How do you get to your shows? Planes, trains, automobiles, boats, bikes or on foot? There are many ways to get from point A to point B in 2015. Here are some important factors to keep in mind that will help you remain prompt, punctual, and professional.
Most solo performers are traveling to their performances in their own cars trucks or SUV’s. There are a few inexpensive maintenance tasks you must stay on top of if you’re going to make it to the show on time. First, be diligent with your oil and filter changes. Keep track of how often you do so and record the mileage on your vehicle each change. An oil change can usually be done for under $30 in the continental US. Many companies will also rotate your tires at the same time as part of a package price. I do mine every 5,000 miles and use conventional oil. I’ve had decent results with NTB here in Texas and Wal Mart can change your oil and filter while you shop. Get an inflation needle and check your tire pressure regularly. I bought a portable air tank for our cars years ago so I can add air on our vehicles any time they need it. Stay on top of basic maintenance and if possible, find a good mechanic and explain what you do on gigs. This is helpful if you travel long distances, carry lots of gear, and do a combination of in town and freeway driving.
Since many of us use cell phones, tablets and GPS devices, we often rely more on them than is productive. I had a gig two years ago about two hours west of Dallas on a lake. My cell phone didn’t work near the gig site and my GPS didn’t help, either. I finally pulled over to a convenience store, called the client from a borrowed cell phone and got directions to the location. The store clerk told me “if you don’t have ‘Brand X’ cell phone service, you won’t have any coverage on this lake.” I made it to the gig with only moments to spare. Moral of the story- check out the location on your home computer before the day of the show to have an idea where to travel.
There are some good apps you can use to help you on gigs. Waze is a fine one when navigating congested urban areas. I loved the Road Ninja app for iPhones but sadly, it’s been taken off the market. The Maps feature on my phone is good and Google + is helpful, too. I am certain there are many other apps I haven’t mentioned that will help you arrive at the gig in plenty of time to set up and perform.
Speaking of travel, be aware it’s helpful to factor in traffic, road repairs and general malaise on the highways. The sad reality in 2015 is that it takes longer to travel from point A to B than it used to. Many drivers are texting or otherwise distracted on electronic devices, accelerate or brake when it’s convenient only to them and in general, are self-absorbed, rude and inconsiderate. Be aware of this and build in a fudge factor of perhaps 10-15 minutes extra time per hour of highway driving. This will help you arrive alive and on time. I had a gig in Austin in March, which is only a three and a half hour drive from North Dallas. An accident on I-35 just north of the gig delayed our travel an hour and a half. By leaving early, I was still able to start at the agreed upon time. Sadly, the bridge was out and the alternate drive home took over five hours!
Some of you may employ alternate means to travel to gigs. A pianist who plays a restaurant’s piano can walk, bike or take public transportation to his or her shows. I would love to be able to not have to drag equipment to a gig! Some guitarists who can get everything they need in a gig bag can sometimes walk or ride a bike to work. A few years ago, I met a classical guitarist who either walked or rode the bus to his gigs in downtown Dallas. He lived nearby and pointed out “I’m in great shape from all the walking.” Those of you who can truly “travel light,” be sure to count your blessings!
I remember an early gig with my NC group “The Fabulous Shades.” When begging off early from load out once, Ed Johnson pointed out that “anybody decent can play the notes. What we need is some big butt boys to move amplifiers!” To this day, the joke in Nashville is “ they don’t pay you for playing the notes. They pay you for riding the bus.” Carry only what you need and try to pare down your set up and take down time.( That’s another topic for another column).
Regardless of how you get to the gig, it’s still wise to provide yourself a time bumper in order to make the performance downbeat on cue. In order to be paid like a professional, make all aspects of your work, including the transportation, above reproach. Give some thought to your transportation to and from gigs. It will pay off now and in the future.