As part of our new Tuesday Ten feature, we’ll have a guest columnist on the last Tuesday of every month to give you insight into life’s greatest secrets and teach you how to make boys like you. Our first guest, Mike Hansen of Pentimento, is an expert on both. A little over a week into their winter tour crossing the U.S. with Reggie and the Full Effect, Mike joins us this week to give us his top ten tour survival tips.
There’s nothing in the world quite like going on tour. The experience has a lasting impression on who you are as an individual. Touring has the power to strip away everything you thought you knew about the world, only to give it back as a neatly packaged mess of new perception and sense of self. With that being said, there are some unwritten rules and an “expect the unexpected” attitude that needs to be kept so you don’t lose your fucking mind. This is where the essentials come in. Comfort isn’t as easily affordable on the road as it is when you’re at home, so it’s necessary to bring along some things or keep things in mind that help soften the blow of sleeping on the hardwood floor of a house in Florida during the summer time only to wake up after enduring humidity so heavy that you can taste it, covered in sweat and probably blood for some reason, to your shorts lending room and board to bugs that the Discovery Channel would piss their pants about. Point is, you’re focusing on giving it your best every night, and that’s not easy when the other hours of the day are being spent feeling like garbage. Here are ten things I find to be important to help you stay on top of your game.
1) Baby wipes. Don’t fucking laugh. It’s #1 on my list for a reason. I shouldn’t have to explain why these are so important, but believe me when I tell you that these will be your saving grace in any and all situations. Is there a fire? Put it out with baby wipes. Out of cash? Baby wipes are considered currency in the lower 48 states and parts of Mexico. Does your ass just smell awful? Of course it does. You’re disgusting. I don’t care if they’re unscented, or flushable, or talk to you when you wipe. Just get the baby wipes and put them in your bag and take them literally everywhere you go. I like to use them after our set so I can return to the merch table and not smell as bad when begging kids in Real Friends beanies to buy our shirts. They’re like a shower without having to be ashamed of your body the whole time…maybe that’s just me.
2) Be organized. This is also extremely important. Not as important as baby wipes, but still. I try to maintain some sort of system for my clothes so that I’m not losing things constantly and can change/get ready for shows easily. Bring a bag that’s suitable to hold everything you’re bringing. Nobody likes the Tommy Ten Bags guy in the van, and every band’s got one. Invest in a decent piece of luggage or duffle bag that can handle enough clean clothes to last at least a week, and stage clothes if you like to party. (ie: I wear gym/running shorts during our set, so I make sure to have those separate from whatever else I’m bringing along to wear so they’re easily accessible.)
3) External phone battery. With the advent of the smart phone came the demise of any sort of battery life that makes sense. How can you rip all those hard ass selfies to prove to your Instagram followers that you just upper-decked a toilet at Walmart if your battery is on 1%?! Keeping yourself and your band in the loop and connected is important for managing social media and posting show/tour info, keeping up or advancing with promoters/venues, and staying in touch with your booking agents or managers or whoever you wish you could press the “ignore” button on. Even though technology will eventually have us in a Wall-E-esque strangle hold, 600 pounds and useless, it’s still something I’d consider necessary to maintain and manage the day-to-day stuff on tour. Invest in an external battery. They’re cheap (check Amazon) and it keeps your bullshit iPhone 3 out of the cigarette lighter charger thingy so you don’t feel as embarrassed about waiting your turn to charge it next to our iPhone 5’s you fucking child. There’s so much to use to your advantage in terms of tools or apps to stay up on what’s going on, building spreadsheets to keep your merch in order, creating a series of iCal events for everyone to subscribe to if they use iPhones/iPads/iAnything with show information for each tour date, etc.
4) Headphones. You’ll need ’em for a million reasons, but I’d like to recommend getting a pair of in-ear headphones specifically (they don’t have to be ballin’ in-ear monitors or anything – they’ve got pairs on Amazon for around $10-15 that will do the trick) because they’re great in terms of comfort, they’re almost always able to cancel out noise, and they’re easy to use when you want to lay down and not have to dick with them or put your head in some strange position just to listen to Taylor Swift in peace. Having in-ears changed my life. Let’s face it, everyone needs space sometimes and it isn’t easy to come by when you’re stuck in the van for eight hours. So why not escape a little bit with the soothing sounds of Kenny G’s alto saxophone to avoid hearing all the farts or stories your merch dude starts telling about how hot that one girl was that he almost thought about almost talking to that one time on the last tour while we were in Delaware. No wait it was Jersey. No wait it had to be Delaware bro because he made that joke about that one City & Colour song. Well he almost made the joke but then he saw that super hot girl and couldn’t think straight. Or maybe it was a mailbox. I don’t remember exactly all I know is he wanted to pork it.
5) Buy a book called “The Road Most Traveled”. (You can find this on Amazon too. Holy shit I talk about Amazon a lot. I promise I don’t work for them. I just love their website more than anything. Including my sister.) It’s filled with a bunch of people who are in bands you know and love, or worked with bands you know and love, and have been on the road longer than anyone has ever done anything. The insight and advice is priceless, and it all comes from genuine people who care about helping younger bands be smart about touring. Great read. Informative and honest. Hilarious. All that.
6) Money. Yeah, I get it. Duh. But I don’t mean “money” as in “bring a bunch of money to blow on Skittles at every single gas station you stop at”. I mean be smart about your monetary situation BEFORE tour, so that you can afford to stay smart about money when you’re ON tour. Save, budget, think about what you’ll realistically need for your time on the road. Imagine yourself at Waffle House placing your order, if you must – maybe several times in the same day if you’re as pathetic as we are. But having a plan for your money is an awesome way to not want to kill yourself when your bank account is almost as sad as you are, guy in soft grunge-infused emo band. At any rate, running out of money is an easy way to sink the ship, so be careful with how you spend while you’re out. The world needs you to be able to afford to do it again. And again. And again. If your band is growing, the tours will inevitably get longer – so instilling some sort of strategy for your money in your brain early on is important.
7) Call your family. Let them know you’re not dead. Chances are, they hope you’re not. And if they actually do hope you’re dead, call them anyway to flaunt the fact that you’re suuuuuuper alive. Just don’t forget about them because you’re not at home.
8) Double pillow. Yup. That’s right. Not one. Not three. But TWO pillows. In the same pillowcase. You will find that it is most comfortable as well as conventional in your van-sleep situation. This trick was invented to keep your neck supported while keeping your face as close to the ceiling of the van as possible in case you need to practice kissing.
9) Take time for yourself. Being out with your friends and seeing the world – especially with playing music being the reason you’re doing it – is unlike anything else in the universe. It’s greater than anything I can imagine. But it’s important that you make sure you’re soaking it in on your own, too. Bring a journal maybe. Write down names of people you meet so that next time you’re in their city, you can remember their names and the time you spent with them. That stuff goes a long way. Bring a disposable camera maybe. Take pictures of things to show everyone back home so you’re not just like “dude…it was crazy…” when they ask about the month you spent playing shows while simultaneously losing your job and girlfriend and financial aid. Or just take a walk around once in a while. No matter what, there’s definitely downtime that could be spent on being sure you’re in the moment, and taking in the experience so that when you get back home to resume “normal” life, you’re fulfilled. Take time to be a human being.
10) If you ignore everything else on this list, take this bit with you. Have fun. Fucking kill it every single night regardless of how many people are there or how much merch you sell or how in debt you’ve ended up. For the time that you’re behind your instrument – you are truly free. Do not let this universe regret you.