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I always had a vision of a rock and roll tour as a glamorous place, where the party is always on and nobody has a care in the world. And while it is a very fun, unique existence, nowhere’s that fun if you don’t have any clean T-shirts, there’s a disgusting bunk full of smelly laundry somewhere, and the bathroom’s not safe to enter.
I’ve learned by observation over the years that it takes a very intricate balance for 8-9 people to coexist in a moving tin can for weeks on end, without completely losing their minds. And the foundation is based on a respect for the space and the people in it.
There are hard and fast rules, such as shoes are on unless you’re in your bunk. NO ONE, and I mean No One, falls asleep in the front lounge and escapes the wrath of the Sharpie marker. And that’s because the front lounge is not for sleeping. It’s for lounging and socializing. Therefore, it would be wrong to take your cell phone, plop down on the couch, and begin having a loud cell phone conversation while everyone else is trying to watch Fawlty Towers. (NOT that I’ve ever seen that on a tour bus.;)
But just like with a family, there are times when any people living in close proximity get on each other’s nerves or have habits that annoy the others. I think what differentiates bands who can stay together and bands who…well, can’t- is their ability to compartmentalize. Can you let anything go? If your husband is drumming on the TV table with chopsticks while you’re heavy into American Idol, do you HAVE to shoot him death glares until he sheepishly cuts it out, or can you let it go until he finishes his song?
I think bands who develop blinders to some foibles that may be more apparent in close quarters have a better shot at touring nirvana. And as a family member, I have to work really hard on letting go of my illusion of control. I can’t dictate the way my husband washes my kid’s hair or the way he butters grilled cheeses. (I’m a fan of the pre-melting method, myself.) And the more I let my 13 year old try to find his own way of doing some things, the more skills he’ll develop. But it’s a hard thing to let go sometimes.
The flip side of that is the ultra-control of the environment required on a bus. Someone must constantly be putting things back where they go, the games and DVDs and sandwich bread and guitar cables and cell phone chargers and…the list is never-ending, just like my house. But in my house, sometimes I’m inclined to walk out of a room and think, “I’ll deal with that later.” On the bus, it’s always in your face, so you deal with it then.
Here’s a few bus rules I’m trying to incorporate in my house:
1. Keep it in your bunk.
If it’s yours? Keep it in your space. This goes for toys in common areas, or my PJs in the foyer. Sounds so simple, but so challenging in reality.
2. Do It Now.
Cleaning up a series of small messes a few times a day is much easier then cleaning up a big mess at the end, but too often I blow things up into a bigger deal then they are. “Ooohhhh, this will take me alll day…” So I sulk in a mess, paralyzed by the magnitude of what’s actually quite small.
3. Make do with less, but make it good.
If I’m touring Canada, it’s much better to have one parka and a flannel lined pair of pants than 15 T-shirts. But it’s easy to mistake quantity for preparation and planning. So I’m trying to be more discerning in the things I purchase- instead of going through 10 lip balms looking for the perfect one, I’ll buy one I know I like, (Smiths, for me) and keep it close.
4. Keep only what you need
By contrast, get rid of what’s not working. Look in your medicine cabinet- are there rows of bottles you bought two years ago, half used? Get a trash bag and start tossing, sister. I don’t care if it cost $75, it’s gunk now and you’re never gonna use it. Let it go- it feels GREAT. Plus, it’ll help you keep track of the latest Tylenol recall.
5. Take notes on what works for your tour
Tours are pretty well documented animals, with Itineraries, riders, and contracts. They’re nowhere near as willy-nilly as they look in that Cameron Crowe movie. So as you discover what works and is worth keeping, write it down so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. I do this with Alice.com– I spent one night entering in all of our household products, figuring out how often I would need to re-order them, and setting reminders. It took me three hours, but I’m figuring it saved me 10 hours of planning and shopping a month- a worthwhile up-front time investment for me.
6. Use Systems
There’s a very definite rhythm to tour bus life, and it’s documented. There’s a sheet in the front lounge that tells everyone when sound check is, when each set time is, and when bus call is at the end of the night. When each member has expectations of where to be clearly laid out, there’s less room for a fiasco that costs everybody time. Do you have a method for communicating expectations for your road crew? I’m experimenting with 30 Boxes right now for a shared calendar with my husband, and Things for my own task management.
So, what works for you in your house? How do you keep things simple, structured, and rollin to the next day? Enquiring minds want to know.:)
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