On the road again

Local musicians share practical advice for life on the road

G. Green

G. Green

photo by liz mahoney

As great as going on tour with your band sounds, there’s also a lot of work involved: There’s getting directions, finding lodging and figuring out how to eat on the road. Then there’s working with promoters, or trying to promote the show yourself. And along the way, there might just the occasional speed bump—run-ins with a sketchy band in the boonies and drug-sniffing dogs in Texas, for example. Don’t freak out, though. Just read some of the practical touring advice a handful of local artists gave SN&R, and be careful out there—the road is hard.

Appetite for self-destruction

Liz Mahoney—Screature

Have a big snack bag with you. Stay hydrated. The venue will always know the best and closest place to eat. Stop before you get too hungry. Read reviews only before, never after, eating.

Joe Kye—Joseph in the Well

Don't trust Yelp: 4.5 stars in the boonies could still mean diarrhea—the ultimate tour catastrophe. I try to pack a lot of nonperishables, like a loaf of bread and peanut butter. Buy a bunch of bananas and hang them from your rearview mirror for an edible decoration. If fast food is your only option, go with Subway.

Liz Liles—G. Green

We have a vegan, vegetarian and two meat eaters in the band. Whole Foods tends to be the place I personally drag the boys to. We probably have been to every Whole Foods in America. There's also the desperate moment where you are in a very desolate Midwest zone and your only option is buying hummus located in the “oriental” aisle of a Wal-Mart.

Daniel Trudeau—Pregnant

When we internationally tour to Asia, I like to eat those shitty “equivalent to 7-Eleven” sushi rolls. They seem to fill you up for cheap even though almost everything in Korea is cheap. If one adopts the same rule in Japan where food is more expensive, it can work out. When touring in the states, I like to mix it up: a kombucha here, a Red Bull there, a gluten-free burrito here, a Del Taco there.

Bryan Valenzuela—Exquisite Corps

We try to stay pretty healthy lately, bringing snacks and stuff—“try” being the key word there. Can't really help but do some guilty pleasure stops, though. California is all too epic by having In-N-Out Burger everywhere.

Hey, can I crash with you tonight?


We've run the gamut here—from sleeping on floors to some nice hotels. We've been lucky on recent tours because our bass player's girlfriend works at a hotel and can get us some unbelievable deals. But other bands or people at shows have offered couches or air mattresses, too, and that's where you get into some of the good (and bad) kinds of trouble. We always keep sleeping bags in the van just in case.


We usually stay with friends or friends we make at the show. As we've become older, we will occasionally opt out of the punk house option and splurge on a $50 motel room.



photo by wes davis

Stay with as many friends or friends of friends as possible. Tour is a great time to reconnect with an estranged family member. Loud music can be very therapeutic. They'll forget all about the money or man or woman you stole when they see you backlit on stage.

Get the car running


If you've got your own whip, why spend more money? My Outback fits my violin setup, a full drum kit and an upright bass, not to mention the people who play them. Approach packing like a game of 3-D Tetris: Leave no hole unfilled. Bonus points if you hum the theme music simultaneously.


We used to always take my 2007 Subaru Forester on tours. I got a Yakima SpaceBooster for the roof that perfectly fits my hardware and all of our guitars. Over the years I've realized I'd like to have a working car, so we rent SUVs and minivans. It's pretty chill and way worth it.


Recently I have been touring with friends in their own cars. These friends are only the ones that love to take road trips. It's a two-in-one for them if you offer to pay for gas and food.

How to make friends and influence people


Some promoters are so awesome and some just are hard to work with and don't put in the legwork to make shows pop off. We've had better luck, I think, with networking through other bands and musicians and friends. It always helps to start relationships with fellow musicians out there plugging away and doing some of the same routes and venues.


Just cause you don't know a promoter or booker doesn't mean you can't convince them that they should know you. When emailing bookers or promoters, be lighthearted and keep professional jargon to a minimum except for telling them who told you to contact them. Send mad links to music videos, live performances, streaming music, etc. Always put a “<3” at the end of every email. You're going to want to be friends with the people who book you. You don't want music to turn into some business trap of humans you barely know or care about.


Sometimes you show up and you have to set up the PA yourself and never see the promoters. But usually you show up and the sound guy is the only person who conducts business with you. A sound guy or gal is just a friend you haven't met yet.

Itll make a great story for the kids one day


I knew the Texas border was coming up on a SXSW trip and was fully aware we had a pipe and weed in the car. We quickly smoked it all and I proceeded to smoke a rolled-out cig in the pipe to get rid of the residue and smell. We got stopped, of course, and a drug dog cased the whole car. My trick worked and we were allowed to pass.


Back when I was touring the country with my collegiate a cappella group, the Society of Orpheus and Bacchus, we bought some Roman candles at a fireworks wholesaler in South Carolina. Later, while hurtling down the highway in the dead of night, we happened upon one of our other vehicles, a minivan full of sleeping college singers. We promptly pulled in front and lit up the pyrotechnics, shooting flaming-hot shells of green and red at the unsuspecting idiots. It's the closest I've come to a Harry Potter duel.


I think maybe the craziest story that I can remember, though, is when we played at a house show that was somehow beneath a bowling alley. Weird already. Then the other band invited us to stay the night at the house where the show was—their house, I guess. We quickly got the feeling—all of us, all at once—that they were gonna jump us and jack us, steal our stuff. Somehow in our sorta high, sorta drunk state we turned around the situation by challenging them to play Halo and our bass player annihilated them, which pretty much won all their respect. Close one.