Author: Evans, Bill

Notes from the Road

Thereís no question about it: travel is one of the great perks of life as a professional musician. But make no mistake, music touring is not Ė I repeat NOT - vacation travel. It is usually hard work all by itself. Case in point is my current ten day tour, which has taken me from my home in California first to the Boston area, then to Indiana and now Wisconsin (as you read this on a Friday morning, Iíll no doubt be driving from Stevens Point down to Platteville).
Thereís no question that travel today is much easier than it was in the classic days of bluegrass, when bands navigated backcountry roads in non-air conditioned buses on two lane highways before the advent of our Interstate system. And, needless to say, there were no GPS systems or iPhones back then nor was there a Starbucks or a MacDonaldís at every intersection.

Flatt and Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers and many other of the early bands survived the early 1950ís by playing daybreak morning radio shows, followed by catching a few hours of sleep, often in the band vehicle, then driving through the afternoon out to a show that night at a school or courthouse. After the show, there would be another long drive through the night to make the next morningís radio broadcast. Sleep a few hours, grab a bite to eat somewhere and repeat.
Today, instead of the early morning Farm and Fun Time radio show, musicians have the 3:30 a.m. shuttle van call to get us to the airport in time for that 6 a.m. flight. There have been two of these ridiculously early jaunts so far on this tour Ė the first was in Oakland at the start of my trip, followed by another early shuttle van call in Boston. Iím lucky in that I can sleep pretty easily on the plane, even if surrounded by crying babies and, more recently, whining small dogs placed in carriers below the seats (I swear that on my next flight, Iím bringing my banjo and a chicken!).

If my banjo survives the flight (and Iíve been fortunate in this regard, as Iíve been able to get my main instrument on board for many years now, unless itís one of those small puddle jumpers), and my luggage arrives (I usually carry two Ė one for clothes and another for merchandise), itís then on to another shuttle bus taking me to the rental car center, followed by another wait for the ďnext available agentĒ (and by this point, Iím usually tired of standing in a line).
Finally, Iím in the car Ė itís usually the smallest vehicle possible, given the number of musicians and amount of luggage on the trip. Thereís a familiar sense of relief when everything is packed and I find that the air conditioning and the lighter actually works (if the lighter works, that means I can plug in the GPS or recharge the phone). Iím now able to move on to the next phase of the day Ė leaving the airport behind and driving to the gig. Itís time to get out the Google maps printed on the home computer, fire up the GPS and figure out how to get out of the airport and hit the road.

If Iím lucky, thereíll be a chance to get a decent meal on the way to the venue, but more often than not, you have to settle for fast food or one of those national restaurant chains that is really just fast food in disguise Ė it begins to ALL taste the same after four or five days!

I arrive at the gig just about at sound check time and hopefully, there will be good coffee or maybe even espresso available. If the sound check runs smoothly, I might be able to catch up on a few emails or phone calls in a few moments of downtime. However, from the moment that the first audience member comes through the door, itís usually a whirlwind from that point through the show itself until the end of the night, when the merch sales have been settled, gear is packed and Iím ready to head for the hotel, with a few Diet Cokes tucked inside my travel bag from the backstage cooler.

But my day isnít over yet, as I never know what surprises are in store at the hotelÖbut Iíll leave that story for another month.

All the best,
Bill Evans
Posted:  9/23/2011

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