Gear Repair

My Les Paul Jenna Nelson repaired after I destroyed it on my first U.K. tour

The best way to prevent the inevitable panic attack of your gear failing while on the road is to be prepared. When you use your gear every day in volatile environments with varying weather conditions and sobriety levels, it’s likely your shit will break at some point. One time my guitar amp fell out of the back of my van and smashed the tubes. The next time that amp fell out of my van the reverb tank magically worked again. You just never know!

We interviewed my favorite Brooklyn guitar tech, Jenna Nelson (who also plays in the garage band Sic Tic), and Rosie Slater (frequent touring drummer for New Myths, Delicate Steve, and Catty), about what you can do  when your gear situation gets wacky.

photo by Micheal Cooper

AF: What are the most common things to break on guitars/basses?

JN: Jacks come loose. Tuners get bonked. Knobs come off. Strap buttons get wiggly. Electronics get dirty and cause crackly or intermittent signals. Nuts get cracked… On a more serious level you have your headstock breaks which are relatively common on Gibson style instruments where the headstocks are pitched backwards at an angle.

AF: What are some easy fixes people should learn before going on tour?

JN: Carry a little multi-tool or assortment of screwdrivers, pliers and wire cutters in your case to tighten any loose hardware while you’re out. I’d also carry a bit of electrical tape wrapped around a Sharpie for emergency (temporary!) wiring fixes. For the more advanced, a wrench to adjust your truss rod (please make sure you use the correct size and shape!) can come in very handy for tours where you’re passing through wildly differing weather.

AF: What is a guitar set up and how often should you get your guitars set up?

JN: I recommend setting up your guitar or bass twice a year [in] spring and fall – right after a big humidity change is a good rule. Some instruments can hold onto a setup for longer, but most necks like to move around with the weather. If you’ve got a recording date or tour coming up, that’s also a good time for a setup to take care of any fret buzz, intonation issues, or general wonkiness that’s going to get in the way of your best playing.

I begin all setups by first talking to the person about how they play their instrument and any issues they’re having with it, hear any concerns or questions they have, and make notes on their desired “action” (how high the strings sit above the frets), any special tunings, and their string gauge preference – as the pitch and thickness of the strings affects the way the neck bows. Setups are very personal. Not everyone wants shredder-low action and if you always play in drop-D tuning, your tech should know to set it up that way.

After I have the instrument on my bench, I’ll play it and take some measurements of the neck relief and action, noticing where any buzzing may occur. I check out how the strings sit in the nut, and visually inspect the instrument for any cracks, scrapes, or dings. Then I make some neck adjustments using the truss rod. I’ll move the bridge and/or saddles around to where I think they should be and then I test every note. I’ll do this back and forth until I’m happy with the way it’s playing and then make any adjustments needed at the nut.

Next, I remove the strings (although I’m happy to keep them on during the setup for bassists), polish the fret tops, remove any fretboard grime and condition the wood, and run some graphite through the nut and saddle slots to keep the strings from getting caught up in there. I clean the instrument’s body, checking all screws, strap buttons, tuners, jack, etc. for tightness. I’ll then restring the instrument and make sure everything is still good before stretching out the strings and setting the intonation as perfectly as possible.

Finally, I plug it in and adjust the pickup heights (although this is also very personal and I am happy to work with people and make any little adjustments when they come to pick up their guitar or bass), and check that all the controls function smoothly and as they should, using a deoxidizing cleaner when needed.

Getting regular setups can prevent you from needing more serious work down the line, or at least delay it. Longer scale instruments like basses can be especially prone to settling into a bad neck bow and not wanting to let go if they’ve been that way for too long. The frets can also wear out unevenly if the neck has been too bowed or too straight for a long time. I always check for any excessive fret wear or neck twisting during a setup and make any recommendations for further work or things to keep an eye on. In the case of acoustic guitars, the glued-on bridge can start lifting off the body if the guitar has been too dry or left with a badly bowed neck or too much string tension.

AF: How can you take better care of your guitars/basses in general?

JN: Humidify them! October-April, roughly. Keep them stored away from radiators and drafty areas. Electric instruments don’t need that much, but New York apartments are brutal places for acoustic instruments. Sponge humidifiers need to be refilled every couple days and can be DIY’d easily if you’re on a budget. This will save you lots of money and heartache in the long run.

Bring a collapsible stand to your gigs if you’re worried about your guitar taking a fall. I’ve actually got my eye on this little rubberized block thing that you can rest on top of your amp and it secures the neck in place sans stand. I play a Thunderbird bass which is particularly difficult to lean on things.

My strongest advice is to get to know what you like about your instrument and play it often! Treat it with respect and it will give back to you. Even the most unlikely of instruments can bring mountains of inspiration and joy, so I treat them all equally.

AF: Any other tips?

JN: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! There are things you only learn after doing something 50 times, or 500 times, or 5000 times. I learn something new with almost every instrument I touch, and I’m excited to share the knowledge that comes with that experience with anyone who comes into my workshop (AKA my bedroom, lol).

photo by Eleanor Petry

AF: How do you keep your drums in tip-top shape while on the road?

RS: The road is definitely tough on drums, but I’ll take some extra time (if there is any) when I set up to make sure that all of the drums are tuned and warm, and then making sure everything is put away carefully at the end of the night. I also keep everything in either hard shell cases or really padded bags.

AF: What are the most common things to break on drums while touring?

RS: There are so many tiny little tension rods and screws on a kit and the vibration from being in the van for long drives can make them loosen and fall out. I’ve cracked a couple of cymbals, broken sticks, popped snares, popped bottom heads… it seems like there is always something, but I’d have to say that loosing tension rods, felts and wingnuts is probably the most common.

AF: How do you change a drum head and how often should you do this?

RS: I probably don’t change them as regularly as others might? My policy is to change them when they start sounding weird and no amount of tuning and tape can help… I have a couple snares that I should probably change but they still sound great so I’m just hoping they don’t break! Changing heads is not too bad. First, you loosen all of the tension rods (I loosen them but don’t pull them out of the rims because there are tiny separators between the tension rod and rim that can get lost really easily). Next, you take the old head off and put the new one on. Once you get it situated with the rim and tension rods lined up with the lugs, I like to tighten each rod by hand until there is a little bit of tension on each. Then you tighten each rod with a key until the tension is slightly tighter, but even (the drum head will make some cracking sounds as it gets tighter). When the tension is pretty even, I like to just make slight (quarter-ish) turns, moving across the head instead of clockwise, until the head is tight. Keeping the tension on each rod even is really important. You can check by tapping the head in front of each rod and if it sounds the same, you’re good to go. Then it’s really just about getting the drum to sound the way you want it to. It takes a lot of trial and error until you get more comfortable matching the sound you want with the feel of the head and tension rods. To be fair though, I read an interview with Taylor Hawkins and it said something to the effect that he puts a head on a snare, makes it super tight, says a little prayer, and hopes for the best… I’ve tried that too and it works, haha.

AF: Any other tips for keeping your gear safe and sound?

RS: Cover all your gear up in the van and keep an eye on it in clubs.

More tips on how to take care of your gear on the road:

  • Invest in good cases. Gatorcases have great padding, but hard cases are your safest bet.
  • Pack extra quarter inch, patch and XLR cables (usually the first things to go).
  • Watch this over/under technique demo and wrap your cords properly.
  • Pack extra sets of guitar and bass strings.
  • Pack extra tubes.
  • Pack as many guitar picks as you can and keep them in your wallet or small container, like an old Altoid tin.
  • Learn how to fix your gear and troubleshoot before you leave for tour.
  • Label everything with your name and contact info. Be fancy and get a stencil with your band name!
  • Keep an Emergency Repair Kit with the following supplies:
    • Duct Tape – Can fix anything!
    • Soldering Kit
    • Cable tester
    • Screwdriver / Allen wrench

Van Pack Tetris 101

  • Heavy Stuff goes on bottom
  • Soft cases go on top or next to amps
  • Make guitars and other breakables easy to access so you can take them inside when you’re staying at motels, with friends, or any kind randos.

Even if you’ve taken every precaution sometimes things will still break! When this happens we like to blame it on Mercury Retrograde. Check to cover all your bases.

CHECK THE SPREADSHEET: Documenting A DIY Tour with Tips From Steven Anselm

Touring is eventful and exciting, but the days eventually begin to blend together. Venues and bands blur, and people’s names are the last thing that will stick in your mind. It’s best to appoint a member of the band to take photos and/or journal your time on the road, or even bring along a tour photographer just for that purpose! We chatted with tour photographer Steven Anselm, who takes amazing candids, about his advice for the aspiring tour photographer.

“If you are in this for wealth and fame, quit. Money and recognition won’t sustain you when, buzzing 4 AM on a dim highway between low-frequency towns you question the meaning of music and every decision you have ever made. They will not buy answers to doubts that wake you up with too little sleep, too few reassurances, and too many fights—late again, may or may not be a real problem; bad show, may or not be a real problem; new lover, may or may not be real.

You will be there as relationships fall apart and new ones form. And you will find new friends in ideas that have little to do with music but everything to do with that singular purpose: say something or at least be there. With ears ringing at the party that goes on so long you doubt you should stay, remember you are there to document as it dips into distress, climaxes at the after-party, and exhales heavy into the aftermath.

As for the practicalities of one day to the next: be decent, have empathy, get close, listen well, wear black, use earplugs, add keywords, read books, and know when to put the camera away. No one with a thought worth hearing cares about your photo machine.”

These photos are part of a series that began in 2016 documenting Brooklyn-based band Fruit & Flowers:

All Photos by Steven Anselm

More tips for documenting your tour experience…

  • Keep a tour diary: Long tours can feel monotonous since every day is similar to the last one. If you keep a record of your experiences it will break apart the trip and help you remember weird and interesting happenings in each city, potential contacts in various cities, and so forth.
  • Photos: You’ll be taking photos for Instagram anyway – might as well take more for your own private collection. Be sure to back them up somewhere as well.
  • Film/Physical Photos: If you’re feeling nostalgic it’s nice to bring a Polaroid or disposable camera. You can print out photos from your phone for relatively cheap at Walgreens and other drugstores. My bandmates like to make scrapbooks of photos taken throughout the year – it’s a great way to look back!
  • Recording your set: Some venues can record your sets from the board, and you can even bring your own camera to set up by the stage to film yourself. It’s really nice to have an archive of where you’ve been and how you played.

