Survival Tactics on the Road
July 28, 2009 in TouringTalking to non-musician friends about touring often makes me want to bang my head against the wall for hours on end. They always have a romanticized view of touring, and have a warped "Making The Band" perception of how us music-type people live and travel. The cramped living quarters and travelling arrangements can lead to tension within a band, but that's to be expected when 99.9% of the places you stay pale in comparison to your own warm bed.
Movies are generally good at portraying the touring world accurately. The Canadian cult-classic HARD CORE LOGO, directed by Bruce MacDonald, is a movie about a group that reunites for one last tour. The movie is hilarious - showing how the band quickly degenerates into one big in-fight. The reason why the movie turns out as funny as it is, is because it hits the nail right on the head. Touring isn't easy. People fight. Feelings get hurt, and bands fall apart. That's why it's so important to follow a few simple rules when touring.
1. Be respectful of others within your band
Essentially, your time on the road is not the best time to start criticizing each other about every little thing. If your guitarist's slobbiness is putting a cramp on your van's style, ask him politely to try and be a little cleaner because it's going to be your home for the next few weeks. Jumping on his back and calling him a pig will get you nowhere but down the trail of hard feelings. That three hour drive from Edmonton to Calgary can feel like nine if even one band member feels like they're getting a raw deal from their bandmates.
2. Count to 10 and try again
As cheesy and old as this saying may be, learn to bite your tongue. What good can possibly come from telling someone in your band they're an idiot because they missed the turnoff for the gas station? It's highly unlikely that they tried to miss it because they wanted to spend an extra 20 minutes in the van with you. By just counting to 10, taking a deep breath, and deciding whether or not it's really worth complaining about something, you can save yourself and your band the onslaught of WWIII.
3. Take "me time" on the road
People are social creatures, but there comes a point when you just need to be alone. There's a reason people have girls' or boys' nights out...they need to get away from their significant other for a few hours. Consider your bandmates your "significant other" on the road. You depend on them much like you would a spouse. That's why it's important you take a little bit of 'me time' when you have free time. Pick up a magazine at a gas station, and go have a quick coffee with yourself at the corner cafe. If that's not your cup of tea (sorry), take a nice casual walk around the block. You'd be surprised what kind of shops you can find in some of the places you play. Best of all, you'd be surprised how much more you like everyone when you spend more than a bathroom stop away from them.
4. Take "band time" on the road
This may appear to completely contradict the previous point, but the truth is you need to solidify your friendships more than ever when you're on the road. That is, of course, assuming that you're friends with the people in your band. The key to surviving the road is trying to live as much as possible like you normally would. If you and your band usually have a band meeting/meeting of the minds on Saturday afternoons, spend a few minutes over a wobbly pop when you get a minute that Saturday. Don't just continue business as usual though. Have fun with your bandmates. If you have a day off with your bandmates, and you don't have to drive all day to your next show, plan a fun day with as much vigour as you would booking a tour date. Visit museums, go shopping, do whatever floats your boat.
5. Honour yourself
Life on the road is tough on a body. At home you don't think twice about when you're going to shower next, whether or not you're going to get enough sleep, or where your next meal will come from. On the road, these are the variables that decide if, and when, you're going to get sick. In every major city, showers can be had at the local truck stop. Truth be known, these are usually kept cleaner than our showers at home. For less than $5, you can leave clean and refreshed, ready to rock on for another day.
Sleep is a little bit harder to come by. For those of you that sleep easily while riding in a vehicle, congratulations...you're probably one of the easiest people to deal with in your band. For those that don't, take advantage of the time between soundcheck and the time you hit the stage. Most venues I've been to have at least a couple comfy chairs or couches hidden away somewhere. Don't be afraid to ask where they are.
When it comes to food, you just have to be smart. As affordable and easy it is to just have a couple of chocolate bars for dinner, it will catch up to you in the long run. Diet has been proven to affect behaviour. If you're not eating well, you're not going to feel well. If you're on a tight budget, stop by a local grocery store. Buying sandwich meat and bread will cost you less than $5, and you'll feel a lot more full then you would be if you got your meal from the last gas station.