Sunday, May 26, 2019

Take the Bus or Leave the Driving to Us?

Travel plans for the Happy Together Tour are "almost" as complex as those at Mission Control at NASA. You go here, here, there, there, here, there, and back to here, but over there, then take a left and...well, you get the idea. When a concert promoter comes up with a concept for a musical tour, they're relying on knowing what audiences are in what cities that love classic rock music.

That's step one. Then, you have many venues that either are brand new and can't wait to book the tour, or they're longtime venues where you've booked shows before, and every year the tour is extremely likely to perform in the venue, because they can always count on selling tickets to happy audiences. Happy audiences mean happy ticket buyers who are loyal each year the show comes to your town.

In some cases, like Florida, you'll find four dates within a week's time. In the northeast, you'll see many shows booked in almost a triangular fashion in different cities. And it's up to everyone's schedule a year out to know what their next year's season will look like, so it's an amazing amount of logistics, planning, negotiating, and getting agreement that everyone will be available for all the shows.

That's basically the purview of one person--the concert promoter. He's the wizard behind the curtain who spends months planning this out. The job of the musicians is simply to begin at point A, perform, and get to point B, perform, and then the "how you get there" becomes optional. You can ride the tour bus, which is one of two extremely comfortable long, long motor coaches that are part of standard touring these days. Or, you can figure out your own way to arrive, as long as you arrive on time. Weather can be a challenging factor so most of the performers choose to ride the bus.

The buses are basically charters that generally look hip and cool on the outside. Inside you can typically find at least six televisions, tables in the back with wifi connectivity throughout the bus, massive luggage space, and some bathrooms. Average buses have over 50 seats in them, so if you start counting the perfomers on stage, then think about all the musical equipment, gear, backing band, and the suitcases. It takes a minimum of two buses for the Happy Together Tour, and skilled drivers who can deal with all kinds of weather challenges on top of everything else.

Decisions, decisions. Over the many days of this tour, they're going to be touring the country traveling very fast in a really short amount of time. When the artists are not performing on stage, they're on the road, eating, sleeping, doing laundry, and anxious to get to their next city. This is what a summer tour is all about. Remember the guy from the Dunkin' Donuts commercial?

Why isn't it mind-numbingly insane? Because every city, every venue, every audience is different. And, yes the journey to get to the next concert may indeed be grueling (leave at 4 am, drive/ride for 12 hours, get out, stretch your legs, grab a bite of dinner, get over to the venue, get dressed, sing, meet audiences (the fun part) and get back on the bus) and do it all over again the next day.

This is nothing like summer camp was back when you were a teenager where it was fun to travel out to the campsite and spend a week and come back home. Each one of the artists is leaving home and family to be in your home cities for the show of a lifetime, which makes it an even more special gift. There are certain parts of the tour that require air transportation and then it's up to the individual artists to make their arrangements accordingly. Planning for those parts of the tour take place at least four months prior to the tour's launch date.

Each person who takes the time and makes the effort to get a ticket in advance, get to the show (sometimes you're driving 2 or 3 hours yourself), spend time enjoying these moments in time (as Willie Nelson sings, "seeing things you might never see again"), and for at least two hours, you're 16, 20, or 25 years old again, and life is really, really good.

There are times and occasions where some of the artists might opt for transportation on their own, especially when family members are nearby some of the cities where they are touring, but for the most part, most of the artists "take the bus and leave the driving to"...other people! As the guide says, Happy Motoring!

Next up: Preparing for the Happy Together Tour 2019 to Hit the Road