AF 2018 IN REVIEW: Hardest Working DIY Bands on Tour in 2018

Below is our list of the Hardest Working DIY Touring bands of 2018 keeping the DIY dream alive! We asked each band  about their favorite moments, what they have learned, and/or are most proud of from this past year.

photo credit: @zb_images

North By North (Chicago, IL)
212 shows

I caught North By North at a Women that Rock showcase at Knitting Factory and couldn’t believe that they have been on the road for the past 10 months and have played 446 shows in total since January 2017. They snuck under my radar for last year’s list, so I’m happy to have them kick off this year’s Hardest Working DIY Touring Bands list!

“The main thing we’ve learned is that waiting around for a big opportunity generally isn’t worth it. It seems that it’s better to take charge of the shows that you’re booking – by seeking out other talented bands both in your hometown and in other markets, and by putting together and curating the best events you possibly can. Basically, no one else is going to make it happen for you – you have to create your own opportunities, otherwise you’ll be stuck waiting around for a long time.

It’s just the two of us, and we each put in over 60 hours/week between booking, writing, rehearsing, performing, and marketing, so it’s definitely a lot of work. But we’re constantly seeing the benefits of this as we continue growing our fanbase and name recognition around the country, and it feels really good knowing that it’s because of the hard work that we’ve put in. That being said, we have made solid friends and connections over the past two years who have helped us out and who continue to help us out, but it generally takes a couple times coming through each city before that can happen. People need to see that you’re putting in the work – assembling good lineups, getting good venues attached, and inserting yourselves into the local scene – before they’re really willing to go out on a limb for you.

Basically, DIY is a lot of work, but we’ve found that it’s more than worth it. See you all in 2019!”

Photo by: Rachel Zyzda

Stuyedeyed (Brooklyn, NY)
107 shows

This year I’ve been lucky enough to share bills with New York’s loudest psych/garage band Stuyedeyed in Nashville, Austin, Saratoga Springs and Brooklyn. At our show in Rockaway Beach they had to leave right after their set to play another show at a brewery down the street (and we moved the whole party there). Even after all that, I still can’t confidently spell their band name, but it looks like they are quickly teaching the rest of America how to pronounce it.

“Favorite show had to have been Chicago at Empty Bottle. Playing on the floor, in the round, was something so special to us. We set up as if we were in a rehearsal with everyone surrounding us, as if they were listening in on a conversation. It made it that much more personal. Because that’s what it’s all about, connectivity. Breaking that wall and having everyone be a part of the show is empowering not only for us or the audience, but for the songs themselves. Break that wall. Destroy the idea of putting the artist on a pedestal with your other idols. With this show, and tour, it felt like complete vulnerability. No one is cooler than the other, no one is more important than the next. We’re right there on the floor with you watching you as much as you are watching us. It took us a few years of shows to figure out that this is our most efficient way to exist in the world we are creating and continuously redefining.”

Photo by: CJ Harvey

Glove (Tampa, FL)
82 shows

Glove have only been a band for one year and already have seven tours under their belt. They played New York so many times that I thought they were a Brooklyn band at first. You can catch their new wave garage jam sound in Brooklyn again at Baby’s All Right on February 3rd!

“Jeez, ridiculous things happen to us constantly but we definitely had every band’s worst nightmare happen to us this year… On our way to LA from San Antonio we broke down in the middle of nowhere Texas off I-10. From a 45 minute tow-truck ride to a mechanic shop in Iran, Texas, where we thought Rod got abducted by one of the mechanics there (they went missing for an hour), to breaking down again and sleeping on the side of the road that night. We did end up getting a brand new radiator from really nice folks at a mechanic shop that had miniature donkeys to hang out with and Bud Light to drink. Made it to LA just in the nick of time for our show. Throughout all the shenanigans we laughed everything off and stayed determined to make it to the show and not let the series of mishaps get us down.”

Thelma and The Sleaze (Nashville, TN)
80 Shows

My first experience seeing TATS was at Hotel Vegas at SXSW 2016 and I fell in love with LG’s stage presence. After the set I got a taco and nervously gave her my band’s sticker while fawning over her authentic, hilarious and sexy rock ‘n’ roll attitude. You can experience it for yourself on her new podcast, Queen of Shit Mountain.

“Thanks to our fans for making this year another success. Kansas City is a hard nut to crack and keep cracked. The best breakfast in America is at Lucky’s Cafe in Cleveland Ohio.”

Mouton (Arkansas)
80-ish shows

Pete Mouton has been touring his jangly alternative tunes around the U.S. all year. He has a wonderful sense of humor despite the year’s rough rides and will be able to turn the ups and downs into more great feeling lo-fi tracks. Hopefully he will make it back to NYC soon!

“My friend Sharp, who I wrote “Real Boy” for, lent me Great Jones Street by Don Delillo and there’s a line that goes, “There’s nothing more boring than a well traveled person.” I’ll give the quick and dirty.

2018 was a long year. I played 80 something shows, most of them with somebody else’s guitar because mine was stolen at a house show in February. That same month in Carbondale, IL, we woke up in house that was on fire. In April, Parquet Courts offered me molly in Oklahoma. Later that night, I stayed in, like, one of the five motel rooms I would stay in all year. In May, we found our dear friends Hayden and Dylan on a farm in Ragtown, Arkansas, but we had a show in Memphis that night, so after deliberating on whether or not to actually cancel our show, we decided to book it to Memphis. We weren’t five minutes down this dirt road when the venue calls saying that the show’s canceled. So we whipped one back for Ragtown and had a day off on a farm in East Arkansas with our buds. Let it be known that I put Dylan Earl on on his back, not once, but twice that night. Like a week later we were in Brooklyn for Northside, which was my first time New York. I can’t afford to look at that shit on a map.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have spent almost a quarter of my year in and out of a Toyota minivan with some of the funniest and most brilliant musicians I know. It wouldn’t have been possible or half as fun without my incredibly talented band: Daniel Orndorff, Cole Simmons, Matt Jemes, and also Bennett Jones, who recently passed. His relentless humor and knack for making his friends and strangers laugh left a tremendous impact on me; especially in the short time that we spent waking up on each other in deflating air mattresses and making each other laugh to tears in cities and on highways across the country. Tell your friends you love them.”

Lola Tried (Austin, TX)
71 Shows

Singer/Songwriter Lauren Burton started Lola Tried in Austin in 2015 and have toured nationally in support of their EP Popscicle Queen, opening for bands like Speedy Ortiz, A Giant Dog, and Tera Melos.

“Our favorite show on our most recent [tour] definitely had to be Baton Rouge, as we played a beautiful venue called the Spanish Moon with some very good friends of ours, Particle Devotion. The crowd was fantastic and all of the bands on the bill were so great.

Things we’ve learned on tour/as a band this year: I think the most valuable thing that tour teaches you is learning to play to any kind of room. Tour is incredibly humbling, because you go into it with expectations that definitely get swept away when you leave your hometown. You never know what you’re walking into when you get to a venue in a different city, so just constantly reminding yourself that this is a learning experience, and teaching yourself how to work a room and play the best show you’ve ever played – even if it was in front of five people, even if you didn’t sleep the night before, even if someone ate the burrito you’d been saving to eat at the venue. You learn to toss away whatever happened that day, and you learn how to perform as a team in any kind of space. I also really enjoy exploring how other bands, bookers, and promoters function in their respective scenes in different cities as it brings a completely different perspective to the table. Tour is work, tour is smelly, tour is exhausting, but it’s the most fulfilling thing in the world.

Also, another tidbit of advice: Don’t eat hot fried chicken in Nashville an hour before you play.”

photo by Jeanette D Moses

Top Nachos (New Paltz, NY)
70 Shows

Top Nachos are embarking on a west coast tour this upcoming year with our previous hard touring band Lola Tried. They played about 70 shows this year despite both their members playing in four other very active bands: Teenage Halloween, Schmave, Winnebago Vacation, and Dolly Spartans!

“We played a bunch of amazing shows! The highlights have to be our newpalspalooza show (a fest we put on in New Paltz) with Bethlehem Steel and Yazan, Punk Island, our LP release show at Snug’s in New Paltz, and most recently nachofest, which was the final show at our house venue NACHOHOUSE.

The funniest/strangest thing that happened to us this year was witnessing a Bud Light Lime butt chug after our show at the house we played at in Charlotte, NC. Weirdest place we played was a kitchen in Savannah, GA. People were standing on the cabinets, the fridge, any available surface.

This was our most active year as a band for sure! We went on several tours, a wild amount of weekenders, played with some amazing bands like Speedy Ortiz and Rozwell Kid, released music on vinyl for the first time ever (in any project we’ve been in) and released our first full length albums DANK SIDE OF THE MOON. Learned a lot, laughed a lot, smoked a lot.”

photo by CoolDad

The RocknRoll HiFives (New Jersey)
51 Shows

Can you imagine growing up and your family vacations double as rock ‘n’ roll tours? That’s the life of New Jersey’s RocknRoll HiFives, who released a vinyl on Little Dickman Records this year and toured Japan for the first time. They brought CoolDad along with them, who was nicknamed Grandpa while they were in Japan.

“This entire RocknRoll HiFives experience has not followed the normal band dynamics because we are a family (mom, dad, daughter, son) that tours, records and writes while managing all that comes with family life. Our rock ‘n’ roll story is different than most. We had so many stand out performances this year it’s really hard to pick one. Every show in Japan was amazing, playing on the Todd-o-Phonic Todd radio show WFMU was legendary, opening for Rye Coalition at the White Eagle Hall 1st Anniversary show was an honor, a last minute invite to open for a sold-out Snail Mail show was tons of fun and how could we not mention our very first television appearance on the super funny The Special Without Brett Davis show!

If we were forced to pick one show though, it would have to be opening for the legendary band the Tweezers in Tokyo, Japan. The show was incredible, and even more incredible was having them at the front of the stage with fists flying while we rocked and then having them greet us with an after party at the Poor Cow with a standing ovation in our honor. 2018 is going to be a hard one to beat!

We learned that what works best for us as a touring family is to turn our tours into Tourcations. When we are on tour we try to play 3-4 days in a row and then have a few days off to enjoy the road (national parks, traipsing through cities, visiting friends). We found that this keeps us balanced in that we have equal amounts of rock and fun while making the most of being a family on tour. (By the way, we learned that too many days off isn’t good either. Balance here is key to our happiness!)”

