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Life on the road: A dirty, drunk, logistical nightmare

Local bands share their stories about life as touring musicians.

By Amber Taylor | April 15, 2011

Tags: Music

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The days run together as the trees, the lampposts and the road signs blur along the seemingly unending stretches of highway, slowly bringing them closer and closer to parts of the country they have been before.

The nights start with pounding hearts, sweaty palms; adrenaline flowing as they play the first chords of their songs. And after the last notes are played and the too-bright lights switch off, with humming ears and wide smiles, they pack the van back up, ready to do it all again the next day.

For drummer Andrew Fialka and the other members of Andre and the Giants, this is exactly what is in store for their summer. After spending two and a half years playing once-a-weekend shows around Missouri, the Columbia native band will pack its van and head to Chicago for the Summer Camp Music Festival and embark on its first national tour May 26.

“I’m just excited to play a gig every night instead of once a weekend,” Fialka said. “It’s going to be a challenge to put on a good show every night, but it should be fun. I’m excited about playing the Summer Camp festival. I have been to several, but I’ve never played one and it will be great to be on the other side.”

This summer will be Andre and the Giants' first time touring, but other Columbia-based bands such as Landlocked and Richard the Lionhearted have toured outside of Missouri in the past.

After two national and one European tour, Aaron Hand of Landlocked has experienced the ups and downs that come with touring.

"It’s a lot of working trying to set up a whole tour and then last minute if your shows start falling through, you end up scrambling and booking last minute shows,” Hand said. “It’s hard when you are a DIY band and you play a show where the manager of the place didn’t really promote you or book local bands to bring out people. You end up playing a show where no one comes out and it can get really frustrating.”

Because of the work and frustrations of touring, most smaller bands, unlike Andre and the Giants and Landlocked, tend go on little two- or three-day stints of touring, instead of nightly shows, according to Zach Biri of Nonreturner.

“There’s always the looming fear of running out of money and not eating or getting stranded somewhere weird,” Biri said. “It can been a logistical nightmare for a smaller band planning it out with booking everything without hiring somebody, and that’s why it’s kind of a rarity for local bands to go on extensive tours.”

Despite being a rarity, local folk musician Rae Fitzgerald has toured before with her previous band.

"It was dirty, drunk and a lot of fun," she said.

Fitzgerald knows the struggles of touring as part of a smaller band, but she is still optimistic about her two solo tours this summer.

"It's like packing for a vacation," she said. "You get to do what you love every night of the week."

Like Fitzgerald, Andre and the Giants is looking forward to going out and playing music this summer.

“None of us have ever gone on tour before, so this is new for all of us,” Fialka said. “I’m nervous about going broke and our van breaking down and all that stuff that inevitably comes with the deal, but I’m definitely more excited than nervous.”

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