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Playing The Hand You’re Dealt, Part 3: Reflections Upon Completing “That First Big Tour”

I often hear people talk about touring in terms of their job and technical skill set but there are so many other non-technical aspects of touring, and here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Touring so far this year has been a learning experience to say the least (see my previous reflections here — Part 1 and here — Part 2). Jumping into my first long-run tours and being gone for more than a month at a time has presented some challenges.

I often hear people talk about touring in terms of their job and technical skill set but there are so many other non-technical aspects of touring, and here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Taking care of yourself isn’t something that you can do on autopilot anymore. I find that while I love my job, it’s easy to focus on what you’re doing and forget about the rest of the world (yourself included). This means that skipping meals, not sleeping well, or much at all, and just general exhaustion can pretty easily creep up on you.

To help combat this, I’ve been setting alarms to remind me to eat and take a nap if I have enough time. Thankfully I’ve found that after the first week or two our show settles into a rhythm and I know when I am most likely to have downtime to eat and get some extra sleep.

Learn how to hurry up and wait. Many times putting on a show requires a specific order of operations. Motors roll in, riggers hang points, lighting starting building truss, PA gets flown and tuned and all so a stage can roll in.

As much as we all want to get in and have a great show, sometimes you just have to sit back and let other things happen and wait your turn. A lot of times the waiting is where you can build great relationships with the people around you. This also goes back to point one and can give you great opportunities to eat and rest.

Even after doing a few years of festivals, one-offs, and weekend shows, I still don’t think I fully realized how much loading in and out shows is dependent on order of operations. So much of our jobs involves waiting around and then going as fast and efficiently as possible when it’s time to roll.

Whether it’s waiting for a truck, waiting for sound check, waiting for points, learning how to wait can save you a lot of stress that comes from being impatient. (Yes I’m speaking from experience on that one.)

You’re suddenly surrounded by a lot of people all of the time. Touring often means living on a bus and spending a lot of quality time around people. Part of what can sometimes make touring challenging is the personalities.

Living on a tour bus often means you have 10-ish roommates in a very small space. So as much as no one likes to be lectured it really is important to clean up after yourself and stay tidy. Try to think of how the space you’re taking up impacts the people around you.

It doesn’t need to be on a macro scale. But maybe think about not leaving your shoes in the middle of bunk alley when people are trying to walk through.

In addition to all of the little things like remembering to clean up after yourself and be mindful of the people around you, personalities sometimes clash and strong opinions can be thrown around. Any drama or disagreements don’t require you to get involved. There’s nothing wrong with going to bed and starting over in the morning.

Learn how to decompress. Figuring out how to relax on the road can be hard. I find myself always thinking about what’s coming next, whether it’s the next show or the next thing on my to do list.

For me, calling home, taking a walk outside of the venue, or just getting some alone time seems to help me decompress and reset. A number of people have hobbies that they bring with them on tour. I’ve seen people travel with cameras and drones, and some who collect specific items.

I personally like to run on off days. It’s been a great way to see cities and to force myself to leave the hotel so my sleep schedule stays intact.

Find a “tour buddy.” Having a friend I could trust and talk to on tour definitely helped me regulate, and it was really nice to have someone to vent to when needed. It’s also a nice change of pace to have someone to bounce ideas off of and to just generally be able to hang out with outside of your department. It can be really easy to hang out with your department and end up in your own little world.

For me, having a tour buddy looks like being able to ask “dumb questions” so someone who’s been on the road longer than I have. A person who is cool with encouraging each other to go out and do things on off days and to just hang out with.

In short, touring can be fun and, overall, a unique experience. A lot of getting used to touring for me was getting comfortable being uncomfortable. Once I settled in, touring allows the opportunity to be surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do.

Thankfully I spend a lot of time around talented individuals, and it’s a great way to be continuously learning. Rarely do I go more than a few days without trying something new or learning. This has been a great way to see personal growth quickly.

Getting the privilege of adapting a show into a new space everyday has been one of the most valuable and enjoyable experiences of my career so far.

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