Toward Space (Richmond, VA)
50 Shows

David Patton and Seyla Hossaini, the founding members of bluesy power pop band Toward Space, met when they were 11 years old and have been living the rock ‘n’ roll dream ever since. This past September they released their full length Gently With A Chainsaw, met God, and traveled the country with their newfound voodoo magic.

“We met God in Tuscon, AZ. He owns a bar with a built-in sex dungeon, and we watched him eat a raw egg. We stayed in a hippy house in San Francisco where David tripped on shrooms in a tiny basement full of candles and Santa Muerte statues, and in New Orleans we hung out with voodoo practitioners who warned us about the smell of blood in the streets before we went out to the strip club. On tour we learned that I could easily become addicted to gambling, that Ben isn’t going to leave the band no matter how much David and I fight, and that it’s extremely important to keep in mind that you will be constipated for days if you eat a pizza every night.” – Seyla Hossaini

photo by Chloe Krenz

Lunch Duchess (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
32 Shows

Lunch Duchess have been using their time on tour in 2018 to refine their grunge-pop songs for their debut full length, which will be out in the summer of 2019! They also released a single called “Ride or Die” this past summer.

“What I learned on tour in 2018 – if you and your bandmates are fun people who love each other, you can pretty much get through anything together.”

Honorable Mention: The following bands also appeared on 2017’s Hardest Working DIY Touring Bands List, and while we wanted to shout out some fresh faces, we gotta hand it to bands that would’ve made the list this year based on sheer numbers alone.

photo credit: Kirsten Kay Thoen

A Deer A Horse (Brooklyn, NY)
107 shows

“Our favorite tour moment of 2018 was probably playing Berserker V in Michigan. This was our first time ever playing a metal festival, and since we’re a band that slides between genres, we were kind of anxious about playing on the same lineup as the dude from Pantera. It went over better than we could have hoped for, and it felt amazing to be accepted by all these metal fanatics. Plus we got to see mindblowing performances by Negative Approach, Child Bite, and Bloodiest, which was just so much fun.”

Vanessa Silberman (Los Angeles, CA)
79 shows

“My favorite moment (which I feel lucky I have had a few) has probably been when I have played some very small towns / markets around the U.S. and had a couple fans come out who follow me who I hadn’t met before. A lot of them have said that what I have been doing has been inspiring them to do their music or go for their dream. I think that is so unbelievably cool. It means so much to hear that from fans and people – like I’m fulfilling my purpose, getting them to say to themselves ‘hey, she’s doing it, I can do that too’ when they see me out there doing it. I truly want to change peoples lives in a positive way – so that’s cool.”


After a show in Lawrence, Kansas my old band Ex-Girlfriends pulled up to a random house where we were going to sleep that night. There were garbage bags covering the garage windows, conjuring images of the mutilated dead bodies hidden inside. Our bandmate had set up these accommodations last minute and assured us it was fine, promising to go in first to make sure we wouldn’t get murdered. When she got out of the van an adorable french bulldog puppy ran out and a random dude from the show had made dinner for us – and it wasn’t poisoned! Even though we all survived and everything worked out, it’s important to avoid unnecessary anxiety and shenanigans by planning ahead. We spoke with LG from Nashville’s Thelma & the Sleaze about her touring tips and what motivates her to continue the DIY touring grind.

AF: Could you share some funny, crazy, and/or scary stories about crashing after shows while on the road?

LG: This one time in Memphis this lady said we could crash but didn’t ask her boyfriend and I guess he wasn’t pleased so he came home with a Samurai sword. I was like, let’s get gone from wacky ass mother fucker!

AF: What are your tips on staying safe while traveling around the country?

LG: Be patient and polite. People are not friendly everywhere but you get further with honey then vinegar. Also never travel through Texas with drugs. And get AAA – it pays for itself over and over. Read motel reviews; this saves us a lot of trouble!! 

AF: You are an incredibly inspiring non-stop touring force. What motivates you to continue working so hard and what would you like to see improve or change in the music industry as a whole?

LG: This question could get very winded and I address it on my new [forthcoming] podcast at length. I will say I feel very blessed to have great fans who have taste and actually want a good show. I make very genuine and interesting music which is not really in fashion, to have substance and individuality. So I have to wait ’til people scratch the surface and actually look and listen to what my band has done. We are not face value, we are non-distilled raw goods. This is exceptional and worth the effort.

AF: What are your goals for Thelma & the Sleaze for 2019 and beyond?

LG: Release as much music as possible and play it for as many people as possible. Hold myself and my fans to a higher standard, keep pushing the envelope, spread positive energy and gratitude.

Buy Thelma & the Sleaze’s latest 7” HERE.

More tips on where to sleep soundly on the road and avoid getting murdered:

  1. Promoter: Ask the venue if they would be willing to provide accommodations in your deal for the show first. Sometimes venues have a place for the band to stay inside them (especially if it’s a DIY space or house show) or the promoter may be willing to put you up at their house.
  2. Friends & Family: If the venue won’t put you up, it’s smart to stay with people you trust in different cities. One of your bandmates could have a hospitable aunt they haven’t seen in ten years who will put you up on their farm and make you a huge breakfast.
  3. Bands on the bill: Next best option is to see if any members of the bands you’re playing with have extra space at their houses. Bands are usually accommodating since they have been on tour before, and you would be able to return the favor when they play in your city.
  4. Airbnb: Depending on where you are, Airbnb for a band could be your cheapest option, but it’s a little more difficult to book them for one night the day of.
  5. Motels: Always read the reviews first to make sure there are no bedbugs / recent murders. Also: sometimes rest stops have magazines filled with motel coupons.
  6. Hotels Tonight app: If you’re feeling fancy, this app will give you pretty decent hotels at a discount. You can find rooms not too much more than your average motel, but they’ll be much nicer and could even have an indoor pool.
  7. Sleep in the van in a Walmart parking lot: For whatever reason it’s legal, perfectly acceptable and usually safe to sleep in the parking lot of Walmart. If it’s near a national park, you will usually see many RVs doing this. Your van might be more comfortable than you expect!
  8. Airbed & blankets: The self inflating queen sized high top Airbed was the best investment I made for tour other than my van. While DIY touring on a budget, accommodations can be completely different from day to day so it’s comforting to know that no matter where you might be sleeping, you’ll have a somewhat comfortable experience. 

CHECK THE SPREADSHEET: Touring Across the Pond

Sharkmuffin charms Robert Plant

The story goes that Jimi Hendrix was unknown in the States before he traveled to the U.K. It was only after his time across the pond that he returned as our beloved shredding icon. It can happen to you too! His spirit is still there, and Sharkmuffin may have encountered it on our first trip to the U.K. in 2017.

After one of our sets, I placed my Gibson Les Paul upside down against the guitar amp and left it there for too long, cracking the wood between the neck and the headstock. When I packed up my gear I thought that I had only broken a couple strings. The following day when we arrived at Mello Festival, security told us that Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin would be hanging around the back of our smaller stage; we all freaked out realizing he might watch our set.

When I went to change my guitar strings I discovered my guitar was irreparably damaged, but we strangely had an extra guitar case in our van. Inside was a sunburst Fender Stratocaster with a bunch of burn marks on it. We had no idea where it came from and I wasn’t even sure it would work. The only obvious logical explanation was that the ghost of Jimi Hendrix sent me one of the strats he sacrificed to the guitar gods in my time of rock ‘n’ roll need. We successfully played our set and even awkwardly said hello to Plant. Then he drove his green convertible jaguar over the hills into the sunset wailing “Been a long time since I rock n rollllll’d.”

Though it may seem daunting, an overseas tour isn’t out of reach for a DIY band. We talked to Miss Eaves, Bodega and my bandmates in Sharkmuffin about their tips and experiences touring the magical lands of the United Kingdom. 

Photo credit: Sarah Jacobs

Miss Eaves

“Having a well-paying ‘anchor gig’ is good if you can land one (like a festival or a big club night) and that way you have a date that you can plan all of the rest of your dates around. I made a map of cities that were no more than a 3-4 hour train ride and then locked in dates around that. Once I identified the cities I reached out to spaces where I thought my fan base would hang out (mostly queer/DIY/feminist spaces & bookers) It is really important to be very specific when reaching out because its easier to sell yourself when you are not sending a generic spam email. When I was promoting my shows I ran some Facebook ads in the different cities and I also made this silly promo video. Booking my own tour was very challenging but also rewarding.”

Photo credit: Kevin W Condon



One of the more unique shows we’ve ever played was at a library in Birkenhead. Surrounded by books underneath a skylight on a blistering hot afternoon, I tried to channel a literary energy, citing quotations from a text and finding new associations within the BODEGA words. After the show, we met a wonderful Birkenheadian family that let us stay at their home for two days. The parents and children were all loving and devout music fans – later that night they took us over the river into Liverpool to show us Beatle sites and took us drinking at a local pub. The next day we had a bit of a jam session (Beatles and Velvets) and their son smoked us all in video games. It was very inspiring to see rock culture celebrated and shared by an entire family.


When we travel, we often book separate connecting flights in order to save money. However, in July, this backfired on us. After a flight from Spain was delayed by several hours, four of us missed a connecting flight in London back to NYC and were thus down several thousand pounds and stuck in London. Luckily we were able to crash at a good friend’s house (our London promoter). The next day we bought super cheap tix online only to find out at the airport that this third party website scammed us (this is why they were so cheap…) and this flight to NYC did not exist. We eventually got refunded and made it back to NYC and are now much more cautious when booking band flights. The silver lining of this fiasco was hearing a track of ours on BBC6 in a taxicab driving back from the airport after missing the first flight. What a thrill to hear yourself over the air!


  • Hydrate! Pedialite helps.
  • Eat healthy. Veggies are important.
  • Be wiling to explore (physically and mentally). Try to walk around whatever town you are in. Try new music in the van. Read new books. Listen more than you talk. Enjoy the ride.


