I’ve just returned from a jaunt around the northeast, and I’m just as confused as ever. Here are some observations I’ve compiled from a month on tour with a folk-rock-americana type band.
1 – People act differently towards musicians.
When you check into a hotel at 2:30 am by yourself, the clerk does not usually say “What’s your band called? Where did you play? Ooooh that sounds fun! Where are you going next??” Music and the thought of traveling as a result of it excites the most unlikely of people, even when you’re just traveling through Pittsburgh on a Sunday.
2 – It’s incredibly hard to eat well.
After about a week, all I craved was something that was grown on a tree. We at one point discovered a juice bar near a venue, and went back several times. I was so full of wheat grass I burped lawn clippings for days. Not really, but it sure tasted like it. The lady at the juice bar even came to the show. She was a life saver.
3 – You do not know what day or time it is.
Yes, this is a cliché, but it’s true. I had no idea what day of the week it was. When getting to sleep so late, just as a result of work (and the occasional good time) you wake up and feel like eating breakfast at 2pm. There is a delightfully euphoric zombie like feeling that goes along with this. I’d imagine that’s what causes so many problems for musicians with nothing to do after a tour.
4 – Stop calling it “Tour”
That’s just stupid. Put a fucking article in there. You’re not leaving for “Tour,” you’re going on tour. Please stop saying that. Hipster asshole.
5 – It’s probably easy to develop a drinking problem
You could see how a successful band could develop substance problems with no effort at all. We were traveling small time, but were still given plenty of booze at all hours. Imagine if you had a rider full of alcohol? And people who just wanted to hang around? And if you were bored out of your mind, didn’t have to drive yourself or carry your own gear, you’d probably take part in whatever buzz is available. Then repeat this every night for weeks/months/years….It could get iffy pretty quickly.
6 – No one is fighting off groupies.
If you’re carrying your own equipment, people are likely not fawning all over you. Spouses or significant others don’t have too much to worry about…again until you’re very successful and someone else is carrying your stuff.
7 – You get very close with people
Remember those family road trips? This is like that. We had 6 people in a sprinter van, and although there were no fights or arguments, the air does fill with tension on occasion. You’re rooming together, eating the same meals, basically being within 10 feet of everyone for the majority of the day. You better like the people you’re traveling with, that’s all I’m saying.
8 – It’s work
Yes, it’s work that people choose to do and many do for little or no pay, but it’s not that easy. I was lucky enough to not have to drive this time, but everyone shares in the carrying of equipment. Want someone to help you move? Ask a musician. They’re very efficient and have had years of practice. Packing, unpacking, carrying up steps and narrow doorways, loading and unloading…it’s a universal musician skill that survives by evolution. Those who do not carry things are probably not invited back.
9 – You get very little sleep.
This is true for even the most successful of bands. No one gets any great rest in a moving vehicle, and things need to be done at odd hours. You need to check out of the hotel early, regardless of what time you got it. You also need to be at the next destination at a certain time, the schedule remains constant despite each day’s activities being different. Then on the day you have off…you bolt out of bed at 8am
10 – Everything depends on monitors.
You’ve spent thousands of dollars on your equipment, many hours practicing alone and with the group…but by the time you get to a venue, none of it matters if you can’t hear yourself. And you rarely can. I never harbored much animosity towards sound men until this trip. Everything is feeding back, none of the monitors are loud enough, the whole PA has a terrible buzz, the DI sounds like a dying frog….it goes on and on. Yes, it’s not always the fault of the sound man, but a majority of the ones we encountered seemed to have no idea what they were doing. And you could instantly tell the ones who did.
11 – Technology is amazing.
For the life of me, I cannot imagine doing this in 1994. I have always loved technology, but I want to kneel at the feet of the iPhone. And Google Maps. And Google in general. And Yelp. Say what you will about technology being too present in every day life…our life is far better for it. We would have missed out on a whole lot of great food, coffee, and all sorts of things. For any place you can think of, someone has been there before you and logged their experience for you to learn from. Think of how amazing that is. Don’t even get me started on driving directions. That’s worth twice the price of whichever device you’re using. We never got lost, beyond an occasional wrong turn which was quickly corrected. Unreal. Now we just have to solve that battery life problem when you’re not near an outlet for 6 hrs…..
Well, there you have it. 11 is one beyond the classic list form, so let’s leave it at that for today. I’m feeling a little restless, like when you’ve been swimming in the ocean and still feel the movement on your sleep, but I’m happy to be home. It turns out being in the space where most of your life has occurs can be a comforting experience.