By: Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato
I mentioned to Karrie that I was having a hard time coming up with a topic for this month’s blog, a bit of writer’s block due in part to the mental and physical exhaustion of being in the final stretch of a long tour while simultaneously trying to get my head into all of the prep work for my next tour. She said “why don’t you write about the grind?” Perfect!
This tour is going on week 12 and we still have a week to go before it’s over. It’s not the longest I’ve ever been out at one stretch- that would have been a 16 week run a few years ago, but it’s the longest run I’ve done in a long time and it’s definitely been grueling. We spent the first month suffering through record heat and humidity, playing outdoor amphitheaters.
We’ve spent several days off on the bus doing long, long drives. Today is day one of a six in a row, which is usually more common with younger bands, but not something a lot of bands this age (mid to late 40s) do. The crew is running on auto pilot as much as they can but with constantly having to adapt to the various venues and gigs- we’ll go from a shed, to a winery, to a corporate in a ballroom, to a beach house, and back, it’s hard to find a groove when you are constantly rebuilding the rig to suit the venue. Such is the glamorous life of rock and roll. But it’s definitely that time of the tour where everyone is ready to go home, we’re all pretty exhausted, missing our significant others, kids, pets, and comforts of home.
So how do I get through the grind of a long tour?
Napping helps, especially after a night of poor sleep from rolling around my bunk due to the rough roads in the northeast.
Finding my own space to chill and relax- After mixing a show I try and find somewhere quiet to decompress and give my ears a break, which is not always easy to do when you’re on a bus with 10 other people. I’ve taken to not leaving my hotel room and enjoying the isolation of my few days off.
A good work out always helps, but my spare time is mostly spent working on the technical spec for my next tour and catching up on other work. When I really start to feel burnt a nice long phone call home or to one of my close friends helps remind me there is a world outside of this bus and these five trucks and sooner or later I will be back in it.
One of the the simple things that can make or break your day on tour is catering. It’s incredible how the quality can vary from venue to venue with the same menu. When you are away from home for weeks or months on end and 95% of your meals come from catering, it’s amazing how food that is cooked with a little bit of love and care can make your day. Those cooking the food don’t realize that those of us eating it can’t go home to a nice home cooked meal or our favorite restaurant every night. We are incredibly grateful to the catering staff and cooks that do understand this and put the effort into giving us a great meal. Unfortunately more often than not, what you’re served is just thrown together as cheaply and thoughtlessly as possible. So after enough gigs of bad catering, our crew decided to take matters into their own hands.
Early on we’d taken to getting very creative on Roadie Friday. After quickly growing tired of the usual after show pizza or whatever, our LD and Guitar tech decided to use this tour to master their cooking skills. They chose a theme and a menu to go with it. We bought an electric skillet, Weber grill, and juicer for the bus and they proceeded to cook up a ton of great food. We had homemade pizza with your choice of toppings, cooked on the grill, (hand tossed by our keyboard tech who once ran a pizza joint in Chicago), fresh organic, New Zealand lamb kabobs with pita, hummus and falafel, several wine and cheese nights with some amazing burrata mozzarella, brie, roquefort, capicola, proscuitto, etc…. a clam bake, crab pot and then there was pirate night- complete with dark and stormy cocktails. It definitely helped to keep morale up and was far better than a lot of the food we were served in catering.
Then came the addition of the hot dog machine, a must have accessory for every bus!
We gained some decorations after our tiki party, which have now become permanent fixtures:
As well as our guest LD who appeared at the lighting console a few days ago:
Then took over running sound the next night:
Whatever it takes to get through the day. The smallest and sometime silliest things can sometimes mean the most. Like the Lavazza espresso machine in catering!
I’m counting the days until this is over and I can go home and spend a few days with my husband and three cats, sleep in my own bed (which is the most comfortable bed in the world), soak in my own tub, and cook whatever I want before I head out on my next adventure.
See you next month!
* Photos of Red Rocks and Saratoga Mountain Winery courtesy of Nick Strand.