Photo credit: Nick Gough


Natalie Kirch’s tour tips:

  • Always remember the worth of a pound is not the same as a dollar! Keep up-to-date on conversion rates to make sure you’re being smart with your money and reasonable with your merch sales.
  • Pack as lightly as possible on any tour, but especially overseas where you have luggage fees.
  • Loosen the strings on your instruments before boarding with them or sending them off in the luggage!
  • Bring a handheld fan because the U.K. is not used to heat waves. If you find yourselves stuck in the rare one like we did, there is no AC anywhere.
  • Bring heavy duty earplugs if you’re a light sleeper. You never know when you’ll end up with a snorer in the group.

Jordyn Blakely:

I don’t think I drank tea once, and I don’t think I saw any crumpets, but I did see hot dogs ‘ready to eat’ in a can, buns not included. This trip changed a lot of my perceptions of what Americans assume everyday life in the U.K. can be. Being in different regions of the country besides the big cities and hearing how the dialect and slang varies tells you a lot about what the people are like and what they care about. Nottingham was a rowdy show, with a lot of energetic people who wanted to participate and interact, and party late after into the night. This wasn’t as common at other shows where people sometimes seemed more polite or maybe shy. One of their beloved expressions is “‘choo on about?” which is basically supposed to mean “What the hell are you talking about?” Sharkmuffin also adopted the term ‘knackered’, meaning tired, exhausted, or hungover. After doing some research it turns out there are tons of classic Nottingham sayings we missed, all of them sassy but said with love.

I loved the combination of modern life mixed with ancient and classic architecture; old timey pubs turned rock venues, miniature cathedrals turned EDM clubs. It feels like entering a time machine. One of my favorite shows was in Norwich, at Norm’s (named in honor of comedian Norm Macdonald), an event at The Crypt curated by my friend Jason Baldock. It’s in the cellar of the venue, with flying buttresses along the ceiling, very dark and gothic. That’s when you KNOW you’re playing a show in England. We played with Elle Bishop, Peach Club, and Fever Machine, all really great bands with sweet people. We stayed at a farm house in the countryside that has a chicken coop and we got to walk around and look at stars.

Cardiff was another favorite place – it’s just so beautiful, particularly Llandaff Fields – and Welsh culture is very fascinating to me. My mom texted me saying to try a “Welsh cuppa” so on the morning we left we tried ordering it at a cafe, only to get the reply, “A cuppa what, dear?” Apparently that is not a thing; maybe auto-correct is to blame for this one. But we did try Welsh cakes – tiny sand-dollar shaped pancakes with raisins inside.

More tips on how to make your U.K. tour a success…

  • Budget yourself and save up money beforehand. Unless you’ve secured relatively high guarantees, between gear, van rentals and the exchange rate being so steep you will probably go out of pocket for a portion of the trip.
    • Pro Tip: Pretend pounds are pirate money.
  • Visas are relatively cheap. Obtaining a work visa to go to the U.K. as an American is significantly cheaper than the other way around. Our agent referred us to a sponsor who took care of it for 250 pounds a couple weeks prior.
    • Pro Tip: Don’t be a dick at the border, they can easily send you home.
  • When it comes to flights, apps like Hopper or Google Flights are really helpful at tracking the lowest priced flights. Our experience with Virgin Atlantic was amazing. They gave us two free alcoholic beverages and like three meals, plus a free checked back and they didn’t give us any shit for having to carry our guitars on board.
  • Flying with your gear: I will throw a temper tantrum if an airline won’t let me carry my guitar on. Luckily, I haven’t had to do this. Your gear is usually considered a larger “personal item,” and if they don’t have room in a closet or overhead in the flight cabin, they will gate check it (put it under the plane and then return it to you immediately when you get off the plane). When I have a larger road case for my guitar pedals and I pack my pedals into my carry on backpack and pack my clothing into the pedal board and switch the contents of the bags when I arrive. It’s easier to replace clothes than guitar pedals if the airline loses it!  
  • Ask around when finding a rental/tour manager. We were originally quoted almost double the amount of what it cost from a friend’s recommendation. If you don’t know anyone, find bands at your level who have done similar tours and reach out to ask if they know any reliable and affordable TM/van/rental hires.
  • Food
    • Cheapest beer/wine lives at Aldi.
    • Tesco pesto pasta is a Sharkmuffin favorite. We are a fan of their meal deals.
    • Indian food and Thai food are the best! There’s even a “curry mile” in Manchester of only Indian food restaurants.


Do you have too many band t-shirts? I have so many that I recently I gave my college bestie, favorite neighbor and Gustaf front woman, Lydia Gammill, about 30 of them to send to her cousin to make into a queen size blanket for me. I still have at least 15 band shirts remaining in my closet, and even with this surplus, I’m sure I’ll accumulate more on my next tour. I’m not complaining; t-shirts remain a classic and one of the best sellers on any band’s merch table. But there are so many other products you can cheaply and easily slap your band’s logo onto!

Lydia Gammill is about to venture on her first tour with Gustaf this March and is creating her band’s product line cheaply and efficiently so that they make enough funds to reach their next destination as well as leave a lasting and clear aesthetic impression on newfound fans.

How is she doing it?

“Selling merch is all about being creative and having variety! It’s important to sell smaller $2 or $5 items in addition to higher priced vinyl and t-shirts. You want it to be easy for people to support you and you want to sell them something that they will enjoy. Things like postcards have a high profit margin (you can make 50-10 for under $10) and they’re a great way to write some friends from the road! I also like to offer services like tarot card readings or hand massages because they cost nothing (except your time) and are a great way of connecting with your fans.


When I am in between shirts on the road I like to make merch from stuff that I thrift at Goodwill. You can score unique pieces that look cool and promote your band. Band shirts go to t-shirt purgatory if they aren’t fun to wear!

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Branding is a great tool as well! Having a strong visual concept or logo takes all the hard work out of making merch. Gustaf fell into the orange motif and now we use it on most of our stuff. Our motto? “Just throw a couple oranges on there!” ​- Lydia Gammill

Don’t want your band’s t-shirt to end up at the Goodwill?

Here are more DIY merch making tips…

  1. Basics
    • Stickers & Buttons
    • Tour Posters / Zines
    • Physical copies of music
      • Download Cards: cheapest option
        • Print your own via Bandcamp.
        • Give it away or sell DL cards with:
          • Taco Bell hot sauce packets (Ex-Girlfriends Special)
          • Fuck Boy repellant (essential oils in glitter roll-on container)
          • A comic book or lyrics book (Lost Kingdoms)
        • CDs: burn them yourselves or order some at or
        • Cassettes: for broke people who drive old cars, cheap dublication here!
        • Flexi-Disc Records/Post-cards: “a phonograph record made of a thin, flexible vinyl (or paper) sheet with a molded-in spiral stylus groove, designed to be playable on a normal phonograph turntable,” pressed by Pirates Press.
        • Vinyl: most expensive
          • Takes about 6 months lead time if pressing yourself
    • T-shirts, Sweatshirts & other wearable items
      • Silk Screening: order a screen + buy paint or learn to make one yourself!
      • Stencils & fabric paint
      • One-of-a-kind vintage store finds that you customize yourself
  1. Extras
    • You can slap your logo on anything, but be sure to keep your band’s visual palate in mind.
      • Sunglasses
      • Lighters/Matches/Eye-Drops (if your band name is The Big Drops)
      • Condoms
      • Coffee Mugs/Pint Glasses /Can Coolers/Shot Glasses
      • Guitar Picks
      • Underwear
      • Tote Bags
      • Bookmarks (if you’re a smart band)
      • Fanny Packs
  2. Get Creative
    • Gum Ball Machine with goodies in it
    • Empty Gasoline Container for Donations
    • Food Items (like Sharkmuffins!)
    • Temporary Tattoos: they take a few days to wash off so anyone who buys one will totally remember your name!
  3. Presentation
    • Vintage Suitcase
    • Clothing Rack with Hangers
    • Lighting
      • Christmas Lights
      • Clamp Lights
    • Clear, fun sign with prices
  4. Organization
    • Wrap t-shirts and label their sizes for easy grabbing
    • Storage containers for breakable items like CDs/Cassettes
    • Inventory Spreadsheet



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Caro reads about her next tour date in Rolling Stone. Photo by Jose Berrio

While I was dancing around my middle school bedroom screaming into a hairbrush dreaming of my future rock stardom, I had no idea how many spreadsheets and e-mails I would have to send to make it happen. Even after you’ve spent hours in front of your laptop booking your tour, it’s not over yet. You may already be a rock star, but now it’s time to make sure the world (or at least the cities you’re touring to) know just how much of a rock star you are! It’s time for the insanely tedious task of tour press.

In college I was lucky enough to intern at Girlie Action and learn how to do basic press for my band Sharkmuffin to help us get off the ground, and I have also done some freelance PR for friends’ bands under the name Sugarmama Bk. It’s frustrating, time consuming, and lonely sending hundreds of emails into the black hole of the internet in hopes of getting even one response. When I hit a wall with my contacts and had some extra funds, Sharkmuffin was able to work with some amazing publicists like Melissa at Citybird PR, Jillian (now at Big Hassle) & Meijin (Rocker Stalker) at EIPR and Debbie at Girlie Action who have helped build the band’s reputation and get more people out to our shows over the years. Here are some of their thoughts on how to do tour promotion successfully.

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Deb Pressman of Girlie Action

“My advice is do your research. Find out who is writing about bands you enjoy/tour with/respect. Follow them on socials to get to know them even more – many of them will have their email address in their bio! Only use one platform to contact them, and email is always best. In your email, have as much information as possible without being too wordy. Make sure your subject line is informative. Do not follow up right away – give the writers/editors time to ingest the music. Don’t follow up too much. Silence might equal a pass. Most importantly, treasure/respect even the small blogs!” – Deb Pressman, Girlie Action

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Jillian Santella of Big Hassle Media

“I’d say that for a band going on the road, if you’re really looking to elevate and make an impact, hiring a publicist is really helpful. Numerous reasons, the most important one being that you want to be able to focus on the music! It can be so daunting to try to do it all, and often when you spread yourself too thin, everything starts to suffer, including your health. And we all know how hard – and important! – it is to stay healthy on the road. Also, we already have a lot of relationships and knowledge of the market.

If it’s a situation where working with a publicist isn’t in the cards, I think the most important thing is to bring your A-game to every opportunity. Treat everything, even an interview with a small local blog, like it’s the cover of Rolling Stone. Treat everyone like they’re Jimmy Fallon, every performance opp (local TV, online sessions, etc.) like it’s your late night debut. Be kind and gracious. Introduce yourself to absolutely everyone – bloggers, influencers, interns! Don’t believe the ‘nice guys finish last’ thing.

