I covered 18,781 miles via car this year on tour. That’s about 313 hours on the highway, or 13 days straight in a vehicle.
An overwhelming amount of those days were filled with my favorite things: drinking coffee and making dumb jokes with my friends, playing drums, experiencing how massive and diverse the U.S. is in a car.
The life spent on stage, doing what you love in front of awesome crowds is well documented (look at any band’s Instagram). There’s another part of tour that doesn’t involve the stage – coming home.
There are many reasons to go on tour, but when I ask myself why the hell I spent nearly two weeks this October driving around the country I never have a succinct answer.
The nights spent in hotels (if we’re lucky) or on floors (most likely) with your bandmates are like slumber parties. Who gets to have slumber parties as adults?! They’re the best. You fall asleep with your sides hurting from unexplainably stupid jokes. Does that count as a reason to tour? It’s certainly a reason. But you continue on tours even when you can’t think of a good reason to. The chase is intoxicating.
The morning after I got robbed on the Matt Pond PA tour, Shawn Alpay and I were getting ready to check out of a hotel room. He asked me if I was ready to leave. I looked at him, grabbed my ear plugs off the dresser, put them in my pocket and said, “Yup, all packed up!” The set of ear plugs was my only remaining worldly possession at the time. I had no clothes aside from what I was wearing the night before. Shawn started laughing. We continued on with the tour and played a show like nothing happened the next night. The police report waited till the next morning.
A week later, I got to play a sold out show at the Bowery Ballroom in front of my friends, family, and girlfriend who surprised me by flying in from her vacation in South Africa.
The way the highs and lows pop up is unpredictable, but you know they’re coming. That’s part of the rush, and the chase.
Tour is wonderful, the worst, completely foreign but strangely familiar, and I want to get back on the road as soon as I’m done vowing that I’ll rest and stay at home for a while — so, tomorrow.
The Pressure Cooker
Tour is an act of pressure cooking. That cooking takes place in a van (or Volvo, or Mazda 3). With the windows up, the van is an air tight oven. Whatever you put in it expands. Friendships sprout faster. It seems like you laugh a little louder than you do at home. The highs and lows are heightened.
When you come back, it’s jarring. There’s no gradual descent out of tour and into normal life. You’re just dropped off at home after driving up nearly the entire length of Interstate-5, stretching from Tijuana to Seattle, like that was some normal thing and not a moment in a life completely separated from your life at home.
With this contrast, you dive into the thought process my friend referred to as “the abyss”. There’s a sense that your life at home is a ruse, and touring is who you are when you don’t have an apartment, job, and hobbies to define you. That dissonance between those two worlds (and being thrown back into one of them) is the abyss.
I’ve been in the abyss many times this year. But it’s not a bad thing. Part of what I love about tour is how it heightens the contrast between you and your normal life. You’re more grateful for a bed, your girlfriend, and salads when you come off the road. In turn, after spending time in normalcy, you’re also more grateful for your bandmates and the opportunity to play music.
It’s a crazy pursuit. There’s no other job where you spend 10 hours traveling to work for 40 minutes. It doesn’t feel like work. Whether the show falls short or it’s the best show of tour, you still go on to the next town. It’s the pursuit, the dogged attempt to get better at what you love doing no matter what. Despite every logistical and financial hurdle in your way, you keep moving.
To put my freshman-year-at-Bard-College hat on, we’re willing ourselves towards The Other. This is the essence of the tragic/glorious metaphysical nature of tour. The Other is different for me than it is to my bandmates. It’s a future I haven’t met yet, but am working towards. That’s The Other to me. It’s knowing I’m relentlessly pursuing something that, even if I catch, I won’t be satisfied with. I’ll always be hungry to play more and perform better. Knowing that, there’s nothing you can do but go on the road to do what you love, even if that’s a little insane.
This makes coming home hard. There’s no easy way to reconcile the two worlds, and the feeling of being split between them. But I’m sure I’ll have more time to think about that during the next 18,000 mile drive.