In this Tour Tips segment, Dave Lang of the indie rock band, Current Swell, gives you his tips for being on tour. You can check out the feature, after the break.
1. Food and water: Simple tip, eat well and drink plenty of water. We like to bring along our own re-usable bottles so that we feel like we are saving the world every time we fill that bottle up in some greasy truck stop bathroom. Its also important to drink good beer, trust me, its worked well for everyone who ever tried it.
2. Crew: For the up and coming band, when you’re hitting the road you’ll find a band member usually takes a bit of the lead. That dude will usually do a bit more organization, a bit more driving etc…it can be a bit lame after a while if you get into this pattern. We find its sweet to hire a tour manager, or even just teach a good buddy who’s maybe not a musician, but loves the industry and loves music… and teach him how to be a TM for your band. That way, the band can stay bros, and you can have one guy outside of the performing dynamic of the band to pick up all that greasy slack, and it can give you a great extra person to bounce ideas off and pal up with when on the road. Our guy is named Marty, he’s the man. Hit us up if you want his number.
3. Google calendars: Load up google calendars with what show you have on what night, what time load in is, sound check, for the next day, load up what time lobby call is at the hotel, write in details like how far the drive is that day in the notes section. Got an interview, toss it in there too. You can set 2 alerts for each separate event so every one who subscribes to your calendar ( the band and crew ) their phones will get pinged like half hour before the event starts, say its load in and every one is off doing their own thing being super artistic flakey musicians… well instead of calling them all or having your TM baby sit everyone, the whole band and crew all get empowered because they have access to all the info they need, and it even pings them any time something is about to happen. I love google calendars. Get you TM buddy to set this up or have one person spearhead getting it going, all a sudden it becomes almost like a digital tour manager.
4. Play for yourself, not the crowd: When we first started out, nobody would ever come to our shows…it took a few times before the word got around and then all a sudden everyone was lining up.
But even now, we will hit some town on an off night and there’s a snow storm or something and you gotta still enjoy it. Hard to do but I find if you go into this game like, I’m gonna have fun playing this music and thats what I want to do, then its contagious and the band members around you will feel it too and its just funny how it works. Sometimes i’ll look over at my drummer and I’ll be in a shitty mood, and he’s got this smile on his face, all a sudden I’m enjoying it too, and then you just watch it spread.
5. RV vs Hotel: Our band is a 4 piece, but occasionally we bring maybe a small horn section, sound guy, tour manager, merch person… depending on the scope of the tour. We were dropping between 4 and 6 hundred bucks a night on hotel rooms, which are a pain to get in and out of and theres always that one guy who sleeps in and you all wait around the lobby for him every day. There’s this company called Bandwagon based in Indianapolis (middle of America) and they will rent you a 8 sleeper RV/ bus type mobile that you can drive without any special licence but can sleep your band and crew! Doing that we saved money on hotels, eat better, and got way more rest on the road because you can rest while driving, or catch naps after soundcheck easy as your hotel is parked right in front of the venue! Its a sweet cheaper alternative to a bus, so check it out if you hate hotels as much as I do.
6. Booze: Years back when our original bass player quit, I became more of the guy who had to step up to do the driving after shows, keep my head in the game for a lot of the biz stuff while we were on tour. All a sudden I went from being half cut every night to mostly sober and the first week or so was painful. I didn’t really like playing sober, and couldn’t lose myself like I had before, also the pressure and anxiety of performing when you first get started was hard to face without a few pops. I stuck with it though and found I personally liked the clarity of being sober while performing… its so rewarding to be locked in with your band and be clear, not fogged out….
I know its not rock and roll advice, and hey every nights a party, and everything is free, but give it a shot, you might find yourself as surprised and stoked as I was.
(Photo credit: Michelle Dowdy)