by Nick Grever
10 hours ago
Before I left, I had a lot of people ask me just what I’d be doing while on tour. The best answer I could give them was, “I don’t know, sell shirts I guess.”
So, in an effort to give you a better picture of what a day in the life of Valley of the Sun’s illustrious merch guy/tour bitch, I give you a minute-by-minute breakdown of what will most likely be our busiest day on the tour. What transpires is a day with two shows and 10 combined hours on the road and yes, it’s as tiring as it sounds.
6:30 a.m.: Wake up before dawn in Frankfurt and get ready for a five hour drive to Munich. Take a shower in a hotel shower that has no door or curtain while using a shower head has no holder on the wall. Listen to Black Dahlia Murder to wake up.
7:30 a.m.: Make a to-go sandwich at the hotel’s breakfast bar.
7:35 a.m.: Help navigate the van out of a hotel parking garage that it shouldn’t have logically fit in.
7:47 a.m.: Begin a five-hour drive to Munich. Naps are taken by most. Breaking the speed limit is performed by others. Who knew a van could go triple digits?
8:50 a.m.: Pit stop number one: water, coffee and baked good acquired. Knifes and soccer hooligans are ogled.
10:43 a.m.: Pit stop number two: water and coffee are released, drivers are switched.
12:00 p.m.: Arrive at venue, take tour of stage and see backstage area. Find WiFi password and begin to use and abuse venue’s internet connection.
12:45 p.m.: Dig merch out of van for festival’s merchandise display. Freak out when an entire box of shirts cannot be found.
12:47 p.m.: Rejoice when the box of shirts are unearthed.
1:20 p.m.: Begin gear load in.
1:30 p.m.: Realize you’ve learned more gear terminology on this tour than in a decade of attending concerts and hanging out with bands.
1:40 p.m.: Rip an expensive tour banner.
1:52 p.m.: Sit around and surf through Facebook and Instagram while band sound checks.
2:45 p.m.: Check to see if ears are bleeding from sound check volume.
3:00 p.m.: Walk around the venue and people-watch to waste time before show starts.
3:25 p.m.: Set up Nick’s Go Pro cameras around the venue to capture the forthcoming insanity.
3:30 p.m.: Showtime. Festival attendees begin to filter into Valley’s show (Valley is the first band of the day).
4:00 p.m.: A circle pit breaks out for the first time in the band’s history. Horns are thrown liberally.
4:10 p.m.: Remember why Valley of the Sun is my favorite Cincinnati band.
4:15 p.m.: Raid the catering table for a sandwich, pretzel, banana and water. Plan to eat pretzel on the road as a snack.
4:30 p.m.: Settle merch sales with organizers, collect money, pile up CDs, LPs and shirts to load into the van.
4:35 p.m.: Eat pretzel before ever reaching the van.
4:40 p.m.: Call dibs on a festival attendee.
4:50 p.m.: Wait for Ryan to settle up event pay with festival organizers.
5:00 p.m.: On the road again for another five-hour ride to Seigen.
5:05 p.m.: Begin typing hourly breakdown in van to save some time on off day tomorrow and to give my phone a chance to regain some charge.
5:50 p.m.: Pit stop one. Beer from festival is released.
8:25 p.m.: Pit stop two. Water is released and drivers are switched.
10:30 p.m.: Arrive at second venue where bands have already started playing.
10:37 p.m.: Order a pizza at stand outside of venue while we wait for support bands to finish.
11:15 p.m.: Continue eating; this time it is chicken curry in the band apartment.
11:30 p.m.: Final support act has finished. Start mad dash to load gear in from the van to the venue.
11:40 p.m.: Set up last minute merch area in a now desolate bar.
11:43 p.m.: Wait for the band to take the stage.
11:55 p.m.: Sell first bits of merch to those still at the venue. Try to explain that pins are one Euro a piece, not one Euro per handful.
12:30 a.m.: Show starts.
12:50 a.m.: Play Tetris while band is performing and, therefore, no one is looking at merch.
12:55 a.m.: Earn new high score in Tetris.
1:10 a.m.: Band finishes after three encores. A fourth is requested but the band has literally no other songs left to play.
1:15 a.m.: Sell 132 Euro worth of merch in 10 minutes.
1:45 a.m.: Pack up merch once sales dry up.
1:55 a.m.: Pack up van and grab overnight bags.
2:20 a.m.: Prepare for bed after a 20-hour day.
2:25 a.m.: Sleep for 10 hours straight.
If there’s anything that I’ve learned about touring it’s that it’s defined by tons of dead time, punctuated by moments of massive amounts of activity. “Hurry up and wait” is the perfect way to describe it. We rush in the morning to squeeze everyone’s morning routine into a short period of time. Then we spend hours in the van to reach a venue, only to rush to get the van unloaded, merch set out and sound check completed, along with other pre-show rituals. Then we wait for the show to start, followed by the post-show rush to sell merch, load up the van and get to our lodging for the night.
It makes for long days and long nights, with little to no rest. It’s tiring, hectic and stressful and I’m having the time of my life. I could really use an actual shower though, that’s for sure.
by Nick Grever
55 hours ago
Remember in my first blog when I said I was worried that I had over packed? Guess what? I over packed.
I’ve been on tour for a week now and these are a few things I’ve learned so far, in no particular order. Hopefully they help you the next time a Rock band drags you across Europe. Or on your next trip to Disneyland.
Backpack space is very important. In my backpack, I originally had a jacket, a neck pillow, my laptop, two books, two magazines and a front pocket full of random paperwork. Now, the jacket is always out and the neck pillow has disappeared because I needed the space for dirty clothes. There simply was no other space for them. Nick, who’s an experienced road warrior (he drum techs for Breaking Benjamin), basically lives out of his backpack, only digging into his carry-on when he needs to swap things in and out.
