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So you wanna be in a rock band?: Taking care of business

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Opinion | January 10th, 2011

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
It's a mere two days before what might be the biggest shows of your entire career: a live performance and radio interview in Times Square, New York City. Your nonrefundable flight is scheduled to leave early the next day in the a.m. You wake up and your back is completely out of whack. It hurts to move your arm and shoulder (naturally the side with which you strum the guitar). It hurts to move your neck in every direction, other than keeping it stationary to the right side (which makes singing or any bodily motion, as you can imagine, quite difficult). Your chiropractic office is closed and there are no emergency clinics in the area that can deal with your situation. If you snake out of this opportunity, you know you'll likely never get another one comparable… in other words, "the show," as they say, "must go on."

This, my friends, happened to me and can entirely be attributed to an injury I incurred during my band days several years ago. I was trying to carry five guitars simultaneously (we were in a rush!): a combined weight which exceeds my total body mass.

So what's the lesson here? As a creator — an artist of anything — your health is vital as it affects not only your performance, but also your inspiration, motivation, attitude and overall demeanour. Therefore, I'd like to emphasize the necessity of taking care of yourself, while taking care of business.

Now, it goes without saying that professional musicianship and healthy living don't exactly form what one would term the most natural of marriages. While the promotion of excesses in stimulation (both sexually and substance-assisted) is something that goes hand-in-hand with the rock 'n' roll image, life on the road isn't particularly conducive to optimal functioning either.

For starters, especially if you're touring the U.S. as I primarily do, it's pretty tough to find inexpensive places to eat that offer nutritious food options. In my experience, the typical musician is not that wellequipped navigationally-speaking, and time is not a luxury that is on your side when you're commuting from gig to gig. What this means is that if you find an opportunity to gorge on gas station energy bars and Red Bulls, you'll likely take it.

The second major health dilemma that the touring artist encounters is directly associated with the craft in which we engage. I don't know how many of you have attended live shows and then attempted to go to bed directly afterwards, but trying to combat the ringing in your ears — not to mention the adrenaline that's pumping through your veins — is no easy feat. Just imagine how much more amplified (pardon the pun) these effects are when you are the one onstage.

Finally, the real killer…stress. From dealing with asshole promoters that try to screw you over, to last minute gig changes, to technical difficulties (which always happen), when you weigh the 45 minutes of euphoria you experience on stage against all of the shit you had to go through in order to get there, it's doesn't always seem worthwhile.

The point?

Life on the road is hard and, contrary to popular belief, unglamourous, but you can make it harder or easier on yourself by simply knowing what you're getting into and preparing accordingly. If you don't wish to find yourself with a bad case of the sniffles or having to face the reality that you've got a show you must play, and you're currently less than 100 per cent mobile, I recommend you take to heart the following suggestions:

1. Don't overexert yourself EVER! I don't care if you're in a rush. If experience tells me anything, it's that gigs never start on time, nor do soundchecks. I was told by my chiropractor that had I not started getting adjusted when I did that by the time I was 40, I would have been in a wheelchair. Not cool or very rock 'n' roll, is it?

2. Pack nutritious snacks whenever possible, and avoid sugary and highly caffeinated drinks at all costs. Water, surprise surprise, can be quite the thirst quencher, and there's nothing like a piece of mango or pineapple to give you that extra energy kick you need (without the risk of addiction or crashing)!

3. Save your partying for when you're at home. I know many musicians who like to celebrate their gig successes by getting trashed directly after. Considering that there is usually little downtime from show to show, this means you end up in situations where you either have people driving while at least partially intoxicated (illegal and dangerous) or people playing while trying to kick an ugly hangover. Further, alcohol and other substances don't tend to bring out the most sound judgement in people. When you're crammed in a limited area for long stretches on the road, the last thing you need is an excuse to get into a fight.

4. Take shifts driving so that everyone gets a chance for some shut-eye. Further, spread out your gigs and always give yourself extra time (particularly if you're crossing the border) so you're never in a rush.

5. Get contracts (backed by the musicians union to ensure legal protection) for everything. You can never be too prepared.

6. Plot out your directions well in advance and gain familiarity with your route (check for construction and possible weather threats that may require a change in plans as well). Even better, get yourself a GPS.

7. Learn how to cope with adversity. Meditate. Deep breathe. Scream if you have to! Just find some way to deal with it all that doesn't hurt yourself, your band's reputation or others.

8. Don't pick up random groupies. No, this isn't your mother speaking, but let's be real, people: sexually transmitted diseases are widespread. Moreover, finding out you've got a kid from some one night stand is so passé. Finally, it's frankly dangerous. Being in a foreign locale with a lot of expensive gear on you makes you an easy mark. There's nothing wrong with meeting new people and engaging with your fans, but put some limitations on things - keep your equipment in your pants.
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