There is an art to finding a place to sleep with your band for the night. It’s something I’ve been lucky enough to get really good at over the past week – to the point that the only hotel we are going to need in the first nine days of touring is tonight on our nineteen hour drive from Denver to Seattle. The struggle is real, every day you need to make a new friend and charm someone enough to let you into their lives even just for a night. A lot of people have never hosted bands before so it can be hard to try and persuade them. Yet if they are a big enough fan they will oftentimes crack and just want to hang out. Some cities scenes are so weak in a particular genre that the odds are you aren’t going to get anywhere with anyone. People just want to curate their scene. The point being: Finding places to stay is a key skill to learn on tour. Here’s what my time on the road have taught me about it.
I’d like to clarify this article is about going in blind. Oftentimes I can usually do a pretty good job of reaching out to some close friends in local scenes who would be down to put us up for a night. Sometimes though you’re in a city for the first time and you realize that merch is not pulling enough to hook you up with a hotel room. So you find yourself struggling, frustrated and tired with the knowledge that somehow you are going to need to sleep somewhere tonight, and if it’s the van or a Wal Mart parking lot again you might actually break down and cry. I’ve sen it happen, it’s not pretty. You quickly find out that finding good places to sleep is vital for group morale, and the longer you can maintain the better off you will be.
The first thing to realize is that most venues have ‘that guy’ who shows up at every show and takes care of all the bands. This is especially the case in underserviced markets where people want to watch out for their scene even more because it helps them to get better shows and encourages bands to come back. Oftentimes if you ask the local promoter he will know exactly who this person is or even better they may be this person. Underground music venues tend to be pretty ‘with it’ and know their clientele well. They see bands struggling to make a buck every day, and frequently they are too. They want to help artists because if they can get them saying positive things about heir venue, and consequently more bands coming around that it will only help.
Another frequent aid to touring band is openers. Frequently these openers want to hang out with the headliners anyway, just because they are curious about what the bands have to offer and if these bands will help to get them on bigger tours. It might sound stupid and self serving but you have to admire their willingness to fight for what they love. The beauty of this is that it creates a circle. So when those people head on tours of their own then you will be able to scratch their backs. If nothing else, opening bands tend to be pretty tapped into their own scene, for what should be fairly obvious reasons and they will almost always know who in town is down to help bands out.
Be aware though that it can be surprisingly easy to convince someone who has never done it before to host your band. I generally aim for single dudes who look like they work in the trades. They tend to have a certain honesty about them that I really admire. They often will have spare bedrooms for when their army buddies come down to visit or when hey have their kids for the weekend. I don’t mean to generalize, I actually love that idea of existence, and it leads to the kinds of dudes that you can trust. Other people who tend to be good to stay with a try hard yuppies who want to appear as liberals. If you can charm them enough and assure them that you aren’t a dangerous rock and roll band then they are going to be able to help you far more than anyone in a local band. That being said, they are among the hardest group of potential places to stay to score. If you get one though treat them well and try and come back again and again.
The most important thing to realize about finding places to sleep is that confidence is key. Be willing to ask anybody and then be extremely friendly and grateful. You are about to ask a stranger a huge favor, so you might as well do your best to charm them and make them love you before going through their front door. Don’t be afraid to ask though, what’s the worst that someone can do if they can’t host you, say no? You already had no place to sleep. Even if the person you ask can’t, as we’ve previously mentioned the odds are if they are a frequent showgoer they will know someone who can. That’s how scenes have to work.
As one guy I met while staying at his house put it, “We are musicians, we stick together, we trust each other” Which is ultimately what it boils down to. I’m staying in strangers homes every night, frequently with thousands of dollars on my person, because we have no other choice and we are devoted to fighting through he storm to create something greater. In a world where none of us expect to make money and most of the time all I really want is a back massage it seems fairly obvious why I find this whole damn thing so stressful. But ultimately, when you get to sleep on the couch of some dude who played in all your favorite bands, it all becomes worth it.