Every few weeks an artist of some repute puts out a press release, announcing the cancellation of a tour ‘due to exhaustion’, and message boards light up with scorn and mocking. “Tell you what mate; you take my job in an office and I’ll take yours. I’ll play music every night to (hopefully) adoring fans, get put up in hotels and plied with free alcohol and food. How about that?”
Last night in Evreux we headlined the third stage of Rock Dans tous ses États. Hot and cold food, beer and wine. The hotel – though sandwiched between an industrial estate and a motorway – was clean and contemporary with modern bathrooms and huge beds. It’s not always like this. Three of us shared a bed in Paris last night and in Limoges we’re sleeping at the promoter’s house. We might have beds, we might not. Breakfast? Dunno. If not, we’ll not have time to stop in a cafe. We’ll need to get on the road to Bordeaux. Might be we stop at a service station for a can of Coke and a bar of chocolate and hope that, when we get to the venue, they’ve got green vegetables for the vegetarians among us.
Touring is fuelled by wheat. Breadstuffs are ubiquitous, broccoli is scarce and if you’re on a tight budget (we’re on a tight budget) you can’t just stop off at a restaurant for a hearty meal because that’ll set you back €15-€20. The days are long. The show will be late in the evening, you’ll meet people and feel obliged to hang out, sell some merch, chat to the punters, you’ll not get to bed before 03.00 – assuming you get a bed, and who’s to say it’ll be comfortable? You’re up early because the promoter / whoever you’re staying with has to go to work / you need to go back to the venue to collect your equipment and get on the road. After a while it takes its toll. It’s not so much a lack of routine; it’s a lack of a routine you’ve any control over.
Of course, the artists who’re putting out press releases to say they’ve cancelling a tour are probably at a level where they’re definitely getting hotels. That doesn’t mean they’re not sometimes flea-pits and it doesn’t suddenly mean you can take time to stop at restaurants for hearty meals.
But last night, in a field in northern France, with 1,000 people going nuts to Civil Civic and a spectacular light show such as we could never afford, thoughts of where we’ll sleep are banished and we stand happily at the merch stand, watching Aaron and Ben sign t-shirts for excited kids who’ve been waiting to see them play for months.
There are worst jobs in the world.
We just have to work out a way to make money at it.