The hardest I’ve ever worked & the toughest show of my life

I originally wrote this post as I hurtled along a motorway in a van somewhere in Poland, on a seven-hour drive to a music festival that TesseracT is performing at. We finished last night’s headline show at 1 am and the lobby call was 6 am – and on this exhausting run of shows, this is considered good sleep/recovery.

Last night I played a show while feeling really quite sick. I’ve felt sick for a couple of days and seriously considered pulling out of the show, having told the rest of the band yesterday morning that it was pretty unlikely I’d be able to perform.

This industry isn’t like other industries though – ‘go home and rest / sick days‘ don’t exist in this job. So I did the only thing I could do – I took a cocktail of paracetamol and ibuprofen, drank an ocean’s worth of water, got on the honey+lemon+ginger, and pushed through the physical and mental pain barriers.

The hard truth is that we can not afford to miss a single show on this run. A single missed show on this run sets us back by €$£ thousands.

We are starting this tour out in the red – meaning, we know this run of shows is costing us more than we’re making. We have to do this though to keep our name on the festival posters. We’re approaching five years since the last album release and Covid – 2 years+ of no touring – really messed up the industry. Taking a loss on these shows now helps us improve our chances of higher future fees and better festival placements.

The only way this tour (or any tours) becomes profitable in the short term is if we manage to sell enough merch – so please go grab something from our merch stores (UK/Europe store | US Store) – seriously, that will help us out a lot!

I can’t help thinking back to our first tour on a bus back in 2014 – and naively thinking to myself that we’d ‘made it’ – we were on a tour bus in Europe, which is literally the most comfortable way to tour.

On the bus – members of Intervals and Protest the Hero

Bands tour on buses because the shows are typically spaced out geographically so the only reasonable way to do them all is to drive through the night. The buses typically have comfortable bunks for the band and crew to sleep in, a kitchen, a bathroom, etc, and a driver, sometimes two, who’s job it is to drive you safely through the night to the next city.

The tour we’re on right now, eight years later, should be a bus tour, there’s no doubt about it. The distance between each show is significant. But we’re not on a bus. We’re split across two vans because there are no available buses. They’re all booked by other bands, or out of our budget.

This means that there are a lot of very late nights followed by very early mornings, followed by a very long day of travel, in a van. On most of those days, there’s also a show too.

The music industry post-covid and frankly, post-Brexit has been left badly beaten up.

There are considerably fewer people working in the industry as crew, so finding sound engineers, lighting engineers, techs, etc is very hard. Also, ALL bands are trying to go back out on the road touring, because they haven’t been able to for two years, so literally, all of the buses and drivers are all booked out – so we’re back to vanning it across Europe.

This is what we must do to keep our careers afloat.

All of this leads to a point – it may appear from the photos I post and the upbeat messages we send out to the world that this job is a party, and it’s easy. I can tell you, hand on heart, it continues to be the most difficult thing to navigate, in my life. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy it though – I do enjoy it. I firmly believe that if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing because it wouldn’t be anything special. But, my god, it’s seriously rough sometimes. It’s about how you frame those tough times though.

Whatever it is that you’re working on, if it’s not challenging you, ask yourself: is it worth it?

Is it progressing you toward your goal?

Are you doing this thing for yourself or to please the expectations of others?

Importantly – if you’re involved in a collective effort with multiple people, as hard as it is, you must also consider the point at which you say ‘no’.

I came very very close to that point yesterday and I managed to pull myself back by reframing this painful situation as a temporary challenge rather than the worst situation ever.

If you get one ‘go’ on this pale blue dot, make it count and try to greet challenges with your chin up. On the other side of those challenges exist opportunities otherwise out of reach – and I’m on my way to one of them right now.

Also, buy merch. It’s the only way bands make money. Seriously. ❤️

After a very early morning, a long day in a van, and peak sickness – this was the crowd that we played to in Warsaw. By far, one of the most challenging shows of my life from a physical and mental perspective. But I’m smiling and I grew by having worked through these barriers.
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