Tour Fatigue, Road-burn, Knackered-ness, “Ready for Bo-Bos”, it’s called many things, but all describe the same thing. I’ve shied away from describing some of the less enjoyable aspects of touring because – well, lets face it, the job we do is amazing and I can’t even bear listening to myself moan about it, let alone imagine how little anyone else would care.
It is, however, an intrinsic part of the touring experience. Just as seaside summer holidays always smell strongly of sun-cream, so too is the entire touring experience often viewed through the soft focus lens of exhaustion. Timezones have a lot to answer for. So too does the fact that the working day produces a ninety minute adrenaline rush that ends around 11pm – making early nights rare, despite all best intentions.
Mix that in with the inevitable round of tour colds and you have an uphill struggle getting out of bed some days. Touring is a huge machine powered for the most part by extraordinary human effort. Every night at around 9pm, there is a show. This will go ahead regardless of how much anyone involved feels as though they’ve been run over by a truck (or 14 of them, in our current case). Taking time out to recover is not in the itinerary.
Touring is also a hugely social environment. There are just short of 100 people travelling with this particular circus. Myself, when I’m tired, I’m grumpy. I’ve been doing this long enough to know this, so I tend to pull myself inwards like a tortoise when I’m not at my best. I’d rather not inflict myself on anyone. In this environment though, that can be difficult. Every area in a venue is a communal space, so sitting on your own and wallowing isn’t really an option.
Luckily, when one person is down, another will be up and the natural balance of the tour-vibe ecosystem is maintained. It only takes one person to say one thing that makes you smile, or to do something that makes you laugh uncontrollably to turn your day around completely. It sounds utterly cheesy to say that of course, but cliches at their simplest, are just oft-repeated truths – and this happens to be true.
A strange thing happens when you go beyond heavy tiredness though and that’s the very distorted and strange world of sleep deprivation and complete exhaustion. Myself, I actually find this stage easier to deal with. Everything seems very slightly ridiculous and amusing for no apparent reason. Work days get boiled down from a huge mass of jobs to do to two simple priorities that are your only concern between opening your eyes in the morning and getting back to bed again:
1. What do I have to do to make the gig happen and not let anyone down?
2. How soon can I sleep?
The other thing that is reassuring about this feeling is that you pretty much know that your body will refuse to let you attempt anything with your next day off but collapsing and recovering. I can happily report that I got the tube home from the last O2 show and have spent little of the two days off that followed doing anything more strenuous than snoring.
I can’t tell how long it’s going to last, but I can honestly say I’m heading off to Belfast today feeling a good deal more alive than I have for some time after a good rest. The end (well, a break at least) is in sight. The London crowds were awesome and the Irish know a thing or two about having a good time, so I reckon we’ll make it to Christmas just fine.