The first time Tegan and Sara went to Europe was in 2000. They travelled alone, arriving in Milan with no band, no crew, no cell phones, no lap tops, no calling cards. I can’t help but imagine their $20.00 a day US per diem, and their uncertainty about how to exchange it for appropriate currency in each country. Many days they survived solely on snacks from the hotel mini bar and it’s this knowledge that still fills me with awe, sadness, regret and guilt even after all these years.
The girls have been on the road touring since they were 18 years old. I have always thought of their life in three distinct parts – preparing for tour, touring and post tour reintegration. When they’re on tour they disappear into the road. I have come to accept infrequent check-ins through email, on Skype or text and instead I find youtube fan videos and unique press/interviews (most are redundant) to stay on top of their music life and ultimately to feel connected to them. I am grateful that all of this is available to me and for how much easier it is now to stay connected than when they first started out.
I remember joining them early on in their career, travelling in a van and seeing them emotionally check out as a way to cope with long, gruelling hours of boredom while travelling from one city, state, country and venue to the next. Touring is a job. It’s both challenging (exhausting emotionally and physically, repetitive and boring) and exciting (fan energy is critical in this equation). I thought I got it. But, what I have failed to understand, even after all these years, is that you actually DO exist in two separate worlds. In effect, you live two separate and distinct lives.
Time changes on the road. One day runs into the next until you realize you have no idea what day it is and ultimately, it’s really not that important. Cash, the girls’ guitar tech, told me this morning at breakfast, that at some point in his career someone pointed out that you could tell if it was a weekday on tour by the size of the crowds at the show. It seems I am not the only one who loses track of time. Along with the loss of time, I realize there is also a loss of connection to your other life. Time zones, internet and the lack of good internet, the length of the workday (endless), and a multitude of other issues present barriers to staying connected to loved ones. Losing yourself to this life becomes easy. Counting down shows is akin to wishing away your life and so the alternative is to make it your life; be present in your life and with the people who are out here with you on tour. It is not about enduring, but rather, inhabiting the life you’re living.
Tour is a machine. Everyone has their job and they take pride in what they do. These young people work really hard out here. But, at the end of your work day, unlike at home, you don’t get to go home. At least that’s what I used to think. But, here’s the thing – home is here too. There is love in the room tonight in Berlin, when everyone sings happy birthday to Craig, who does the band’s monitors on stage. We sing and then we feast on traditional German pastries covered in birthday candles. Memories are made and photos mark this day. There is an effort made by the band and the crew to ensure that Craig feels special. This is a road family. That’s when Craig tells me, “It’s only here on tour that you finish work for the day and get on the bus together to hang out in your pyjamas.” There is an intimacy here that isn’t present in my own workplace back home. That’s what makes this special. And as a mom, it’s what makes me feel better – knowing this is my kids’ travelling “home” away from their home.
P.S. I have a lot of bruises and goose eggs on my head and legs. I personally think there should be bumper pads on tour buses like the ones they have in baby cribs.