What can I give to a new touring musician?
June 25, 2008 11:02 AM   Subscribe

My little rocker brother's heading out on a two-week tour in a smelly van with a bunch of smelly guys. How can I make his life easier?

My 22 year-old brother, a guitarist in a rock band, is going on his first tour ever -- a two-week tour of the Northeast with his band and a friend's band. The two groups will combine their resources and venture out together, sharing the costs of a van (or maybe a bus) and overnight accommodations. They're likely to be covered in filth for the duration of the tour.

However, my brother, while not a neat freak, definitely likes things somewhat organized and clean. Coincidentally, his birthday is coming up next month. I'd like to get him some things that will make his tour a little bit more bearable. For example, if he didn't already own Bose noise-canceling headphones for his iPod/laptop, that'd be first on my list.

I've thought about a gas card (although that should last all of 50 miles), some sort of auto charger or battery extender for his Powerbook G4 or his 80 GB iPod, a comfortable travel pillow...but I'm just not sure which one would be best.

Any touring musicians out there, or people who spend long amounts of time traveling by car -- anything that you found indispensable? Specific links to your favorite products would be appreciated. Thanks!
posted by raz5 to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A two-week supply of brand new underwear and socks. No laundry!
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:07 AM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

battery extenders and a comfy travel pillow are great ideas.

may i also suggest: books on cd. a bottle of dr. bronner's soap. band stickers (if they don't have them yet). a friendly, brotherly reminder that he should stash his drugs in a smart place while driving.
posted by gnutron at 11:08 AM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

yeah, socks.
posted by matteo at 11:46 AM on June 25, 2008

GAS MONEY. Unless they have already established fans where they're touring, then they're not getting paid.

How are the locks on their van? On their equipment and merchandise? Do they have insurance coverage on their gear, computers, and vehicles?

You could try putting together a sort of survival chest with lots of non-perishable snacks, toiletries, vitamins, and medicine. Odds are they will subsist on nothing but pizza and energy drinks (if they're lucky).
posted by greenland at 11:53 AM on June 25, 2008

One of those little inverters that lets you plug in typical AC 110v plugs into car cigarrette lighter sockets are pretty handy. The power you get from those 'quick charge' battery packs is pretty limiting.

To be honest I would also buy a laptop lock for that powerbook. Who knows where he will be storing it during this time. Better safe than sorry.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:15 PM on June 25, 2008

I think getting him underwear and socks -- if you are a little sadistic and/or want to interfere with him getting action, festooned with Garfield or superhero -- is a great idea. If he doesn't care about waste, he can just get rid of them along the way.

Gas money or credit cards are likely to be appropriated for the common good, which may be a minus if you are interested in doing something nice for him in particular.

P.S. A DVD of Flight of the Conchords?
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 12:20 PM on June 25, 2008

I have considerable touring experience.

>Socks. Yes. I learned to just buy some cheap socks and throw out the old ones as I change them.

>Some sort of sleeping mask to block out sunlight for those day-time road naps. (A cool bandanna works as well).

>A container of handi-wipes. Good for that 7AM-stuck-on the-road rock-and-roll sponge bath. I have gone for a week without a shower with a container of these, some deodorant, my toothbrush and of course, fresh socks.

>A Car charger/battery extender is a good idea. Word of caution though: I have heard of many stories from other bands of their vehicles being broken into while they were playing the gig (or afterwards, at the motel/crash pad/etc..... Be sure to tell your brother to keep all electronic valuables with him at ALL times except in obvious situations (i.e., someone in the entourage is guarding the van, leaving it with someone at the band's merch table, etc.....

In fact, someone should always sleep in the vehicle at night just to protect it. I've heard too many stories of being broken-into. Even at motels.

>Food cards: For example, I know here and out west they have Pizza Hut gift cards. You might have to research to see what's available in your area and where they plan on going.

>Depending on how old the vehicle is they are taking, a small emergency mechanics tool kit has proven to be a real life saver on more than one occasion. Another great gift would be Triple AAA. But if they are renting a vehicle from a reputable company, roadside service/emergency service should be included in the lease agreement.

