I love our new series, “It Happened on the Road,” and this month’s piece on Courtney Barnett’s Dave Mudie is no exception. It’s wild considering what can happen when you throw a group of musicians into a bus, van, plane, hotel room, grocery store, restaurant, or any other unforeseen scenario that can come up while touring. And it can be a true test to work out a group’s dynamics over the course of a long trek in a confined space. And that’s not even taking into account whatever unexpected circumstances may arise in the course of travelling to each venue.
No doubt like many of you, I’ve experienced a few bumps on the road while touring—hotel scuffles that featured hamburgers being thrown at bandmates; verbal and, unfortunately, physical fights over money; 400-mile drives on the way to playing to an empty room…. Those instances actually seem pretty tame compared to some of the experiences that fill our pages!
A few months ago I was gifted with a map of the U.S. and a set of pushpins. I finally got around to digging up some of the tour itineraries I lived by on the road, and I started placing markers on each city I’ve played.
What a trip. On the way into Chicago, besides stopping for the obligatory deep-dish pizza and a much-needed shower and rest at the home of one of our bandmates’ relatives, we watched a car spin out of control right in front of us. Our guitarist slammed on the brakes of our fifteen-passenger van, which was pulling a trailer filled with a backline in flight cases. When we finally came to a stop in the middle lane, we found ourselves practically face-to-face with the driver, who was facing the wrong direction and looking directly at us. Thankfully no one was hurt, although it definitely raised our blood pressure.
Another time, at the very beginning of a winter trek that started in Georgia, the area got hit by a rare snowstorm. Being from the Northeast, to us it seemed closer to a drizzle than a blizzard. Regardless, the entire city shut down, including the venue of our first gig, so we found ourselves stuck. And in what seemed—at least to us—an odd move, city officials called for sand to be dumped onto the streets to improve traction. Sand! Considering the state’s probable lack of preparedness for such weather, it could have seemed like a logical choice. To us, however, it just seemed…bizarre.
By the time this issue arrives in your mailbox or appears on your local newsstand, the summer tours will be entering their dog days, and the fall treks will be around the corner. If you find yourself on the road—whether on tour or on a business trip or family vacation—stay safe, be prepared for the unexpected, but most of all, have fun.
Enjoy the issue.