Weather and the Working Musician
Rain, rain, go away
Come again another day
When I’m not loading in!
Adapted from nursery rhyme
One of the things that many musicians forget about when making plans is the weather. As a touring musician, I can tell you that’s a mistake!
Mother Nature is not nice – ever. She just pretends to be nice. Then, when you’re least expecting it, she throws a torrential rain storm at you while you’re loading in to a venue, a sends a tornado to chase you across a state while you’re headed to your gig. Let me give you an example:
Not so long ago, Ryan Pelton scheduled several days of rehearsals for his band The Difference. We had just brought on a new guitarist and drummer and needed to get them up to speed on our first batch of material – about sixty songs. Our soprano vocalist and road/music manager D’arcy Park, and our new guitarist, Jeff Adams, were flying in from Chicago. Problem #1 was that the storms were so severe that the plane couldn’t land for more than an hour.
Meanwhile, Problem #2 was the fact that those same storms poured on us as we unloaded the gear from not one, not two, but THREE vehicles. By the time we got everything into the rehearsal space at Diamond Sound, we were soaked. Soaked! We’d also lost power for several minutes, which is a real pain when there are NO windows in the entire complex.
We get everything inside, and start setting up, then get a call from D’arcy to inform us that they had finally landed, but couldn’t get their luggage because of the tornado.
No, I’m not, and I’m going to beat you when I see you if you don’t shut up and listen to me! We’re stranded in the main terminal and can’t get our luggage because no one is stupid enough to go out on the flight line while there’s a tornado within site of the airfield.
OK. I get that. Go hide and try not to pull a Dorothy, OK?
Meanwhile, Amy – our other vocalist – is in her car waiting in the Cell Phone parking lot. This is where you wait for your friends to arrive, then they call you when they have their bags, and you come to the terminal to pick them up. Well, the thing is, it’s out in the middle of a very flat area, which tornadoes just love. She’s calling Ryan, freaking out, and Ryan’s telling her to go hide in the parking garage.
So… by the time it’s all over, we’re all very wet and very stressed, to say the least. And we still had eight hours of rehearsal to get through.
Then, a few weeks later, we had to drive from Nashville to Kinder, Louisiana. Our route took us through Alabama not long after the storms and tornadoes had beat the entire state flat. We had no idea how much damage we’d have to deal with, nor about any detours we might have to take. What’s a touring band to do?
Well, in the first example, all we could do was put our heads down and deal with it. In the second, our answer was to leave a day early, just in case. Either way, if you want to do the gig, you have to deal with the weather first.
There are other ways that weather can pose problems. You may have to play in the rain, with the audience wearing ponchos and holding umbrellas. It may be 100 degrees on stage, so you find yourself drinking about a gallon of water during an hour show, and still losing weight from sweating it all out. Up in Montana during the winter, you better be wearing three pairs of long johns.
I wonder if you notice a trend here. In any of these – and many other – situations, the key is to prepare for what may come, and to be determined to not let it interfere with your ability to perform. Sure, it sucks to load in during a downpour. You still have to get your gear inside. It sucks to deal with extreme weather, but if you want to play, you have to do what’s necessary to deal with the issue and yet still focus on your job, which is giving the audience their money’s worth.
So… prepare, prepare, prepare. And learn to deal with whatever comes without letting affect your attitude. Nobody likes a whiner. Just have a nice cup of Shut Up! and get the job done. Believe me, people notice that. And they call you things… professional being the number one choice.
Feel free to leave a comment and tell me your thoughts, or ask questions. And, until next time, whether you’re wet, hot, cold… whatever…. always,
Aim High – Play Low!
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