Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist, and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her; confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
Dear Fan, I am considering taking my girlfriend on tour with me and my band. In the band it is me and three other guys. It will be a six-week jaunt, we are traveling in a van. I asked the guys in the band if my GF could come, and they all gave a lukewarm "yes." I've heard warnings about partners on tour and what a bad idea it is, but I figure we could use the help with merch and driving. She isn't super-close with the guys in the band, but she likes them, and they like her. I'm a little worried that having her along may be distracting, but again, the help that she will provide maybe worth the distraction? What do you think? -N.B.
Dear N.B. Before we get into whether this is a good or bad idea, why don't you just have her come along for a week? That way it's more adventure, less slog. If you discover it's a terrible idea three days in, everyone can rest assured that she's taking the Greyhound home once you get to Pittsburgh. And if it's going bad on day 13, you could be broken up by end of the tour.
Part of the reason inviting partners on the road has a bad rap is because it'll exacerbate any pre-existing issues you have. Either of you the jealous type? That'll make for some fun screaming fights at 3 a.m. while the rest of the band loads the van. And the day after? OMG, who doesn't love a long drive with a frosty, resentful couple?
If it is too late to backpedal on the offer of six weeks, you need to consider some factors, especially if she is not a musician or has never been on tour herself. (I assume that that may be the case largely because I cannot imagine a musician willingly riding along for six weeks of her boyfriend's van tour) Does she know that tour is super-boring and involves a lot of waiting and late nights and terrible food and sleeping on floors that are crusted with doghair where she will lay awake praying she is not, at that very second, contracting scabies?
How resilient and social is she? Is she a born road dog? Is she gonna flip when it's your guys' turn to sleep in the van? Is she going to expect you to hang out with her after the show? What if you wanna stay out til 5 a.m. smoking dirty j's with the headlining band -- or something else that she'd otherwise not be privy to if she were home?
What makes long tours bearable is getting on stage to play every night, the hard work of investing in your dream. Sure, working merch gives her something to do, but for women, it is sometimes a trap where you get cornered by lonely fans who hit on you, a captive audience for their small talk. You need to think about how different an experience the road and shows can be for women, because if she is not aware and prepared for the realities of tour, it could be a bummer for everyone.
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The point of tour is playing music, making connections, getting new fans -- being distracted from that work defeats the point. Tour is monotonous -- bring a book. There is so much room for weirdness and expectations to get in the way of everyone's goals and good times, it's a dicey prospect at best. If you want to go on tour with your girlfriend, start a band with her. Either she is your woman or your roadie, don't try to make her be both. -Fan