From The Trail: Photos of the 2016 Campaign in California

It’s finally here! After two years of brutal campaigning, today the world looks to the United States as we hold our elections.

I don’t know how much I’ve spent on Uber and Lyft this cycle, but it was probably a lot. This year I was able to cover different aspects of the 2016 campaign. Sometimes with other people, other times alone. But the experiences of rallies, press conferences and a debate have all been the same: sending out emails trying to justify that my blog was a legitimate media outlet, waiting to receive confirmation, recognizing the same reporters at each event, wading through the crowd to get the best shot, trying to get the best quote, running into fellow student journalists.

The following are photos that I’ve taken during this incredible cycle. Since June I’ve reported on three rallies, a congressional debate and a group of Clinton campaign volunteers in Reno.

I did not photograph the Reno trip, though there are photos from when the bus got stuck in Donner Pass on the way back.

Some were taken with my phone when I was with other people.

Regardless of the quality or event, this election isn’t about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Ami Bera, Scott Jones, Loretta Sanchez or Kamala Harris. It was always about what we as Americans — more specifically as Californians — are.

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Sacramento mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg greets supporters outside the Hillary Clinton Rally at Sacramento City College. June 5, 2016
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A protestor outside the Clinton Rally. Signs read “Billary is a Fraud,” “Neocon – Neolib Two Sides of the Same Coin.” June 5, 2016
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Fellow Sac City Express reporters Maxfield Morris and Tyler Heberle at the Clinton rally. June 5, 2016
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Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, State Senator Richard Pan and Congressman John Garamendi stand backstage. June 5, 2016
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Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes the stage. June 5, 2016
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Frequent collaborator Vanessa Nelson stands with other photographers during the rally. June 5, 2016
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Supporters cheer as Congresswoman Doris Matsui passes the mic to Clinton. June 5, 2016
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Sacramento County sheriff and Republican candidate for the California 7th Congressional district Scott Jones poses for photos outside KVIE before the debate with incumbent Ami Bera. Oct. 18, 2016
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Republican strategist Wayne Johnson (left) and former Sacramento County sheriff John McGinness (right) before the California 7th debate. Oct. 18, 2016
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Traffic behind our bus in Donner Pass. I was following a group of volunteers campaigning for Clinton in Reno. Oct. 30, 2016
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California Attorney General and Democratic candidate for US Senate Kamala Harris at a “Get Out the Vote” rally with Congressman Ami Bera. Nov. 3, 2016
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Kamala Harris speaking to reporters. Nov. 3, 2016
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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a Yes on Prop. 61 rally at the California State Capitol. Nov. 7, 2016
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The crowd outside the California State Capitol listening to Sanders speak in support of Prop. 61. Nov. 7, 2016
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Prop. 61 supporters listening to Bernie Sanders outside the California State Capitol. Nov. 7, 2016

Kamala Harris Makes Campaign Stop in Elk Grove

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California Attorney General and Democratic candidate for the United States Senate Kamala Harris stopped the campaign headquarters of Congressman Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) for the Sacramento leg of her 10-day bus tour of the state.

Due to California’s top-two primary, two Democrats will be going head-to-head in the general election Nov. 8. Harris’ challenger is Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of Anaheim. However, Harris is still the national and state party’s choice to fill the seat of retiring Senator Barbara Boxer who has occupied that seat since being elected in 1992.

According to a poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, Harris leads Sanchez by 22 points as of Oct. 23. More recent polls put her at 20.

Recently Harris has gained national attention after spearheading the crackdown on backpage.com. Site executives Carl Ferrer, Michael Lacey and James Larkin were charged with pimping and pimping minors in Sacramento County Superior Court back in September. Prosecutors allege that all three men knowingly received millions in bonuses from the illegal prostitution ads on the site.

Harris said that it is important that her successor continue to pursue prosecution of backpage.com if she is elected.

Candidates duel over contested 7th Congressional District in California

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Democratic congressman Ami Bera and Republican challenger Scott Jones debated in Natomas yesterday for California’s 7th Congressional District.

The two candidates have dueled over this hotly contested seat with both accumulating their share of skeletons in their closets.

