We caught up with real live touring musicians The Avett Brothers, Of Monsters and Men, Less Than Jake, Doomtree, and Idlewild for their most memorable moments on the road. From tales of bird calling bus drivers to 73-year-old philosophers, get ready to live so vicariously. 

Courtesy of Less Than Jake/Alan Snodgrass

Bob the Baptist Bus Driver

As told by Vinnie Fiorello of Less Than Jake

“When you’re first in a touring band, you’re driving around your own van. If you’re lucky enough, you bounce up to a bus. You’re putting your life in the hands of another person while they’re driving and you’re sleeping. Which is kind of a crazy thing to wrap your brain around. I have a story about our third bus driver into touring the U.S. I’m not going to use his real name, but let’s call him Bob. Bob was a very charming, southern man, probably in his early 50s. When I first met him he was nice -- he talked about going to church. He sang gospel hymns.

Maybe a few days into the tour, late at night we stopped at a truck stop. And Bob and I were talking and then he started doing this bird call, like a really amazing bird call. I’d look at him and I couldn’t believe that it was coming out of this guy’s mouth. Apparently, that was his call to servers and waitresses to come over. I turn away, and all of the sudden I look over and Bob’s got the waitress sitting on his lap.

The final drive with Bob was him in the bus in his boxers and a cowboy hat, no shirt and no pants

As the tour goes on and more stories start to come to light, I know, and the rest of us know, that we’re in the midst of a dude that is absolutely out of his mind. For the sake of your readers, I’ll leave a few things out, including a little mishap at the Canadian border. But the final thing for me: we only had a couple more dates left on the tour, and the final drive with Bob was him in the bus in his boxers and a cowboy hat, no shirt and no pants, because the AC was broken.

He went from soft-spoken church-goer to crazy bird calling cowboy driving us back to Florida through the desert in like three weeks. And at that time, we were so green, that we didn’t know you could just call the bus company if you wanted another driver, so we just took the insanity as it was coming.”

Courtesy of Less Than Jake/Alan Snodgrass

Stage Dives Through the Years

As told by Vinnie Fiorello of Less Than Jake
 
“You never know what’s going to happen or not happen when you hit the stage. We’re no strangers to 'left-of-center' things happening up there. We’ve had fire breathers, circus people, etc. One night we’re in the middle of our set in Chicago, I think, and out of nowhere a prosthetic leg gets thrown up on stage. And we’re like ‘whose leg is this?’ Then we see this guy start to climb up on stage, and we realize it’s that guy’s prosthetic leg. We’re mid-song and he runs over, grabs the leg and holds it over his head like some kind of weird victory thing, and then proceeds to stage dive right back into the crowd.”

Courtesy of Doomtree/Zoe Prinds

The Dalai Lama’s Birthday

As told by P.O.S. and Dessa of Doomtree

P.O.S.: “We got to play Glastonbury this year, which was incredible. Getting done with our set, we decided to walk around in the mud for a while and just randomly pick a direction. It’s not for lack of interest, but we rarely get to see other bands’ sets because we’re rushing around all the time at festivals.

But this time, ended up at a Patti Smith set. We look up and she was singing happy birthday to the Dalai Lama. That’s the only time we sang happy birthday to the Dalai Lama, and it was at Glastonbury.”
 
Dessa: “Yeah, we were walking up, and she was like ‘okay, I have a special guest,’ and it ended up being the spiritual leader of Tibet.”

[He] bought me a drink of whatever clear delicacy was common there… this gasoline cocktail.

The Dutch Spinoza Scholar

As told by Dessa of Doomtree
 
“We did a tour that took us through the Netherlands. Normally we play 6-7 nights per week, particularly in Europe because money is tight. But I snuck off to a bar by myself. An older gentleman -- like much older, an elderly gentleman -- bought me a drink of whatever clear delicacy was common there… this gasoline cocktail. And it turned out he was this Spinoza scholar. So the next three hours I kind of spent geeking out and learning about this particular brand of philosophy (which was something I studied in college). I felt the most connected to this 73-year-old chain smoker in Amsterdam. He ended up being my best friend for exactly one evening.”

Courtesy of Doomtree/Nate Ryan

Haircuts and Birthday Tattoos… in an RV

As told by P.O.S. and Dessa of Doomtree
 
Dessa: “Stef [P.O.S] and the guys often meet talented tattoo artists and invite them into the bus or the backroom after sets. So he and Mike Mictlan have a bunch of stories about getting tattoos after hours. Stef is also really good at meeting hair dressers, like texting someone to bring a set of shears to the hotel and cleaning us up before out shows.”

I got a tattoo of a little caricature of him wearing an old-timey muscle man shirt doing a handstand. 

