Lesson 15- Everyone Is Under Pressure
On the tour bus with Finger Eleven and CZ
One of the most fun experiences that I ever had on a tour was with Finger Eleven. I had made it to Vancouver on my own tour and when I got there they were kind enough to not only offer me an opening slot but let me travel on their proper tour bus. It was something I had never experienced, before or since. I was in heaven.
My tour vehicle, early October 2003
Every morning we would wake up at the venue and a local production assistant for the show would come in and take our order for breakfast from Subway. I would hang around all day with the bands and crew and my job would take just a little over an hour. Since I was the opener, I was last to soundcheck (“quickly, doors are opening!”) and first to play my half hour slot. I would pack up, watch the other bands and enjoy the pizza with Finger Eleven after they finished playing. After all was said and done the bus would start, we’d all fall asleep in our bunks and wake up at the next venue.
I recall one morning, greeting F11 and their crew with a friendly good morning when one of the guys asked, “Are you always this chipper?”
No, I was not always that chipper. But in that circumstance I was. I was accustomed to being responsible for everything. It was entirely enjoyable to relax a little bit and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
I really have to hand it to them: I was there because they wanted me there. Not their management or booking agent as I had nothing to offer them. They took me on tour because they liked me and what I was doing. Most of the greatest opportunities I’ve had have been a result of my supportive peers, not the music industry.
It didn’t take me long to realise; though it was a holiday for me, being a rock star had an entirely different sets of pressures contrary to my own.
My pressures were many but simple; finding a place to sleep, selling more T-shirts, finding something to do on a day off and the like. Their pressures affected
way more people. They had employees with wives and kids. If they weren’t doing well, it affected entire families. That sort of burden is way more complicated.
I also noticed that they had the pressure of having many, actual fans. People who would sit out all day in the cold (really) in order to meet them: their favourite band. This was something that I have never experienced. It’s not that I don’t have fans but since I played in such modest venues, a fan could come for a chat before or after the gig without any complications. If they weren’t too careful, I might even sleep on their couch.
The grace Finger Eleven showed with their fans was quite impressive, spending countless hours out in the cold with them, taking pictures and signing autographsX Fame is difficult to navigate and F11 handled it with a grace that I wouldn’t see again until I became friends with George Strombolopolous (I’ve never seen anyone handle fame as well as him).
The day after my tour that felt like a vacation with Finger Eleven, I went back on tour with my old buddy Wax Mannequin. He picked me up in a Honda Civic that had the back window replaced with a piece of plywood. We were back in the same venues and seeing a lot of the same faces if seen, just a few months before on my last trip to the East Coast.
My tour vehicle, late October 2003
Even in my middle age, I have day dreams of rock stardom, who doesn’t. But when I think about my tours with actual rockstars like Finger Eleven I try and look on the bright side. I’m thankful for the freedom that being a humble, indie, one-man band and a lack of fiscal success brought. When you ain’t got nothing, you ain’t got nothing to lose but having something for a bit was pretty fucking awesome.