This set of Tour Tips was written by the rock ‘n roll duo, John & Brittany. You can check out their tips for being on the road, after the break.
1. Minimalism. For most musicians, the chance to be on the road is a dream come true, but it’s really important to do it smart. Our advice: travel light.
John: The less gear you bring, the quicker you can set up and tear down, and if you’re a support act or part of a mulit-band co-bill, efficiency is really appreciated all around by venues, tour managers, and the other bands. Plus, you can get the fuck out of the club at lightning speed in those situations that feel like they could degenerate into “Deliverance” type scenarios. We have two different modes of touring; if we’re traveling as a duo, it’s just us, 2 acoustic guitars, and a Snark to tune up.
Brittany: Full band is a bit more complicated; my set up is a Gibson Les Paul through a behemoth Orange 2×12 cab and head, which is a pain in the ass to carry but at least it sounds kick ass! John’s set up is Fender Hotrod Deluxe amp and a Fender Telecaster, no effects for either of us. If you have a good amp and a good guitar, what the hell do you need a pedal board for?
John: Same mentality for clothes and personal toiletries. Don’t over-pack. Hotel shampoo is a dear, dear friend of ours. Toothpaste is a trickier thing sometimes. You can usually bring one tube for the band to share on the road, but in John & Brittany, my tube of Tom’s of Maine is consistently met with Brittany’s scorn.
Brittany: Fuck you and your indie toothpaste!
2. Having said all that, don’t forget the guitar stands.
John: This is an area you should not scrimp on. We learned this the hard way. The hardest way you can imagine. A few months back, we were playing a roller derby in New Jersey and didn’t bring guitar stands. About 45 minutes before we were supposed to play, my Les Paul Special that Brittany was using at the time, was propped up against the wall of the hockey rink we were set up in and it slipped and crashed onto the floor of the rink. Split right at the headstock.
Brittany: I felt awful. I’m sure John died a little inside.
John: Like idiots, our entire band was trying to duct tape it back together, which was completely ill-conceived, but desperate times call for desperate measures. In the midst of all that chaos, I had also forgotten I had agreed to sing the National Anthem. It wasn’t until I heard “and now singing the National Anthem, errrrr, John and, uhhh, Brittany” that I had to drop the roll of duct tape and run to the mic completely disheveled and sing so that these roller girls could skate around and kick each others’ asses.
Brittany: Luckily, we were able to call a friend and get another guitar. It turned out to be a pretty cool gig after all. Plus the girls’ were incredible. With names like Anna Nicole Smithereens and Derby Sanchez, how could it not be awesome?
3. Be adaptable.. no gig is too small.
John: When Brittany and I started out, I had been in bands for years but she didn’t play guitar at all when we started writing songs.
Brittany: There was a big learning curve for me in the beginning, so we really needed to do something to get as much stage experience as possible in a short amount of time. So, we ended up playing open mics, sometimes 4-5 nights a week.
John: I had never really done the open mic thing; there was a part of me that felt like I was.. not necessarily above it, but more beyond it. But it made sense to do them because it allowed Britt and I to develop our chemistry in low-pressure settings and do it frequently. Looking back on it now, once we started to click onstage, open mics are how we developed the foundation of our following. Now, we host our own open mic at Legendary Dobbs in Philly and it’s a cool little support system going on there.
Brittany: Now, we even include open mic “tours” as part of our itinerary, because you can go into new markets and play in front of people, and often in front of the booking agents for venues without any pressure to promote the gig or bring anyone. When our new record “Start Sinning” came out, we did a ton of open mics the first month it was out and sometimes sold more merch than at a lot of traditional bar gigs. We did something like $140 in merch at one open mic after playing only 3 songs.
John: And that’s the thing, we’re finding that the more we take unusual, non-traditional routes, the more it keeps things interesting for us, and also for our audience. So, we’ll do shows at roller derbies and tattoo shops, play house concerts and open mics, and combine those shows with bigger concerts. Because we can present ourselves as either a full band or a duo, it really opens up a lot of possibilities. If you can adapt to different situations, it’s a huge advantage over bands that only work in one way.
Brittany: Yeah, bands that can be multi-dimensional can create a lot more opportunities for themselves.
4. Bring comedy. There are times when the grind of the road can just make you stressed, even if you’re enjoying yourself. There’s nothing better than laughing your ass off to relieve that.
John: I never leave home without certain comedic essentials: Jerky Boys Vol. 1-3, David Cross, George Carlin. “Red’s Tube Bar.” “Evil Joe.” That’s an absolute favorite.
Brittany: Ya shot motherfuckas, Joe?
John: Oh, and “Shut Up, Little Man.”
Brittany: All the comedy you like seems to be at the expense of others! People getting pissed off.. nothing funnier than that.
John: Exactly. Buddy Rich flipping out on his band. Casey Kasem yelling at his producer. Barry White fucking up a commercial and losing his shit.
Brittany: We’re horrible people.
John: At least we admit it.
5. Taco Bell App.
John: I actually just got this today so I can only imagine how helpful it’s going to be. But I’d be willing to bet we use it a lot.
Brittany: It’s because I’m Spanish, isn’t it?
Do you think these tips would be useful while touring? Let us know in the comments below!