You've got to be okay with boring
Nothing is all that glamorous, really
You can hear the excitement through the walls. The muffled sound of the murmuring crowd causes the hairs on your neck to raise and your palms to dampen. This is what you’ve been waiting for.
It’s not like you’re nervous. This isn’t the first time you’ve played on stage in front of thousands of people, and it won’t be your last. It’s just that you’ve been waiting all damn day for this moment.
You pass the time in the green room by playing scales on your bass guitar. One of your guitarists chugs a Red Bull. The other plays a new guitar riff he’s been workshopping. Your drummer plays paradiddles on his practice pad. And your singer sips on some warm tea.
Finally, your tour manager says it’s time. You follow his flashlight through the dark corridor that leads to the stage. As your intro music comes to a close, you walk to your spot, turn to your drummer, and start your set.
For the next 30 minutes, you’re in your element. You and your bandmates are dialed in. The crowd is amped. There’s no other place you’d rather be. This is what you were made to do.
And then, just as quickly as it began, it’s over.
It’s easy to look back fondly on those moments on stage with my band Pressure 4-5. They were like nothing else I’ve experienced before or since.
But when I really think and put myself in my shoes back then, I remember how fleeting those moments were.
If you considered my time on stage as the core part of my job while on tour, I only really “worked” 30 minutes or so per day. The vast majority of the rest of my days were spent waiting around. And hurrying up to get to where I would inevitably need to wait even more.
I spent a ridiculous amount of time behind the wheel of our 15-passenger van driving around North America, oftentimes needing to drive through the night after our show to get to the next city, then checking into our hotel as the sun rose. If I wasn’t driving, I was attempting to sleep in a van filled with six or seven other guys. The times when we were able to afford a tour bus, we would sleep in our bunks while our driver got us to the next stop, then he would call a cab to take him to his hotel room.
The thing nobody tells you about touring in a fancy bus is that it’s basically like camping, which means you’re going to be dirty all the time. There’s no shower on board and it’s not like you need a hotel room since the bus is essentially an RV. If we were really nice to our driver, and it worked with our schedule, a few of us could grab a quick shower at his hotel room before we headed to the next stop. And sure, truck stops sometimes have showers, but good luck getting your driver to sit and wait while a bunch of prima donna, wannabe rockstars all take their sweet time. Your driver is trying to, y’know, actually work.
Not to mention laundry. At least when we were in the van we could easily drive to a laundromat. But once our bus driver parked, he was out of there to go catch some zzzzs. What were we going to do, take a cab to do our laundry? No, we liberally re-wore dirty clothes and stopped at Walmart every once in a while to buy new pairs of socks and underwear. One time, when we played in my hometown of San Jose, we gave a pile of laundry to my mom and our driver woke up the neighbors with the air brake when we went to pick it up at two o’clock in the morning.
The same goes for haircuts. I let my hair grow out because it was too much of a hassle to find a barbershop. Keep in mind this was in the pre-smartphone days, so it’s not like I could just search for one on Google, or whatever. Why do you think so many rockstars have long hair? Okay, I don’t know if that’s actually true, but it feels right.
It’s a good thing we were all young and had incredible metabolism, because we ate awful. Occasionally, we’d have time to grab a bite at a diner or a sandwich shop, but most of the time we’d eat some type of fast food or gas station snacks or Waffle House because they’re open 24/7. One night after a show, in a town I can’t remember, all we wanted was something quick before we went back to the bus to sleep. We called a cab and the guy told us the only place open was a strip club. It was weird, but man, I still remember how tasty that steak was.
At this point, you might be thinking something like, “Okay, that’s great and all, but wasn’t it cool getting to travel all around the US and Canada?”
Sure, yeah. I guess. I mean, I saw sort of a warped view of it, though.
It’s not like we were playing at upscale theaters. Even when we were on the Ozzfest tour, we played on the third stage, which was usually way out on the hot asphalt of the parking lot, instead of in the stadium or amphitheater where the headliners played. Sometimes we played at nice concert halls like The House of Blues in New Orleans, Slim’s in San Francisco, or The Jimi Hendrix Experience Museum in Seattle. But usually, most of the venues we played were clubs. And clubs are low-margin businesses, so they’re usually in the crappiest part of town.
There was the venue in Cincinnati next to a pawn shop and a place that had “WE SPECIALIZE IN GOLD TEETH” emblazoned across the window. There was the spot in Milwaukee that felt haunted because it was across the street from the hotel where Jeffery Dahmer was arrested. There was the place in Pittsburgh Kansas, not Pennsylvania, that was in the backyard of some guy’s house out in the sticks.
Doesn’t this all sound glamorous?
When you break it down, everything is mundane. No matter what you do or how famous you are or how much money you have, there’s always a bunch of boring, tedious stuff that comes along with it. Rich people still have to do taxes. Well, maybe they can hire someone to do them, but they still have to manage that person, which I’m sure is incredibly unexciting.
I work in the crypto/web3 industry now. Some people hear that and say, “Whoa, that’s so cool!” But really, I mostly click around and type things on my computer all day long. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving what I’m doing. It’s fun to host an event and get great feedback from our community. I love helping someone navigate this new, strange web3 world. Those are the moments that make the mundane stuff worth it.
We all have to deal with the humdrum. If everything was amazing all of the time, then we’d never know what amazing feels like.
Before I go, I want to share some news. I hit a huge milestone this past week:
I couldn’t have done it without the incredible outpouring of love you give me each and every week. It keeps me going.
Thank you all for being here. It means a lot to me.
If you liked this piece, could you please let me know and tap the heart button below?
Congratulations on your milestone!!
Enjoyed reading about your band days on the road Lyle, thanks for the perspective.