No matter what, you get to the gig. Plan ahead. Think of worst-case scenarios and contingency plans. No matter what, you get to the gig.
There is a lot of touring going on in the summer. A whole lot of bands are crisscrossing the world right at this very moment trying to get to that next festival or club show. Planes are not always on time, and highways are not always traffic-free. Buses, cars, and vans are not impervious to breakdowns and mishaps. Navigation systems don’t always give you the directions you need to get to the back-entrance of a venue in some medieval and twisted-road city like Bruges, Belgium, Nuremburg, Germany, or Tilburg, Holland. Trust me.
A couple of years ago—while on the road with my band, Loaded—we had thought we had plenty of time at 9 a.m. on the outskirts of Milan to make our 1 p.m. showtime at the Gods Of Metal festival. No problem, right? Hell, we’d be there by 10 a.m., and we’d be able to catch some breakfast at catering. Plenty of time to set up gear and all of the rest of that stuff you have to do before a gig. Plus, our German bus driver said he had done this festival ground countless times before. It was a piece of cake.
As we passed the same landmarks for the third time, and the bus/car sickness was starting to set in from going through all of those curvy streets over and over again, we realized we were lost and running short of time. It was now 11 a.m.
I always like to have an hour of “me time” before a show. Most bands do. “Me time” consists of the band hanging together in a room together, playing guitars, and maybe listening to music. It’s a sort of bonding/chill time before you unleash the onslaught, if you will. The gear is all set up, the interviews are done, and now you can just set your sights on being a musician. Simple.
It’s now 11:30 a.m. and we are stuck in a dead-end somewhere in Milan. This huge bus cannot turn around, as there is a car blocking the arc of the only route for a u-turn. The driver of said blocking car is nowhere to be found. You get to the gig no matter what, so we all piled out of the bus, picked up this car, and moved it out of the way. Yes, that’s what we did, with a gathering phalanx of local Milanese people gathering, gesticulating, and shouting in Italian. Whatever. We got a rock show to get to.
Next up, we had a rather pointed discussion with this German bus driver. No more fucking around. We got out an iPhone and found our own directions (and, the right ones it turned out). With the iPhone Google Map dilly-bob- gadget-thingy in the driver’s face, we made it to the gig at 12:45 p.m. The gear went straight on the stage, and so did we, still bus/car sick and without that “me time.” But we made the gig.
Last week, The Walking Papers had somewhat of the same ordeal. Our trip was to be a four and a half hour northeastern trek from London to Tilburg, Holland. There is a ferry crossing of an hour and a half from the White Cliffs of Dover to Calais, France (Dover is really only an hour from where we were in London). Calais is about two hours south of Tilburg, so giving that we made our ferry on time (we did), we’d have no problem getting there for our 5:30 p.m. load-in time in Holland, right? We left London at 10 a.m. GST. Showtime is 8 p.m.
Of course, continental Europe is one hour ahead of the U.K., so as soon as the ferry docked, we were working with less time. Alright, but we had planned for this, I think (as a side note: at this point, Walking Papers is a small operation. Our tour manager, Andy, is also the driver, and sells merch at the shows. A tour manager usually calls the shots as far as when to leave a city and how long the next drive will take. But in this band, you have Barrett Martin, a damn college professor, and Ben Anderson, a genius, and Jeff Angell, who runs his own construction company, and me, the jaded-touring-don’t-worry-about-it-been-there-done-that guy. We are all grown-up adult men who probably don’t take to direction too well, and surely, we have out own thoughts on the best way for a planned day to go). Suffice it to say, Andy has a lot more opinions than his own floating around in that van. Poor fucker.
Calais, 3 p.m. The ferry schedule we had previously based our route on was still operating with the winter schedule and hence, our particular ferry was an hour later that we had thought. We are still in Calais at 3 p.m., but still, even with the two hour drive ahead of us, there shouldn’t be a problem.
Problem #1: We hid a satanic traffic jam just ten minutes out of Calais. There is a jack-knifed truck just ahead of us, and we ain’t movin’. As they say in France, merde.
They get the wreck cleared somehow, and we finally get on our way, but it is now 4:45 p.m. No worries, we shall haul ass. We make a call to the production office of the venue in Tilburg and say that we may be a “tiny bit later than 5:30 p.m.” No problem.
Problem #2: Highway construction just 20 minutes later. We are all being re-routed to an arterial road that is a frontage road that runs along the highway. It has stop lights, and with this whole heap of new traffic to the arterial, the stop lights cause a sort of gridlock that Belgium probably doesn’t see too often. Sacre bleu!
We call the production office again, and say we will most likely not be there until 6:30 p.m. Images of Milan start to flash in my head.
Problem #3: Once free of the detour, we are now on open freeway again. A wide open four-lane, and we start to fly, until another fucking jack-knifed (or, hoorgaansvoord truck, we are now in Holland after all). We are again at a standstill.
We get free of this thing finally, it is now 7:15 p.m., we are absolutely careening down the freeway, calling the production office, sweating, having to urinate. We get to Tilburg, where the streets are all one-way and windy and made out of ancient brick. The navigation doesn’t know how to get us to the street we need. We finally ask a Dutchman on a bicycle, and he points to the next street “that one there.” We finally arrive, with 10 minutes to spare.
Still car/van sick.
No “me time.”
But we made the gig. No matter what, we made the gig.