Summer Tour Diary - June 21 (Day 1): Hitting the Road

Here's my first entry is a Tour Diary I'm going to attempt to write while on the road with Jessica Lynn for her summer "After Party" tour of Europe.  Not sure how regularly I'll be able to post, but I'm going to attempt to share an inside look at some of the details of what it's like to be on the road, traveling with a band.

I don’t really know how others feel before the start of a tour, but it’s always been a mixed bag for me. On one hand, there’s the excitement that comes with the start of an adventure - the new cities we get to visit, the new people we get to meet, the fun of traveling with great friends with whom I get to share incredible new experiences. And then, there are the shows themselves…the audiences, the response, and (hopefully) leaving an audience feeling great about what they just saw. 

But on the other hand, there are the insanely long hours spent traveling, the exhaustion, the things that inevitably go wrong, the difficulty in saying “so long” to family and friends that I won’t see for a long time. And it was a mix of all of these things that greeted me at the start of Jessica Lynn’s “After Party Summer Tour” of Europe and the UK. 

So, as we’ve done at the start of every tour, we met at Jessica’s house a couple of days ago and piled into a large van with all our gear and luggage. After 2 hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic getting out to JFK, we checked in to our flight, only to be met with the longest security line I’ve ever seen. Apparently, all of their screening gear went down due to a power issue just before we arrived, and although it wasn’t working for only 20 minutes, that was long enough to cause a serious backup. 

But when we finally got through over an hour later, fellow guitarist Steve Sterlacci (who is also Jessica’s husband) bought a bottle Knob Creek whiskey at the Duty Free Shop, and we all had a little “attitude adjustment” at the gate (thanks, Steve!). And it was needed, because what came next was no fun at all. 

One of the biggest issues with flying when you’re in a band is the ability to take your guitars on board the aircraft with you. If these instruments are checked, there’s a good possibility they will come out damaged on the luggage carousel - no matter how good the cases are. Because of this, the FAA has regulations that allow musicians to take their guitars aboard US based carriers, but we were flying Alitalia to Milan…and although we had assurances from many people we spoke with at Delta (who booked the flight) and Alitalia (who operated it), when it was time to board we were suddenly told there was “no more room” for our guitars. Interestingly, this “no space” information came before anyone at all boarded the plane. 

We called “bullshit.” We argued. We asked to speak to supervisors. And then the supervisor’s bosses. After a half-hour raised voices, aggravation and double-talk from the airline…we finally won. We got the guitars in a closet on board, and to add insult to injury, when we got to our seats the bin above Jessica was completely empty, with plenty of room for a guitar there. All of this nonsense and frustration was created by Alitalia for no reason at all. Not a great way to treat their customers. 

As a band, we are extremely fortunate to work with a number of companies – from gear manufacturers, to hotels, to clothing companies – who support us in many ways…and we are very public in our support of them and ask our friends to do the same. Conversely, when you screw us…we’re equally public about what you’ve done. So with that in mind…I will NEVER fly Alitalia again after this tour under any circumstances. They lied to our faces, and treated us (and other passengers) with total disregard. Mobs of people were waiting to get on the plane, which first started boarding at the time it was supposed to take off. And while everyone was standing on line for an hour, there was not one announcement about the delay, nor any apology. They simply could not have cared less…so Alitalia gets added to the “black list.” 

But after that, at least it was a smooth flight. We all slept only a few hours and arrived rather exhausted, but excited, in Milan.

An hour bus ride later and we found ourselves at the “Cowboy Guest Ranch” in Voghera, which is not only where we are staying, but it’s also where we are playing at the Voghera Country Festival on Friday night. 

This place is about as authentic a “dude ranch” as you’ll find anywhere. Horses, stables, a completely realistic Western feel (which we know well from the touring we’ve done in the US)…and such a wonderful and hospitable group of people. We had lunch (including getting to try some great local “Piemontese” Italian beer) with the organizers and owners, got a tour, and were made to feel very much at home. 

Although we’re all pretty shot, we still met up at 8 pm for a big group dinner – the first of many on this tour. 

As I write this, I’m in my bed in my “Montana” hotel room, and about to pass out. And what’s cool is that we have a full day off tomorrow before we do our first show, which is at the Voghera Country Festival.

We’re probably going to spend our day off sightseeing and shopping in Milan. It’s always great to have another full day to settle in and get over jet lag, before the madness (and fun) of playing and traveling night-after-night really sets in. 

As I said earlier, as the tour progresses ’ll endeavor to post regular updates here…so stay tuned if you’d like to follow our adventures on the road along with us.  And, if you’re reading this someplace in Europe or the UK that we’ll be visiting over the next two months (tour schedule is here), it would be great to meet you at one of our shows! Hope to see you there…