In this Tour Tips segment, the indietronica, Geographer, recommends advice for being a musician on the road. You can check out the tips, after the break.
1. Bring a Cooler:
I like being healthy, and it’s also essential to putting on a good show, and singing well, so I take it very seriously out there on tour. For me that begins with eating right. My tip for this is to get a cooler that fits in between the front two seats of the van. But the most important part is an invention of mine, the ‘Food Saver’ patent pending (it’s not). Go to the Container store or Amazon and buy a Closet Maid type shelf that will fit as snuggly into the bottom of the cooler as possible. Then grab the slatted tray from your toaster oven (or buy something like it), and attach it to the end of the shelf with twist ties, so that it makes a kind of swinging door or trunk. When you need to put ice in, you flip up the “trunk” and watch the ice slide down beneath your ‘Food Saver’ patent pending (it’s not). Place the food on top of the shelf, and marvel at how it rests safely a few inches above the ice so that the nasty cooler water won’t spoil your delicious leftovers, of which the anticipation of eating is just about the only thing getting you through this show!! If you want to be really ambitious—which I’m assuming you do, since you’re in a band—you can buy rubber tubing that connects to the cooler drain spout and snake that out to the backside door of the van. You can put a plug in the end of the tubing, and when the ice melts, you can empty the water without moving the cooler an inch (and thus injuring your back)! But you absolutely must make sure the seal between the tubing and the cooler is rock solid, lest you break up the band when everybody’s shoes get soaked with 3-day old cooler water.
2. Whole Foods is the new Home Cooked Meal:
The next piece of the puzzle to eating right is where to do it when you’re in the middle of nowhere. If you plan out a few days in advance, you can weather the desert wastes (whether literal or culinary) of the United States by buying a few days of groceries ahead of time and keeping them in the aforementioned suped-up cooler. Just make sure that you don’t go overboard, and pick your items carefully. Overstuffing the cooler or introducing Kimchi into the van will get you left on the side of the road. My go-to shopping list: nuts, a few boxes of balanced meals from the hot bar (don’t forget your veggies), some cereal bars for when you just need to tide yourself over, and a drink to make you happy, like Kombucha or a juice.
Are we noticing a theme? Bring a heavy-duty stretch cord with you and keep it in whatever bag you bring with you to the hotel and the green room. Any time you have a spare hour, whether it’s before the show, or in the morning in the hotel room, go through a quick 30 minute routine of resistance exercises. Also make sure you book a hotel with a gym at least once a week, if it’s within the budget. They are often more expensive, but you don’t need them every day. That will give people the opportunity to get some cardio in. Because even though you’re dog tired from lugging your gear around every day, like some strangely dressed and ill-prepared moving company that keeps going to the wrong address, your heart rate rarely gets up to cardio levels for a prolonged period of time.
4. The Rider:
In a lot of clubs, the rider is not free! So while it seems as if an angel from heaven with tattoo sleeves is bringing you a gift of a veggie tray and chips and salsa every night, it’s actually often coming out of your cut at the end of the night. There are two solutions here. One is to buy your own snacks and bring them into the green room with you, and minimize your rider to one item that brings pure joy to each band member. The other option is to forgo the rider and opt for a buy-out. This means that the money the club was going to put towards giving you a tub of hummus that will get two scoops taken out of it and then lugged around for a few days in the van while everyone insists they’ll eat it and then finally thrown out by the most responsible and grumpy band member, can go into everybody’s pocket instead! And everybody loves that.
5. Be kind to each other:
Tour is really hard, and there are many reasons most bands rarely last past a few of them, but the rigors of the road are chief among them. The most important thing I’ve learned is that everyone needs to be nice to each other. Understand that there will be one member of the band that will go insane if they don’t sleep in the back of the van for a few hours before a big show, and just drive listening to your thoughts instead of a podcast. If your drummer needs to drum at all times or their mind will explode, give them an hour a day where they fill the van with the sound of their paradiddles on a practice pad. If the bass player would rather peel their skin off than shake hands at the merch table, have them swap duties with someone who doesn’t mind being customer-facing. And most importantly, don’t needle each other. What seems like good fun can often tip a fragile and sensitive musician over the edge. Tour is ultimately surprisingly lonely. Never forget that you are each other’s family. Don’t be afraid to state your true needs confidently and often, and remember it’s all about the greater good of the band. Don’t be a jerk.