As much as unpredictability is a central part of touring, so is exhaustive driving. If someone were to create a touring pie chart, it’d probably look something like this:
So many unplanned incidents can happen—one can lose a valuable part of one’s wardrobe, the sound guy may have trouble getting sound to emanate from your vocal pedal, someone may forget someone’s lyrics. Just saying. The possibilities are endless. The one unremittable fact is there will be driving from one venue to the next. Sometimes this drive begins on an early morning following a long night of performance and frolic. Sometimes the drive includes hours of terrain that goes by forever unchanged.
Driving the autobahn through the German, Czech and Austrian countrysides rapt in my own quiet will be one of the memories I hold dearest. Tour driving slows the kabillion pre and post-performance shuffles to a manageable waltz. I hit the gas. The wheels rotate. We (eventually) arrive. It’s a simple equation with a measurable end.
A van packed with nine people is as much a repository for bullshit as it is a vessel for insightful dialogue. One conversation about intersectionality of race, class and gender melds into riffs on language ownership and the elements of a good song with a soundtrack of Killer Mike, Hiss Golden Messenger and St. Vincent in the background. I am navigating the wondrous ‘abroad,’ sharing my vision of hip-hop with an audience that is predominately white and female. I wonder where the black people are. While driving, I mumble my verse to “Who Owns It,” for memory’s sake. I consider appropriation of this beautiful black construct called hip-hop and the way it is globally interpreted, loved, and exorcized, seemingly all at once (hip-hop is just another black creation, end of conversation). Dissecting these processionals, makes me feel less like an emcee, more like a hip-hop shrink.
The driving duties have been spit between Tour Manager Anna, Tom and myself. With two shows to go, we’ve covered approximately 4375 miles. Upon arrival at any venue, there’s the waiting, both active and passive (which, upon further thought, should be better detailed in the pie chart). At every club, the waiting is accompanied by snacks. Bread, cheese and fruit are beautifully arranged on a table when we walk in, which I think is a psychological ploy to distract us from the waiting. The fruit-cheese deterrent works every time. We snack like an erst of pollinating bees. We have entire conversations about the spread, take pictures, post them to Instagram. It’s like we’ve been snack-washed. Elaborately timed, soundcheck begins as the snacks dwindle to the last withered grape. After soundcheck, we are served a hot vegetarian meal, ofttimes prepared by a person at the venue designated for this particular task. Big vats of pasta, salad, and soup as well as sparkling water (my new favorite), a variety of delicious, local beers, and juices are laid before us. The Purple Velvet crew generally sits and has dinner together. This also serves as a collective moment to discuss itineraries and all of the business of the night ahead.