The myriad of benefits and drawbacks of touring apply to much more than just stuff closely associated with music. Bands who take on the burden of touring expose themselves to a world that most non-musicians never see. Here are a few of them:
Insane roadside attractions
From the “World’s Largest Groundhog” to UFO museums to gator farms, the vast space between cities is packed with oddities most people never see. Sure, everyone takes a road trip every now and then, but the frequency of travel and vast distances covered by serious touring bands is unmatched save for truck drivers and other entertainers. This leaves musicians with way more opportunities to see strange roadside attractions than almost anyone else. These attractions are especially prevalent in unpopulated areas where nothing much is happening scenically or culturally. The only problem for bands who want to experience the weirdness of the road is that there’s usually not enough time to pull over and visit these attractions. For most musicians, seeing a massive turtle made out of tire rims or the “World’s Largest Basket” will have to wait for another time.
Bathrooms disgusting beyond belief
Between truck stops, rest areas, and dive bars, touring bands are routinely exposed to unclean bathrooms that are on a level that would be unbelievable to most people. Everyone’s standards for cleanliness are obviously different, but stay on the road long enough and you’ll quickly be forced to use bathrooms that will offend and inflame your senses in an unforgettable way. Unless you’re one of the select few musicians doing well enough to travel around in a tour bus with its own bathroom, profoundly gross bathrooms are inevitable when it comes to touring. So goes the road, I guess. Good luck out there.
The country – or planet – in context
Touring can be a life-changing experience in a lot of ways, but especially in its ability to show us the world around us in context. Flying from New York City to LA gives you about 1% of an idea of what’s happening down below you compared to seeing it by driving. Tour can give musicians an incredible new perspective about culture, geography, beliefs, food, and attitudes. This especially applies to unestablished artists who play lesser-known markets to try to make connections with fans. Touring around your home country can show you just how diverse and complex your nation is, and artists who are lucky enough to be able to tour around the world have an even broader perspective.
Touring is messy, complicated, and, at times, completely thankless. But one thing is for certain: touring makes musicians more interesting and better informed people. Great music is able to interpret the world in interesting ways, and willingly taking on the many challenges of the road is a great way to see the world up close in all its gross bathroom glory. So the next time you find yourself at a rough show on tour, try to remember you’re getting life experiences and other rewards that transcend music.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.