All in all, hustle. Take care of yourself, rock your ass off, make enough noise and people will start to pay attention. “ – Jillian Santella, Big Hassle Media

Sugar Mama Bk Tour Promotion Tips

  • DIY Tour Press
      • Research: Find all the newspapers, blogs, and zines in each city you’re heading to and find the writers that cover music that is similar to yours. Stalk them and find their e-mails (usually on the ‘contact’ page).
      • Press Kit: Consists of your band’s photo, bio, music/video links, social media links, tour dates. Check out this example of Sharkmuffin’s presser for handy reference!
      • Canned E-mail: Create a template e-mail pitch that has blank spaces for the writer’s name (“Hey ___”), the name of the publication you’re pitching to and the Date/Venue/City you’re playing in to fill in accordingly. Include a summarized version of your press kit in the body of the e-mail. Try to make these messages as personalized (and as brief) as possible. Writers and editors get hundreds of emails every day so do not be offended if they don’t respond!
      • Know what you’re pitching for. The types of coverage a blog will do can vary, but generally speaking they’ll fall into one of several categories…
        • Feature: One page or longer on the band, usually includes an interview and/or photo shoot, for which you’re responsible for setting up and making happen. Should pitch 3-4 weeks before show.
        • Profile: Longer than a paragraph about the artist, can include an interview/quote from the artist, also use as a preview for the show. Should pitch 2-3 weeks before the show.
        • Preview: More than one sentence about the artist that includes a listing for the show, usually with a photo. Previews can also be linked to features/profiles/mp3 or album reviews.
        • Reviews: A review of your last release or the release you’re touring around, alongside the date you’re playing in their city.
        • Live Reviews: A review of your live set – you can invite writers to your show and give them a guest list spot.
      • Local Radio: Same rules apply for research. You can pitch to have an interview or play an in-studio performance on their show, for them to talk about your show and give away tickets, or to just play one of your songs.
      •  Timing
        • One month before your tour: Send an e-mail blast announcing your dates to give everyone a heads up. Sometimes you’ll get responses right away!
        • Personalized follow-ups start about a week later (3 weeks before your tour).
        • Guest Lists: Usually sent to the venue prior to the show for writers and/or photographers who are interested in doing a live review of your set. Try to also set up an interview with them. Aside from press, guest spots are generally reserved for family members or whoever your bandmate is trying to fuck.

Even if you’re not handling press entirely on your own, you can still be proactive about promotion. Here are some additional tips to keep in mind even if you’ve got help from a professional PR team.

  1. Advancing Shows: Know your schedule (load in, set times, backline) and find out about the other bands playing so you can tag everyone. Make friends with the bands you’re sharing a bill with in advance and make sure they’re inviting their friends, since that will be the main draw you’ll have in a town you’ve never been before.
  2. Social Media: Have your tour dates as easily accessible as possible. Put them on your website, Facebook, Twitter, and Bands in Town (or any other touring app). Make sure that there is a Facebook event for each show and a Facebook event that links all the other events for the entire tour. Promote each show on all your social outlets in advance.
  3. Tour Poster: Is someone in your band a graphic designer? Have them or one of your artistic friends make a poster with all your dates. Print a limited amount on nice card stock to sell on the road and/or print paper ones with space at the bottom to write in the specific date of the specific show to mail to each venue so they can hang them up in the bathroom or window or wherever their regular patrons will see it.

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    Poster by Jose Berrio of Fruit & Flowers
  4. Be nice to your Publicist: If you have the privilege of a budget and can hire a publicist, understand that it’s a ton of work and be respectful and grateful for them. Try not to have crazy expectations. Especially for new bands on their first tour, appreciate every single person that will cover you no matter what the size of the outlet. Try not to get upset with your publicist; they love you and have the best intentions. Remember they’re dealing with the endless void of Internet media and are trying their absolute best for you and your career.
  5. Promoting Press: Don’t forget to promote whatever press, regardless of how small, on all of your social media channels and thank every writer and blog and credit every photographer. Keep in touch! Gratitude really does make a difference.


AF 2017 IN REVIEW: Hardest Working DIY Bands on Tour in 2017

Vanessa Silberman (LA)

Over 200 shows

Vanessa Silberman is nothing less than a super human. She has been on the road since January, totaling about ten tours solo, as a two piece with LA transplant via Madison drummer Dave Boson, and as a three piece (the Vanessa Silverman Band) featuring Reed Mullin of Corrosion of Conformity and musician/producer Mikel Ross. She’s also toured as a two piece with Jimmy Dias of San Francisco band The Love Dimension, featuring their friends and different musicians from around the country.

Silberman only took one week off to record a band in Chicago in February (she’s also an engineer/producer!) and also a few weeks off to write and do pre-production work. Of her 200 shows this year (including TV/radio/press ops), for 75 of them Silberman was on double duty playing drums for The Love Dimension and for a few of those shows she even played a third set backing Boston rocker Carissa Johnson.

Top 3 Cities: That’s hard!! Ok right now Los Angeles, Shreveport & Boston

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Buckeys, Wawa, Cumberland Farms, Loves, Panera Bread, Chipotle

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

There are so so many crazy things that happen on tour… My top crazy story and positive outcome was probably when me and Jimmy played in El Paso and had to get to Fort Worth for a show the next night so we had to drive after the show. We were driving, I fell as sleep and at about 5am Jimmy woke me up and noticed something wrong with the van (it wasn’t going past 50 miles an hour). We ended up finding a mechanic a few hours away in the middle of Texas (praying the car would get there as we drove), slept a few hours til they opened and found out the whole engine needed to be replaced but they couldn’t get the engine ordered and received til four days later. There was no place to rent a car in the entire town! We couldn’t believe it. So we had no choice but to drive the van on the highway as slow as we could and pray we could get to the nearest town with a car rental, leave the van to be fixed and come back and get it. Amazingly we did and just barely made our Fort Worth show (we were supposed to open but instead closed the night!) and then played four other shows the next few days in Texas. We drove back East after the car was fixed and just made it to our Houston show. We never missed one show or had to cancel!

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

I love connecting with people, fans and other artists on a very intimate level when it’s smaller DIY shows. The connection is so direct. It’s also absolutely one of the most fulfilling things I have ever felt because I pretty much do everything myself (booking, driving, marketing, social media, performing, etc.) on my solo tours. When you do it alone, at least for me, I find a belief in my music, in what I do. I’m willing to drive any amount of miles and put in any amount of work to share that. I feel empowered and I hope other artists read this and know if they’re willing to put in the work they can tour too!

The least favorite thing is at times it’s a bit difficult to balance other things in your life – personal time, personal care and relationships – because the work load is unreal, especially if you are constantly touring. It’s such a particular lifestyle and most people aren’t willing to put in the work and you really notice it when you play with other artists around the country when you tour so much. But I’m so grateful and feel lucky every day that I can do this.

Vanessa Silberman Tour Tips

For bands who are just starting out, start with weekend runs around where you live. I recommend planning a tour three months in advance; if you’re gonna do your own press, announce shows four or five weeks in advance. For more info and touring tips, is a great touring database, and you can also check out my artist development label


The Accidentals (MI)

187 shows

30 weeks

The Accidentals have averaged about 240 shows a year for the past 3 years, but even after chilling out a little bit they still are the second highest DIY touring band on this list! They’ve hit every state in the U.S. except Hawaii and Alaska, finding and developing their audiences where their music resonates the most. It takes a while to find where a new band’s biggest support will be and The Accidentals are touring smart by hitting the places who demand them the most!

Top 3 Cities: That’s a tough question.  We have more than three. If we had to choose though, it’d be Denver, Grand Rapids, and Chicago.  We kind of have homes away from home in those cities and people very organically support live music and turn out for our shows. They also have really great restaurants (the food is important to us). The venues in those cities feed us well! Phoenix, Albany, Ann Arbor, Seattle, Boston, Austin, Columbus, Fort Wayne would be in the top ten.

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Every time we see a Sheetz, everyone in the van collectively cheers.  They have decent sandwiches and coffee in the dead of night. As far as fast food is concerned, we try to avoid it. We let ourselves have ONE Taco Bell stop for the entire tour.  One really great thing about our fans is that they know we are really trying to stay well on a 70 day tour so they’ll send us Panera gift cards and Whole Foods cards in the mail…so we’ve seen a lot of Panera and Whole Foods – thankful for that.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

We have put 230,000 miles on Black Betty in the last three years. On the last tour she broke down 4 times and we lost our brand new trailer. The craziest breakdown was at the peak of Vail pass, an hour and half from Denver, at midnight. We stopped to cool down before heading down the mountain pass and the van computer shut down the vehicle completely due to overheating. We lost all the power (including the lights). There were semi-trucks flying by us 70mph and they couldn’t see us, because we were in a black van in the middle of the night with no lights. Luckily, we got ahold of a 24 foot bed tow truck, and the driver stuffed all 7 of us (band and crew) into the cab, with the van and trailer and all our gear on the bed and flew down the mountain at 85mph scaring the crap out of our tour manager in the bucket seat. We made it to Denver at 2:30am and then proceeded to drop the van at a GMC dealership to get fixed, only to be swarmed by police who thought we were stealing our own van! We finally made it to our host home an hour or so later. Thankfully, our “host mom” made us pizza and gave our manager tequila (at that point, she really needed it).

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

Touring is living in extremes all the time. The best part is definitely traveling the country, seeing amazing landscapes and meeting amazing people. It really allows us the opportunity to experience things we’d never get to do if we didn’t play music full time. Our least favorite things about touring are gas station bathrooms and missing time with people back home. We exist on the opposite schedule of everyone we love, and it can be really hard to maintain your relationships along with keeping yourself emotionally, physically and mentally healthy on and off the road. In the end, it’s really important to prioritize, balance, and manage your time wisely.

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B.Hockensmith Photography

The Accidentals Touring Tips

Here’s a comprehensive bullet list of things you’ll need to bring on tour and prepare ahead of time.

