So, you’ve finally done it. You’ve started your band and you guys totally rip. You’ve played out locally, recorded some songs and are finally ready to take your stuff on the road to get your creative endeavor in front of as many people as possible. It’s a pretty exciting time for a band…but it’s also scary and confusing as shit.
Before I ended up working here, I spent the better part of three to four years on the road with various bands. I was a guitar player, a bass player, a driver, a merch dude, and a “tech” (read: if the guitar player popped a string, I’d hand him his backup. That’s about the extent of my tech knowledge) for a bunch of bands. I’ve slept on floors and in vans and in dilapidated squats in Slovenia, and played in basements, attics, boats and pretty much everything in between. I am by no means a “road pro,” but I do have some bits of advice I’d like to throw out to all the bands out there who are ready to make the next jump. These are some general pointers and things I wish I had known the first time I piled a bunch of people and our gear into a van heading out into the vast unknown.
1. You Need A Van.
This may seem like common knowledge, but you’d be surprised how often I am putting on a show here in Atlanta and band rolls up in a couple of 1964 impala coupe. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but there is no substitute for having a large van that can fit all of your gear and all of your bandmates comfortably. Whether you are spending two weeks or two months on the road, you are still giving up 90% of your personal space and 99% of all the comforts you have at home. You don’t want to sit ass-to-elbows with your drummer for 5 hours a day, 21 days in a row. You will all need some space, so having a decent, spacious van pays off huge here. Also, while we are talking about vans, try to avoid trailers at all cost. I know this seems difficult, but spend time playing Tetris with your gear in the back of your van. Master that shit. I cannot tell you how many trailers full of irreplaceable gear and life possessions have been stolen while a band sleeps at night. Especially if this is your first time out, PLEASE do everything you can to protect yourself (and your gear!) out there.
2. Reconsider bringing “merch guys” and “roadies.”
If you are going on your bands first tour, you probably don’t need either of these two people. Bring a backup guitar and bass and maybe a backup head (like, say, a Tiny Terror or an OR15), and leave your stoner buddy behind on your couch. You’ll be fine, trust me. As for merch, here’s an honest truth: if this is your first tour, you probably aren’t going to have lines of 50 people at your merch stand every night. Take your most responsible member and exempt him or her from unloading off stage at the end of the set. You’re not going to lose any sales in the time it takes for them to dash from the stage to the merch table.