Clocked In: The Details of Touring in Bands That Nobody Tells You

Brad Logan with the Adolescents at Sabroso Fest: not quite as cold as Seattle. (Credit: John Gilhooley)

[Editor’s Note: Welcome to a monthly column from veteran punk Brad Logan of Leftover Crack, Rats in the Wall and the Adolescents about surviving day to day between tours as a working musician. To read his past columns, click here.]

I started packing at 11 p.m. last night for a tour that goes from Seattle to Florida, via California and Texas. These days, I can pretty much fit the entire contents of my tour ensemble into a full-size backpack, man-purse and soft guitar bag. Checking luggage costs money and can add up quick. It was to be avoided at all costs.

Highlights of my Uber ride to the airport included: the driver asking me with a straight face if I was 70 years old because he really wanted to know (for the record, I’m 20 years younger than that); stopping for gas on the way, even though I was running late; the driver asking me if I would care to read his Bible while I waited for said gas to be pumped. As I was sitting in the back seat and thinking of posting a “Bible Alert” review of my driver, it occurred to me that Uber should include the option of requesting a non-speaking driver. I would pay extra for the luxury.

Once I arrived at the airport, I got my boarding passes and was informed I would be flying into a blizzard—stay posted for possible delays. Cool. Seattle hadn’t seen snow in years, so this was gonna be fun. A couple of bumpy-ass flights later, and I was in Jet City. Growing up in the endless sun of SoCal, I came to appreciate cold weather. Rain, snow and ice are a vacation paradise to me. My band mates weren’t as lucky; their flights were delayed until the following day. We didn’t have a show tonight, but rehearsal had to be canceled. We could go over songs at sound check tomorrow.

Mid-afternoon on show day, and the other bands start arriving, some still drunk from the previous night. Hugs all around, then we load our gear in like a dutiful parade of ants, through the grime and slush of the Capitol Hill gutters.

I’m in love with the camaraderie shared among touring bands. Like survivors of a natural disaster, bonds are forged that transcend time, distance and space. Only another band/road crew person can understand the simultaneous joy and total fucking insanity a simple automobile ride can foster. I have seen grown adults lose their shit and fistfight, over a 20-hour drive spent curled up in the fetal position on a van bench, with six other people breathing at you. The van has, for all intents and purposes, become your whole world. But touring is 10 percent stage time and 90 percent work getting to and from that stage.

The first week—in particular, the first show—is always the toughest. It’s about throwing your mind and body into a vortex that is the polar opposite of home. The way a body moves onstage while playing high-energy music is not the way a body would move in regular life, except for maybe running from the cops or jumping fences while being shot at.

During the course of a gig, you’re using all kinds of muscles you didn’t know you had and don’t even feel till the next morning, when you wake up fucked. This doesn’t necessarily hold true for musical choreography, dance or people who work out six days a week, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. There are also bruises and wounds of unknown origin discovered at the end of the night, when your adrenaline finally stops blasting through your veins. It’s death by a thousand cuts, and you writhe and twist as your muse dictates because you are fucking possessed by a power that is centuries old.

It’s a power greater than the greatest minds of our pitiful species: the power of rock—or whatever you choose to play. It’s all the same. We’re slaves to the beat. Music is the master, and we offer our weak minds and flesh as humble sacrifice.

2 Replies to “Clocked In: The Details of Touring in Bands That Nobody Tells You”

  1. I used to promote punk bands in Vancouver BC throughout the ’80s and it was always a relief to see visiting US bands driving into Canada away from the border station. Nearly all of the members stank and someone in their entourage (usually a faithful roadie) always seemed to have some minor possession charge in their background that could jeopordize entry. Also, someone in any band always hated/loathed some else in their band – I saw it loads of times in Black Flag, Meat Puppets and others who would cruise into town. A trip to the drug store for over-the-counter codiene cough syrup was a tall order for some groups when in Canada. But by the time the groups hit the stage – all bickering was put on hold – and the music rocked. Fate accompli. If I made money on a show, that was another matter.

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