I recently returned from a great tour of Italy with my band. It was both revealing and triumphant on many levels. While we were out, an Italian friend read and translated to me a review of one our concerts. The writer commented that the band sounded somewhat uninspired and misdirected, or something to that effect. Without making any excuses, defending the band nor opposing the writer’s impression of the show (he was partially correct, by the way) I always ask myself, “How are statements like this useful and to whom do they serve – especially AFTER the fact?” We drove almost 8 hours to arrive directly to the venue that day without so much as a decent meal, shower, change of clothes or any worthwhile rest. Traveling in an 8-seater van through the Italian roads was no less than absolutely brutal, and we did it all on very little sleep from each previous night. There was rarely any room for recovery, as this was practically our daily pace for a couple of weeks. It is quite common for traveling musicians to perform in a semi-delirious state resulting from lack of decent rest and nourishment. Again, no apologies or excuses – these are simply the facts of the touring lifestyle for those of us who have chosen to dedicate ourselves to taking the music directly to the people.
With this in mind, I’ve always figured that wouldn’t it be great if, in order to be a certified music journalist, a writer would have to earn his or her bones by actually traveling with a band on tour for several weeks or longer- just to experience firsthand what life on the road really entails? How else would anyone know what “the life” really demands of us? It’s not all fun and games by a long shot and for those of us who don’t have adequate representation, financing and a solid business structure, it’s certainly no pleasure cruise, and there’s little to no time for leisure during our daily hectic schedules. Every day off has to be paid for by the leader, so in order to reduce expenses, it is common for groups to work every single day, which takes it’s toll both physically as well as musically.
Imagine, if you will, the tremendous demand on one’s personal energy reserves that it takes to command your body and mental focus in order to function properly during a tour without adequate sleep and nutrition for days or even weeks at a time. Traveling to exotic countries and experiencing foreign cultures may sound glamorous and exciting… well, it is normally, but most of the time when on the road we’re required to visit a different country or city every day or two in order to meet the tour overhead. Each day off drains the budget, so a touring band must keep moving. I’d love to have a journalist onboard just so they could accurately chronicle the day-to-day schlep that we must endure in order to make it to each destination. It’s not always fun, but it’s definitely a fact of the business.
Experiencing this kind of torturous pace, as we do regularly, would be the best indicator of what our daily trials demand, and how we must rise above them in order to deliver our best performances regardless of our physical or mental state. Musicians are always told that in order for their art to be considered authentic, they must deal with certain realities that the art form imposes on them. If this is indeed the case, then the same set of standards and criteria must be engaged for anyone who considers themselves enough of an authority to comment intellectually on our craft. We’re not always perfect and are expected to occasionally deliver under extreme and extraordinary circumstances. It would be ideal if some of these factors would be considered before a reckless dismissal of our work occurs because unfortunately, once it’s been documented, it can’t be undone.