Everything should have a home. When I packed up for the trip, I was very meticulous and I made sure to check off items when they made it into my bags (traveling puts me on edge). Now that I’m over here, I’ve found it easier to keep track of things when I put them back in the same place every time. Lazily throwing my sunglasses into a pocket only causes me to flip my shit when I can’t find them down the line. And scouring a van while it’s moving at 130 kph is not a fun experience, my friends.
Creature comforts are nice, but not totally important. I brought a lot of reading material thinking this trip would have plenty of van time to catch up on my books. So far, I’ve reached for precisely none of them. I read my two magazines, sure. But one was on the plane and the other was only a day ago. While we still have over two weeks, so that might change, I wish I had used that space for something more important, like more clean socks.
Jeans are amazing and should be respected. I only brought one pair of denim for three weeks on the road. The boys brought two: a live-in pair and a show pair (Rock & Roll is a sweaty affair). Jeans take up a lot of space and, as long as you don’t spill goulash on them or something equally as traumatic, they can last you for a long time in between cleanings. So if you’re ever on a long road trip, do yourself a favor and save some space. One pair is all you need, just Febreze them once or twice and you’re good to go.
Cleanliness on the road can be hard, but don’t skimp. Road butt, swamp ass — call it what you will but sitting for hours on end will do harm to anyone’s rear end. And when showers are not always guaranteed — along with the supply of hot water, wash cloths or towels — then it’s important to keep some stop gaps handy. Baby wipes are like touring gold. They let you wipe down your pits and keep that fresh feeling in between shows and showers. Small bottles of hand cleanser are great too. Touring is dirty business, soap isn’t always on hand and when you’ve got five guys crammed into one van, germs could be disastrous. So toss a bottle in your bag and don’t forget to scrub up from time to time.Leave things at home that you don’t need. This was something I sort of already knew, but I didn’t understand the true extent till we got over here. For example, when I arrived I had my house key, my mail, two keys to my parent’s house, my car key, our tour laminate (geek out moment here: we have tour laminates!) and a few key chains. On Day 1, Arnaud added a van key to that pile. Later I learned that I would usually be keeping track of any apartment or hotel keys we got too. This added up to a key ring that was obnoxiously filled. I sounded like a janitor when I walked around. So I ditched all but the few that I actually need here. My states keys are safely stowed in my backpack and my pants aren’t weighed down with useless crap.
Don’t leave home without a towel. South Park’s Towelie and Douglas Adams were right. I didn’t listen and I’m sorry that I didn’t.
by Nick Grever
12 days ago
When I first met Valley of the Sun, one of the first things Ryan ever said to me was, “So you’re the enemy,” with a huge grin on his face. He was obviously referencing something and was extremely happy that he was finally able to do so.
I didn’t get it.
For those of you as clueless as I was, it’s from Almost Famous, the story of a young boy who gets to live his dream and follow a band on a nationwide tour while writing a story for Rolling Stone. In it, one of the band members continually calls his newfound follower the enemy because he sees everything — the good, the bad, the ugly, the drunken — and he can report on it all.
As I sit on a plane, 53 minutes away from Brussels, I finally get the reference (it doesn’t hurt that I watched Almost Famous for the first time the night before we left). So far I’ve watched Aaron drink wine straight from the bottle, seen Nick blatantly break the “no smoking” rule on international flights and learned just how cutthroat the game of Dibs can be. Ladies: Yes we are staring at you and yes we are claiming each and every one of you. Also, selfies. So many selfies.It’s been pretty calm so far. Seating has been a breeze, Aaron and I prefer aisle, Ryan and Nick are window guys. Our connections have been effortless, leaving plenty of time for piss breaks and pizza runs. The flights were all smooth and filled with enough dibs-worthy frauleins to keep us busy the whole time. Even our luggage was fairly easy to manage. Only two gear bags needed some re-Tetrising, but it was easily corrected.
The trip out of the airport in Brussels was a bit more stressful. We had a hard time corralling our luggage, we couldn’t find our van and Ryan was stopped by an adorable drug dog and his less than adorable handler. But it was all sorted out and we headed out for Desertfest, our first show in Antwerp, Belgium.
The ride was short and we were the first band to arrive. We used our free time to track down some Belgian waffles; Arnaud’s bilingual skills helped us procure food that we actually recognized and pay for said food. We also sorted out usual tour things like reorganizing the van into less of a clusterfuck, catching up with old friends, making introductions to new members and passing out itineraries. Ryan was kind enough to provide us with a day-by-day breakdown of times and locations, all set inside a classy Lisa Frank folder. Because kittens are metal.Merch is being sold by an outside agency, so I get the night to enjoy some of Stoner Rock’s finest acts, like Witch Rider and Truckfighters. I will be in charge of filming the band with Nick’s Go Pro cameras. No guarantee of quality can be made, but considering our mutual state of exhaustion, I think it’ll be forgiven. Tonight’s sure to be an interesting start to tour. We’ve each been given six drink tickets, we’re running on about 30 minutes of sleep apiece and the boys are playing to a sold-out fest with attendees flying in from as far away as Japan. It’s definitely a trial by fire scenario, but I think they’re up to the challenge. They just might need a caffeine injection between now and then.
I think I’m going to wrap it up for today but I want to start a tally here that will hopefully carry on through the tour. We’re up to two Spinal Tap references/situations today. Check back in to see if we can run into any more locked doors later this week!CityBeat contributor Nick Grever is currently traveling Europe on tour with Cincinnati Rock band Valley of the Sun. He will be blogging for citybeat.com regularly about the experience.
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