On tour – day 12 and the tour ends

Day 12 – Recife

I suppose it’s fitting that the last day off the tour should be the biggest balls up. We were all told to be ready for an 11 a.m. pick-up for the airport. Our flight was at 1.15 and we had a TV broadcast to do before the gig (actually they booked it before the sound check just to ensure we sounded our best!). By 11.15 there was no bus but one of the guys had overheard one of the producers saying the pick-up had been changed to 11.30. Nice to be told! By 11.30, nothing. Judy rang both of the producers and got no reply. She then went to their respective rooms and banged on the door – no reply. Eventually one of them came downstairs and started trying to ring the driver to find out what had happened, behaving as if this wasn’t their fault. It’s now mid-day. So, we have to get 5 taxis to take us to the airport in a rush. Note to Jazz Festival Brasil – don’t hang out after your bedtime if you can’t handle it … which you obviously can’t. You need to be awake early everyday to sort out the inevitable cock-ups which you have arranged for the day!!!


We make the check-in just on time – to discover the flight is delayed. No lunch? We are promised hot food at the theatre because we will have just enough time to get changed at the hotel before the TV show. As I’ve mentioned before, jazz musicians have a much lower tolerance of waiting around than most people. If you include the time at the hotel, we were waiting around for just over three hours before the flight. When we arrived at Recife we were told the TV show had been cancelled. Nice. So now, at least, we have time to go for lunch. We were taken to an amazing place called ‘Mingus’ (yes, the owner is a jazz fan). Superb food and a beautifully relaxing locale was just what we need. Just as the file mignon with mustard sauce etc. arrived, we were informed that we had to leave as soon as possible because the venue was over an hour from the hotel, and we still had to get to the hotel! Rushing again, we got to the hotel with 30 minutes to shower and change – once again, do you see the pattern? One of the guys was pretty ill from something he ate, so Judy spent the first 15 minutes of that half hour sorting out medicine and a cab to take him to the gig at the last minute. So she had even less time than the rest of us! The air-conditioning in the hotel had broken, so the rooms resembled a sauna on full blast! Then the lift that Judy was in broke down for 10 minutes on the way down! Anyway, we got to the venue in time for a sound check and a bit of sit down time before the gig. By the way, the hot food we were promised consisted of a plate of sandwiches and some cake!

The gig was, as we had hoped, the best one. Everyone was on fire, the audience loved it and were extremely responsive. There was a degree of sadness after the show, as there usually is after a tour with a band like this. Although we are recording in New York next week, the next tour hasn’t been booked yet, and may not be until next year. It is so rare these days to have a band who thinks SO alike, on so many levels, that when you have this kind of connection, both musically and personally, it is very hard to see it end. We just want to keep playing and hanging out.

Up until this point I hadn’t been told what time my flight is to get home. During the afternoon I found out that I arrive at 1.30 p.m. and that the e-ticket has been emailed to me. The most direct route is to go Recife-Salvador-Belo Horizonte and takes around 3 hours. So, I figure I’ll check in around 9 a.m.. When I picked up my emails however, I discovered that my flight is at 6.30 a.m. to Sao Paulo, wait 3 hours in Sao Paulo and then fly back up to Belo. The trip will take me 7 hours instead. The ticket had been emitted that day, therefore the festival had forgotten to buy it beforehand and discovered the only route left was that one. Can these people be any more retarded? Really? So my check-in was at 5 a.m.. Judy, Dan and Dave were heading up to Belem for one last gig (the festival were too tight to pay for the entire band) and their flight was at 5.20 a.m.!! It was just as easy to leave the hotel at 4 with them and have some breakfast at the airport.

After the gig, we went back to the great restaurant for a meal and final celebration of another successful tour. After some excellent food and wine, and a great hang, we got to the hotel around 2. So there was no point in going to bed. I just took a shower, watched some TV and packed. Then re-packed just because I had some time left over! By the time I got home it was around 3.30 Friday afternoon and I’d had only 5 hours sleep since Tuesday night! Boy, did I feel good. Still, it was worth it. Thanks again Judy for getting us together again – and keeping us sane!!

More thoughts and comments

I often have discussions with people about what it is to be a professional musician. Some really believe that if your sole source of income is music, then you are a professional musician. That’s so wrong I’m not even going to go down that road. There are many, many aspects that make up a professional musician. Absolute dedication to the music and your instrument, punctuality, respect, care in your appearance … the list is long. There is however one aspect often overlooked, and it is this;

Despite everything that can happen during the day, all the setbacks and delays and cock-ups; despite the fact that you may not have eaten for almost 12 hours or only slept for 4 or feel ill or only had half an hour to change having spent all day travelling ….. when you walk past the curtain and onto the stage, you HAVE TO BE PERFECT IN EVERY WAY. You have to put on a perfect show. You have to be 100% and nothing less. You have to be able to focus completely on the music at a moments notice, and block everything else out. The audience isn’t interested in anything else. They have paid their hard earned money to come and be entertained, and that is what we are there for. This is probably the hardest part of being professional and it is something that most people don’t think about and find it hard to comprehend.

My hope, through all these posts, was to give you an idea of what it’s like being on the road. I don’t know if I wrote them well enough to get that across – maybe it’s just something that you have to do, to really understand. Although who wanted to go on tour just to see what it’s like should be committed!

Please let me know if you enjoyed this series or how you think I can improve for next time. Have you been on the road with a band? How did you find it and how did you cope with the trials of being on tour? I’d love to hear from you.