Pat McDonald - Drums and Percussion

Life on the Road ?


There is a lot of perceived glitz and glamour that is attached to the idea of life on the road with a band.     A huge pile of stories have been amassed over the decades about the concept of  "sex, drugs and rock n roll"---albeit mostly fiction or at best, greatly exaggerated.     I suppose most folks who live what we call a "normal" 9-to-5 life long for a life of adventure and craziness and are eager to buy into the fiction.    Let me assure you, while there can be moments of fun and craziness, I'm finding now that there is A LOT less of it than you'd imagine.     Most artists have learned that staying awake for days on end and staying polluted on alcohol or drugs is a dead end and WILL kill you if you refuse to grow up and let it go.        I would expect a new band that has a fresh new charting hit and is on it's first big tour would be a little more prone to "celebrate" and live the rock star life but generally, I see most older, established bands leading some pretty quiet, boring lives on the road.   The routine is very static and regular and there isn't much time for craziness.     Heck, most of the guys I work with finish the show, change clothes, MAYBE have a beer of a bag of microwave popcorn and hit the bunk before we're out of the town we just played!      There AIN'T much partyin' in our world!     We might stay up late to watch the end of a good movie or ballgame but that's about it.



For a show weekend, our routine consists of something along these lines.....understand there are other ways of doing it but this is what WE generally see.......



Usually, bus call for us is at midnight depending on how far we have to drive.    This is done primarily to manage driver costs as the drivers get paid per day and starting a trip before midnight requires them to be paid for an extra day or at least portion of that day.



We climb aboard, grab any paperwork re: show times/promoter/special instructions and are pretty much asleep within an hour or so.    I've been all over this country and have really barely seen any of it!    I've slept on every interstate highway in the lower 48 but have barely seen them!    I went over Hoover Dam a dozen times before I ever saw it because we travel at night and I was sacked out in my bunk every time!    Sleeping on a moving bus is something I get used to fairly quickly but some folks find it tougher to acclimate to.      When we take the winter off it's hard for me to get used to sleeping in MY bed at home because it doesn't move and have a diesel humming under it all night!

 We usually arrive at the hotel in the early am and I wake up with the bus sitting in the parking lot.     The crew usually leaves to go to the venue and set up around lunchtime.   I have a couple of choices.....I can go with them, eat the crew meal (if there's no restaurant in the hotel or within walking distance), do some drum maintenance work if needed and hang out at the venue all day or I can go inside the hotel and spend the day relaxing.     If my heads need changing, I'll go over and change them or do any upkeep on the kit I need.    I'm a "hands on" guy and I prefer to do all my maintenance work myself because it keeps me in touch with my instrument.    

If I stay at the hotel, the promoter sends a runner in a van to come retrieve all us band guys and lead Charlie's bus to the venue.    We usually arrive an hour prior to show time.   Charlie does his meet & greet and I get dressed and start warming up on a pad backstage.   (Something I find I MUST do now that I'm getting older!)    We do the show and then pile on the bus and change out of our stage clothes while the crew tears down.   The bus goes back to the hotel and we all go in, grab our bags, shower, whatever and then do it all over again.    Pretty simple.   Pretty boring.     We are usually headed out of town within a couple of hours of playing the last note.


Living with a bunch of guys crammed in a bus is a unique experience and requires some patience.    Quarters are tight and tempers flare fairly easy.    It takes someone with a good bit of patience to survive.    MOST guys are pros and will be respectful of each other's space but there ARE Neanderthal boneheads who have no concept of courtesy and WILL step on your toes.    How you handle it is up to you and your particular job situation but bear in mind that you can be labeled the troublemaker if you snap and punch someone in the eye, even if completely justified.      The guy might deserve a throttling but it's not worth losing your job over!


Life on the road is long, difficult and it takes you away from your loved ones for long periods of time.    It takes special people to be able to deal with it and survive.     Staying grounded and remembering how lucky you are to be able to play music for a living REALLY helps.     Most all of us want to live the rock and roll dream on some level.      The reality is that it can be a lot less glamorous than we think.      Stay focused, stay calm and you can make it work!



Good luck and groove hard!



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