So first of all, before we launch into another of my not-five list of fives is to say a big thanks to all of you who commented on my Magpie Tale last week and, as requested, here is the song itself. I'm afraid that if you can't for any reason use soundcloud then I don't have any other means of sharing it right now. Still, for those that can - i hope it was worth the wait
Anyway - I went to see a rather excellent band playing at a rather rough venue last week and decided that being a touring band is a pretty hard and not very glamorous life. Unless you're Pink Floyd, or Phil Collins in which case your journey is probably not quite so grim as those still playing the pub circuit.
So here are a list of touring problems and their easy (if somewhat repetitive) solution
#1: All that equipment
So most bands have three to four members as minimum. The Police had three - Guitars, Drums and Sting on Bass and vocals - but that was under the average of Guitarist, Bassist, Singer and Drummer. If your vocalist can't play an instrument then you're probably talking about a fifth member on rhythm guitar and if your playing certain types of music then you may also need a keyboardist and even, take a deep breath and prepare yourselves, a brass section.
That's seven of you now: all shoved in the back of a Ford Transit (assuming that the Driver doesn't come as extra) - and all the associated instruments. OK, so at some venues you may be able to share a drum kit if you bring your own cymbals, but otherwise its pretty cramped.
Solution: form a Ukulele group. The Ukulele takes up less than half the space of your average guitar and only requires a mike and a stand to make it audible on stage
#2: Personality clashes
So you're in the back of a van three or four nights a week, every week, with the same seven people. You can't even read a book because Dave the Drummer has, again, placed his top hat on your Mills & Boon anthology. Some times you can be travelling a few hundred miles to a gig that doesn't finish until after midnight, at which point you have to drive back again.
So its no wonder that musicians all end up hating each other. Think about the person that annoys you the most at work, think about their personal habits - how soon would those traits begin to play on your nerves if you were trapped in a confined space with them. Add to the fact that most musicians are deeply egocentric or else attention deprived and you have a real problem on your hands.
Solution: play the Ukulele. It's impossible to be angry or depressed when playing the Ukulele. Ownership of a ukulele would have significantly changed the careers of bands like Joy Division and even Leonard Cohen wouldn't be able to stop himself from smiling when handed one
You turn up at the gig and nine times out of ten the chap who is sitting at the sound desk has gone deaf due to night after night of people who thought that 11 was the correct setting for an amplifier, meaning that the audience have their innards churn and that you leave the venue every night with your ears ringing like a particularly enthusiastic church at new year's eve. And the more that you do it the louder you need the on stage monitors and the more the ringing increases. Big bands may well have those little earpieces to avoid all of that, but by the time you've spent a few years on the pub circuit getting to that level then it's already too late.
Solution: play the Ukulele. If you've never checked out Iron Maiden on the Uke then I can confirm one thing - it's a lot less noisy
#4: Turning To Drugs
This is a real problem for the gigging band and its easy to see why. First of all: what do you do after a gig? You've got all that energy in your body from the natural high, so you're wide awake whilst everyone else is asleep. What else can you do to pass the time other than to move on to a club or find some other temporary high? Easy: play a uke.
Mind you: Jimi Hendrix's first instrument was a ukulele - so maybe that one doesn't work after all
#5: Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously
It's easy to begin to believe your own myth when everyone around you is telling you how great you are, but let's face it: Elvis, Whitney, Michael et al would have lived happier and longer lives if someone had just told them no occasionally instead of sucking up to them. Solution: it's impossible to be completely serious when playing a Ukulele, as evidenced by the chap in the video below (not me. Genius, of a sort, but still not me)
#6: Remember - when the audience would clearly not notice if you spontaneously combusted on stage - it is supposed to be fun
Solution: need I say more?