In the last week I’ve been in Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Norway – a different city each day. I’m on tour with the rock band of guitar legend Steve Vai, and we perform nearly every night in a different city, often a different country.
When we get home in 3 weeks, we will have played in 57 different countries, states and provinces – nearly 100 shows in 4 months.
There are about 18 people in our entourage (the number fluctuates depends on whether we need extra drivers for the longer drives). There are 5 in the band – 9 on the crew and 3-5 bus and truck drivers. And I’m probably forgetting someone.
On a typical night after the show the band showers in the theater (not in the theater – but somewhere backstage, wherever the shower is), then sits backstage using the internet as long as possible, as we have no internet on the tour buses.
Then one by one pile into the tour bus.
After the show, half the band sits in the front lounge watching “Breaking Bad,” the other half retires to the back lounge to talk philosophy or watch mind-expanding DVDs and I do my stretches and exercises between them in the bunk area.
I like stretching between them, and I like it when they leave the door to the philosophy room open. Once I’m stretched out, I’m usually the first to crawl into my bunk and fall asleep reading, hearing a murmur of people around me, the way I used to love to fall asleep hearing my parents and their friends in conversation a room or two away.
I try to get to bed before 2AM.
In the morning, we wake up in a new city. I try to get up early – which, on the tour bus means between 10 and 10:30 AM. And I like to get up while the bus is still moving, because then I can use the toaster and the kettle – though it’s forbidden to use them simultaneously.
Once the bus stops, we’re on ‘short power’ – sometimes so short that Stretch, the bus driver hides the kettle and unplugs the toaster.
When we open the curtains in the morning, sometimes we’re parked on a city street, sometimes in a parking lot, sometimes underground near a loading dock – and once in a back lot with bushes and trees.
There’s a dry-erase board next to the bus bathroom where Miki, the tour Mom, posts our day-sheet schedule and Stretch, the bus driver, draws a map of how to get from the bus to the stage-door. Sometimes I add a “pet of the day.”
Today the map (above) is especially detailed and with a special note to Miki. By this I assume Miki got lost yesterday.
Each day I try to get out for a walk for at least 20-30 minutes, sometimes as much as a few hours, sometimes as little as five minutes.
It’s amazing how much of a feel you can get for a city in that amount of time. It makes me realize that each block of every city holds a huge amount of character – people, graffiti, statues, street-signs, political demonstrations.
I try to take pictures of them, and of me with them. A lot of the photos are posed alike – with me trying to snap a self-portrait in front of something I admire.
In these tiny bursts of time, I experience a sense of place, and find things that delight me, and I’ve begun to think that no amount of time or space is too small to discover these things.
Sometimes I go on a mission. Yesterday’s mission was to find toasted almond butter.
I found it.
Having a mission sets me in a direction, and I’ve noticed I often take a wrong turn early in the directions, whether I have a map or not. That wrong turns seems integral to my missions.
Which makes me think there’s a tiny Mr. Magoo on my left shoulder and a Don Quixote on my right who read the road signs backwards, in cahoots to enhance the adventure, to give me a legitimate reason to stop people on the street and ask questions, to make the mission longer and less predictable.
On the other hand, I discovered yesterday in Oslo that Norweigens often get the English words “left” and “right” backwards when giving directions.
But no matter – getting lost doesn’t seem to be a whole lot different than not getting lost, and this morning I had almond butter with my toast and tea.
p.s. In the spirit of Schubert’s Unifinished Symphony, I am now committed to perfecting the art of the Incomplete Blog.
What a WONDERFUL sence of life you have! Although I have chatted with you just briefly in Williamsburg just last March and certainly not really knowing you at all, I get such a feeling that you see every moment of each day as an opportunity to live life at its fullest. That’s how it should be . . . waking up everyday with a “Let’s see what God has for me today attitude”! I so enjoy reading your posts and hearing of your adventures. God bless and thanks for sharing . . .!
Thanks for sharing your adventures. At one time lived in a 30 ft. 5th wheel trailer with my husband and we traveled all around the Western United States. I put on 75 harp programs in 65 cities , within 10 states over a ten month period. I love to travel and miss not being able to.
Yes, sometimes making the wrong turn can be the right turn, and vise versa.
Glad to hear you are enjoying your tour. I saw the televised concert and really enjoyed it.
You certainly are on a whirlwind schedule.
How about some pictures of your travel vehicles? Inside and out. How many trucks, buses? How many live in them?
You’ve got to finish these. I love your writing/reporting style. So keep going. Many times your blog is the only thing I read on FB. You’re images are so clear and entertaining, I can see the bus, etc
I love that you’re having this experience on your own terms: “No amount of time or space is too small to discover these things.” That’s meaningful on many levels, I think. Did we talk about the concept of “insisting on space”? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, since I read an interview with filmmaker Annmarie Jacir. It’s the hardest thing about touring, I think, and maybe one of the most applicable life skills too.
On a totally other level, I love your observations because of how familiar they are to me. (I have to be careful about using the teapot and the toaster at the same time every day, at home!) And that photo of the park in Luxembourg, I have my own story about that park from the pre-soundcheck ramble. It was this time of year that I was there, too.
It also reminds me of the labor issues of being a musician, something I’ve been thinking about a lot anyway. You get multiple bus drivers for long drives?! There are probably laws about that because it’s a safety issue, but that didn’t matter to the tour company in my case. The bus driver faked the logs. It was not unusual for him to do back-to-back 30-hour drives. There was a lot of stuff like that. Clearly the music industry is not exempt from labor exploitation. It’s not just about money; I think it might have something to do with how much power in the planning is held by an artist.
What a delightful look at life on the road. Journey on.
Great blog, great insights. Saw you in Cologne, and I don’t think I ever came as close to crying as I was when you started WHISPERING. You are amazing. All the best to you!
Once again, enjoyed this reading. That’s a very good storyteller of a life on the road! As I enjoy to travel a lot and use to do that once a year, I always look for concerts and meetings during my travels. For exemple, last novembre traveled 10 days between 4 countries and 10 cities. Oh and saw 4 concerts, 2 Steve Vai and 2 ZappaPlaysZappa. Along with talking with Steve and Dave, actually we spoke very briefly in Brussels when I ask you if you can tell Dave that I was in the bar of the venue, I always have friends worldwide to chat a bit before and after the show. Well, during that kind of travels, it’s like be on the road, because I travel by night and mostly by train, arrive in a small hotel, sleep, awake and ask myself where am I and what kind of language I have to use to ask for breakfast 🙂 Last year, I was in Germany and said “bonjour” to the waitress… She replayed in German 🙂 Oh well, ok, traveling in a tour bus is diferent, ok, I know and that is something that one day I would like to experience. Who knows I can make a photo report of that. Humm, I think I gonna ask Steve for that already on this tour 🙂 🙂