The debate began with questions regarding a lawsuit filed against the Sheriff’s department. The lawsuit covers allegations by a former female deputy that Jones sexually harassed her. However, Jones insisted that the allegations were false.

“I went under oath and I deny these allegations in the strongest terms possible,” said Jones.

Bera continued to push the allegations issue, saying that they were “pretty shocking what was going on.” This attack mirrors pro-Bera mailers and television ads that paint Jones in a similar light.

But Bera’s character was also called into question. Earlier this year, Bera’s 83-year-old father pleaded guilty to two felony counts of election fraud. Bera’s father, Babulal Bera, used family and friends to illegally contribute above the legal limit to his son’s 2010 and 2012 congressional campaigns.

“My father made a mistake and he shouldn’t have done this,” said Bera during the debate. “He’s not a criminal but he broke the law.”

A federal prosecutor found no evidence that would indicate Bera or anyone in his staff knew of Babulal Bera’s illegal activity.

Jones however believes otherwise. “Either the 90 friends and family of Congressman Bera who all knew what engaged in a conspiracy for four years to keep that information from Congressman Bera,” said Jones, “or alternatively that Congressman Bera didn’t have any substantive conversations with any of those 90 family and friends.”

Since redistricting in 2013, the California 7th has been one of the most hotly contested districts in the country. According to Cook Partisan Voting Index, the district is considered “even.” Bera narrowly won re-election against Doug Ose in 2014. This year should be no different.

Sponsors of the event included the Los Rios Community College District, Sacramento Bee and Folsom lake College which is located within the 7th District.

The election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 8. The deadline for voter registration California is Oct. 24.

Hillary Clinton makes stop at City College before June 7 primary

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on June 6, 2016

Additional reporting by Maxfield Morris.

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Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes the stage in the North Gym. Photo by Zachary FR Anderson | Managing Editor | zachanderson.express@gmail.com

Outside the North Gym, hundreds of people waited to hear Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speak at Sacramento City College Sunday, June 5 — two days before California’s June 7 presidential primary.

Clinton took the stage between 6 and 7 p.m. as Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” (Clinton’s official song) played. She was introduced by Congresswoman Doris Matsui, who also worked in the White House during Clinton’s tenure as First Lady to former President Bill Clinton. Matsui reminisced about when her husband, Congressman Bob Matsui, died, saying that Hillary Clinton was the first to call and offer her condolences.

The former Secretary of State’s speech focused on domestic policy. She shared emotional moments with the crowd regarding her time as a senator from New York during the Sept. 11 attacks as well as her experiences running the State Department during the 2011 siege on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan that resulted in the death of the infamous terrorist.

Focusing on connecting with the state’s voters, Clinton applauded California’s diversity calling it, “…as big as a country and as diverse as one, too.”

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Supporters listen to Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) introduce Hillary Clinton in the North Gym. Photo by Zachary FR Anderson | Managing Editor | zachanderson.express@gmail.com

During her speech, Clinton applauded President Barack Obama for “digging us out of the ditch,” referring to the president’s efforts to strengthen the economy during the Great Recession.

“It is a fact that the economy does better when we have a Democrat in the White House,” said Clinton, who also indicated that the recession began during the presidency of Republican President George W. Bush.

Clinton also criticized Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, on key issues, such as his ability to be a responsible and reliable as commander in chief.

“Here’s somebody who in the last few weeks has insulted our closest allies,” said Clinton, “has praised dictators like [Kim Jong Un] in North Korea. Has advocated pulling out of NATO, which is our strongest military alliance. Has said in very cavalier [fashion] that he doesn’t really mind if other countries get nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia.”

Other politicians at the event also voiced their concerns regarding the business mogul’s ability.

“…All you have to look at is what’s happening in this country in the past week with this guy Trump,” said Sacramento mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg, “calling out a judge because of his Mexican heritage and saying he can’t be impartial, applying the same logic to any Muslim judge. This is dangerous.”

Steinberg was referring to Trump’s recent comments regarding the federal judge overlooking the California lawsuit against Trump University, Gonzalo P. Curiel.

