Touring for Beginners: A Local Band’s First Out-Of-State Show

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If you have ever been in a relatively new band, you’ll understand that playing shows states away is an opportunity that takes a lot of time and hard work. My band In Theory from New Jersey has been playing for four years as of this January and until earlier this month, we’ve never gotten the chance to play outside of New Jersey. There are a lot of factors to consider before traveling to play shows—costs, connections, time, and so on. Also, if you are sharing a packed van with several people for hours at a time (and sometimes even sleeping in it), you better make sure you get along well.So recently, we got lucky. Our singer’s friend from college was holding a show at his house and gave us the opportunity to play with several great Connecticut bands. He even said we could crash on the couches in his basement for the night, so we didn’t have to pay for a hotel or sleep in our cars. So the day before we left, I had gotten permission to take my mom’s minivan (what I personally believe is the most stylish way for a band to travel) and we loaded up all our gear. It’s amazing how many guitars, amps, and cymbal stands you can fit in a minivan, provided that you played Tetris as a child. The morning of the show came, so we stopped at the diner, fueled up on pancakes and coffee, then got gas and hit the road. We left early enough that we didn’t have to rush; we avoided the Jersey Turnpike in an effort to save some cash and ended up taking a scenic ride through the mountains in the southeast corner of New York. It was then that I really started to realize that touring is more than just the music and the shows. There are so many cool places to see along the way that make the whole experience that much more exciting. Along the way, we stopped at a scenic viewpoint on the side of a mountain called Bear Mountain, overlooking the Hudson River. The view was awesome. I learned that apparently there is even a campsite around Bear Mountain, so I plan on checking that out in the future.

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Hudson River, NY

We got to the house around 6pm after stopping at Taco Bell for dinner (as fast food is essential for any band on the road) and started to unload our gear for the show. We met a few new faces and got ready for a cool night. Starting off the show was an indie rock band called The Merks. A grunge rock band called Runamuk followed them. After that was Social Dissonance, a pop punk band; finally it was our turn to play. Except for our singer, none of us knew any of the people in the crowd except for the two friends that came with us, and that was a really cool feeling. Maybe it was because almost everyone was a few PBRs deep, but regardless, the crowd seemed to be grooving and having a good time, so that alone made the several-hour drive worth it. Until recently, our band hasn’t played very many house shows, so it’s definitely been a nice change of scenery from local American Legion halls. It’s a friendlier atmosphere, so kids are more likely to stick around and listen to all the bands, instead of just watching their friends’ band and then leaving immediately afterwards. It was just about having a good time.

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Cool show lair in Connecticut

Finally, a band called Bonsai Trees finished off the show. They had an indie rock sound, and for the Modern Baseball fans among you, they did a killer cover of “Your Graduation”. I think I even overheard someone say they might be recording new music soon, so keep an eye out. After the show, we hung out for a few more hours with some of the show-goers and talked about music and anything else that came to mind. And after that, we took to the couches and crashed for the night. A few of our band members decided to sleep in our car anyway, and with it being Connecticut in January, I’m personally glad I claimed a couch. Even though it was the small one. The following morning we thanked our hosts, loaded up our gear again, and hit the road. Although it was only about two minutes before we pulled over and stopped at Denny’s for a much-needed diner breakfast (starting to notice a pattern here), I had to get some coffee in me before piloting the band van for another five hours.

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Band fuel

There’s a popular joke about musicians that goes something like, ”Musician: someone who loads $5000 worth of gear into a $500 car to drive 100 miles to a $50 gig.“ Well, I’m sure I speak for most less-experienced bands when I say that that’s actually pretty darn accurate. Touring is difficult and expensive, to say the least. My dad even joked before we left about how we were doing all this for no money and how it wasn’t a very good investment. And he’s right—a severely negative ROI isn’t exactly what an investment banker at Goldman Sachs would spend his time on. I don’t mind, though. It’s about the music and the adventure. Maybe one day our band will start making some money from touring, and this will likely even be necessary if we want to keep doing this (can’t live at my parents’ house forever), but for now it’s not my primary concern. Maybe one day we will have more connections and a wider fan base and then we’ll be able to make a trip across the country profitable, and that would be incredible, but until then, it’s just for the thrill of it all.

At least in the van, the ride home was relatively quiet compared to the ride up. We were all a bit worn out from our one-day mini “tour”. There was a mutual feeling of success felt by all of us, though, that we had accomplished something that we have been talking about for years but had never yet gotten the opportunity to do. And even though it was just one show, our trip to Connecticut sparked our desire for adventure. We all know this will not be our last time loading up the van and driving states away. There are too many people to meet and places to discover, and we’re fortunate enough to have our music as a means to do so. So while we’re all returning to our normal lives for now, it’s only a matter of time until we’re back on the road doing what we love.

Bonsai Trees: https://www.facebook.com/reallysmalltrees/?fref=ts https://bonsaitrees.bandcamp.com/ Social Dissonance: https://socialdissonance.bandcamp.com/ Runamuk: https://www.facebook.com/RunamukCT/?fref=ts https://runamukct.bandcamp.com/releases/ In Theory: https://www.facebook.com/InTheoryNJ/?fref=ts https://in-theory.bandcamp.com/The Merks: https://www.facebook.com/TheMerks/?fref=ts [soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/156869906" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /]

All pictures our own, except van – via Wikimedia.