Thursday, August 18, 2011

Grant's Tomb: The Rules of Touring

This segment of Grant's Tomb discusses rules for touring. A lot can happen while on the road, both good and bad. The potential for something to go terribly wrong increases every time the vehicle you are touring in makes a stop. This article will hopefully serve as a guide to those who are about to take the plunge, whether it be nationally, regionally or just across the state. It doesn't matter how far you are travelling... There ARE some things that you need to know.

What Happens on the Road Always Comes Home...

Touring is a must for bands, but most of them, especially the young ones, run into familiar traps that can end up being devastating to their friendships and business. Special thanks goes out to some friends and some groupies for letting me bounce ideas off them.

1. This one should be obvious, but if you can’t draw a crowd in your home town of more than 50 people (not including the other bands you might happen to be playing with), then an out of town show is not a good idea. Not only will you be taking an extremely risky gamble on people not showing up, but if you can’t draw a crowd at your own shows, chances are you won’t be winning over any new fans out of town. Another issue you will be running into is promotion. We’ve all heard the stories of promoters scheming bands out of money or just flat out not promoting the show as much as they could. Get it in writing. If you get an offer to play an out of town gig where the promoter is promising sold out shows and a guarantee of $400.00, it’s probably too good to be true. Lastly, if no one has heard of your band, how do you expect to sell merch? But oh, the people will hear the music and know its good! Right, which would be a possibility, but remember, no one in your home town knows who you are, what makes you think Bum Fuck Egypt is going to know who you are?

2. Travelling takes its toll on bands, emotionally, physically, and worst of all, mentally. Road exhaustion is real and water is your best friend, but with all of that hydration, one might have to expel the excess fluid. A couple of rules for travelling in a bus or at worst a van. First off, a tour bus or RV is a privilege, not a right, so do you fellow band mates a favor. If you happen to have a bus with a bathroom at your disposal, do not drop deuce on the bus. That’s a big no no. Most buses have a limited supply of water in them which shouldn’t be wasted on you flushing out your crap. Buses have to stop, not often, but enough for gas that it should not be an issue for you to jog to the public restroom to get your business over with. So what about number one? This is a rather simple obstacle, its called empty water bottle. It may not be glamorous, but as a band on the road, you do not have the time to spare to make a stop every time somebody has to tinkle. If the idea of filling up a twelve ounce water bottle seems a little scary, might I recommend going to your local grocery store and picking up one of the empty gallon plastic bottles. Sure you may get some funny looks at the counter (ie: why didn’t you fill this up?), but it’s under a dollar and best of all, it’ll take multiple loads. If you don’t have a penis, sorry.

3. There is always that one member of the band who is smooth with the ladies. This can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing because if the women dig your lead guitarist, singer or drummer (sorry bass players, you don’t matter) they’ll tell their friends, boyfriends, etc that your band is awesome, whether you suck or not, thus increasing your fan base and bumping up sales. A curse because, well, chances are you’ll be playing in that same town again and those same, ahem; lot lizards will be showing up as well. Tread lightly, as a certain blonde in Chippewa Falls once stated “[guys in bands] come with warning labels,” and nothing could be further from the truth. Fact of the matter is your eye candy band mate can be a liability. Some things you need to clear with them before hand. Do not let them give out their phone numbers, AIM screen names, or any other personal info for that matter. Bring condoms. Yes, yes, that was kind of crude, but what’s worse, a baby momma in different area code or protected sex with the only repercussions being sweat and shame? Another issue that comes up is that groupie wanting to come on the tour bus or wanting to go back with you to the hotel. Generally speaking, the type of girls that are willing to throw themselves at random guys on the road are not the type you’re going to be happy with waking up next to in the morning.

Think I’m over generalizing here? Go here and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Something that could be potentially worsening towards the situation is that all too familiar instances when said eye candy member decides that he is going to go home with random hussy. By no means should you allow them to leave. This will put you in an awkward situation, but remember you have to be up at noon to make it to the next venue by 9. Again, what’s worse, dude being pissed or having to scramble to find the missing dude in the morning when his phone is magically dead or shut off?

4. Alcohol. It ruins things, especially your ability to decipher right and wrong, but even worse, what song you’re playing and possibly your relationship with your other band members. First impressions are everything, and if you’re too drunk to play your songs not only will you piss off your fellow band members, but you’ll also smash any chance of gaining new fans due to your lack of self-control. On a personal note, I’ve been there, believe me, it was not cool and while I managed to hang in there, it was not my best performance and definitely hindered my band mates ability to perform. Although the temptation of free booze and the obliteration of your stage fright might be enticing, remember moderation and good pacing will always make for a better night. Something I always challenged myself towards the end of my gigging career was no drinking on stage and it always made for a better night.

Don't be this guy on tour.
5. Food. This is a tricky one, as stated above; touring takes an extreme toll on your body and sometimes it’s really hard to make good choices as far as food is concerned. Most musicians subscribe to the “ein” diet, that is, nicotine, caffeine, and protein. Just do your best to hit up buffets and avoid the burger joints. If you roll into town some time around noon, most restaurants will have an early bird special, and you can always suggest that you’ll clean the dishes if your meal is free.

To add some flavor to this post, I asked some of my friends who play/have played in the local scene to list some rules that they have, or general guidelines that they try to follow while on the road.

Eric Davidson/ Vocalist (Dead Horse Trauma)
  1. No Taco Bell (or any foods that make you extremely gassy on the bus)
    2. Most short conversations should be sung to the tune of "Blackened" or "Come and Knock on my door".
    3. What happens on the road, stays on the road.
    4. When you open a water [bottle], you must drink it all.
    5. Make sure all cabinet doors are shut, or you may be beat in the head a lot with books and other hard objects.-
Patrick Davis/Vocals, Guitar (Patrick’s Beard and the Rusty Razors, ex-A Dead Hero)
  1. DON"T worry if you don't finish that bottle of Jaeger, it'll make a great breakfast
  2. DO take pictures of your sleeping band mates, it will be hilarious -there are some examples in this album
  3. DO go to the liquor store that appears to be run by Russian mobsters. It'll be cheap and they might be listening to Slayer.
  4. DON'T spill milk in the van. It will smell like a prostitute's vagina.
  5. DO slam on the brakes and scream while your band mates are asleep in the back seat. They will wake up expecting death.
  6. DON"T forget to take your epilepsy medicine the day of a show

Dan Powell/Vocals (ex-Burning the Broken), Guitar (ex-Autocrat)
  • 1. Don't sleep in the van, you'll get sick
  • 2. Don't feel guilty for taking anybody's food without paying them. If Jesus were that hungry, he'd do the same thing
  • 3. Avoid road rage in South Dakota with a guy who just got outta prison.
  • 4. Play every show u can possibly get your name on, even if you have pneumonia and you feel like your body cannot go any further. Pop some Dayquil... it'll be over in 25 minutes.
  • 5. Do not play a set that is 40 fucking minutes long. You're not fucking Aerosmith.
  • 6. Make friends often and quickly, especially in sketchy towns.
  • 7. Always come back to the same venues you have played before.
  • 8. Save up your own money... you're going to be broke when you get done, and so will the band.
  • 9. Don't bring your fucking girlfriend on tour with you. Girlfriends are NOT allowed on tour.
  • 10. Don't have a girlfriend while on tour. She won't be loyal and neither will you.

Thanks guys, you have no idea how much I appreciate your input and even the sarcasm has some validity too it as well. Something also to consider is that not all of these rules may apply to you, take it with a grain of salt.

(Written by Grant Peter)