There is no easy way around it, but living a life on tour is something that is not for everyone. I would even go as far as saying that it is not for most people. Life on tour means extremely long daily drives, sleeping on random floors (if sleeping at all), little to no pay, unhealthy eating habits and being stuck with the same small group of people for weeks whether you like it or not.
While this may seem like a job nobody would ever want, it’s this random gypsy style lifestyle that many determined individuals and myself included thrive to live for. Whether it be musicians, tour managers, pro wrestlers or carnies, the chaotic life of touring is something that is embedded in the fiber of their being, shaping the kind of person that they are. As a veteran of four tours (one with the Vans Warped Tour in 2011 and three with the New Jersey band Back & Forth in 2013/2014), I am here to breakdown what life is like on tour for those not brave enough for the journey and for those who want to look back and reminisce the times they have had in the past while on the road.
If you haven’t quite yet noticed, life on tour is living within a separate culture, away from the realm of the general public where normality doesn’t exist. This article will feature a step-by-step list of what unique aspects occur while living this random life. While every tour, individual and band of traveling men (and women) will be different; this list is something that have been consistent throughout my four tours.
Day One Vibes: The first indication that you are about to set sail on a multiple weeklong journey on the road, is the vibes going into the first day of tour. For me personally, the act of gathering your belongings into a travel bag, picking out what shirts to bring and uploading as many podcasts and new music on to your iPod is something I find exhilarating.
Typically the first day of tour means waking up bright and early to meet up with the rest of your tour brothers and sisters. While all of you will say you be heading out at a reasonable time for an example 9 A.M., in reality you will be leaving at 11 A.M. Don’t ask me why, but this is the way it always is. Once you’re on the road that first day, expect everyone in the van to be upbeat, fresh and excited in a last day of school kind of way.
The thought of the wear and tear of life on the road is not even a thought in anyone’s mind and the carefreeness of stopping at rest stops just to goof with your buddies seems like the best idea in the world. While as the tour progresses, so seems like your age at lightening speed but for the first day or two, your group will be excited and giddy like a group of teenage girls.
The Van: While you will really get to know the members of the group you are traveling with, the member you will really get to know well is the one that gets you from point A to point B. The van is unofficially the most important member of the tour, It takes you where you need to go, holds all of your belongings, it’s a place to sleep when there is no other place to crash at and its also symbolic of those who are traveling within the confines of said van.
When I toured with Back & Forth, the van had a very DIY feel to it that matched the bands mindset. When I traveled on Warped Tour, I was with a group of girls traveling in a small compact car that really fir the personality of whom I was traveling with. Since the van is the most important member of the group, it is important to keep up to date with the vans up keep, checking the oil and tires etc.
Trust me, I have learned the hard way when we were stranded on the side of the road on the border of Kentucky and Indiana.
Inside Jokes: Being stuck in a vehicle for a minimum of three hours a day, every day for weeks can lead to insanity for some, but in order to avoid these potential bouts of insanity you’re going to have to entertain yourselves, though be forewarned the lines of insanity and entertainment seem to blur while a few days in to tour.
By the end of every tour I have had with Back & Forth, nearly everything that came out of our mouths were some type of inside joke. Playing marshmallow shows, tour managing a “musical band”, driving past Buttown, calling Tim Horton’s Timmy Houlihans and of course going to STORE are all hilarious to me and six other people….but not so much anyone reading this right now.
Crossing paths with other touring acts, you soon discover that every band has their own weird set of inside jokes, like when we did a mini-sun with Florida band Incited who would call their lead singer Pee-Paw every time they would speak to him.
Storylines: Coinciding with the inside jokes of tour are the mini-storylines that can range from just the couple of hours that you are in one town to lasting throughout the entire tour. This just might be my way of keeping sane, but I saw every tour stop as a different episode or chapter within the bigger story of the tour. These stories can be anything from meeting a love interest, going to the hospital multiple times or drama building within the group, all of which have happened on my previous tours.
An example of a smaller story would be during my stint on Warped Tour, the Connecticut date landed on my birthday during the after party at Midnight. It was a great time until as we were about to leave, one of the girls I was touring with locked the car keys in the trunk. After Triple A, the police and a mechanic all tried to help us out, we were forced to wait until 9 A.M. for a locksmith to open. This meant I was forced to sleep outside in a dirt parking lot in the hood of Hartford, CT on my birthday. As miserable as it was, it was something that I will never forget.
Meeting new people is something that goes hand in hand with the tour life storylines. Every new town that you enter comes a plethora of new individuals in your life. Some people you only see and hear from that one time and others will become close friends. Thanks to the popularity of social media, the latter of the two options is becoming more and more likely. I’m proud to have met a girl in Canada and on a later tour, met up with her again in Florida. Back & Forth has made a solid crew of friends in North Carolina all made from touring.