>Last but not least, I don't know if he drinks or not, but a cooler full of cold beer right when they are leaving town always says "Rock and Roll."
posted by peewinkle at 12:29 PM on June 25, 2008

I am in the Northeast. What about dates and locations?
posted by a3matrix at 12:36 PM on June 25, 2008

I'm certain this exact question was asked before, but I can't find it. Anyone?
posted by ludwig_van at 12:50 PM on June 25, 2008

Depending on what their "overnight accommodations" were going to be, I might recommend an air mattress. The sort you can inflate and deflate with a bike pump in a few minutes, and probably just one for one person, since they may want to leave it in the back of the van during driving. Something like this.When I toured in the past, I always found that the de facto road manager was saying "We'll have places to stay at each show," before we left, then was saying "We'll have places to crash" by the time we were on the road, then was saying, "I'll find us some place to crash" by the start of the show, and we all just ended up sleeping on the floor or someone's apartment or in the van. A good night was finding a spot big enough for me (6'1") without fresh beer or vomit in it. If I'd had an air mattress, even a cheap one, my spine would probably look a lot better than it does. If he deals with more reliable folks than I did and never needs it on this tour, it'll still come in handy somewhere down the line.

Simple meds might be a good idea, too. Ibuprofen, imodium, neosporin and band-aids, that sort of thing. Though that's hardly even a special purchase; just throw the half-used packages from around your house in a bag and toss it in the van. And nthing the suggestions above, particularly gas money, since they'll probably get stiffed at some or all of their venues.
posted by el_lupino at 12:56 PM on June 25, 2008

In fact, someone should always sleep in the vehicle at night just to protect it. I've heard too many stories of being broken-into. Even at motels.

Tell him this. Repeatedly.

Nthing SOCKS - for everyone in the bus. Just throw them away.
posted by GPF at 1:33 PM on June 25, 2008

I never enjoyed anything on tour as much as Travel Scrabble, though other travel boardgames might work as well.
posted by drezdn at 1:49 PM on June 25, 2008


I'd like to add: a solid packing plan for everything. Bringing a bunch of cool stuff sucks when it's wrecked all over the van. I am partial to one bag packed with clothes only so it can be thrown around and stashed in the trailer and one bag for laptop/ipod/headphones etc.

Socks can't be said enough.

Also be aware, regular AAA won't even come out if you tell them you're in an RV, or towing a trailer. AAA plus RV service will work for an RV and can be convinced to come change your trailer tire if need be.

Hiring a bus generally incurs around $1000/day plus gas plus tolls plus a room for the driver every day. Consider renting an RV, much cheaper than $14000.

A two week tour is cake.
posted by knowles at 2:16 PM on June 25, 2008

We have a tour bus so I cannot be much help but some things that do help:

Stuff to read
- My own pillow or neck pillow (room permitting of course).
- T-shirts. You can get some marginally hip stuff at Target.
- iPod (lifesaver when trying to catch some shut-eye).
- Sanitary wipes.
- Bags of nuts, raisins, candy, etc..
- A bag of good coffee. If he's going to be in his own motel room, this will rock the hell out of that rank midwest shit.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:58 PM on June 25, 2008

You know what's really helpful? A GPS navigating system. Seriously. Like this one.
posted by krisken at 3:32 PM on June 25, 2008

FWIW--I've tried and Boise Noise Canceling and wasn't impressed. There are better (and cheaper) options. Google noise canceling headphones.
posted by 6:1 at 5:33 PM on June 25, 2008

Sorry--just read that he already had those when I re-read.
posted by 6:1 at 5:34 PM on June 25, 2008

I don't know how much they cost exactly, but I know my friends' band always brings a portable washing machine on tour!
posted by radioamy at 5:42 PM on June 25, 2008

Yes, if they don't already have a GPS navigator, that'd be a great gift. We have the cheapie Garmin Nuvi 200 and it suits us fine, and we tour a fair amount. Not a bad idea to also get them a regular road atlas as well, as a backup when GPS gets befuddled.
posted by redshifter at 3:10 PM on June 26, 2008

Get him some Subway gift cards because he'll likely be eating a lot of crap, and at least there he can get something relatively healthy. Subway has saved me on road trips so many times.
posted by lunalaguna at 8:21 PM on June 26, 2008

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