  • EZ Pass – so your van can fly through those tolls with no time to waste.
  • GPS – because we’re directionally challenged.
  • Hotel Chain Memberships – so you can get hotels for a discount or rack up points.
  • AAA Roadside – 8 breakdowns on the last tour.  We’re on a first-name basis with them now.
  • Neck pillow
  • Podcasts – We recommend Song Exploder, RadioLab, 99% Invisible, and Meet the Composer.
  • Books – Start reading a book on the road and make sure you still have some chapters left of it when you get home. It builds consistency from one part of your life to the other.
  • Waze App – This app will show you what kind of construction work and traffic jams are along the route.
  • Expedia App – Adding up these points will get you flight/hotel discounts.
  • AirBNB – Homes away from home!
  • Trip Advisor – They always list the coolest restaurants.
  • Google Maps – Just in case your GPS stops being nice or you’re in Canada.
  • Water bottles – It’s good to have one that you can use over and over, but just in case you lose it, keep a 24 pack of extra waters in the van.
  • Protein bars
  • Some sort of multi-tool – Mine is one I got for $10 at a Cracker Barrel in Pennsylvania. It has a hammer on it!

Some general advice: Book your hotels before midnight. Advance your shows a week out. Check the venues’ websites to make sure your times are right, and to find out who was booked alongside you. Carve out some sight-seeing. Be honest with each other. Ask for what you need. ​

(Interview by Sav Buist)

The Coax (MN/NY)

116 Shows

18 Weeks

I met The Coax  and their incredible purple velvet tour van this year at SXSW. They came to all the Little Dickman Records showcases, stayed on the ranch in Austin with us, and soon after they released a split 7″ with High Waisted on LDR and did another massive six week tour. These guys are the sweetest down-to-Earth dudes who will play slap the bag around a camp fire any day.

Top 3 Cities: We have been fortunate enough to have more cities that we enjoy playing than cities that we don’t. I think New York, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis are the big three for us, but we have met some of the most amazing people in unassuming towns like Lawrence, KS, Fayetteville, AR, Sioux Falls, SD, Saratoga Springs, NY, Springfield, MO, Denton, TX. 

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Wawa takes the cake on this one. The buffalo chicken mac and cheese has fueled us through quite a few night drives. 

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

I feel like all of the (negative) crazy stuff happened to us in our first year of touring. We were a little more reckless then. Not so experienced on the road. I think it’s crazy how many awesome bands we got to see and become friends with this year. The number of towns we got to explore that we’ve never been to. The amount of burritos we ate. We saw the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Lake Superior… twice! We went to five different Six Flags. We played right AFTER King Gizzard at Mohawk in ATX. Now, that’s fucking crazy.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring? 

The best thing about DIY touring is definitely the intimacy. It’s all about the hang. I feel like that is something that is missed on the bigger stage. The relationships you make with fans, promoters, and other bands doing it yourself are incredibly valuable and satisfying. 

The worst thing about DIY touring is definitely being broke. That shit sucks. 

The Coax Touring Tips

Work hard. Don’t give up. Make it happen. If it’s truly what you love to do then you will find a way. Sleep in the van. Get dirty. Make sacrifices. Make friends. Make rad music. Drink Hamms.

(Interview by Tom Lescovich)


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photo by Christina Salgar Saieh

Fruit & Flowers (NYC)

About 100 shows

11 Weeks

It’s no secret Fruit & Flowers are my buds. We went on tour together last February with my band Ex-Girlfriends, driving from Brooklyn to California in less than four days, touring up the West Coast and then driving straight from our final show in Seattle, WA to Austin, TX (I got off the bus is LA), only making one stop for the night at their drummer’s sister’s house in San Francisco. They’re the only band on this list that is also on Oh My Rockness’ Hardest Working Bands in NYC of 2017 list, which seems like an impossible feat.

Top 3 Cities: Ana Becker: Other than New York? I’d say Athens, GA, Toronto, and either Nashville or Chicago.

Jose Berrio: Austin is also really fun.

Caroline Yoder: Athens Certainly.  Nashville has its moments. Chicago. Canada, at large.

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: AB: Favorite gas station chain is Love’s – one time I left my wallet in one, and they found it and mailed it back to me, everything still inside!

CY: Not a big fast food person. Does Waffle House count? Definitely Waffle House. We can usually make Subway or Taco Bell work in desperate measures. Gas stations in old towns are the best. Any gas station with coffee and a decent bathroom must not go unappreciated.

Lyzi Wakefield: Allsups has the best burritos.

JB: My favorite gas stations are always the smaller ones, usually surrounded by trees or old houses in the middle of nowhere. I particularly remember one in a tiny solitary town called Blakesburg, in Iowa. Great characters.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

AB: I’m sure I’m forgetting many crazy moments, but the one that sticks out the most in my memory is when I made a cop shake my hand in the middle of the night in Oklahoma. I won’t get into the surrounding circumstances, but that was a REALLY close call.

LW: Night swimming in Athens. Driving from San Fran to Austin without rest.

JB: Somebody stole my backpack with a lot of stuff in it (including my passport) at a SXSW show. The next day a random woman messaged me on Facebook claiming she had found my passport. We set a meeting at a gas station on a highway near to where I was and I got it back.

Also, on our West Coast Tour the drummer of the other band we were touring with quit in the middle of the trip, so I had to fill in for the remaining shows. It was fun.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

AB: I have so many favorite things. I love the feeling of freedom, and when it’s all going well, feeling like the band is a team and that together we can do anything. Something about seeing a road stretched out ahead is very inspiring in that way. I love playing music in a new city every night, the people you meet, and the special bonds you form that way. My least favorite thing is the significant strain on my mental health. It also makes me sad to be apart from my partner.

LW: Favorite: we do it by our own standards and terms. Seeing old friends across the country. Least favorite: it’s almost impossible to make $$.

JB: I like the uncertainty of not always knowing where you are going to sleep. That usually leads to meeting super nice people and seeing really cool places. Least favorite thing is, as Lyzi said, how hard it is to make money.

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Photo by Jose Berrio Lesmes

Fruit & Flowers Touring Tips

AB: Eat some vegetables occasionally and attempt to exercise. Keep journals. Read books in the van instead of messing around on facebook. Don’t freak out. Check the spreadsheet!!!

JB: If you have an analogue camera, make sure to check if it has batteries before you start taking photos. Last tour I shot four rolls that came out blank after developing. Also, as Ana said, keep journals. Make copies of important documents and put them in safe places (in case somebody steals your backpack).

CY: Go to a good grocery store and stock up on necessary food and beer. Keep extra pillows, batteries, tools and blankets handy. Change the oil on time. Have a decent stereo and listen to good podcasts and explore fresh music, new and old.  

LW: Maintain a good attitude. Read. Take your space if you need it. Do your own thing now and again.

High Waisted

Over 100 Shows

10 Weeks

I was lucky enough to catch High Waisted and The Coax play their the final show of a six-week run together in Saratoga Springs, NY at a small jazz bar called One Caroline. The last day of tour can sometimes be the worst – everyone is exhausted, possibly sick of each other and eager to get home. Even if this were the case, it didn’t affect their fun, high-energy show one bit. They play 100% no matter what. This really comes as no surprise as they’ve been named the ‘Best Party Band’ by GQ and host an annual rock ‘n’ roll booze cruise in NYC that is highly recommended!

Top 3 Cities: We love Austin, D.C. and Chicago. But our favorite state is Ohio!

Favorite Gas Station & Fast Food Chain: I have an unhealthy love for Taco Bell and they have options for all dietary needs. Wawas are the best gas stations!

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

We were never late and managed to stay healthy and happy. But there were other memorable moments. We retired our first tour van after 350,000 miles, we watched the sunset sitting on top of a giant dune in white sands, we saw a man get arrested for assault in Texas, we spent two days in a double-wide trailer in Kentucky when our van broke down (thanks to the kindness of strangers), we went skinny dipping in the Pacific Ocean for my birthday, we survived getting hit by another car going 70 mph at dawn in Alabama and we drove through Death Valley in the summer with no AC.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

My favorite thing is the faith we place in strangers all over the country. Tour is one big trust fall. Perhaps I’m jaded but the kindness and support we’re met with will never cease to amaze me. My least favorite thing about DIY touring is the lack of accountability. If a venue owner or promoter is a total sleazebag there’s not really a network in place to protect you or other bands from facing the same bad fortune.

High Waisted Tour Tips

Bring a cooler and grocery shop. Always have baby wipes and paper towels in the van. Use sites like Priceline to score cheap hotels after shows – bonus if you can book ones with pools and hot tubs. Always bring valuable gear in overnight or have someone sleep in the van. Don’t travel with drugs. Don’t drink and drive.

Pre-download movies and albums to your phone for dead zones. Make yourself read and write every day. Be kind to your bandmates even if you’re cranky – the group morale is always more important than your own. Put the group first and they’ll take care of you. Play every show at 100%, even if there’s only eight people watching – they still deserve your best performance. Treat tour like vacation; find fun things to sightsee in every town so your days are more than just time spent in bars. Take photos and keep a journal. Lastly, stay grateful and appreciative of your opportunity.

(Interview by Jessica Dye)


A Deer A Horse (NYC)

99 Shows Booked and 95 Played

(4 cancellations due to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey)

16 Weeks

I met A Deer A Horse in 2016 in Nashville during the peak of my mid-tour drunken meltdown triggered by leaving my tote bag with my wallet and everything else important to me inside of it at a gas station somewhere between Georgia and Tennessee (which was later sent to my mom’s house by a good samaritan). A Deer A Horse’s music is dark, sludgy and serious but by hanging out with them that night and the following day they helped to cheer me up and pull me out of that unhappy situation. Thanks guys!

Top 3 Cities: We have 4 because we’re too keen….

  • Austin, TX: it’s a great scene filled with close friends. The audiences are always massively supportive, and they really seem dedicated and attentive.

  • Chicago, IL: one of the best scenes in US with crazy spaces to play. You can definitely feel a unique scene when you’re there, which isn’t always the case in big cities.

  • Norfolk, VA: a hidden gem for us. The audiences are always amazing and supportive, and we’ve made a lot of good friends there since we played our first gig in town.

  • St. Louis, MO: STL feels like a city on fire. It’s a city that really comes together in hard times. The city is going through a lot of internal struggles, but when you’re there you feel like part of the scene, which feels like one big family.