Steinberg endorsed Clinton as the next president.

“She’s eminently qualified,” said Steinberg. “She’s going to be respected around the country and around the world.”

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Sacramento mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg greets Clinton supporters outside the North Gym. Photo by Zachary FR Anderson | Managing Editor | zachanderson.express@gmail.com

Nancy McFadden, Gov. Jerry Brown’s chief of staff, took a lighter approach. She compared Trump to the “Harry Potter” villain Voldemort by referring to him as “He who must not be named.” She justified this by saying that Trump likes hearing his own name.

“Who puts their names on steaks?” McFadden joked to the crowd that roared with laughter.

Before Clinton addressed the standing-room-only crowd, the first to speak was former United States Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, a Sacramento native. Other speakers included Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, Congressman John Garamendi and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Though knowledge of Clinton’s campaign making a stop in Sacramento had been released over a week earlier, the location remained undisclosed. It wasn’t until Thursday, according to Public Information Officer Rick Brewer, that the Clinton campaign contacted City College officials about holding the event on campus.

California residents registered as either Democrats or with no party preference may vote in the Democratic primary Tuesday, June 7.

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‘Pride and Prejudice’ and manners

Originally published in the Express on March 2, 2016

City Theatre production takes modern direction into ‘Austenland’

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Photo by Vanessa Nelson | Print Photo Editor | vanessanelsonexpress@gmail.com

Though “Pride and Prejudice” is set in a time and place long ago and far away, LoriAnne DeLappe-Grondin’s production of the 2009 dramatic adaptation of the 1813 novel is handled with Northern California sensibility.

The patriarch, Mr. Bennett, played by Dennis Redpath, is not the withered old gentleman of the novel. Instead, he is a hippie who has long since passed his prime. He has grown tired of the antics of Mrs. Bennett, portrayed by the wonderfully outrageous Cheantell Munn.

This Mrs. Bennett is still graceless and unlikable, but with the slightest powdering of a rococo personality that brings refreshing modernity to the story. Munn’s Mrs. Bennett is a pageant mom who has dedicated her middle age to presenting her daughters to anyone who could potentially propose.

The eldest daughter, Jane (Shelby Saumeir), has caught the eye of Charles Bingley (Alexander Quinonez), a nouveau-riche gentleman who recently took ownership of the neighboring Netherfield Park.

In my reading of the novel and viewing of its various film adaptations, it never seemed that Bingley was a braggadocio. Quinonez’ portrayal of him as such is cartoonish, yet natural for the character. Bingley’s demeanor is comparable to a Silicon Valley millionaire with the same sense — or rather, lack — of class and original wit.

Yet Elizabeth Bennett (Denise Ivy) is aware of both the former and the latter, which is interesting considering that her beau is Mr. Darcy, who is played to near-refinement by Andrew Fridae.

Like the novel’s Darcy, Fridae is broodily handsome and delightfully anti-social. His demeanor throughout the performance was consistent, and it seemed that he portrayed Darcy’s awkward doting as the best show of emotion he has. Perhaps that is why Lizzie is struck by him. Opposites attract.

This isn’t to say that the play is a modern adaptation; the locations and pageantry are still true to the Regency period in England or “Austenland.” But there is a distinctly 21st century flavor to the play compared to other adaptations.

There are certain nuances that have to be present for the feeling of Austenland to come off as authentic.

Costume designer Nicole Sivell meets this requirement while also enhancing the chosen personalities of the characters.

Mrs. Bennett is wrapped in outlandish paisley patterns that only somebody who’s trying too hard would wear. Then there’s Mr. Bennett, whose clothes are a little too big for him compared to the perfectly tailored outfits of Bingley and Darcy. In both Bennetts’ costumes, an artificial glare radiates from the fabric, indicating low quality.

There is also a bit of comedy in the costuming of Colonel Fitzwilliam (Matthew Matson), who embodies the stereotype of British pompousness.

He’s wearing civilian clothing, yet he still wears his awards on his breast. My guess is that these details are intentional character identifications.

