Steve Cook's soul, song, and sweat.

Shinybass journal entry 2-04-11

All’s quiet on the western front…

Or is it? It’s Friday morning, which means I am usually on a bus and just getting some rocket fuel-type coffee right about now. I am actually sitting at my desk and having rocket fuel-type coffee, but the beauty of this day is that I am in my robe. Great at home, awkward at best on a bus full of dudes. Although at 8:30 AM, I am usually one of the first one or two folks to roll out of the bunk house, so I guess I can wear a robe, as long as I am changed before, say, ten. Rule #24 of bus etiquette – Try and remember that what you don’t want to see – the others on your bus don’t want to see. I remember one drunk I played a show with who got up to use the bathroom, and sort of just hung out in his underwear. No bueno. Put some damn shorts on if you are gonna get up. Sheesh. See – don’t you want to tour?

And don’t get me wrong. I get the whole thing. It’s cool for dudes to run around naked on tour buses (I guess). I say ‘cool’ because whatever – we all have this fantasy about what life is like on the road – but the bulk of it isn’t really true. I can’t tell you how many times I have been backstage to be, well, backstage, and there’s nothing back there. But back to the fantasy part of the road. Some people look at the 3 days or 3 weeks out as a respite from real life, so they choose to drink themselves into oblivion and forget about life. Guilty as charged. But there is also something called restraint. Balance. Harmony and Balance. These are the keys to healthy touring.

I drink. I don’t drink every day. There are people who drink every, single stinking day on the road. I’m not talking ‘warm-up celebration shot’. I’m talking case of crappy beer every day. It’s not good. Unless that’s who you strive to be, then you are there. But being able to go to bed is a good thing, too. You probably have some responsibilities the next day to attend to, and well, if you miss those, guess what? Maybe, just maybe you won’t be asked back. Touring is not an opportunity to party. It’s a by-product.

We do, however, create a party atmosphere. It’s our gig. Even classical musicians throw down after a show in a strange town. It’s kind of what we do. But again, you don’t stay on the road long if you are the 3rd chair trumpet player and carrying a flask to the stage. Now, if you are a bass player for a country act, then it’s OK. Harmony and Balance. Or something…(my flask has a Texas star on it. I bought it at the Stockyards in Ft. Worth)

In past touring acts, the throw down was expected. We would do all kinds of shots on stage, night after night. It got to a point where my body said ‘enough’. It wasn’t healthy, it wasn’t really that great waking up with a throbbing head every day, and as we entered a really comfortable zone, it became routine, and that was scary. Plus, the artist had to party, too, and well, that’s when things like interviews and working sort of became secondary. That’s when trouble begins. When you are more worried about the after party than the show, there is issue. First things first. The fans have paid their hard-earned money, so let’s take care of them first, then you can selfishly take care of yourself.

And you say to yourself ‘Steve, with all this knowledge, why have you not ever toured as a solo act?’ Well, it takes a little more than just saying no to a big after show party. No, I like to think at this point I am the ‘seasoned’ vet who can help people handle their liquor as opposed to lose control. And I am no expert, buy any stretch. And really this is all bullshit. I mean, we’re 10 guys on a bus, and we put in long days. Well, some of us do. The crew should have a drink. The artist – it’s his gig – he deserves a drink if he wants one. We’re sort of in the middle, teetering on that line between fantasy and reality, since we sort of work hard, we are sort of famous, and we are sort of responsible for things the next day. But again, harmony and balance come into play. I will blow it out with the best of them, but not every night. Just when it’s right. And there was another sad fellow I worked with for a day that had a bottle of vodka in his bunk. Trouble. Come on guys. Balance.

Where the hell did all this come from? Oh yes – bus etiquette. A couple more rules if you ever decide you have to be on a tour bus. First – no #2. And no paper down the toilet. (I guess that’s two rules). But ladies, when you come up, remember that – paper can clog. And dudes, just cause it’s a lot cleaner than the men’s room at the venue, that does NOT mean you clog our coffee can. Another rule of thumb – remember that the bus is our home. Treat it with respect. Don’t wander unattended, don’t get too comfy, and remember that we are creatures of habit – we probably need a few minutes alone before a show, so please give us a little space. Also, just because you came up before the show, that is not a green light to help yourself on the bus during or after the show, unless you are escorted by the tour manager or ask permission. Again, would you want someone rifling through your house looking for snacks while you are at work? Go enjoy the show, and we’ll all hang after.

Of course family is excluded from all these rules, as well as girlfriends/boyfriends. They get the free pass, and rightfully so. They put up with all our bullshit, and have for years, so they can pretty much do what they want. And sadly, a 3rd cousin with an entitlement streak is a scary thing. Hide the beer.

At one point I think I typed up rules for all this, but it all escapes me. And as I scroll back and look this entry over, I realize that I may a) sound a little cavalier in my attitude towards drinking, b) sound a little jaded towards people who visit us on the bus, and most importantly, c) I think I need to switch to decaf. I’m really, really, not ever switching to decaf. So there. But I guess the whole touring thing circles around you getting it or not getting it. It’s like jazz. If you have to ask, you’ll never know. And that goes for players as well as concert goers. Either way, it really is a great experience, and with these helpful hints, maybe your concert-going experience will be one that you can remember for years to come. So now you know. And knowing is half the battle. GO JOE!

Does all this mean that I may be getting back on the road? Steve, stop being so cryptic, and spill the damn beans already! Well, some of you know, some don’t, and some don’t really care. I will post pictures from the first shows, which are next weekend. At Mohegan Sun. There’s your hint, Hardy Boys.

See you on the road!

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