What I learnt from being on tour with punks…

As most of you will know my boyfriend, Miz is in a band and has been in various bands for a very long time. He goes on mini tours about once a month and gigs around the UK frequently. His latest incarnation of his band is a three piece meaning that whenever they go on tour there’s no space in the car for me so I’ve never been on tour with them. This year, Miz started pursuing some acoustic stuff under the Larkhill name and this weekend I had my first experience of being on tour and thought it’d be interesting to blog about as it’s not something everyone will have experienced and was certainly very illuminating and fun! Now, just bear with me whilst I write this currently being the most tired I’ve ever been.

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My Miz playing acoustic as Larkhill

Ok, so we headed off a day early to drive to Exeter to catch our friends band, Splitsville support one of our fave bands, Gnarwolves at Exeter Cavern. This was my first time to Devon, so was great to discover a new city. So, that was a six hour car journey with no stops and then straight to a venue for a gig, intense! Add in drinking and dancing to that and things get silly pretty quickly. We stayed in our friend Jordan’s room in student halls, fortunately we had a proper bed and en suite, so touring in style!

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Jordan from Splitsville supporting Gnarwolves

Day two, Miz was set to play a No Seatbelt DIY secret show in a tiny room which wasn’t due to start until 7.30pm, so you wake up not in your own bed and without your usual routine and home comforts and have WHOLE day to kill before the gig. Again, mega tiring and the most common thing to do is to go for a wander and yes, usually hungover and eating on a budget. We walked about 15 miles that day. The gig was mental, about 6 acts playing to 30 people in a tiny room with no air con, it was hot, it was intense and I was suffering with extreme tiredness. It was awesome, but man it was hard going physically and that’s without drinking at all on this day. We got back to the flat at 3am, I fell asleep almost instantly.

Day three, thankfully I had a good sleep so feeling refreshed (but still a bit gross) we drove to Southampton to play a house show for Make My Day Promotions. Drive took about 1 hour 30 mins and we had a McDonald’s stop off on the way but once again, you’ve got a full day to kill so wandering and drinking continued, once again, being on a budget means Lidl and Wetherspoons are your friends. We got to the house for around 7pm again and drinking starts. It was a quiet one, but filled with the best people possible, bedtime was about 3.30am and in slightly more cramped conditions.

Day four, an early start and another hour and a half drive back to our home in Brighton which meant we were finally able to chill, shower and relax before hosting our own show under our promo name P.S The Scene Is Dead in the evening and getting home about midnight.

And then it was over, so, what did I think? What did I learn?

Touring is expensive

Being in a band is expensive before you even attempt to record anything or go on a tour, which are both pretty crucial to being a band. The expense of touring results in you doing lots of things on a budget, which directly influences point two on my list. This really made me realise how much of a barrier money can be to succeeding as a band and why more people need to support these small bands, they need your money WAY more than Beyoncé does. Most cities and towns host small gigs of all sorts of genres for free or for as little as £2, so if you dig music, go support your local creative and small, DIY musicians who are in it for the sheer love of it all, go support them and help them live their dreams, you’ll probs meet some really awesome people through it too.

You will eat a lot of crap and drink too much

Being on a budget and being hungover is a deadly combination. You will eat a lot of meals based around chips or pizza because it’s cheap and makes you feel better. I’ve had WAY too many chips this weekend. Drinking is part of the adventure and you will drink the cheapest thing you can find and naturally this results in some stupid things and yucky hangovers, the funniest thing that happened this weekend though is discovering Human Buckaroo.

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Poor Steve from Arms & Hearts, he slept well in this position.

It’s all about the people

Touring wouldn’t be possible without the people: the audience, the promoters, the venue staff, the fans and the people who don’t mind a bunch of drunken band peeps sleeping on their floors! For me, this was the best bit of it all, this weekend I met some of the best people I’ve ever met and after just a few days of knowing them I know we’ve got some friends for life and that doesn’t happen very often. It’s the connection of the music and the weird scenarios that touring puts you in that makes for all these adventures and friendships.

Sleeping will be a challenge

I know for a fact, that I had it easy this weekend, Miz often reports back of having slept on shitty sofas with not enough leg room or on dirty student kitchen floors. We were very lucky that we got actual beds everyday, although it was still a mega challenge to sleep in a single bed together. Being completely shattered from the late nights and doing too much does help you get SOME sleep, but challenging sleep conditions bring other problems too, so you probs won’t feel quite right until you get home! We took our own bedding and that was a great idea, it made things instantly more comfortable despite being a mega challenge to lug about. Most bands tour with just a sleeping bag though.

It’s near impossible to make a living from being in a band

I’m pretty sure it’s nearly impossible to break even from being in an unsigned band (maybe lots of signed bands too) every venue we played at or visited in this weekender included a portfolio of band member staff, being in a band is not their full time jobs even if you do see them on the pages of Kerrang! and Rocksound quite often. Touring, recording, equipment and merch all costs money to make happen and most small shows can’t pay all the performers because of the cost of hiring a venue, sound assistants and promoting costs, so most bands rely on making money from selling downloads and merchandise. If you consider recording and releasing a physical copy of a EP/album could cost upwards of £1000, that’s ALOT of CDs, t-shirts or downloads you need to sell to make your money back! Another reason to go support your local and small music scene, there are SO many talented peeps out there and paying to download a track or buying a t-shirt helps ensure these guys and girls can keep doing what they’re doing.

So what is it all about then?

For all the people I met this weekend, it’s about using music as a creative outlet to tell their stories, as a sort of therapy. Many of the fans are using the music for the same reason too, they like discovering songs they can relate to and showing their support for the people behind it, it’s about something bigger than just music. It’s also about meeting and connecting with all the people involved, you’ve automatically got something in common and that’s the start of lots of awesome friendships and exciting connections, it’s about creating a community that can help support and encourage creativity through the art form of punk music.

I’ve never been quite as tired as I have been over this weekend, but I’m so pleased I did it. It was a challenge but it was SO worth it, met some awesome people did some awesome things and had an adventure. Now I’ll always understand how Miz feels when he gets back from a busy touring schedule.

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