Beat the Street Tour BusesWhen someone says that they have read my blog from left to right and top to bottom, I take it to mean that I need to get to work and get some more updates written!  The one thing that has come up in conversation lately is life on the tour buses.  Most tours, we travel on a convoy of custom built tour buses with living areas, bunks, toilets and a small kitchen.  Some tours are all flying due to scheduling and others are a combination of the two.  On the Cher tour we even took a train, with Cher, from Moscow to St Petersburg… a fun journey.

The placement of personnel on the buses is strategically arranged according to department, load in and load out timings.  For example, Catering loads out during the show, whilst everyone else is still working and therefore ours was normally the first bus to pull out after a show. Teamed with us was normally Video (Vidiots) being that they were generally the next ones out, and possibly Wardrobe.  (Catering needed to be at the next gig first to get breakfast up so we needed to be the first bus out.)

The routine after cleaning and packing our rig at night, once the road cases were all pushed to our truck, was to get our gear and head for whatever showers we could find.  If the dressing rooms were free… yay… it was a race to get there first before any other department knocked off and got in before us.  Most tours are far more male then female heavy so getting in to shower before all the boys was the most desirable option.  You can imagine a crew of 60 – maybe 7-8 of which were women, all clammering to find a shower at the end of the night.  And of course, everyone tried to get in to the artist dressing room for their shower as that would be the only one in the venue that had had only one person shower in it and was spotlessly clean.

Part of my job was to make food for the buses every night so that when the crew finished work, about 7 hours after they last ate, there would be something fresh to eat.  So, we made sandwiches every single day – enough for every member of the crew – and put them on the buses along with chips, chocolate, fruit, beer, wine, ceral, milk, fresh bread and sandwich fillings, spreads etc.  The buses had toasters and some had toasted sandwich makers  so on long drives when we sat on the buses throughout the day, we could make our own food.

My routine after my shower was to get on the bus, track down my well hidden cheese and onion sandwich (makes my mouth water all over again!) and a bottle of red wine.  Most nights I got 2/3 of the way through that first glass of wine then fell in to my bunk exhausted, to try and get as much sleep as possible before  a. the vidiots got on the bus and started partying or b. we pulled up at the next venue ready to do it all over again.

My first ever tour was slightly different however, as the only girl on the Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals tour (2003) when I got on the bus at night, I was handed a tiara, made a drink and given foot massages.  Ahhhh, life doesn’t get much better.  I always had company on days off, always had a drinking buddy and had a LOT of fun.  (And Trouble was never too far away!)

Anyway, my bunk was always my sanctuary.  A small but dark, cosy place where the chaos and noise of the day were no more and you could no longer hear a truck driver moan about the contents of his lunch baggie.  About the same length as a single bed, approximately 80cm deep and wide, if you were a restless sleeper you would either fall out or end up covered in bruises.  There was nothing more than a little light and an air vent in your bunk and the foam mattresses were only about 10cm think but it was still heaven at the end of a 17 hour day.  And as the bus drove through the European countryside, the gentle movement was as comforting as any.  I learnt to sleep when the bus was stationery, moving at speed or trying to navigate the small lanes and roundabouts of a European city.

There is always a downside though, right?  Well, for me that was sharing a toilet on a moving bus with up to 13 men.  They are supposed to sit down, but don’t.  They would get drunk, go to the toilet and yes, wee would end up absolutely everywhere.  For me, getting up at 4am to use the loo was one of the worst things about touring.  Especially if I got all the way down there and realised that I had bare feet.  And that is a thought that I should probably leave you with rather than elaborate on.


2 Responses to “Life on the Buses”

  • Hi Jo, love your blogs, funny and I can hear your voice strongly throughout, good job, beautiful!! My husband used to work for Contiki (for 12 years) and he also has some funny little stories to tell too. What a way to live- do you miss it, in some ways?

  • Janette Clark:

    Love this addition to your blog, Jo! You’ve given such a fabulous insight into life on those incredibly outiftted buses .. a toaster indeed! A busy, energised life, with interesting people all around you .. fun! Shame about the on board loo …
    Thanks for contining to share your life as a roadie.
    Janette xx

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