P.O.S.: “Yeah, one of the tattoos -- it was my friend Isaac’s birthday. So, I got a tattoo of a little caricature of him wearing an old-timey muscle man shirt doing a handstand. We get these in RVs, or our tour bus when we have that. Sometimes it’s in hotels or shops after hours. Really anywhere we can.”
 

The Federally Investigated Cupcakes

As told by Dessa of Doomtree
 
“There’s this place called Crunkcakes in Washington, D.C. I first encountered these cupcakes because the proprietress was kind enough to drop off some cupcakes for me backstage. I took one bite, and had to know where they came from, because they were so full of booze. I found out later she had been under a congressional investigation because of the alcohol content in them. And that, in my opinion, is like the ultimate recommendation for a cupcake. Now, every time we go through D.C. I’m less excited about our show than I am about when I’m going to get to have these cupcakes."

Courtesy of Of Monsters and Men/Meredith Truax

The Last-Minute Roommates

As told by Brynjar Leifsson from Of Monsters and Men

“Once at Lollapalooza in Chicago… we were playing, and a giant inflatable birthday cake crowd surfed onto the stage and hit our keyboard player. Even with that, the weirdest thing that’s happened to me on tour was: once in Washington D.C., after we checked into the hotel, I headed straight to my room to shower. As I’m getting out, I hear these voices and I started to think to myself, ‘wow these walls are really thin.’  As I walk out of the bathroom, I am face-to-face with a family that had accidentally been given keys to the wrong room.”

Courtesy of Idlewild

The Last-Minute REM Jam

As told by Rod Jones of Idlewild
 
"[The coolest moment] was the REM tour. We had been getting to know the guys and really wanted to jam on stage with them. In classic Idlewild disorganization, we had no albums with us to give to the band so they could learn a song and we had a substitute drummer Les from Alabama with us. As a joke, we had learned "Sweet Home Alabama" to make him feel at home.  We asked [R.E.M. bassist] Mike Mills if he knew it and he said ‘we get taught that at school where we grew up!’ What followed was him onstage playing piano to an extremely disheveled cover version, with us in front of a Millennium Stadium crowd in Cardiff.”

Courtesy of The Avett Brothers

The Cabin in the Woods

As told by Bob Crawford of The Avett Brothers

“I booked our first-ever tour on the Internet in the summer of 2002. We toured for, like 21 days… and it was a lot of camping, a lot of staying with friends, and a lot of staying with strangers. We ended the tour with $1,000 in our pockets and $1,000 in the band account.

We were very thrifty. The rule was… every day we bought a loaf of bread, peanut butter, honey, and bananas. And we had one each for lunch. And we could each spend $5 on dinner, and would do cheap breakfast bars to start the day. If we didn’t have a place to stay, we camped. We drove only a blue pickup truck. It was very renegade.

We were all forced to cram up on the living room floor... spooning with this dog.

On the last leg of the tour, I left my tentpoles in Poughkeepsie, so I had to sleep in the back of the truck for more than a few nights, which was pretty painful. But then we stayed Athens, OH. There were a lot of strange commons and hippie communes out in Athens. We played with a bluegrass band called the McGovern Brothers. One of them let us stay at his place. And he lived in a cabin in the woods with no running water. His big shaggy dog slept in the living room. And we were all forced to cram up on the living room floor pretty much spooning with this dog. It was me, Seth, the dog, and then Scott.

This cabin was on the same property as a house, and according to the guy who lived there, this pregnant woman had once lived in the cabin while she was working on building the house. It was back when the communes and communities were just coming to be. It was definitely the weirdest sleeping arrangement on that tour.”

Courtesy of Doomtree/Evan Kaucher

Final Musings 

“When you ask permission to do something on the road, then you're getting the opportunity to be told 'no.' If you don’t ask, you get to do it until somebody asks you not to."
-Vinnie Fiorello of Less Than Jake. Stay up-to-date on their tour here.
 
“I think no matter the genre of music, whether rap, mix, punk rock, metal, the measure of a good festival is its catering. If the thing is organized well, it’s a lot better for a band”
-P.O.S. of Doomtree. They’re currently touring the U.S. -- check dates here.
 
“No matter how much you prepare, tour often ends up feeling like a school field trip.”
-Brynjar Leiffson from Of Monsters and Men. Grab tickets for their European tour here.
 
“Touring is a chance to see familiar faces and experience familiar things in cities all over. For me, the best part of touring is going back.”
-Bob Crawford of The Avett Brothers. Check out the band on select dates through the rest of the year.
 
"Touring really is like a summer camp. You get to catch up with bands you’ve known or bands you respect as if you were old friends.”
-Rod Jones of Idlewild. Grab tickets to the band’s first American tour in 10 years right here.

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