It’s been a long time since I last toured. More so since I last toured as a Lampie rather than as the LD or Operator. In this particular instance, I’m out babysitting a time coded Green Hippo Hippotiser system, on what, by normal standards, is a pretty lengthy tour.
The first Month or so of this particular tour, is a long series of back to backs. We are averaging 6 of them a week, with a 7 day week thrown in just to punish us for getting two days off in a row this weekend. If you are wondering just what a back-to-back is, then the clue’s in the name. Load into a venue, do a show, load out, move to another venue, load in, do a show, load out, and so on, ad infinitum (or ad nauseum depending on just how dull the gig is).
Beyond the back to backs, we are to get a couple of months of positive luxury whereby we achieve up to 5 days in a single venue without a move. After that, we’re back to a long series of back to backs, finishing roughly seven months after we began. As I said, this is a longun!
This particular show has been touring for a long time, and I’m here by virtue of the fact that the show has recently had a redesign, and a video element has been added, thus giving me the opportunity of gainful employment for a while. Given the length of the tour, and my impending nuptials that needs paying for, who am I to say no.
Joining a tour like this, as the new boy, with a long established crew that know the show, know the venues (some of which are beyond appalling as load ins and load outs go, the venues that is, not the crew), and know each other well is always tough. It’s a bit like being the new boy at school, where you need to very quickly try and work out the friendships, quirks, and cliques. It’s not easy, but it is doable. Although I do find there are more days where you feel that you are not as much a part of the team than you otherwise might if the whole crew were new.
In general though, things have significantly improved since my last tour, *coughs* years ago. The busses are certainly nicer, the hotels are better, the catering is about the same, although in this age of austerity, the venues are cheaper, not as well equipped, and the showers occasionally look like somebody was recently murdered in them. It’s all still good fun though, although every now and again I find myself wondering why on earth anybody would want to do this for a living.
It’s a frequently lonely place being on tour. The last time I did this, I was a single man, without a care in the world, and so no real ties to prevent me from being away for months on end. As an engaged chap, with a fiancé a few thousand miles away, a business to try and run, and the attendant accountants, solicitors, advisers, clients, and suppliers, all vying for your time, as well as the daily needs of the show, and any tech issues that inevitably crop up when you are moving a lot of expensive, and technically quite sensitive kit around Europe on a nightly basis, things can get on top of you, and again you find yourself wondering just why you agreed to do it.
At the beginning of your career, you’re doing it for the glitz and the glamour, and the thrill of the touring world. Quickly though, you are disabused of the notion that anything about touring is vaguely glamorous, and certainly there is little about it that you could all glitzy, and there’s very little that’s even thrilling. Very quickly, it becomes about the money, just another job. Although admittedly, it’s an improvement on the few 9 to 5’s that I have suffered through, regardless of the 16 hour days, the living out of a suitcase, and the occasional mystery meat in catering.
Outside of this industry, few people really understand what life on a tour is like, and I’m not going to try and explain it other than to say that if it is something you think you might want to do, then try it. It’s the only way you’ll find out if you can see yourself making a career out of it or not. Do be aware though, that you will need to constantly remind your friends outside the industry that the only thing you see of any given city is usually the inside of its local shit pit of an arena, and the freeways that lead into and out of it, and that you do not get to hang out with the band.
Likewise, you will find that people you rarely, if ever, speak to, will immediately become your best friend if they discover you are working with an act or a show that they want to see. The calls and texts asking if there are any opportunities for tickets can get quite nauseating.
Nevertheless, it’s as good a way to earn a crust as any other, and the days off in interesting and far flung corners of the world can indeed be quite ‘cool’, especially as you are in those cities at somebody else’s expense! Carry a camera, try the local cuisine, meet the locals. It’s all good fun!