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: For gas stations, Tim Horton’s in Canada is a rad hoser delicacy. For food, we normally buy groceries at Trader Joe’s or local markets/co-ops to save money and eat healthy. But we did drunkenly indulge, once or twice, in Taco Bell – except Dylan who was probably eating trail mix.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

It was like the Forrest Gump/current events tour of 2017. We were on the West Coast for the wildfires, in Salem, Oregon for the solar eclipse, Texas for Hurricane Harvey, Florida for Hurricane Irma, and St. Louis for widespread protests against rampant police brutality/corruption.

We also camped at Saddlehorn Canyon at Colorado National Monument.  It is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places we have ever been.  We also got to swim in the most beautiful conditions at Pensacola Beach one day before Irma hit Florida.  It was surreal – you would never have known a hurricane was looming just hours off the coast.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

Our favorite is the research you get to do into all of the scenes around the country. You learn about so many bands/venues/cities you would never have known about otherwise and you make amazing friends.

Not including the excessive driving, our least favorite part is the sheer amount of work you have to do. You really have to do everything yourself and stay on top of people just to ensure every gig goes smoothly. It’s exhausting. It would be a dream to have a booking agent, but not having one will not stop us from setting up and going on the road.

A Deer A Horse Tour Tips

Do whatever you have to do stay healthy mentally and physically. Get a big cooler and buy groceries and avoid eating road/fast food. Get gym memberships (ours are with Planet Fitness) so you can work out (get those gains, bruh) and (ProTipAlert) utilize their *24 hour* shower services.  Drink the booze in moderation or not at all most nights. And maybe most importantly, understand as a band that it’s important to have alone time on the road – take as much of it as you can, ideally outdoors, and you’ll love yourself and your bandmates more after doing it.

If you are at a place with your band where you want to start touring, start small.  Do weekends and short 5-7 day regional tours in order to build a fanbase close to home. Slowly branch out to 2-3 week tours, a little further away each time. Do a lot of those so you get to know your own and your bandmates’ personal needs. If you have any personal issues, DO NOT let them fester. Talk about them immediately before you develop resentments!

Also, we have learned the hard way many times that the only way to get shit done is to do it yourself – this is where DIY really holds meaning. No one is going to book the tour for you. We no longer rely on anyone we don’t know very very well to set shows up for us. Since having this realization, booking has gone way more smoothly and we have had very few shows fall through.

The Big Drops

61 Shows

5 Weeks

Following the release of  their debut album Time, Color, The Big Drops toured the U.S. and Canada, playing their fair share of hippie festivals, Sofar Sounds gigs, and duo sets. When I went to Canada to tour manage them, I was was quickly re-named tour ‘Mama-ger,’  their drummer caught a bad cold and turned into ‘Baby Grandpa’ (poor Baby Grandma!) and an exceptionally friendly man driving an Ottawa mail truck hit the right side mirror off of my van. But I swear I had a great time…

Top 3 Cities: Savannah GA, Montreal Canada, Harrisonburg VA

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Definitely Couche-Tard in Montreal. It’s a pretty off the chain, and has the best name of any gas station I’ve ever seen.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

During MacRock Festival in Harrisonburg, we walked into a super smokey smoke machine basement bar to some sort of sexually charged jungle music, and saw the frontman wearing a hockey mask and revving a chainsaw. The show was immediately shut down as soon as we got there.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

Being on tour is kind of like being on vacation. If you start working on your tour dates 3+ months in advance, you can typically just pick the cities you want to go to, and find a way to make a show happen there. Getting to experience new places via music is pretty awesome. If possible, try to set aside some time to enjoy the places you go!

Our least favorite thing about DIY touring is the amount of time and energy it takes to schedule, plan, and book all the dates yourself. You think, wouldn’t it be great if being in a band was all about being a musician?? But it is really rewarding to put together a good show, meet other cool bands and people who support your music.

The Big Drops Touring Tips

Tour is difficult for different people in different ways, so try to be extra considerate of your bandmates when on the road. Bring headphones, a book, something to keep you occupied while driving 5+ hours a day.

Getting sick on tour is no fun. Stay healthy! Don’t eat or drink too much garbage-y food. We usually bring a cooler packed with hummus, granola, nuts, apples, bananas, PB&J materials. Everyone in The Big Drops is pretty keen on eating raw garlic to keep us healthy and safe from estranged vampires.

Pack lightly, but bring extra socks. A small towel is useful for washing/ drying your face if you can’t take a shower. We also bring some essential oils like lavender or sage, so we emit a nice, pleasant odor.

(Interview by Greg & Vramshabouh)

Nihiloceros (NYC)

57 shows

4 weeks touring

Singer/guitarist Mike Borchardt of Nihiloceros is not only in one of the most hardworking touring bands, but is also the hardest working show-goer I’ve ever met. I see him at almost every show I attend, he takes 30+ photos of every band and then promptly uploads them to social media and tags everyone, helps promote shows when he can’t make them, and is super helpful in connecting touring musicians to other musicians/promoters/venues around the country when necessary. Thank you Mike, you’re awesome! This year his band transitioned from being Samantha (she’s dead) to Nihiloceros, released an EP, and in between being at every show possible in Brooklyn, also spent four weeks on the road.

Favorite Cities: Chicago IL, Philadelphia PA, Lawrence KS (and obviously Austin TX during SXSW)

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Food in Canada it’s Tim Horton’s, in the U.S. it’s probably Taco Bell, though we seem to hit more Dunkin Donuts than anything else. For gas, it’s whatever is around right before we run outta gas. We do love those big truck stop gas stations that have fast food and big gift shops with silly souvenirs – great time to get out of the car and stretch your legs. I always make a point to stop at the Iowa80 outside of Des Moines and Mars Cheese Castle driving between Chicago and Milwaukee.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

The craziest overall thing had to be our SAdpop tour in October where the 3 of us spent 2 weeks driving across the East Coast and Canada jammed into a Mini Cooper with all our stuff. That many miles stuck in a clown car will make everything crazy.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

The hardest thing about any DIY tour is the actual booking of it yourself. We use all our vacation and sick days from work for touring, so we really gotta maximize our time. It takes a lot of time working with venues and bands, getting dates confirmed in a geographical route that makes sense to drive, while also trying to book it so you don’t end up with too many wasted days off.

The best part though is meeting new bands and making new fans, exploring new cities, being inspired by new people outside of NYC… and hopefully inspiring something in them as well.

Nihiloceros Touring Tips

If you can share a leg of your tour with another band that is more well known in the area, that can really help a lot with some of the logistics like routing, confirming venues and places to stay. That didn’t end up working out for us on this year’s tours, but we are sharing a stretch of shows in the U.S. and Canada with another band next year which we are pretty excited about.

Oftentimes tours take you across varying temperatures, so bring proper layers for the season, and that extra hoodie or jacket will be better suited on your body or in your lap than taking up wasted space in your bag. Get really good at packing your gear efficiently before you hit the road, and then it’ll be a breeze every night fitting everything in the car. Apart from that, drink way more water than you think you need to, bring plenty of Advil PM which will help you sleep when you do get a chance to crash, and will double assist for the aches that come with playing every night, lugging gear, sleeping on couches/floors, and being crammed in the car for long stretches of time.

(Interview by MikeBorchardt)

Giantology (Chicago)

50  Shows

12 Weeks

I mentioned Giantology in one of my first Check The Spreadsheet columns, because I was so impressed with how their bassist, Gina Davalle, basically just picked up the bass guitar and then decided to go on tour for three months without having any previous touring experience. I also love their space suits and weirdo glasses.

Top 3 Cities: Austin, Portland, and Atlanta

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: LOVES is my favorite gas station/truck stop. McDonald’s would definitely be our fast food chain of choice. McDonald’s was like our home in every city. We drank their coffee every morning and indulged in their free wifi.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year? 

Honestly, I think the craziest thing is what did not happen. During 3 months on the road we never had any serious car troubles, or major set backs. I have heard so many touring horror stories, and being that this was my first tour I didn’t know what to expect. I was fully prepared for things to go awry and to get stranded somewhere in need of a mechanic. We were very lucky in that sense!

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?  

My favorite thing about DIY touring is meeting new people in every city, wether it be people at the shows or bands we played with, DIY touring would hardly be possible with out these people doing their part to keep their city’s music scene alive. We met a lot of great people, whom we now consider friends.  I think the best thing about touring is getting to visit different cities, and getting to play shows every night.

My least favorite thing about DIY touring is the tole it took on me physically at times from eating too much fast food to sleeping in a van or on a floor every night, not getting quality sleep, it can leave you feeling pretty run down, and exhausted. Definitely, worth it though.

Giantology Tour Tips

Take care of yourself, sleep is so important. Get those hours in when you can!

Don’t drink too much before a show. It’s easy to drink a bit too fast when nervous. (i have learned this the hard way) It is a really shitty feeling to mess up during a show bc you got a little too drunk, but it’ll teach you your limits. Know your limits and stick to them.

Making friends and exchanging contact info with the bands you enjoy playing with is a great tool for booking future shows when looking to play in their city and vise versa. There are no booking agents or guarantees, DIY booking is all about reciprocity.

Do your research before buying a tour van! Take care of said tour van, for with out it, none of this is possible. Sign up for AAA, keep up with oil changes, etc. Always remember where you parked it, don’t stray too far away from it, or leave it unattended for very long.

Leave enough driving time in between shows to account for the unexpected, or spontaneous adventures.

Always play to your best ability even if you’re playing for only a couple of people.

Look out for your bandmates.

(Interview by Gina Davalle)

Ramonda Hammer (LA)

54 Shows

9 Weeks

Ramonda Hammer were the band that made me believe it was possible to book a tour from coast to coast yourself. I met them while playing in LA in 2016 with Sharkmuffin – we had flown out and rented a car to do our west coast tours a couple years in a row. It seems dumb, but when  Ramonda Hammer came to play with us in Brooklyn and I realized had driven the whole way, I was inspired to do the same the next time we planned shows on the west coast!

Top 3 Cities: Los Angeles, Nashville, and Brooklyn

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Favorite gas station is Kum & Go because we are all children and it’s always funny. Favorite fast food chain will be a band argument probably.

What is the craziest thing that happened on tour?

