Tag Archives: Touring

The Road

One of the aspects of rock and roll that gets little general attention is the Sisyphusian life on the road. Ideally the band gets a tour. The tour commences. If things go really well, then (a) the tour gets extended or (b) another tour is established hard on the heels of the first. There is no visible end. Until the end. Then it isn’t pretty.

While touring is certainly a good thing vis-à-vis “making it” (and, presumably, making money), there is a price to be paid for this by the participants. When starting out, travel is fairly primitive and grim. Beat-up vans that have a tendency to break down or buses with a toilet that is dysfunctional on better days. Maybe a motel where the carpet is such that shoes stay on.

If it is a band that has made it, then, certainly, the level of accoutrements is elevated. And while it may seem, initially, exceedingly wonderful to be staying in hotels that had only otherwise been seen while thumbing through a lifestyle magazine in a dentist’s waiting room, that sense of wonder soon dissipates.

Just consider a simple aspect of this. Life on the road means life not spent at home. Not with family. Possibly with friends (but this is no lock, even if a bandmate is family). No possibility of doing “ordinary” things, like going to a favorite restaurant or taking out the trash.

But it is the job. The life.

Somehow the rock musician is elevated in the minds of many who would consider the life of a traveling salesman to be sad, possibly tragic. And how is that different from playing in a band?

A band that has been touring for what could be the definition of “forever” is the Rolling Stones. The extent to which the band is on the road would make the road normalcy and home something unusual.

Continue reading The Road

Horns, Hair and Hot Plates: On Tour With Avalanche, 1974

Even though I’ve spent my fair share of time in packed vans and cars driving to shows through snow and ice and overheated engines and speed-traps…I still love to read about other people’s experiences on the road. Throw in a healthy dose of frizzy hair and bell-bottoms and I’m hooked.

I stumbled across this gem of a story while watching talkingheads dissect the South Carolina GOP debates and thank God for it. Author Craig Morrison gives a hilarious and detailed account of his “jazz-rock show band’s” trek across Canada in 1974. This isn’t The Song Remains the Same, gang. This is the real story of a real working band scraping by to play shows in the Great White North. The groupies are few and the flatulence is many.

How can you not love details like this:

In the middle of the night after our farewell hometown gig at the Empress Hotel we spent four hours determining the most efficient way to pack the Hammond B-3 organ, Leslie speaker, two PA systems (one for vocals and one for the horn section), an upright bass (not for stage, just for practicing), guitars, amps, horns, drums (in cases), stage clothes, and a hot plate and a cooking pot. When we first unloaded, we drew a two-level diagram to make sure we could get it all back in. We also had two bicycles on a rack at the front of the van.

That, my friends, is what it’s really like to be on the road without tour support and/or roadies.

Read the whole story, which is an an edited version published in Goldmine magazine in 1994 as “Wild Times On Tour in Canada”