I had a few more ideas about touring that I wanted to get out before I moved on from the topic. A lot of what I've been thinking about has been the different scales involved and how it affects the way you operate.
A huge tour is basically an island and everything from the equipment to the personnel has to be carefully chosen to survive the rigors of life on the road. Corey talked on the last podcast about a big tour being like Air Force One where it's a "zero fail" situation. There's no room for something to fizz out in front of 20,000 fans. Which is not to say that it doesn't happen, but when it does you have to have backups on your backups and take care of it instantly.
Likewise, the choice of crew members is equally if not more important than the gear. In an ever changing market with an every growing number of people looking for the work, you can really set yourself apart by the way you operate. You might not be the very best at what you do, but if you're good enough, there's a good chance you could get a position over someone better qualified if you're known to be able to slot into a group really well. Let's face it, if you're going to work under that kind of pressure and then live in a tin can on wheels, you had better be able to deal with the stress pretty well.
On the opposite end of the spectrum you've got the smaller national and regional tours where as the band engineer, you might only have a box of mics with you and have to rely on whatever gear you happen to encounter in each venue. Being able to interface with the house sound guy and local crew is a must have skill, there's just no way around it. You might also be the tour manager and share driving duties and or number of other responsibilities. Having a real diversity of talents and an eagerness to work for the common goal is key.
Then there's the payback. There are those salty old road dogs who've been at it forever and couldn't live if they couldn't do it. But the majority of guys (and girls) on the road are young. It's a lot easier to live out of a suitcase and let the wind blow you where it may if you're not attached. But eventually it's going to wear on you, physically as well. I don't have numbers to quote, but I imagine the injury rate is pretty high, not due to safety but just the pure physical abuse of little sleep and heavy work. I succumbed to it myself not too long ago, when I blew out a disc moving gear at a gig.
Which leads me to the conclusion. Unfortunately that injury occurred at load in and I was by myself so I had to finish setting up, mix and somehow beg help to get it struck and get the heck out of there. There was never a thought in my mind of giving up though, and that's what we all have in common in this industry. The primary concern is the show and there's not much that could get us to deviate from that. The ethos that, "the impossible just takes longer" is familiar to all those for whom this isn't just a job but a life.
That's it for now Brethren of the Knob and Fader. Got any good tour stories? Hit the comment section!