This is the easy one, the one people love doing, although some might continue to argue that West Coast is the best coast. It feels weird to write about this since I’ve spent so much time touring up and down it. The thing is, with a national tour on the East Coast there is no reason you should have more than a four hour drive on any given day. This isn’t all – the East Coast is fairly affluent so you can expect solid merch sales all around, and because markets are so close together if you have a superfan or two then you can be pretty well assured that they will try to make it out to multiple shows. In other words – the East Coast represents all you should want from the touring experience – even if Virginia seems to go on forever. It’s the hallowed ground for many touring bands and the brief bit of respite that you will get before diving deep into the existential and hellish crisis that touring the center of the country can represent.
I think one of the big frustrations of touring the East Coast is that things are significantly more ‘urban’ in the traditional sense of the term. This can be fine if you manage to avoid traffic and generally rude people, but if you have to face both of those brutal realities then you are going to need to rejigger a good chunk of your touring ethos. Beyond that, the East Coast, especially in the north sees higher costs for gas and food. All of these things can make touring the East Coast a grueling endeavor, even if the drives aren’t quite as hellish as the ones that you would have to make when you cross the country. I want to pick these things apart to help you guys out – it may be the easiest coast to navigate but it doesn’t mean that it is going to be a breeze.
The real thing to be afraid of is also a concern on the West Coast – traffic. Traffic is what’s going to kill your band again and again. You need to regularly budget at least an extra half hour or hour, especially for big hubs. One of the major issues is that if you are showing up anywhere after 3:30 or 4PM then you are going to end up absolutely screwed. You might not think that the traffic around Asheville, North Carolina could possibly be that bad, but then you get there with only fifteen minutes to spare and there’s fucking construction going on and now you won’t get a chance to soundcheck and have to load right onto stage.
Beyond this – while you might have had your heart warmed by the kindness of the Midwest or the beauty of Southern hospitality, on the East Coast more urban attitudes prevail and that isn’t always a good thing. I’m not saying people on the East Coast are all dicks, in fact I quite like a lot of them, I’m just saying that New Yorkers have a reputation for a reason. This doesn’t mean it’s necessarily harder to find places to stay, but it means that people are not going to go out of their way to help you the way that they might elsewhere. Furthermore, since it’s so densely populated the houses tend to be smaller, leading to a greater likelihood that you will just end up snuggling up next to your bandmates on some dingy hardwood floor.
I want it to be clear I don’t think the East Coast is just a nightmarish hell hole. There is quite a bit to enjoy about it, beyond what I outlined in the first paragraph. For example, as with the West Coast there tends to be better overall fast food options – this might seem like a small point to you, but when you’ve only eaten McDonalds for a month, easy access to a Chipotle is going to be a high priority. Beyond that – people tend to have a lot more money on the East Coast. A lot of kids come out for college and then stay, using their fancy college based incomes to fund the arts for a good part of their twenties before settling down and having kids… or whatever the fuck it is that rich white people do. There is a reason we have the stereotype of the rich New Englander, and some of those people are really into independent music and will dump cash into it, take advantage of that!
The East Coast is an interesting place to navigate. It’s a place that’s going to bless you richly, but also a place that will be a little weird. It brings its own set of problems, many of which you might not totally think are problems until you’re stuck in the middle of them. Sure it might be easier overall, but I would strongly recommend you don’t let your guard down. Things can happen that might surprise you and leave you more fucked over than you could possibly imagine. You’ll find crazed rednecks, rich white people and dumb college students all within a several mile radius, so if you’re not ready to embrace that twisted reality and accept it for the inherent shit within then you will have a bad time. So sit back and enjoy those short drives – you deserve them, just don’t let it get to your head!