A tough and rugged, well-worn hard-shell Samsonite is my primary suitcase. It isn’t very big. In fact, the pride I have about its size wouldn’t fit inside it if it was tangible. I love that its compact and can support me for months on the road, keeping shoes, books, and all around general tour stuff that one acquires, separate from my dirty laundry while at the same time keeping my hats protected. Mary Poppin’s purse ain’t got nothing on my bruised and battered overnight bag. But the case itself, with the stories it could tell, doesn’t deserve all the credit. It’s a thing of beauty yes, but like a guitar, the art lie in how you use it.
Traveling through Japan years ago I learned to use a luggage strap to ensure my bag remained closed en route. In the old days it was not uncommon to find one’s bag on the carousel spewing laundry or missing a few items. One time my case didn’t EVER arrive on the carousel and it was 14 months before we found it. 14 months!! Fortunately I’d just done laundry before it went missing. AND my roommate had gifted me a satchel of lavender to keep things fresh inside. When I opened the lost arc-ish time capsule of a case, all my items were there, pressed, clean and folded, and smelling oh so flowery.
This is tour in a nutshell. Or hardshell rather. Playing music often gets the glory, but tour is really about moving people and all of their stuff. Lots of stuff.
The word TOUR is best defined as a voyage. And when I hear the word voyage I can’t help but associate it with magic, or some kind of heroic or brave adventure; navigating high seas, dodging monsters, castle anthrax, etc. But for us the musicians, we have it easy. We have our suitcases and our backpacks, our books and our breakfast buffets. We’re on deck smiling, waving and playing shuffleboard while THE CREW is below deck keeping the engine running. People stop me daily and say, you must be tired, or they ask me, how do you do it? The real question is How do THEY do it?
When our crew arrived in Korea a few days ago, they hit the ground running. First they connect with the shipping container that brought our gear over from the US. Then they get it unloaded into the venues, assembling everything; stage, lights, PA, instruments, all of it – by mid day, just in time for some well oiled musicians to leisurely stroll in and tinker with it. Then they work the show, making sure all the lights, sound and equipment operates properly, in alignment with the musicians desires and the crowd reactions. THEN, they tear it all down, pack it all up and drive it to the next gig, with a SMILE.
How do they do it? How do they work 10 times as many hours as the band and get such little credit? It must be the coffee. Last night I bashed my guitar tech in the face during a blackout between songs. I didn’t see he was standing as close to me as he was and when I took my guitar off, the headstock went right into his headstock. If it were me, I would’ve needed a time out after that. But to him it’s just another battle scar; just another badge of honor.
So how do they do it? The smile might be the giveaway. After all the sleep deprivation, the packing – unpacking – and repacking of trucks, the wiring and rewiring of electricity and sound, and not to mention the musician requests to change the whole set up – how do they keep smiling though it all, day in and day out? Easy. They’re bat shit crazy.
The answer is in their love of putting on a show. The way a director sits behind the camera, so too do the crew hang tight in the wings bringing the shows to the masses. You don’t see Steven Spielberg acting in his own films, but for those two and half hours, he’s been right behind you.
I am grateful for my hardworking crew and all the blood, sweat and beers they sacrifice for us.
See them in action, the real men in black, this summer in a city near you.