Discover more from ☁️ Daydream Trash by Shannon Hemmett ☁️
TOUR DE FORCE
04.09.2023 The Truth About Tour
Touchdown. We are back in Vancouver after Dark Force Fest. What fun! And what a weird, wonderful venue. After flying from the opposite side of the continent, we arrived looking like slightly rumpled bats, and were greeted with all sorts of surreal sights and sounds. It was held at a castle-themed Sheraton hotel in Parsippany, NJ and this was the domain of Chewbaccas, Storm Troopers, vampires, witches, gimpsuits, leather daddies, dominatrixes, trad goths, mall goths, and everything goth adjacent in-between. Both bands ripped it up on stage, and it was a pleasant weekend trip to get our road legs back under us before the busy spring and summer ahead. So… let’s talk about tour.
Daydream Trash by Shannon Hemmett is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Before I joined a band, I took photos of bands, and I often dreamed of following a band on tour with my camera in the tradition of Charles Peterson, Annie Leibovitz, and Anton Corbijn. Eventually, I worked with Neil Zlozower on occasion. Neil is best known as the go-to studio and tour photographer for Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, Led Zeppelin and too many other heavy-weights to list. Damn, he had some epic rock ‘n roll stories, but that’s a tale for another time.
I’m an experienced traveller, but touring is a completely different animal. ACTORS is the first band I joined and it was also my first time on tour. Our first out of town date was in Edmonton, AB, and I was so overwhelmed by all the commotion and people hanging out afterwards, I had (what I now understand to be) an anxiety attack. Adam and I shared a room that night, and in the dark, he said quietly that he’d always be there for me, that I could come to him anytime I felt overwhelmed. He was so kind and sweet to me that I felt safe, and I’ve been able to thrive in our band environment ever since.
Below is an incomplete document of some things you can expect while touring. Your experience may vary:
Tour is all extremes. Your emotions will constantly oscillate between hyper, exhausted, excited, bored, depressed, or fuck-yeah! on top of the world. It’s lonely, and isolating, but you’ll also have no privacy or personal space. There will be constant noise and chaos, you will need to bring a pair of noise cancelling headphones. You will need extra socks and underwear. You will still run out before laundry day. Your anxiety will be triggered by the ongoing stress of having to be somewhere different everyday, and you will obsessively repack and organize your suitcase to feel in control. A high-quality hooded sweatshirt will do wonders for your comfort and happiness.
You will meet kind-hearted people all over the world, from all cultures and walks of life. You will develop deep, meaningful friendships with people in faraway places. They will restore your fragile faith in humanity. You will see first hand that music is a unifying human experience and it makes the world a better place. Your fans will be gentle, and generous. The crowd will sing your songs back to you, and you’ll feel truly alive.
You will fiercely protect and look after your bandmates. You will laugh hysterically with your bandmates. You will fight with your bandmates. You will hug your bandmates. You will cry with your bandmates. You will do anything for your bandmates.
You will have the great privilege of travelling the world, but most of your time will be spent in a van, at a gas station, an airport, a night club, a green room, a room at the La Quinta, or in the bathroom of one of these places. You will play 23 nights in a row, driving at least 4 hours, sometimes up to 12 hours a day. You will finally get a day off, but you’ll be too exhausted to do anything but sleep. You will drive not once, but six times past the freeway exit to the Dalí Museum in Figueres, Spain but you will not be able to stop because you’re already a bit late for soundcheck. You will play for 5 people and 5000 people. There will be amazing venues and vile ones. Some venues won’t have a green room, so you’ll have to get changed standing barefoot on a plastic bag in the public toilets. Another venue will be a biohazardous cocktail of mold, fungus, and smoke, and you will have no choice but to throw your clothes out after the show.
You will be beyond overtired. You will try to hold it together as long as possible but then you’ll be at a Perkins in Indiana, eating a delicious piece of pie a-la-mode, and you’ll burst into tears.
Time becomes an abyss. In the van you lose track of the days, current events, and the world around you. You will start to lose touch with reality, and home too. Your friends at home will be confused about when you’re away on tour and they will stop asking you to come hang out. Your schedule is too bizarre for them, and you start drifting out of each other’s lives. When you’re finally home it feels like you’ve been away forever but it also feels like you never left. Friends from home sometimes will come see you play abroad, and it’s such a treat to see a familiar face, someone who really knows you, so far from home.
You will be recognized in airports, hotels, and restaurants, from Denver to Porto, and that feels pretty good, for a little band from Vancouver. But hang on, don’t get too confident, you’ll have a traumatizing plane ride to New York in hurricane force winds, your bandmate puking into a bag beside you, and you will shed a tear when the plane finally touches down on the runway after three failed approaches. Your hands will be shaking so badly, you can barely unbuckle your seatbelt.
You will do your best to stay healthy, in your body and mind, but the odds are against you, especially since Covid. You will be denied boarding a flight in Vancouver because you tested positive for Covid 3 weeks prior. You have a doctor’s note, but Air Canada is not having it, so you will have to rent a van immediately, and drive all the way to San Diego to start the tour. Later, you will be in Germany, maybe the sickest you’ve ever been, and you will have to get through the show tonight and maybe tomorrow too. You will have to find a way to communicate the gravity of your situation to German and French pharmacists, and they will give you herbal medicines and steroids instead of the antibiotics you actually need.
You will stay in amazing, magical places by some collision of circumstances and luck. A haunted manor in the English countryside, a donkey ranch in the Pyrenees, or a house in Twin Peaks where the owls are not what they seem. Sometimes your AirB&B lodgings turn out to be a private church with a family upstairs who keeps cracking open their door to see who the leather jacket wearing heathens are below. The all-seeing eyes of religious icons will watch you undress for bed, and observe you as you sleep.
There will be a rating system for public restrooms. Germany gets 10/10 for cleanliness but 3/10 for toilet paper softness. Most American gas station restrooms are a solid 2/10 for cleanliness. France gets a 1/10 for the lack of toilet seats, but a 10/10 for their baguette sandwich and pastry selection. There is a rating system for hotel beds too. Americans understand the delight of a cozy duvet and a pillow top mattress, whereas the English sleep on fabric covered boards with exposed springs, and pillows seemingly stuffed with paper towels. In your sleep deprived delirium, you will analyze the effect and correlation it may have on their cultural stereotypes.
You will be hungry. In the USA the food will be mostly bad tasting and bad for you. The coffee will be bad too, unless you are close to a coastline, a major multicultural city, or anywhere in Europe. You will genuinely miss your dearest espresso machine at home. It will be tough to have a sit down meal when you must drive all day, so you will need a good breakfast. Germany, by far, has the best breakfast included with your hotel room. Occasionally the promoter will have food waiting for you at the venue and it will be a lifesaver. You will eat more protein bars than you ever thought possible. You will hoard bananas and apples because they are not processed food, they don’t need to be refrigerated, and they are easy to eat for breakfast or late at night.
No matter what, the shows will always be life-affirming, and once you’re home, and recharged, you can’t wait to do it all over again.
I haven’t been bringing my camera on tour, because it’s just another piece of gear to look after and carry, but I’m going to try to capture more iPhone photographs to share with you here. Our next trip takes us to Bilbao, Madrid, Montijo (Lisbon), and Porto. Happy Easter. More soon. XO