IÂ love Canada! I love the large clean open spaces, I love the friendly warm natured feel that seems to radiate from the nearly all that I meet here. I love the laid back attitude towards life and I do not love the border crossing. We used to joke that getting into Russia is easier than driving north over the border. But it is no joke. There are few countries more difficult to enter for a US citizen on the planet earth than the homeland of our close and friendly Canadian brothers. I have spent many a 4 am morning shivering in a parking lot as our bags are rifled through as they give their pet drug puppies a private tour of our bus. I think next time I will hide little dog treats in various locations just for fun.
Canadian border patrol has has developed aÂ two part plan for effective border control:
1) If a person has done anything wrong ever, make them wait as long as possible and try and make them pay as much money as possible to get into the country. With bus full of traveling nuns, this may not be an issue but shocking as it may be, many roadies and musicians often do not have perfect pasts. Be that as it may, any violation such as a misdemeanor traffic citation or DUI could mean a 4 hour wait or even denial into the country.
2) Regardless of how many times you have been allowed into Canada before, always start from scratch at the last minute while the person is at the border and offer no method of allowing people to pre apply or effectively prepare. I heard that on The Warped tour traveling with 20 or more busses, they called ahead to the Canadian border well in advance "we will be arriving with several hundred people late at night," provided the time, the names, the passports and everything. So arriving at the crossing to find two graveyard border officials on duty and fully prepared to start processing the roadies one by one, from scratch, of course fits right in with the Canadian immigration strategy.
There also is and added bonus of keeping theÂ anticipation level up by letting whomever is on duty at the time have total discretion over the misery level of the border-crosser involved. Fortunately, I am not one of the humans that got harassed, unfortunately the border antics effect us all. Though I personally do not partake, the whole thing is especially amusing when you realize that preventing someone from bringing drugs into Canada from the US is about as ingenuous as setting up checkpoints to stop people from bringing sand to the beach.
All that said, now that I have made it into Fort Canada, I remember why it is so heavily protected, it is truly beautiful here and maybe the underlying plan of preventing Americans from coming over has some merit.
Not only was my dad at the show yesterday, so were my daughters as well. Family day and since their mom works for Pearl Jam and is currently on tour as well, the little people have been parentless for a bit. The good part is is that they are well cared for, safe and happy and the downside is that the two tours are awkwardly and consistently overlapping and putting them for longer periods without either parent in town. Regardless, what it means right now is that I step into full time dad mode instantly which is all good. Unfortunately though, I live too way far away from where they go to school so after the weekend I say bye-bye to my home and move up to their mom's place for the break, good thing my bags are already packed.
At this point tour has pretty much become the norm and getting back to home feels more like just an extended set of days off. Time to play catch up until get ready to leave time comes around.
As far as touring schedules go, this is one of the best in my opinion. Three weeks on and two weeks off is the rough pattern we follow. Many if not most bands will do six weeks as a typical segment length with ten weeks out not being too uncommon. My first tours was four months long and in the pre cell phone era, pre internet era, a four month tour meant total and complete disconnection from the other world. At the peak of my touring I was doing sound or PA tech for three bands with interwoven tours flying directly from one to the next. I used to try and call home when I had someone I wanted to talk to in my life but it was pretty easy to spend 1/2 the tour pay on calling cards and hotel phone charges. The largest hotel phone bill I saw was $ 1200. One of the guys had used a hotel phone to talk for a few hours to his gal from Europe. It happens to most new touring humans at least once. That hotel phone just looks so tempting sitting by the bed, so easy, how bad could it be? I have paid the bill of shame myself but where and how much I have long ago forgotten. There was even a "mail day" because our schedule kept changing, as did our hotels and the cities we though we were going to. So any mail was sent to the management and they would then forward it to certain cities. Motion meant disconnecting and that disconnection is both the best and worst part of touring.
In it's purest form disconnection can be one of the most invigorating and wondrous experiences imaginable. Completely letting go of everything. No bills to pay, no car to register, no set schedule to follow. Each day is just a simple set of instructions to follow cryptically written in a the book of life called the itinerary. Lobby at 8 am, eat, set up gear, eat, tear down gear, shower, eat, sleep in bus, wake up, repeat. Each day someone paints a different picture of the world outside the bus and makes it a bit hotter, colder or wetter. Each day the gear comes out of the trucks and each day your focus slips farther down from the horizon to seeing only that which immediately is at hand. It is at that point where living distinctly in the moment is all that matters where the sensation of true freedom solidifies. That sensation is the essence of what I believe is the allure and magnetism of choosing a life on the road.
