Talk about going to extremes. At the end of my tour of the Oceania Pacific in 2012, I realized something had changed since my last long overseas trip. I had been to New Zealand eight times and was finishing up my second tour of Tasmania and Australia, when I suddenly faced a traveling musician’s greatest nightmare: new baggage fee regulations.
Without a small banner-flying airplane circling over my head to alert me of the latest rules (rules that are not consistent among airlines, by the way), I remained oblivious to the complex fees that are in tiny, tiny letters at the bottom of my ticket that tells me, that as a member of the flying public, the size and weight of my luggage really matters. This came as a shock to me as I placed my two guitars, a backpack, and laptop in front of the agent for check- in on my return to the States from New Zealand by way of the Figi Islands.
Suddenly facing additional baggage costs of nearly $400 per leg for the privilege of traveling with my two guitars – a 6 string and 12-string, I knew some adjustments would have to be made for my next tour. My sets are designed with the 6 and 12-string in mind and I have played both for years. I had to figure out how to fly with one guitar and borrow one on the road, wear the same clothes a bit longer (regardless if I spilled coffee down the front of my shirts), and fill any remaining space in my backpack with my DI box, two microphones, power cords, and some CD’s.
At this point, it might seem that all I am doing is taking an opportunity to have a platform to grump, gripe, and groan in a public domain. But, what I’m really after is sharing with other touring musicians the ongoing need to learn to adapt, improvise, and overcome situations on the fly.
My latest extreme case for a solution came recently in Gams, Switzerland, where I was set to perform a concert and workshop at my friend’s shop, cleverly titled, Guitar Repairs. Did I mention that Urs Winkler is a world- class artist of instrument repairs? That’s another story for another time.
I navigated through his store for a couple of days and selected eight or nine very different instruments to use during the show, in addition to the one 12- string I elected to bring along for the trip. I was more than thrilled to take on the challenge of switching after every couple of tunes between a resophonic guitar, my own 12 string, a classical, the papoose, and a couple of 6-string guitars. The audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy the museum of instruments for the evening and so did I.
Thinking on one’s feet and improvising effectively is one of the most valuable qualities a touring musician can develop. As it turned out, I should actually thank the airlines. The fees forced me into a predicament where I otherwise would not have thought about thinking extremely outside the box and traveling with only one guitar. It was a treat for me to play such a wide variety and beautiful collection of instruments in one evening and now whenever possible, I try to follow this new formula. I plan to be very creative with my luggage when I return to Australia and Tasmania in January 2013.
Originally posted 2012-11-10 00:14:58.