Touring is an interesting experience because it feels so unlike real life, and it’s pretty surreal. I don’t always have the opportunity to play music for people in a new place every night, and moving from place to place each day becomes surprisingly comfortable. I feel like there is progress in motion, and a tour is a good representation of how movement can help us progress—playing each night is great practice, for one. But you also have the opportunity to meet new people and hopefully take back something positive from your interactions.
I recently got back from a quick 10-day tour with my band, fk mt., and another local band called Mybrother Mysister. Despite our van needing some work, and an altercation with some bigoted “cowboys” along the way (we’ll get back to that), it was an overall fun tour.
So to list just a few things going through my mind, I was reading Dune by Frank Herbert, had just watched Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, and had just learned about, not one, but two recent shootings of black men by police. And with all this, I also saw numerous updates regarding this year’s upcoming election. All of these things made me think heavily about resources, like the very limited water on the planet Arrakis, and government control, and how tenuous my existence is on our own planet and within our governmental systems.
What a time to be alive, indeed.
For anyone unfamiliar with touring, we packed everything needed for playing, sleeping, and staying alive on the road. This included all of our gear, sleeping bags, pillows, vitamins (those help a lot!), clothes, books, a computer, and even some roller blades, since we had some extra room. We didn’t necessarily have a place to stay for each night, but asked around at each show and hoped someone had some room for six people to crash on their floor (which worked out very well). For food, we would usually find some sort of diner or coffee shop in the morning or early afternoon, and anything else on the road that was fairly cheap and convenient. There were also a few incredibly gracious hosts who cooked us a meal, which we very much appreciated.
Each band drove a separate van, and we started to have some trouble with ours on the second day. We broke down on the way to Tallahassee, and stopped to get it looked at somewhere in Georgia. Luckily, all our drives were fairly short (around 4 hours max), so we had enough time to take it to a shop. They gave us some leftover food that they had in their break room, and said we had to replace the radiator, which they couldn’t replace but they sealed a leek which helped us get to Tallahassee. We bought another radiator on the way and got it changed the next day in Gainesville. Gainesville is also where the cowboys were.
To make a long story short, we played a show in Gainesville right next to a bar called Cowboys. The show went well and we didn’t really interact with anyone at Cowboys until we had to load our vans back up, right in front of the place, after the show. They didn’t like that we were unloading from the sidewalk and threatened to call the cops and yelled distasteful comments at us. Even after we had finished loading out, their bouncers and several patrons were verbally harassing us, yelling out racist and homophobic slurs. With everything I was reading being so politically driven, this whole dispute really disturbed me.
These words were acts of violence, the kind of violence that exists on a larger scale around the country. This event was just a microcosm of the terrifying and very real discriminatory views that reveal themselves through other acts of violence every day. These views seem to be held by many, which is not difficult to see given the amount of support a certain presidential candidate has from racists all over the country who see no problem with white supremacy, and are in fact fighting to maintain it. After watching Green Room (and having lived my life as a person of color in the south), this was not a situation I wanted to be in.
Luckily, we got out of the situation unharmed, and this was the only deliberately awful encounter we were faced with. After that, it was all beach hangs and roller blades with tacos and pizza and, oh yeah, some music sprinkled in between. One night in Sarasota, we all took different sets of wheels (blades, skateboards, longboards, and bikes) almost a mile out to a “fake beach,” which was just a shore by a body of water. It was around two in the morning, and we only stayed for a few minutes, but it was all worth it for the ride in and out. I honestly haven’t even roller-bladed that much at home.
This tour seemed to go by really quickly, but I’m still sort of amazed that I’m able to tour at all, thanks to my love for music and the DIY scene. What I love about it is seeing and meeting people who are creating spaces for people in their community and on the road to create and perform art. There is a transient nature to the DIY scene, people are always moving in and out, which keeps it more alive, in my opinion. For example, two of our shows happened at houses that were no longer going to continue being venues. This has happened in Columbia’s scene as well, but there are always more people coming through as well as new venues being created.
As far as playing for people, it’s hard not to get into playing after sitting around all day. It’s also interesting to see how different crowds can be. I’ve noticed that people tend to have more fun when it’s a house show, probably because it feels more like a party than a “concert.” Our best shows were probably at houses when people moved around and had fun with us. We even saw a few people crowd surf during our set at a house in Charleston. Those are the moments when I feel the least tense. There were, however, a few shows where people didn’t feel as comfortable moving around and just sort of stared at us. I never really quite know what to think at that point, but just keep playing. The cool thing about tour, though, is that no matter how the show goes, there is always another one the next day to hopefully make up for it.
So overall, tour was a great experience, and I would recommend touring to any band that’s trying to reach more people with their music, or if you’re just trying to get out of town for a bit and see what else is out there. There is always something one could bring back and try and incorporate into their own scene. It’s also a great way to make a band play better, just from playing each night. Even though we had some van trouble and came across some unpleasant people, we didn’t let that ruin our experience.