Fresh off a week-long tour of Canada and the northeastern US, Infant Island bring us some tips to help you and your band successfully pull off a DIY tour.
Touring in a band is never easy — especially when you’re doing the whole thing yourself, from planning and booking the shows to playing them. And yet, something about being stuck in a hot, crowded van and playing music with the same people for extended periods of time is totally intoxicating, so much so that it drives many of us to do it over and over again.
Last month, my band, Infant Island, embarked on a week-long trek up to Canada and back. It was our second trip to the great frozen north. Here are some nuggets of wisdom that hopefully will help you, should you choose to do something similar — one from each day of tour.
Day 1, Pittsburgh, PA: Supporting local business is good practice at home, but on tour, Guitar Center is your friend.
I’m not being paid to write this, but God is the ‘ol Guitar Center a boon. As soon as the show was over in Pittsburgh, we realized that something horrible had transpired — the dangers of letting other bands borrow our kit had been realized; the head on bass drum we had brought with us had been smashed.
The next morning, we woke up and tried to find a store that sold drum heads while sitting at breakfast, calling every music store in our vicinity. All of them were either closed or had previously sold drums but decided to move on. So, after a fruitless search for non-corporate gear stores, we ended up making the first of this tour’s multiple treks to Guitar Center. Each time we had to replace something different, and they faithfully had all of it in stock. Kick drum head, snare head, china cymbal, cymbal stands — they might as well call it “Drum Center.”
Day 2, Elyria, OH: Bring your own sleeping situation (or get good at sleeping in uncomfortable places).
Day two of tour we hit northern Ohio to play a festival. Afterwards, we headed back to the promoter’s house, along with three other bands. This is where we’d all crash — all fifteen of us. Now, I’m thankful for any hospitality we get on tour, so by no means is this anyone’s fault but my own, but it takes some skill to score a spot on a couch when there are more than a dozen other people vying for the same spot.
I’m the perpetual light packer; I brought neither a pillow nor a sleeping bag with me on tour. So when I got stuck on the unfinished hardwood floor, I wasn’t thrilled. This brings us to the lesson at hand: if you want to be comfortable, you have to bring your own bedding.
Alternatively, you can get good at sleeping on floors – our vocalist, Daniel, has what I can only imagine is Stockholm syndrome about sleeping on wood floors. He’s developed a taste for them, and claims the floor wherever we stay. He swears it feels better than any alternative. I must admit, I’m skeptical.
Day 3, Chicago, IL: Cherish your showers, and be prepared to take alternative measures to achieve cleanliness.
Some may find this fact disturbing, even grotesque, while others will recognize it as par for the course: On tour, showers are few and far between. This particular run was a shining example of that, as Chicago was the only place over the whole week we were away where we were afforded the opportunity to shower. Keep in mind that this tour took place in late July, the dead of summer, and that temperatures outside reached over 90 degrees almost every day.
On top of this, most DIY venues have only somewhat functional air conditioning. What I’m getting at is that the amount of sweat and grime which built up across each day was unprecedented. If cleanliness is next to godliness, then it was in Chicago that I was saved. I must’ve shed a pound or two of dirt in that claw-foot tub… only to gain it all back over the next four days.
Some methods to mitigate the effects of insufficient showering on tour include: multiple layers of deodorant (both stick and spray), dry shampoo, and air fresheners. Consider investing in one, if not all, of these items before embarking.
Day 4, Lansing, MI: Eat well, and respect your bowels.
More horror stories from biology: in Lansing, located in ICP’s home state of Michigan, we were challenged by a local Juggalo to shotgun Faygo. Naturally, we obliged — if only for the novelty. This was a mistake. No more than two hours after each of us consumed two or more cans of the clown-liquid did we start to feel its effects: its slow, carbonated poison seeping through our guts. “Tour Tummy” was upon us, as it would be for the remainder of our trip, featuring symptoms straight out of Oregon Trail. Eat and drink nutritionally fulfilling foods on tour, lest ye suffer the same fate.
Day 5, Toronto, ON: Consider bringing smaller gear.
While stacks of guitar cabinets and stands upon stands of giant cymbals certainly create an aesthetically powerful image, if you’re not prepared to carry all of that gear up and down multiple flights of stairs each night, bring something a little smaller. More often than not, house shows take place in basements down a precarious flight of stairs, while bar venues are often at the top of one! Pick your poison, but both will have adverse effects on your physical wellbeing later on in life.
Treat your body with some respect, and remember that it’s the only piece of gear that you can’t replace. The other option is to go to the gym more often, but who am I kidding with that one? You don’t have money for a gym membership — like me, you spent all your money on music gear. And rest assured, your vocalist who does go to the gym ain’t carrying shit!
Day 6, Montréal, QC: Know your limits.
This night was a prime example of an absolute mess which could have been avoided entirely. First, when we arrived in Montréal, a member of our touring party decided it was a good idea to buy a fourth of legal weed from a dispensary, less than 18 hours before we would be returning to the United States. This person was determined to consume the entire amount before we crossed back over the border, and successfully did so. However, it was at the expense of their coherence for a good 16 hours. This is a good example of ignoring a physical limit.
Following a great show, we loaded out our gear and were then invited to karaoke at a venue a brisk walk from where we were staying. We, the deliriously tired touring band, went for it without much hesitation, despite how drained we all were. This was blatantly ignoring a social limit.
After six days of tour, it’s a good idea to get a little space from other people. A crowded French-Canadian karaoke bar located a 30-minute walk from your van is not the best idea at 1 AM — especially when you have to be up at 7 AM.
Day 7, Philadelphia, PA: Don’t switch between night and day driving.
Driving ten hours to play a show, then driving six more after the show is a bad idea, no matter how much you want to get home. Pick one time of day to drive, and stick to it. Falling asleep at the wheel is a real concern, and it happens to the best of us. So, if not for yourself, drive safely for the sake of your gear — who knows if you’ll ever find your boutique one-off bass for that price again.
Take care of yourself and your gear on tour. Remember that your space is not your own when you’re on the road — you share it with the people who come to see your band every night, the promoters who put you up, and (most importantly) your bandmates, who you spend every waking moment with. Respecting yourself is respecting everyone else; never forget it.
Top Photo: Infant Island in Toronto, by Raf Santos
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