My name is Justin Imamura and not only do I play drums in POUNDERS, but I also tour manage bands when they go on the road. Before I get into this article, I want to give a little background as to why I feel my recommendations would help opening bands have a smoother tour. My very first tours were with The Used, Street Drum Corps, Straylight Run, Army of Me, and Lights Resolve. Shortly after that, I joined the “Project Revolution” Tour with Linkin Park, The Bravery, Chris Cornell, Ashes Divide, Street Drum Corps, and many more bands for the entire summer. I have also been on the Vans Warped Tour multiple times. This past year I had the opportunity to hit the road with Jane’s Addition, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and thenewno2. Every band I worked with was the opening band.
If you’re an opening band or direct support band about to hit the road, or aspire to go on tour with a well-known band, then this article is for you. I will give some very basic advice on how to start the tour off on the right foot.
1. WHO’S THE TOUR MANAGER: Determine who is going to “tour manage” the band while on the road. If you are the opening band, chances are you don’t have enough money to pay a tour manager, so it will probably one of the bandmates. If you’re reading this article, it’s probably you!
2. CONNECT WITH THE PRODUCTION MANAGER: When you get offered the tour, make sure to connect with the Production Manager of the entire tour. They will be working for the main headliner and you need to get on their good side right away.
3. SCHEDULE THE CONFERENCE CALL: Get on a conference call with them weeks in advance (or as early as possible) before the tour starts. Make sure you are always available for them. Answer emails, calls, and texts right away because chances are they need answers fast.
4. BE PREPARED: Be prepared when you are about to have the conference call. Make sure you know all the details and have your stage plot ready, including dimensions that you need (chances are you will not have enough space on stage). Have band members names, passports, driver’s licenses, ages, etc. (if any of them have a record, you need to know before traveling across the world, especially Canada). Ask if they can provide a FOH (front of house) engineer and light designer (only if you need one). Typically you will use house lights and a house light designer. If you get the opportunity to use the headliners FOH and LD, then make sure to pay them weekly and always buy them a drink if you happen to run into them during off days. It’s all about building relationships. Find out if the headliner is traveling with sound or if they are using house sound as well, and mention if you will need monitors, side fills or if you are traveling with in-ears. Bottom line, never assume anything!
5. RESPECT: When getting to the first day of the tour, call or text the Production Manager when you are about 30 minutes away. They will then let you know where to park or to come later if they are still loading in. When parked at the venue DO NOT have the entire band jump out of the car and “invade” the stage, dressing rooms, venue, etc. Instead have your Tour Manager check in with the Production Manager and the venue contact to determine when and where you can load-in, whether there are dressing rooms (usually the headliner will take most of the rooms, if not all), if there is catering or a buy-out, and most importantly, if there are showers. After you figured out all the info, go back outside to where the band is and communicate with them everything about the day:
– What time is load-in?
– Where can the band load-in?
– What is the set-time?
– How long is the set?
– What time are doors?
– Where is merch sold? Venue sells?
– Does the band get a soundcheck/line check?
– What time does the band need to depart after load-out?
– Tell the band if they have a dressing room and where the rooms is
– What is the WiFi code?
– Is there catering or a dinner buy-out?
– Closest coffee shops?
– Where are the closest rest rooms?
– Are there showers?
6. RESPECT – PART 2: Not only do you want to earn the respect of the Production Manager, but you really need to earn the respect from all the crew of the headliner. Introduce yourself to all of them right away as long as they don’t look too busy. Never get into their way on stage. It’s all about first impressions and you don’t want to get on their bad side already. When loading on the stage don’t run over their cords or move anything of theirs. Always lift heavy items over their cords and never roll over them. Load onto the stage fast and load off stage even faster!
7. MAKE FRIENDS: During off days or even after shows, if the other band and crew are hanging out, offer to buy a drink for the crew. This will go a long way. You will only see the headliner a short amount of time, but you will always see their crew. Make friends with the entire crew. They will soon be your best buds on the tour, and who knows, they may ask you to join them on another tour.
Take everything I say with a grain of salt, but I find that these guidelines have helped me on every tour that I have done. I am open to any input as well so please feel free to send me comments, and/or if you have any questions, ask away!
POUNDERS are an awesome rock trio from San Jose, CA. They’ve released two albums – Chasing The Sun (2011) and Hard, Dirty, and Fast (2012) – and are planning on releasing another album later this year. You can purchase a CD and buy concert tickets here.
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