Hey! It’s Monday. This week I’m headed out east to see the world, one pimply teenager at a time, accompanied by some of my best pals and a bunch of dudes I’ve never met before. It’s gonna be fun, right? Sure it is. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m in a band, and this week said band will be playing some shows out on the east coast. The shows are gonna be great, that’s for sure. What ever else is gonna happen, well, that’s kind of up in the air, eh? It’s a crazy world, folks.
When I first started touring, the entire experience was vastly different than it is now. The technological advances of the last ten years have made the process kind of idiot proof. Now any dildo can get a demo together on garage band, go on myspace, find out where clubs are, send emails to promoters and use a cel phone and GPS and show up at all the shows. When I first started touring however, it was way more chaotic. It sucked, frankly. It was more exciting, but less fun. Shall we examine? Okay, let’s begin:
Firstly, for all intents and purposes, there were no cel phones and there was no email. Both things technically existed, but using both of them only connected you to status hungry maniacs and epic nerds. SO, in trying to book a tour, you’d have a phone number. Usually, you’d start any tour booking process with ONE SINGLE phone number. It would be for, let’s say a guy named Will who books shows in Phoenix. You got Will’s phone number from a buddy who promises that Will’s a nice guy and does cool shows. So, you call Will and you say “hey dude, I play in a punk band and I want to go on tour. I got your number from big gay Chet. Any chance you’d be into doing a show for us?”
You bullshit for a long time. He finally relents and gives you a date. At that point you ask him if he knows anyone in any nearby towns that do shows and if you can get their numbers. Then you repeat this process with those numbers, but it’s harder, because now the person vouching for you isn’t your friend Big Gay Chet; it’s Will, who you actually don’t know beyond the one phone call, and now, because of your show in Phoenix, you’re looking for increasingly specific dates in increasingly specific towns.
But who cares, right? You’re off to a good start. Call those motherfuckers! The thing is, though, lots of times no one is home. Lots of times you can’t get any shows in the town you need because the club is booked or shut down or whatever. Lots of times you end up leaving six thousand messages on the answering machine of some guy in Bismarck because that’s simply the ONLY place that you can play between Minneapolis (where you’re playing in a living room) and Montana (where you’re playing in a shed six days later), even though it’s at a death metal club.
You wind up calling people who are nice (dumb) enough to put their numbers in the back of Maximum Rock N Roll or in Book Your Own Life as punk rock contacts (show bookers, places to stay, cool record stores) and then finally, once you’ve managed to cobble this insanely sketchy tour out of spit and paperclips, you pile into your massively shitty vehicle (that really shouldn’t be on the highway at all) and you set off.
So you arrive in your first town. Where do you go? There’s absolutely no way to know. There’s no internet, remember? You can’t just look up where some club or house or abandoned gas station that they’ve forgotten to turn the power off in is. There’s literally NO PLACE TO LOOK THAT KIND OF THING UP. The information doesn’t exist in any sort of organized form. SO, you pull off the highway about thirty minutes outside of town and you hunt down a payphone. Then you call the number you have and pray that there’s someone there to answer it (because remember, this is a land line you’re calling. Good chance no one’s there). Best case scenario, your contact picks up and you write down simple directions and get there. Next best case, some other weirdo picks up and gives you vague directions or an address, which someone in a gas station should probably be able to help you locate. But most often, no one is there, so you sit by the payphone and try back every half hour until you’re out of quarters or the show is about to start.
It was extremely common in these times to completely miss shows for reasons like this. Also, drives could be insanely miscalculated, so you could set out on what you think is a three hour drive only to find out once you’ve been going for a while that it’s actually a nine hour drive. The amount of completely unquantifiable variables made every minute very exciting, but, again, not very much fun.
Lots of shows were missed, and lots of times the shows you actually showed up to were kind of weird. Maybe the promoter had a really different idea about what “Punk” means than you did, and you’re playing with a bunch of metal bands or ska bands or a marching band (Petaluma, Ca 1996). Maybe there’s no PA system. Maybe the place is shut down, or burnt down. Maybe there’s no stage. Maybe you show up and the guy decides that he’s gonna make you PAY to play. Most likely you don’t get paid. Most likely you don’t get food, or beer or any place to stay. Most likely someone there is really creepy and won’t stop talking to you. Well, that still happens.
I dunno. It was real different then. Not better….in fact, really, I’d have to say it was worse, but it was so fucking DIFFERENT. I mean, I lived that shit and I can’t even imagine touring without cel phones or google maps. Fuck. I can’t even barely take a dump without surfing the internet now. It’s a crazy world, folks.