Winter Tour Tips
BY BRANDON STONER / THIEVES & LOVERS
Winter is in full swing and it’s been a particularly brutal one across much of the United States. While sub-zero conditions and heavy snows might be fairly common to touring musicians in other countries, this was a challenging season for us in the States.
I wanted to write an article with some tips for touring during winter, as I’ve done so numerous times both as a performer and as a part of a tour crew and wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way.
If possible, try to work around locations that get slammed by bad winter weather. The mid-western (Chicago...) and northeastern (talking about YOU, Boston!) United States have exceptionally bad weather from January through March (and sometimes even into April!), so if you can consider trying to hit markets that don't feel winter's icy grip as much. Climate is definitely changing, but the southern states are a good starting point.
Winter is perhaps the most unpredictable of all the seasons, and when planning a tour months in advance it is impossible to know what type of weather to expect. But when tour time rolls around, it's critical to stay on top of whatever is happening with the weather. Technology makes this easier than ever before, so download a weather app and enable push notifications.
Don’t be afraid to have to bow out of a show if you can’t get there safely, the promoter and venue will understand. At least you and your gear will live to rock another day.
Tour is war, so keep a road kit of everything you'll need to battle winter. This includes ice scrapers, spray de-icer, kitty litter or something similar (for traction), a shovel, jumper cables, flashlight, and blankets. Make sure your vehicle is serviced and keep an eye on the fluid levels. Speaking of fluids, consider putting in winter blends and fluids that are meant for freezing temperatures.
Winter weather can affect any vehicle in a number of inconvenient and sometimes dangerous ways like…
Deflated or under inflated tires due to losing air pressure
Dead or reduced battery charge
Oil thickening - consider switching to a low viscosity/winter oil type
Frozen fuel line
Technology outages (LCD screens, etc.)
Belts and windshield wipers freezing/cracking
It’s a fair misconception that cold in itself damages gear, because it’s really the drastic change in temperatures from moving gear inside and outside that does the real damage. Here are some tips to keep your gear on the stage and out of the shop.
Detune stringed instruments during transport if they’re going to be in the cold longer than 5 minutes or so. It can help prevents warps and cracks.
Keep your guitars in their cases for 15 minutes when you bring them inside so that the metal and wood has a chance to expand while acclimating to room temperature.
Tubes are glass. Glass and cold don’t mix well. Don’t turn on your tube amp right away after bringing it in from outside. Give it as much time as possible to adjust to the inside, so shoot for at least 15 minutes.
If you’re on the road (not just on tour) it’s a very wise idea to have a subscription to a roadside assistance program like the one that comes with many vehicle manufacturers or one like AAA.
Health is Wealth
Cold and flu season is no joke, and you want your performance to be ON fire, not your body temperature. Don’t neglect your health. Eat well, sleep well, and don’t overdo it with the partying as it compromises the immune system.
We all love to tour, no matter the time of year. The show must go on, and with some preparation and a little bit of luck not even old man winter can stop that. Stay safe out there!