Austen’s prestigious body of work — which includes “Pride and Prejudice” — is based on her experience with the landed gentry. There is nothing unique about this point of view, as is evidenced by contemporary authors such as the Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, and by Sir Walter Scott, who also hobnobbed with the same social circles.

What set Austen apart from the rest of these authors was her personal feeling about how “silly” young people could be regarding marriage. She was not being literal when she penned the first sentence of “Pride and Prejudice’’: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

It was meant as a burn, a maledicta incognita buried deep within her flowery prose.

City Theatre’s “Pride and Prejudice” is a treat for the senses. DeLappe-Grondin and the rest of the production truly embody Austen’s material while also staying true to their own Northern California selves. Imagine what would result if they got together and adapted the characters to the modern world. Wouldn’t that be cool?

“Pride and Prejudice” runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays March 4–20 with an ASL-interpreted performance March 6. Ticket prices range between $10 and $18, depending on time of performance. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.citytheatre.net

Thrust into leadership

Originally published in the Express on Feb. 9, 2016

Student Senate president Marianna Sousa reflects on challenges old and new

Editor’s note: As I waited in South Gym 226, the student government office, for Marianna Sousa to arrive, I made note of my surroundings: white boards covering every inch of wall, all scarred with old dry-erase markers, aged love seats surrounding a large wooden table, and the smell of Cup O’ Noodles, as one student retrieved it from the microwave.

Then Marianna Sousa entered, with a smile that radiated confidence and poise. We shook hands, and she asked me how long I had attended City College. She stopped herself before she finished and said that I was the one interviewing her.

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Photo by Julie Jorgensen | Online Photo Editor | juliejorgensenexpress@gmail.com

You were pretty busy last semester with everything going on.

How did you know? You’ve been doing your research.

(laughter)

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a result of the shooting?

When I first came into this position, I was so focused on just learning the basics: learning how to run a meeting, learning how to create relationships with the board, learning how to execute. And then boom! [The shooting] happened out of the blue. Ironically, I was literally leaving campus when all the police were [coming] to the campus.

I remember saying to myself, “Wow! What’s going on?” And after I found everything out, I was able to hit certain people up to find out that everybody on the board was safe.

It just pumped a lot of fear into people. I didn’t realize until that happened how many people suffer from PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], how many people have been in random acts of violence. It really surfaced uncertainty for students, because it gave us the opportunity to see that there are some things we need to tighten up on. There are some policies to put in place, some procedures and orders of operation that need to exist not just for the faculty and staff, but also specifically for the students. What do I do if I’m in the middle of the Quad standing next to my friend in a wheelchair with special needs and someone comes shooting? What’s the best place to go?

So we stewed in that and allowed the family to mourn, we tried to reach out, and we did the vigil and love-in day — some positive things to just allow that healing for the family. But for me, as a president, I had to really sit back and say, “I can’t just let this die down. I can’t let this simmer in fear and just evaporate into the universe and turn into whatever else fear-based actions may happen.” So I came up with the idea to create Safety Awareness & Crisis Prevention Day.

When did you find out about President Kathryn Jeffery leaving to take a new position in Santa Monica?

She told me a couple of weeks ago because it’s all about process and procedure. We found out within the last month, and it’s just been a process watching her.

It’s been a really great honor and privilege to watch how she conducts herself in every way from the very personable connecting energy that she has with people in a one-on-one sense, but also how she works with groups. She’s just a really well-balanced leader overall; she just exemplifies positive leaderships.

It’s just been great seeing her, working with her, getting the across-the-board advice and some of that good pull-you-to-the-side advice. It’s just been a real honor.

[Vice President of Student Services Michael] Poindexter has been appointed as our interim, and he’s definitely equipped for the job. He has the energy, the outreach, so I know wherever [President Jeffery is] headed to she’s going to do great things, but I also know that we have a great wealth of positive people to step into that leadership here.

Can you describe working with President Jeffery?

When I first met her, I thought, “That sister’s got her stuff together.” She’s very sharp, very well coordinated, hair’s always whipped, and that was very impressive. Her demeanor is very graceful.