The GARMP saga!! We were getting ready for our September tour and there was gonna be a show with our homies in Nashville who run the amazing DIY record label Cold Lunch Recordings. They organized a rad house show for us, and at the show there was gonna be a stick and poke tattoo artist so we were stoked to partake in that. In the Facebook event page, the artist had asked people to comment what they were gonna get tattooed, and this one guy Jonathan (who we didn’t know at all) said he’d get any five letter word tattooed on his body. So our bassist Andy made up the word GARMP and was determined to have this random guy get GARMP tattooed on him. It turned into a crazy comment thread of people voting and Andy even made a campaign sign that read “GARMP FOR JONATHAN’S TATTOO 2017”. People were very confused. We thought it was hilarious. Flash forward to Nashville: we’re all anxiously waiting to meet Jonathan. We have no idea who he is. Randomly we see some tattooed bearded dude walking around the party with an actual baby in his arms and we think this is odd. Turns out that was Jonathan, who by the way we’ve just been calling GARMP the whole time because duh. Anyways we meet him, he gets his GARMP tattoo on his “gARMp-pit” (which is extra funny), and then I find out he’s from my hometown in Orange County and knows some of my friends. Super weird. Also, why did he have his baby at a basement kegger? Not sure. But at least he and Andy became best friends on the internet for a second and almost did karate in the garage together.

What is your favorite & least favorite thing about DIY touring?

My most favorite thing about DIY touring is all the love and support we encounter on our travels. It really surprises me and warms my heart every single time. People are so generous with giving us places to stay and making us food and making us feel welcomed. It’s so so so cool. My least favorite thing is being too cold or too hot and also when shows get cancelled.

Ramonda Hammer Touring Tips

Well, I would say plan for EVERYTHING that could go wrong to GO WRONG. That way when shit happens (and it always does), you’ll be prepared. We always bring jumper cables and a gas can and blankets to cover our gear with in the van, and we try to have a cushion of funds to pay for any unplanned hotel stays or van breakdowns. Also, don’t let your drummer and bass player conspire to trick you into watching the re-make of The Mummy with Tom Cruise.

(Interview by Devin Davis)

Note: This list was based on my own experiences with musicians I’ve met by living in Brooklyn and performing and touring for 21 weeks of 2017 with Sharkmuffin, Ex-Girlfriends & Kino Kimino. It is not definitive and I would love to hear from and about more bands that book their own tours and/or tour extensively in the U.S. & beyond. Feel free to contact me with your suggestions & stories at[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]


Booking a tour is basically planning a road trip with the goal of playing music every night and (hopefully) making enough money for gas to your next destination. Booking your first tour is a grind, so it’s helpful to have higher purpose that is fun and motivating. Bands usually plan a tour to promote an EP or album release, but the first “tour” I went on was a 32-hour drive straight to SXSW in 2011 with my two-piece band Pool Sharks (my drummer, Lani now plays in Weeping Icon) in order to play one house party at SXSW that was shut down before our set. I’ve been to SXSW seven years in a row now, so it’s a fun place to start!

You could be really creative with your touring intent. Kino Kimino toured down to the Woman’s March on Washington in January (the house party we played in D.C. post-march was INSANE). This past August, Sharkmuffin toured to see the Total Solar Eclipse in South Carolina with our appropriately named friends Wild Moon.

Garage rock/folk blues guitar goddess Melissa Lucciola (of Wild Moon, Francie Moon, and bassist of Kino Kimino) is one of my tour heroes. She has undertaken DIY tours that have lasted 4 months or more at a time, with small breaks in between. One of her main goals as a musician is to tour and will take every opportunity to do so.

“Touring has always had an array of special purposes in my life. I have toured in bands and acoustically from house shows to art galleries to larger venues and have always found great purpose in any of those situations. I went on my first tour ever because I love to travel and play music every day and fortunately we were asked to join another band that knew how to book it. Later on I was asked to tour solo and acoustically. Even though playing acoustic wasn’t my first choice, I figured since I had the opportunity to do the leg work and learn how to tour, the places to play, and how to make some money while at it that I could one day help all my friends who want to play music full time too. I’m still on that path and was able to bring my full band on the road earlier this year on my most successful tour yet, which was very encouraging for me.

Touring has also made me aware and extremely appreciative of this amazing network of people who constantly help each other out. By touring you eventually find yourself in this very large community of fellow musicians, artists, organizers, and just straight up supportive people who are pushing each other along. I am part of a bunch of groups online that are always assisting each other with booking shows, finding photographers or artists to help with merchandise and posters, website designers, videographers for music videos and just simply sharing their music with each other.

I’m really honored to not only be able to do what I love, but be a part of something bigger than me that continuously helps others be able to do it too.” – Melissa Lucciola

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photo by Jose Berrio

Whether you want to support your release, support a good cause, or are just craving adventure, here are some basics to start booking your tour:

  1. Give yourself enough time. It’s best to start booking tours 3-5 months in advance. If it’s a tour to a festival like SXSW, the earlier you start booking it the better. Keep in mind that you’ll want to start promoting the show at least a month in advance and it could take two months to lock down the date/venue/supporting acts.
  2. Make friends & trade shows. Pay attention to your band’s e-mail/Facebook messages. Musicians you probably have never heard of are looking to play in your town and may have reached out for your help. If you set up a good show for them in your area, they’ll most likely be happy to return the favor in their town!
  3. Take advantage of online DIY communities. The Internet is a beautiful thing sometimes. Do DIY is a great resource of DIY spaces and organizers in many cities across the U.S. There are also Facebook groups for DIY scenes almost every major city that you can join and post in. While reaching out to people, always include links to your music, bio/other press, the dates you’re looking to play, and if you have any friends/know bands in the area.
  4. Google. When all else fails, reach out to every venue & band you like in a certain area. Go to a venue’s contact page on their website or message them on Facebook.
  5. Use your social media network.  You probably have more friends/fans in different places than you would expect! Posting “Can you help us find a show in these places on these dates?” on each of your social media networks could get many unexpected results when you’re stuck.
  6. Stay Organized. It is easy to get confused and double book dates or forget to fill dates all together. Creating a spreadsheet you can share with your bandmates with the dates, cities, bands, venues contacted, and any notes on the progress really helps keep things clear. And then you’ll also be able to yell at your bandmates to CHECK THE SPREADSHEET in the group text when they ask the same question for the thousandth time!


CHECK THE SPREADSHEET: Attitude is Everything

Hello! Thank you for checking the monthly DIY tour guide. I play on tour with three Brooklyn-based bands and have been on the road for at least a week each month this year (aside from one). Going on tour is a goal of many bands and in today’s super connected world it is easier than ever to attain. While being relatively easier to logistically set up, it is still a challenging undertaking on your wallet and  personal and emotional health.

Touring can teach you who your friends are, how strong your relationship is and most importantly who you are. At best, it’s an incredibly fun and hilarious adventure, and at worst, a dehumanizing experience that shoots you straight into an existential crisis the moment you return home. In this monthly column, I will share my experiences and attempt to break down specific aspects of DIY touring so you can more easily hit the road yourself!

I was first introduced to Giantology, a two-piece garage band from Chicago at a show in Long Beach, CA. They’re an inspiring example of a band that just wanted to go on tour and did it. You don’t have to wait until you’re huge in your hometown, have a record on some label or even a booking agent. They were booking their first 3-month tour at the same time as they were writing their first songs. It was their bassist’s first tour ever. If you want to do it, the first step is having the attitude that it is not only possible, but with enough determination and organization it is something you can actually make happen in a matter of a few months.

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Giantology basically jumped straight into touring like a bunch of bosses.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be setbacks; the trick is to not let ’em get you down. In Mobile, Alabama I played in two bands to an audience of exactly one person. The co-singer/guitarist in Ex-Girlfriends got onto the floor and screamed her lungs out to the single middle-aged podcast host from Florida like he was the A&R rep of Universal Music or the editor of the Rolling Stone or something. Personally, I get very discouraged and slightly humiliated when no one shows up after you’ve driven half way across the country and you’ve already played at this exact bar twice before, but she did not give a fuck.

I also felt similarly bummed when I played for the first time in front of a sold out room with Kino Kimino in San Francisco at The Independent. There was one moment when all I had to do was play the riff from “So Fresh and So Clean” as a transition between songs. I messed up and felt like a biggest idiot. Whether you’re playing to one person or 1,000 people, it’s always going to be something.

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photo by Jose Berrio (

Here are some tips to keep your anxiety low, morale high, and generally give zero fucks when things get tough…

  1. Take care of yourself. It’s easy to drink cheaply and/or free every night on tour, but that’s the fastest way to get depressed or sick. You’re probably going to do it anyway, so always keep gummy vitamins on hand in the front of the van. Wellness Formula works in a few days for bad colds, but gives you really smelly burps. Oregano Oil also works, but might make your mouth numb for a few minutes.

Drummers: Bring sandals & hemorrhoid cream (to avoid blood-ass from eating too much gas station food). Take shoes off right after the show and put sandals on – your band mates will thank you.

Beauty Rest: Melatonin /Advil PM and ear plugs can regulate your sleep schedule when you’re trying to crash in bizarre places surrounded by kind (but likely drunk and loud) strangers who let you have their floor, futon, or doggie bed to rest on.

  1. Remember that you’re on the same team. No matter how close you are as friends, being in the same smelly van with the same few people to talk to for 24 hours a day will make you want to murder each other.

Your gear is going to malfunction, you’re probably going to get a cold or an engine mount in your 20 year old mini-van will break, and there’s a chance you’ll end up in the middle of the U.K. somewhere after calling 47 hotels and still end up sleeping in the van. All these things will make you even more on edge with only a few people in your immediate vicinity to take your frustrations out on. Be kind to each other…none of this shit matters. No matter what goes wrong, you’re basically married to the same dream and that is what will inevitably hold you together.

Pro tip: When a bandmate is having a temper tantrum, imagine them as an adorable five-year-old.

  1. Gratitude. Be thankful for everyone who plays, promotes, does sound, feeds you, buys merch, and puts you up. Even if only one person shows up to your show, be thankful that they did. The first time we played in Wilmington, NC only one person came to our show and then the next time we came through town, that one person (Travis of Deadly Lo-Fi) threw us the best show of that whole tour.

I appreciate the bassist in Sharkmuffin so much, because she always appreciates every person involved, and makes it a point to shout out each person in her social media posts after the show. This not only makes a difference the next time we come through town – it really helps you feel more honored to be there and that what you came to share in the first place was worth it when you take the time to feel thankful for everyone individually.

Check back the third Monday of every month for more tips from Tara’s touring life.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]