Noise Tour Guide
By Luis Gonzalez
I caught up with Luis Gonzalez on the Lavas Magmas/Regosphere/The Dios Poject Summer Tour 2010 and asked if he could write a tour guide for me. Here, he covers his own tour experience, offers advice for fellow noisers looking to tour themselves, and reflects on his motivations for doing what he does.
This was my third tour around the two month mark. I went with my friend John (Behavior, What We Do Is Secret) from Portland, OR down to Columbus, OH. John flew home and I picked up my friend Andy (Regosphere, DumpsterScore Home Recordings) in St. Louis, MO and we went from there, up to Portland, ME and down to Florida where we joined up with an old friend Mark (Yellow Crystal Star). Me and Mark toured back to Portland, OR after we dropped Andy off back in St. Louis.
My motivations for touring this time out where a little more complex than usual. I don’t know why but its hard for me to relax and go on vacation in any situation; there’s always some work to do. So touring was not exactly a vacation for me and it definitely wasn’t to make money. Part of it was about strengthening friendships, making new friends and visiting old ones. Part of it was to deliver this thing, this performative moment I’ve been assembling. But I did end up having lots of fun too and on a street soldier budget.
My motivations for touring and ideas of what touring is, meshed pretty well with my tour partners. I’d say we all had some punk and nomadic roots which made hard days and hard times easy to ride with. And luckily we didn’t really have too many disagreements- when they came we just talked it out. I think if you want go get along you have to learn to give in- its important to be open and expressive with each other, and learn to support each other like your a team, and not warring egos under the guise of a band or allegiance. Leave immature passive-aggressive shit home, its useless. Trust in people, believe in people, be okay when they let you down- but don’t be stupid about it either.
There’s never a right time to tour. Summertime is fun, more people are out, and there’s more activity but summertime is also more competetitive, and really hot…maybe gas is more expensive too. It can be hard to get shows in the summertime. In general I’d say 3 acts is just slightly heavy- maybe okay for a short tour and you know all the people putting the shows together…otherwise two acts is enough. To get ready for tour I saved money, sold shit I didn’t need, got foodstamps for groceries, and shopped real hard for deals on anything I needed (craigslist, ebay, msg boards). I tried my best to not do random booking (contacting a random venue) and instead went through friends who had personal contacts I could trust to put a decent show together. I prepared a couple tour only releases which are always fun as hell! One thing I never learn, but hope to do some day is to always buy gear cases! I got my synth soaked in new york when we drove by an open fire hydrant!
For tour, I bought a minivan for $350 on craigslist and had two or three people in the van on any given trip. It was not such a comfortable van to sleep in though and I think next time I’d like to look into having a comprehensive campground list for wherever I’m at. Looking back, I think I also would have sold my PA and invested in a lighter, more expensive PA- the extra cost in gas from the weight could’ve bought me a niiice PA.
For getting around, I used mapquest and an atlas…its really important to be organized with emails, addresses, and phone numbers to contacts and venues- its essential if you smoke weed! As far as eating, I mostly ate grocery store food since I had foodstamps. If you can get an outlet adaptor for your car lighter, you can cook anywhere and have good coffee or tea anytime: you can get a used electric wok, electric water boiler, and travel coffee press for the cost of 3 or 4 waffle house meals. I like to save eating out for special times (like hanging with peeps you may not see for a good while).
From the money I made off of merch and donations I lost just a little bit of money. I didn’t always make enough to get to the next destination. A few shows that took care of us pretty well were Denver, Minneapolis, Boston, Florida, Murfreesboro TN, Fort Collins CO, Dayton OH, Austin, Albuquerque, Buffalo. The biggest losses were in the northeast overall…Baltimore, Philly, DC, New York City, and New England; the area cost the most to be in because of tolls, and mostly paid out zero money, and zero effort. I think whether or not a show is a good or not really depends on who is booking- some people book a show and forget about it, some you can trust to make it the best it can be-having a solid contact you trust is important for a good show! If you’re trying to book a show through someone you don’t know in a place you’ve never been, I think its good to try and get some non-noise locals on the bill. Playing with hardcore, grind, punk bands can be pretty rad. It doesn’t just have to be noise.
From being on the road again, I re-learned that artists aren’t very appreciated in our culture and that categorically, as an artist, you are a social outcast; cops sniff you out and make you feel criminal for sleeping in a car, the dsm-IV considers being nomadic a mental disease, people will book a show for you but not promote it, won’t have a floor for you to sleep on, won’t have any food or money for you- its pretty normal and quite the opposite of how artists are treated in Europe or Japan.
That said, performing every night made me feel great about playing noise. Seeing people all over the country engaging in this subversive moment was awesome! It was also great to try and adapt and reflect the particular environment and temporality I found myself in through sound. Every night had to be a different set. I definitely felt that like many other things, Noise is being appropriated by hipsterish scenes and people who in general come from less of a political or critical or innovative stance, and instead just want to have fun and express themselves-this isn’t necessarily bad, but the latter isn’t really something I’m into. For me art generalized, is a responsibility, not a pleasure-alternative, not a fad.
This tour, I had a few bad sets and it was usually because of some PA issue; either the sound guy kept turning me down and I couldn’t hear myself well, or feedback was such a problem that I couldn’t get my mix in the right zone. Sometimes a broken tape, dead battery or dead cable caused sets to not be as tight. Some of my best sets were towards the end of my tour; by that time I had gotten really comfortable and concise with all of the elements I was using and if something did go wrong, felt pretty good about improvising.
A good show is a good time, whatever that may be. For me its partly about meeting some good people that care a little about what you have to present. Its also about celebrating and having fun so, exciting performances and friendly people are also very cool. I booked mostly through friends or friends of friends, mostly writing emails but occasionally using myspace and websites that archived venue info for a particular city.
There were a handful of bummer turnouts but overall the turnouts were good. The crowds were usually pretty diverse and there was always at least one person that seemed to really appreciate what I was doing. Occasionally there was someone who was appalled…while I was playing in Murfreesboro some frat dude came up to me while I was playing and tried to get me to stop…he shouted in my ear ‘WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS MAN?! THIS ISN’T WHAT WE ASKED FOR! WE CAME TO DANCE!’ I stirred up a lot of people that night for better or worse, and felt pretty accomplished for it.
I think the tour was a success. I got to meet a lot of new people who are doing cool things all over the country and was able to play about 45 shows for about the cost of nothing. I got 150 copies of several releases out to people who appreciated my art…thats pretty rad!
If I did things differently, I probably would have not brought such an old and heavy PA and would have not toured for as long. My advice is if you want to tour, do it. They’ll never be a right time. Start out small, trade with people on the internet to make some friends in new places. SAVE MONEY! Money is the currency of brainwashing- money maps out what we do, where we go, how we relate to the world and its contents; if you can’t control how you spend, and where your money goes, you can’t access your freedom; if you’re addicted to something, slap it into control.
Cops were especially dicks this time out. Security at Mall of America accused me and John of taking video of pillars so that we could blow them up later, Pittsburgh cops threw guns up thinking me and Will/Weak Sisters robbed a gas station, Jersey cops wouldn’t let me and Andy sleep at a rest stop, and Gainesville cops threw my license away saying (wrongly) that my license was suspended…I imagine things are going to get worse for nomadic beings, so if you’re going out on the road, keep it in mind, stay calm, and beat the pigs at their own psychological games. Most of them are a just a little smarter than war-on-terror-parrots and can be easily called out on amendment violations, profiling, etc.
Luis Gonzalez is a noise and video artist based out of Portland, OR and is the man behind Lavas Magmas.