The price paid for disconnection is that when the tour ends and reality is crushingly dropped back into your lap, you have no where to stay, all your worldly belongings are scattered in various garages, the battery is dead in your unregistered car. Motionless is depressing. New cities and music and crowds of excited humans all gone. I used to dig through all my stuff stored at home and rediscover things I tucked away and forgot. Drive somewhere, I guess, eat food and begin to miss the endless string of adventures that had presented themselves daily. Instead I sit with four walls waiting for the phone to ring and take me away from motionless stagnation.
After about 16 years of touring and around 5 years ago, I made the conscience decision to try to learn how to be a normal human and try and adapt to a more normal life. I wanted to learn how to not to travel and also to be happy at the same time.
It is so strange, this place used to be so huge. I remember the way it felt in the sheer awe of being herded through the various sections to my seat 29 years ago more clearly than the events themselves. Loge 21 if my memory serves me, just off the floor on the left side, maybe row K? I remember how insanely excited I was in that sensory overload awaiting the big rock show and savoring every nuance. Flipping between being wrapped in the music and making mental notes of things to tell my friends that I wanted to remember. Jimmy Page playing Dazed and Confused with the violin bow and then there was and that spinning laser cone. It like totally surrounded him and was a just a single green beam at first. It started waving into a triangle and three more triangles sliced down forming a pyramid of green eerie light that began to spin around him into a glowing cone as he hammered away at the strings. And finally the blinding green dot of the laser hitting his bow he swung in a circle around his head brought the entire audience on top of their seat again to be put down by security.
If there is one clear sacrifice I made by entering the music industry as a way of life, I would have to say it is the dilution of exactly that anticipation and thrill. I realized as it happened. Slowly my perception of bands and enjoyment of their music began to weigh heavier as the lines blurred between rock-show and job-site. Where I used to enjoy listening purely to the songs created, I found myself equally concerned with the 'whom' I was listening to. As I worked with more artists I found it increasingly difficult to enjoy the music created by knuckle heads. Or worse yet, listening to the music of a sonic-monopolizing ego-maniacal artistic dictator surrounded by minions as I have met quite a few, became nearly unbearable. So I graciously avoid those entities both musically and professionally.
As a replacement for what I have lost, I have found something enjoyably unexpected. That exuberance has somehow developed into an awareness. Just as the less than enjoyable humans devalued their own music in my ears, being exposed to inspirational and intriguing humans elevates my taste for much that I had previously overlooked and now with that clearer insight I have an added enjoyment of their sonic creations.
*** End Pondering Rambling ****
Today my dad came to the rock show. Today I gave my dad his first full tour of what goes on at a large concert and for the first time my dad actually watched a rock show and for the first time I actually think he truly grasped what it is that I do. He is not much of a music guy, best I can remember hearing from him was some recordings of 3 old guys playing recorders (wooden flutes) and a few classical albums he never listened to. Also I am relatively confident that he was not too thrilled to have me huddled in the corner of his living room for hours and hours on end, headphones blasting. I started with a used Beach Boys live album and quickly ramped up to Pink Floyd, Sabbath and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with the help of a friend named Raggs who lived down the alley. I am pretty sure that career choice was not quite what he had envisioned but none the less, today my dad came to the rock show. And the best part is that he liked it.
**** Highlight of the Day ****
Watching my dad fully immersed and focused in watching the Red Hot Chili Peppers grand finally encore jam.
**** End Highlight of the Day ****
Oh, and he definitely enjoyed it a bit more than his very first rock show and though he has bragging rights to say he actually saw Black Flag in 1985, I do not think he fully appreciated the significance. My mom on the other hand, well she think that Henry Rollins guy is cute and once showed up at a 45 Grave/Channel 3/Godhead show with a birthday cake for me. Imagine my joy of having mom running around at a punk rock show with a pink birthday cake and candles, singing away. Like many things in life, it often takes time to fully appreciate.