This could be the last blog from this tour. Sad, I know. To answer a few of the questions I’ve received, yes, yes, no, 167, absolutely! and I came in second place. Our tour manager, Chris, won but he’s a league bowler. But for a league bowler he looks more like he’s playing volleyball than bowling! He put a couple of divots in the lane!
Someone asked about the typical day on tour, so I think I’ll use today as an example, but first a bit about the bus environment.
The bus is divided into three sections separated by sliding doors. The front-most section is a lounge with a kitchenette that has a fridge/freezer, a microwave, a sink, lots of cupboards and drawers and a small bathroom. The second section is where the bunks are, twelve of them, stacked in threes from floor to ceiling, six on one side and six on the other. Each bunk has a reading light, an electrical outlet, a few USB charging ports and on the ceiling of each bunk is a DVD player with a screen that unfolds down. The bunk is just over six feet long, maybe 24 inches tall, and maybe 36 inches wide. Then the rear-most section is another, smaller lounge that has an ice chest and some couch type seating and a few closets. Each lounge is equipped with an HD TV attached to a very nice 2.1 sound system.
After the show we get on the bus and hang for a bit, with friends if appropriate. Usually there are tunes cranked in both the front and rear lounges. Eventually the party dwindles down to just band and crew and people start heading to the bunks. Last night the bus call was 7 am meaning that’s when the bus will start heading to the next city, in this case Albany. So my experience is that I hit the bunk while the bus is stationary and fall asleep. It’s pitch black in the bunks; there are no windows and no way to tell what time it is unless you have a cell phone in there. Eventually I wake to the bus starting to move. The ride through the city is pretty jerky in the bunk so I’m usually awake until we hit the highway, then I fall asleep again and stay asleep except for the occasional rest area stop. The next time I wake up, we are driving through the next city and the jerky ride has woken me up again. I stay awake until the bus stops, usually I’ll check the time. In this case I think it was about 9:40. Back to sleep.
I woke up about an hour later. Again, it’s pitch black in the bunk so I have no concept of where we are or what kind of day it is. Typically I’d check Google Maps on my phone while I’m still in the bunk to figure out where we are, but today I roll out of the bottom bunk into the hallway and head to the rear lounge and I’m surprised to see that we are parked right in the middle of a very busy plaza near The Egg with lots of official-looking buildings around, fountains spraying into the breeze and picnic tables full of people. There are food trucks parked around the perimeter and office people and construction workers lunching.
So imagine you’ve just rolled out of bed. You’ve standing at the window in your underwear, hair standing straight up, sleep crust in your eyes, wool sweaters on your teeth and breath that could kill. And you’re in a plaza full of office workers! Nice! Hi everybody! Fortunately you can freshen up somewhat before you leave the bus, but you’re still in last night’s clothes.
Anyway, at this point I brush my teeth and make some coffee and check email, still on the bus. Oh, we have internet on the bus. Very cool!
This venue is one of the ones with showers, so I creep out of the bus and open the bay where my suitcase is, grab some clean clothes, and head inside for a shower. Ah, much better!
Typically at this point I would head into town to find a coffee shop to blog from, but this plaza has such a nice vibe to it I’m blogging from one of the picnic tables. This is also when I might find some food. This is my free time so once I finish blogging I might walk around town, window shop, or head back to the bus for a nap.
My work day begins at 4 PM usually. The crew has been working since 10 or 11 am loading in and setting up the show. It’s an amazing production and as such it is quite complex. The stage is a maze of gear and wires. It’s like the inside of a space ship. There are weird looking antennas and devices all over the place. So at four o’clock I walk into the maze with my in-ear monitors. I’m handed a receiver pack that I plug the in-ears into and then attach to my belt. I put on the guitar, switch the pack on and I’m ready for sound check.
Sound check is just that – making sure that everything works and sounds okay. Everyone is adjusting their in-ear mix and Rachel, our front-of-house engineer is tuning the PA to the room. Typically Mike will have a punch list of things he remembered from the last show, just little improvements or suggestions specific to certain tunes, so we’ll run through that list. I may also have a couple of things as well. Then we do an EEL test to make sure the audience interaction piece is working. Then we play something very loud for Rachel. We may or may not do a listening exercise to make sure everyone can hear everyone else. And lately we’ve been doing a “trance jam” where we create a jam by each repeating a single phrase over and over again for about ten minutes. Something about this is very… hmmm… enlightening. I’ve heard of people doing this for hours at a time and reaching some sort of nirvana and I can see how that would work. For us it opens up this door and creates a realization that being hypnotic is much more interesting than always changing what you’re doing.
When sound check is over we have one to two hours to have dinner and get ready for the show. I like to change into whatever I’m wearing for the show and put my contact in so that I can eat dinner without feeling too rushed. I try to eat more in the afternoon and keep dinner light since I’m usually not that hungry before I play anyway.
After dinner we gather in the dressing room and maybe talk about any special things we’re doing in the set, or not. Then the huddle and we hit the stage. (See my blog entry about that!)
After the show we head to the bus and start all over again!!
All in all, this has been a great tour! It’s such a fun band with very good, caring people in it. It’s not all glamor and party; in fact it’s a shitload of work, done on very sketchy bus-sleep.
I once again have to shout out to the crew, in particular Chris Friday, our tour manager who takes care of everybody and everything on this tour and still manages to make me laugh my ass off; Trey Kerr, our guitar tech, bass tech and everything else tech who sets up my rig and takes care of me while I’m on stage; Rachel Capobianco, our front-of-house sound person who makes us all sound amazing in every venue; Jamie Capobianco, our keyboard tech and other stuff tech who sets up and takes care of Robert’s keyboards as well as a slew of other stuff; Jason Liggett (Liggy), our LD who makes us feel like we’re tripping balls every night with his phenomenal lighting; Walt Westinghouse, our monitor guy, who makes the in-ears sound unbelievably good every night; and Max Cohn, our EEL tech, who sets up and runs the EEL every night and does hours and hours of programming every day. These guys work ridiculously long hours every day and still manage to take exceptional care of us while maintaining a super fun and happy atmosphere the entire time.
I also have to shout out to my band mates as well. Johnny Kimock who kicks my ass every night and does so with a smile; Robert Walter who blows me away reaching into the depths of his being with every note he plays; Craig Myers who’s joyous attitude radiates outward from every creative thing he does;
And most of all to Mike Gordon, my partner in crime whose vision has opened my mind to the limitless possibilities; whose bass playing interweaves with my guitar playing as though there were coming from a single mind; and whose unrelenting faith in all of us allows us to be the creative people we want to be.
Eh. Maybe this ISN’T my last entry!
PS: I have to give another shout out to Brad Sarno whose sound expertise and Earth Drive pedal helped to make my guitar sound the best it could be! http://www.sarnomusicsolutions.com/