ass off some more to chip away at my debt?
Long story short, a few months before graduating, I too pulled an audible due to the thought of the future scaring the shit out of me. But rather than opting to go to law school, I opted out of going.
I'd met Dave a few years prior on one of my trips back home. I'd fly into Boston and take the train from South Station to Worcester. He was out front of South Station filling one of the newspaper stands with the paper I always grabbed to read on my ride back to Worcester, Barstool Sports.
I fell in love with the writing of Jamie Chisholm, Manzo, and Dave. The girls on the cover weren't too shabby either.
Once the Daily Thoughts eblasts started getting sent out I had something else to read at my computer at work besides Page 2 on ESPN.
Through those eblasts I reached out to Dave to tell him I was the kid he'd met at South Station a couple months ago that lived in Chicago, that I was a DJ, and that he should start using me to throw parties at the bars in Boston.
He actually responded, saying that he'd had an idea to throw college parties, and that he had an up-and-coming Boston rapper that he wanted to take on the road and that he needed my help setting it up and djing.
I flew home to Boston and met him at his Dorchester apartment. After helping Renee bring in groceries we went down to his building's conference room and got down to business.
The result of that ended up being "Back To Stool".
Sammy Adams was the rapper. So fresh to the scene he didn't even have his own DJ (just a band) so Dave told him I was DJing.
We hit it off and he ended up making me his guy and taking me on the road for him all over the country, Canada, and Mexico with him for the next 4 years.
We're still great friends today.
After seeing how successful those first shows were, blasting Sammy off into the universe, and finally making some real money, Dave decided we needed to step things up a bit the next year.
That led to "Back To Stool".
I'll never forget this tour because Jenna Marbles, Gaz, and I had to vote on going with Wiz Khalifa or Mike Posner for our headliner.
As the flyer above shows, we made a grave mistake.
But the fact we had Wale, Mac Miller, and White Panda (Gryffin) on the show, along with Umass heartthrob Paul Markham, and I was pretty awesome.
That was also the "Chiddy Bang" tour where they big-timed the fuck out of us.
That tour was equally successful (if you don't include Dave getting banned from UMass and a warrant being put out on him for telling the school "we're fucking partying" despite the dean's orders to not throw an after-party).
The next year an actual sponsor came calling. It was Draft Street (would later become Draft Kings) and they wanted an "in" for college frats to sign up and acquire customers.
Dave, and Zollo, who was now a part of the company at this point, decided to pivot our arena parties that had to be sanctioned by schools, to off-campus house parties.
We'd set up a makeshift rave in these houses (usually the basements), Draft Street's founder (who's now a bazillionaire) would come in and pitch the kids on the idea, offer them signup bonuses, get them signed up, and then we'd start the party.
We called it "The Barstool Blackout Tour" because we had 2 dozen or so backlights that we setup everywhere, and turned off all the lights.
The first one we ever did was in Clemson and it was something I'll never forget.
I flew in from a show the night before with Sammy and arrived at the house to see Zollo unloading a trailer hitched to a Chevy Avalanche.
There were boxes of shitty lights you find at Spencer's Gifts, and generators everywhere.
I had to bring my own turntables because we didn't have any other DJ equipment to use. I set them up on this shitty folding table in the basement, and ended up DJing for like 6 hours. The kids were all in togas and it was an absolute sweatshop in the basement. It felt like a sauna and everybody was pouring sweat for hours on end. I kept asking Dave how much longer are we going and he'd tell me to keep going until the party wore down. Thank God the generators finally ran out of gas and the power went out because there's no way the party would have ever ended otherwise. Those kids were machines.
We left Clemson flying sky-high thinking we'd had another hit on our hands. But we were poorly mistaken.
There were a few shows after that at schools I don't think had ever heard of Barstool, at frats that didn't have much clout, or a different combination of things that ended up in resulting in duds of a party.
But then we'd have "shows" like the one we threw at University of Michigan that was something straight out of a movie.
If you've been to Ann Arbor you know the living situation off-campus isn't like other Big Ten schools. They have frat houses that are legit, but they're crammed next to other residential. Not on these huge lots with lawns and back yards and shit.
That was a major problem for a party we were throwing outside, so these kids, (who were geniuses) found the biggest tarps I've ever seen - talking rain delay baseball field size tarps, and strung them up on the power lines running to and from their house. They somehow draped these things over the power lines basically creating makeshift walls surrounding their backyard.
We brought in our traveling light show and set up all the speakers and got to rocking.
Within like 30 minutes there had to be 1500 people in that backyard. People were grinding on the balconies, the football team showed up and it was a shitshow in the best way possible for 3 or so hours.
Then the police showed up.
The real police, not campus police. And they were fucking pissed.
They said they could have arrested us for all the fire hazards we'd created and told us pack up our shit and get the fuck out of Ann Arbor.
There are no joke probably a hundred stories like this from that tour. Which makes me REALLY REALLY regret not blogging back then.
When we started to really pick up steam was when the tour rolled into Iowa City. We booked a show at a venue I played at regularly, "Union" which was owned by this guy George who I was friends with.
George was a nut about production and had invested a shit ton of money in lights, sound, and CO2…
The show was pandemonium, like every night at Union, but we turned it up a notch with our theme. The girls showed up barely dressed, wanting to out-compete each other on stage dancing, and the CO2 blasts were nuts.
Devlin and Gaz put together a Spielberg-esque recap video that I think won a few awards.
It was at that moment everything changed.
The video blasted off and suddenly we had what seemed like every fraternity and college bar in the country calling us wanting to book us for shows.
That tour grew into something that would take us all over the country over the span of four years. We'd do four shows a week, Wednesday through Saturday, every week, of each semester, as well as a bunch of Spring Break and summertime shows.
We did more than 160 shows and for more than 200,000 attendees.
Mind you, we had a handful of guys, namely a few of Gaz' friends from home who were laid off, Zollo, Devlin, Delo, Feitelberg, Hank, Dylan, and a couple other interns that have come and gone since working this thing with zero experience going into it.
And we were all making peanuts.
I think KMarko, Dan and KFC are the only bloggers around who would admit they, and 90% of the company, wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for this tour.
It not only enabled Dave to keep the lights on. It allowed him to expand the company to the new cities outside of Boston, bringing on new talent full and part-time.
The fact this tweet went out this morning reminding us that Rutgers was 10 years ago today really fucked me up.
It feels like it was yesterday, but at the same time like it was actually 20 years ago. Back in those days we didn't have shit. We literally bootstrapped everything. In a weird way, that's difficult to put into words, we were having the time of our lives, while also being a somewhat miserable and very unaware. We formed real bonds and developed friendships on the road, while destroying relationships back home.
That's life though. At the time, while we're living it, we often don't realize what we're supposed to in the moment. I think that's what becoming wise and practicing mindfulness means- becoming more present and aware in the actual moment. So we can appreciate it then and there. Because it's not until looking back and examining things that we can connect the dots and put the pieces together on how one thing lead to another, and why we ended up where we are today. And it's all connected.
For more on the history of the Blackout Tour check out the awesome documentary that Gaz and Dana put together for Barstool Gold (r.i.p.)
And for a trip down memory lane, check out the mixtape series I did on soundcloud.