There was once a famous writer (I forget whom, e-mail if you know), who said about writing: “I hate writing, but I love having written.” I often feel that way about travelling, and as I faced our first gig on the road I had an habitual reluctance to leave the comforts of my home to sit in a van with two guys and drive to Madison to do a show. In the end, despite my hesitation to leave the tranquil routines of my house, I learned more doing our first road gig, then I did sitting on my couch with a box of donuts.
Six Things I Learned at My First Out-of-Town Show.
1. Bring snacks.
I ate a big breakfast, and I figured I would eat lunch before we left at 2 PM. What I did not anticipate is how much MORE stuff you have to bring when you’re doing a show out of town than when you’re doing the bar a mile a way. In the end the time I would have spent eating lunch I spent organizing gear. I was pretty happy that I had the foresight to bring some food to eat in the car. Trail mix rocks.
2. Bring a flashlight.
The show which was scheduled at Escape Java Joint ended up being an outdoor show, because the cafe itself was being remodeled. When we pulled up in front of the cafe we were greeted with a huge sign that said: “Closed for Remodeling.” Huh, we thought. Aren’t we supposed to play here? Turns out the promoter converted the outdoor patio into a stage and we played outside which was fun. The only problem was that the minuted they killed the stage lights, we had no light to see while we packed our gear.
3. Bring bug spray.
And just because you never know when you’re going to play outside, bring bug spray. “Wow,” I said to Bob, “I’ve never played so close to mulch before.”
4. Bring an extension cord.
That three-foot power strip seems long enough inside a club or bar, but it’s not nearly long enough outside.
5. Have a load-in checklist.
We learned that you have to make sure everyone in the band has their gear, and not just be concerned about yourself. Here’s why: the next morning after the gig, I get a call from Bob, the harmonica player. “Are my harmonicas in your gear?” He asked with urgency. Turns out Bob lost his harmonicas. And this is a big deal. Why? Because Bob’s harmonicas are custom harmonicas and the whole outfit including the leather case costs over $700. He thought he put them in the back of his amp but he couldn’t find them the next morning. After several phone calls to Madison, we finally decided that Bob and Brian should drive up to Madison again that day to look for the harmonicas. So, 8 hours after returning to Madison, they were heading back. Bob eventually did find them, but not in Madison. He went home again and checked the back of the amp again. They had slid under the reverb tank.
5. Bring Duct Tape.
I also learned that you can have fun on the road. We talked about music in the car, our families, and the albums that influenced as teenagers (actually, we talked about many things because Bob was producing an audio/photo montage of us for YouTube. More about that later). I learned that I can be happy on the road if I just be on the road instead of wishing I was back home. I learned that great shows start with greetings from happy dogs. I learned that we look great in the light of dusk at an outdoor show. And I learned that you can get really great thai curry at the Corner Store on Williamson Street in Madison. I’m a forty-one year-old woman who just did her very first road gig, and I learned that getting my ass out of the house to do something completely new and foreign is way more educational than sitting on the couch with a box of donuts.