Ah the West. That beautiful land where thousands migrated over the generations, and still do in the hopes of a better tomorrow. There’s been a lot that I’ve learned now on the most brutal part of our tour (I blame crappy routing) but now that we are in the West the good friends we meet and make in this land of milk and honey are worth the punishing drives. I always forget that the West coast is geographically one of the most beautiful parts of the world and the inhabitants know it. It’s easy to get lost in the beauty out here, but its of course the people of this blessed land who you want to find out about and learn how to market your tours to.
The first thing to realize about folks on the West Coast is that they are chilled out. Chilled out to the point that it will drive Easterners crazy. I remember sitting in the bank the other day while the woman at the till spent twenty minutes counting our money. The prevailing attitude here seems to be ‘We’ll get to it when we get to it’ and if you try to pressure them, they will snap back at you. While on the one hand this can be reassuring in stressful situations, it’s also more than a little frustrating when people just don’t feel the need to get back to you, or seem to think that showing up an hour late to something is no big deal. The few times I’ve had serious issues with West Coast people shit got weird fast. You need to be ready for this mental and emotional break. It makes me wonder if maybe there’s a little something more to this California air then we were initially told about!
On the plus side is the fact that the people here tend to be significantly more affluent than in other parts of the country. Where in the Midwest I met people who sold blood plasma to go to the show, the West Coast generally has a lot more cash to hand and that can significantly boost merchandise sales. I know some bands who actually will mark prices up on their West Coast because the purchasing power is so much higher. I’m not sure if I would go out and do that, but I can certainly understand why a band might be a little more comfortable charging $15 rather than $10 a record, especially if the tour is West Coast only. Taking advantage of this affluence through increased merch sales and oftentimes higher guarantees is a key aspect to progress touring the West Coast.
Of course this affluence is a double edged sword. Gas tends to be a little higher here (Except in Oregon, God bless Oregon) and food generally costs a fair bit more (I’m looking at you 10$ burrito). As for hotels, you can pretty much forget it, it’s brutal. These are things that make the touring out here quite a bit more difficult. I mean, the costs aren’t prohibitively higher, but you definitely need to be aware of this difficulty when tackling the west. The higher prices are going to have to be a core element of your planning. Sure rich folks might dump an extra $200 at your merch table, but if that extra money is just going straight into your gas tank then you need to question if it’s truly worth it.
The final point I’d like to raise about these Golden West coast highways is that by Thor are they LONG. I know that if you want to hit secondary markets and stuff you can probably shorten the drives to four or five hours between stops, but typically you are looking at least a few ten hour rides. This can be fine because bonding with your bandmates is fun and enlightening, but still, it’s brutal. The added problem of actually GETTING to the West (With Tengger Cavalry we had a day off to move from Denver to Seattle which was… not fun) doesn’t make things any easier. You will find yourself going in exhausted into one of the hardest parts of the touring experience. I know that tour is supposed to be about long drives and short nights, but still, be safe guys!
At the end of the day, the West is an amazing place to tour. People will just give out with you and there doesn’t seem to be too much pressure to force anything brutal. That being said, folks come out here to ‘make it’ and you need to be ready for that kind of ethos when you start touring. It can seem that everyone, especially in Southern California, is only in it for themselves. A higher level of professionalism and dedication can be required, and diving into the West can at least initially be daunting. Still, as I drive along here and take in these stunning vistas its suddenly worth the lack of sleep and crushing despair, we are here for the fight, and the West brings on a wonderful challenge.