A lot of the time when you’re dealing with women in leadership, there are various types of leadership. Even with me, when I came into this position, my advisers said that I had to really define what kind of leader I want to be. One thing I noticed about Dr. Jeffery is that she has a unique balance of grace, but she’s assertive in the way that she knows how to take charge and lead. That’s a very interesting way to temper leadership because sometimes when you’re too graceful, people think they can run over you. And when you’re too abrasive or too assertive, people can be put off.  She has a very unique and special balance between the two.

Working with her is easy and a learning experience. She takes away any of the jitters because she really focuses on being here to serve the students, the constituents and campus life. The way she keeps the focus there and quality in serving all the students, she’s very good at making sure we represent not just the students who look like me, not just the students who look like a certain group or certain age, but every single student on the campus. That was one of her first statements to me in our first meeting, and it was one of the strongest pieces of advice she gave me because now when I step in my role, it’s to make sure to look out for everyone, even the voiceless students.

What do you expect for this upcoming semester?

So the game plan for me after speaking to my adviser Kim Beyrer — who’s great — and some of my mentors, my game plan on coming in was to just learn the job first. I think leaders and activists, we get really excited, and sometimes we jump in and spread ourselves really thin.

So the goal for the first semester for me was to learn the role, learn my part, work with my [vice-president], Ansel Chan, who’s excellent at just being thorough and calm and consistent even when you have nerves, and you’re trying to figure out what to do. Learning to work with the different people on the board who have the wisdom and have the experience, but also trust my brand of leadership — that to me was the priority.

Now round two, spring semester, it’s about executing now that I know the job. It’s about creating the events, and it’s about actually getting in and making the connections to start to provide more for the students.

How do you expect the rest of your term to go?

I’m pretty confident. I think at this point the nervousness and some of the jitters were definitely early on in the game when you’re walking into something new, and you’ve got to navigate and establish your way, but I’m comfortable now.

At this point I can run a meeting without feeling like I’m going to miss something or skip over someone. I have a strong enough team that even when we do make mistakes, we stand corrected in grace, and we work together to work through the kinks.

I feel 100 percent more confident — I already was confident; I’m a confident young lady as it is — but there’s one thing to be confident and know that you can always stand in the space of learning, growing. I know I have a great team. I’d also like to put it out there that we need some new board members with the new semester. Some students have moved on to new positive adventures and aspirations. We’re seeking people to get heavily involved in student government and take up some senator positions. Get active in helping with the decision-making process here on campus.

Do you have any advice for incoming students and aspiring student leaders?

Join Student Senate. If you are a student, faculty member or admin that either gets into leadership, supports leadership or advocates for leadership, there is no reason why you should not be taking a trip up to SOG 226 on campus because we have roles and opportunities here.

Sacramento gets stuck in the web with Internet celebrities Kian Lawley, JC Caylen

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on Nov. 12, 2015

NOTE: This is the companion article to “Kian & JC: The Exclusive Interview.”

DJ James Yammouni is preparing the crowd at Ace of Spades in Sacramento for You Tubers  Kian Lawely and JC Caylen's the Tour Before The Tour show. Nov. 3, 2015 Vanessa S. Nelson | vanessanelsonexpress@gmail.com | Photo Editor
DJ James Yammouni is preparing the crowd at Ace of Spades in Sacramento for You Tubers Kian Lawely and JC Caylen’s the Tour Before The Tour show. Nov. 3, 2015
Vanessa S. Nelson | vanessanelsonexpress@gmail.com | Photo Editor
You Tubers Kian Lawely and JC Caylen's start their show at Ace of Spades in Sacramento for the Tour Before The Tour show. Nov. 3, 2015 Vanessa S. Nelson | vanessanelsonexpress@gmail.com | Photo Editor
You Tubers Kian Lawely and JC Caylen’s start their show at Ace of Spades in Sacramento for the Tour Before The Tour show. Nov. 3, 2015
Vanessa S. Nelson | vanessanelsonexpress@gmail.com | Photo Editor

At Ace of Spades on a frigid Tuesday night, a throng of hundreds of teens and pre-teens began to bellow with enthusiasm as two young men bounded onto the main stage of the venue.

