Study Hall

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The Path Less Travelled: Successful Touring In Less-Developed Parts Of The World

"On one tour we walked away from an unsafe stage structure requesting the relevant people to amend the problem. We returned a couple of hours later to find no change except for a dead chicken alongside some incense and flowers at center stage."
“Is this the way to the loading dock? Catering??”

Carry The Vitals

It’s worth carrying some equipment if possible – for example, with my current band we carry all of the wireless microphone and in-ear monitor systems we need, the necessary antennas and associated cables, and even the multi-pin XLR tails to get in and out of the units. This means that the band gets consistency with the equipment that they’re actually in contact with.

Of course, you’ll need to specify your power requirements, and in the case of RF be sure to check that your frequency bands can be used in that country – the wider the bandwidth you carry, the better. If you go down this route it can be cheaper and safer to use the services of a touring freight company such as Rock-It Cargo rather than have the daily check-in wrestle with scheduled flights and excess baggage costs.

Get Ahead

It’s a great idea to arrange advance visits and maybe even advance teams. The scheduling on my recent tour, flying between international back-to-back shows, meant that it simply wasn’t possible for the core crew to get the show happening in time each day.

The solution was to have two small advance teams, each consisting of a sound tech, lighting tech and video tech, who would leapfrog each other ahead of the core crew and get things up and running. We also had two sets of our carry gear.

If your scheduling isn’t that tight, it’s still worth getting to the venue as soon as you can on arrival. Even if your show is not for a day or two, setup typically takes several days in less-developed regions, and so it’s better to get in there early with time to make changes rather than arrive on show day and find that everything is wrong.

Be Prepared

Pack a small toolkit in your checked baggage with some “get out of jail” items. My must-haves include a multi-meter (measuring power can save lives), an RF scanner, and a Leatherman multi-tool, as well as wipes and a paintbrush for consoles that may not have been cleaned for some time.

Kindness Always Wins

Be kind and patient with the crew from the local supply companies. The more remote you go, the less experience the local techs will have. Sometimes you’ll stumble upon an ambitious gem of a tech; sometimes they’re folks just trying to feed their families. If there’s an obvious gap in knowledge, try to see it as an opportunity to share education rather than a cause to get angry.

If things are not as you expected (and my advice is to keep all your expectations low), it’s probably not the fault of the people who are actually there but of those higher up. It can get very frustrating, especially when you’re tired, but trust me: you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Smile, make eye contact, learn names and keep your cool.

In really poor areas the crew might have been sleeping on flight cases at the venue for days and not have been fed, and they also may be there for a long time loading out after you’ve gone. If you see that’s the situation, when you’re leaving the venue after the show it can be a nice touch to take excess food and drinks from the dressing room riders out to them. Items such as a cold drink and a snack, which we take for granted, can make a very welcome difference to someone’s night.

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Expect The Unexpected

When touring in developing regions you’ll come up against challenges that hadn’t even occurred to you, despite all your best preparations. The local way of dealing things is often not what you’re used to.

On one tour we walked away from an unsafe stage structure requesting the relevant people to amend the problem. We returned a couple of hours later to find no change except for a dead chicken alongside some incense and flowers at center stage.

We were informed by the delighted local promoter that everything would now be fine as this offering had been made and the “stage gods” were duly appeased. Needless to say, we had to walk away again while a more pragmatic remedy was applied.

The most vital things to bring on these adventures are a positive attitude and a sense of humor. Apply them liberally and you’ll come back from a tour of remote regions better at your job and with some truly unique experiences under your belt. Happy touring!

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