Top 10 Tour Tips for the Uninitiated (or, How Not to be a Dumb-Dumb)

Last week, we went over some simple living-together-as-a-band-on-the-road tips. This week, I’d like to review some of the more mundane, technical aspects of being in a touring band. Mundane they are, but if you fuck them up, you could stand to look like a real dummy in front of an expectant audience. Here’s my top 10.

10. Don’t climb up onto a speaker cabinet unless you are really going to jump. Have you ever seen that gig where the performer gets all the way up to the top of a cabinet, and then realizes it is just too damn high? The awkward climb down is one of the most embarrassing moves in rock ‘n’ roll.

9. Put the guitar cable through the back of your guitar strap. Stepping on the cable while you are mid-rock, and thus pulling the cable from your guitar, is a key sign of the rock novice.

8. Always have an “oh, shit!” cable. Guitar cables are notorious for going bad in the middle of a set of songs. Don’t be that guy who has to stop the show as people scurry around back stage looking for another cable. Always have a back up sitting on top of your amp, neatly bundled, curled, and ready to go. We call these oh shit! cables.

7. Be on time. Uh huh.

6. Turn problems into opportunity. On a summer tour, there are sure to be tons of obstacles. The van breaks down. Some piece of gear goes awry. A promoter is being a complete dick, etc. Get your Zen on. Turn your set inside-out if a guitar breaks or whatever. Take that opportunity to just jump into the crowd and say hello to your peeps. If your van goes tits-up, take that opportunity to become a better V8 engine mechanic. If a promoter is being a dumb-dumb, make that a time for enlightening said dick to the better side of humanity. Walk away, and thank the gods of rock and roll that you are not a dick. Thusly…

5. Don’t be a dick. Though this isn’t a truly technical item, it is perhaps the most important step to having a successful rock experience. I recently had the opportunity to do a couple of shows way down in South Africa with some lofty rock characters. Joe Elliott, Slash, Matt Sorum, Myles Kennedy, the great Glenn Hughes, Gilby Clarke, Ed Roland from Collective Soul, and Dave Kushner from Velvet Revolver. All of these guys are cool as fuck, and there is not a ‘knob’ in the bunch. Whether you are a man or a woman, just don’t be a dick.

4. Have your shit sorted. Don’t pack too much or too little. Put all your vitamins in one bottle. Forget keeping underwear clean, simply get used to not wearing any! Don’t forget your passport, and always have a high-res photo of it in your phone just in case. Have a kick-ass backpack for your day bag. Know where your shit is in your bag, so that you aren’t the one holding up the show when everyone else is ready to leave in the hotel lobby. Oh, and hair conditioner makes good shaving cream, so don’t bring both.

3. Have a guitar that stays in tune. Don’t take that delicate axe that you love simply because you just love it. If that shit ain’t gonna stay in tune, leave it at home.

2. Don’t roam. Holy hell! Turn your data off on your phone if you are going international. Just turning on your phone when you land in say, London, can cost you like 30 British Pounds (that is, like, 10,072 U.S. Dollars) when your emails load. Either get some cheap phone when you land at that airport, or wait for wi-fi at the venue you are playing.

1. In any language, a smile is worth a thousand words. And at least try to speak the language of the country you are in. If you can’t understand a person in Glasgow, Dublin, or Wales—even though they are indeed speaking your mother tongue—just nod and pass them a beer. It’s probably what they’re asking for anyway!

 
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