But the hysteria was neither over a band nor a solo artist; instead it was for Internet celebrities.

In the past few months Sacramento has played host to these new celebrities and their adoring fans who consistently number in the low thousands and are primed with homemade signs and gifts.

These fans are the bread and butter for celebrities like Kian Lawley and JC Caylen, the subjects of the super YouTube channel “Kian & JC,” which has more than 1.7 million subscribers on the platform.

“It’s not something that happened overnight we had to work for it,” said Lawley of his massive fan base.

In addition to their collaborative channel subscribers, both Lawley and Caylen have personal channels with 2 million subscribers each, as well as millions of followers on social media such as Twitter and Instagram, bringing their combined projected fan base in the high millions.

The fan base of celebrities like Lawley is due to the rapid democratization of the entertainment industry, according to his manager Andrew Graham.

Graham, a senior talent manager at Big Frame, said that the audience having complete control of what, when and how they consume media partnered with the ability to give real-time feedback is key to success. Graham stated that in a few years consumers will have a larger role in shaping what is being produced, eventually becoming producers themselves.

On their channel, Lawley and Caylen take part in “Jackass”-inspired challenges and pranks. Their most recent video event featured “Jackass” alum Steve-O, which as of this writing has 721,833 views since its posting on Oct. 28. A second video stars fellow YouTuber Ricky Dillon (2.6 million subscribers) where an elaborate home invasion was staged with the intent of scaring Dillon.

Before “Kian & JC” Lawley, Caylen and Dillon were part of a different collab channel called “Our 2nd Life” — O2L for short. The “O2L” content consisted of daily videos centering on a weekly theme. The channel has not produced any new content since January of this year.

You Tubers Kian Lawely and JC Caylen's start their show at Ace of Spades in Sacramento for the Tour Before The Tour show. Nov. 3, 2015 Vanessa S. Nelson | vanessanelsonexpress@gmail.com | Photo Editor
You Tubers Kian Lawely and JC Caylen’s start their show at Ace of Spades in Sacramento for the Tour Before The Tour show. Nov. 3, 2015
Vanessa S. Nelson | vanessanelsonexpress@gmail.com | Photo Editor

Ace of Spades was the venue for the Sacramento stop of the “Tour before the Tour,” introducing the main tour for Kian & JC set for June 2016. The show started with a meet ‘n’ greet where fans were able to take pictures with Lawley and Caylen as well as an opportunity to give them gifts that range from scrapbooks and collages to human-sized stuffed animals.

The show started with a set by DJ James Yammouni (72,207 subscribers). When the show began, the audience started to chant, “Kian! JC!” until it became screams of hysteria when Lawley and Caylen entered the stage.

But this was not a concert. It was a set of “skits” that included everything from audience participation to shock collars, similar to the content on their channels.

During the show, the generation gap became a physical barricade with parents sitting either in the back or at the bar and their kids in the front jiving with the syncopation of the house music. At the bar, a father leaned to a mother and asked, “Who is this guy?” The mother just shrugged.

As a result of their large fan base, both Lawley and Caylen have begun pursuits in working in “traditional media.” Recently Lawley starred in “The Chosen,” a horror film about a little girl possessed by a demon. Caylen has spent the past few months in New Mexico shooting a web series that he hopes will be distrubted by either Hulu or Netflix.

“Traditional entertainment collaborators are still very green when it comes to our clients,” says Graham. “That said, over the course of 24 months, we’ve seen a wave of wins… as a result of industry-wide education.”

Lawley and Caylen are far from the first in this new generation of stars to catch the eye of traditional media. Last year Viner Cameron Dallas stared in “Expelled,” which was produced by Awesomeness TV and soon hit No. 1 on iTunes. Dallas will also be starring in “The Outfield” with fellow Viner Nash Grier. It is set for release next year. Smosh, an early YouTube channel with roots in Sacramento and a heaping 21 million subscribers, also came out with a movie this year that is currently streaming on Netflix.

“The big tour is going to be on steroids,” Lawley said enthusiastically.

“It will be bigger and better,” Caylen added. “Just trust us.”