Missives from Deon Toh, now on tour in Tokyo. Here’s the first one …
There’s a myriad of reasons why music acts choose to tour; there are also reasons why music acts choose to tour for longer or shorter periods. I’m not going to pretend to know all of them, but what I can share with you are the unique experiences that my band and I soak in.
Before I continue, let me bombard you with a list of caveats,
1. Yes, I am a singer-songwriter act that performs in various instrumentation permutations dependent on the demands of the stage.
2. When possible, I prefer to perform with a full band, in order for audiences to hear the complete arrangement of my music – something that the producers and I painstakingly put together from the birth of a tune.
3. When I refer to “my band”, I’m talking about my rather fixed line up of band members, consisting of individuals that mean more than musicians to me; we are family.
4. As such, my social media handle of @deontheband was really crafted to acknowledge the combined effort that drives the music act.
Touring. In my context, touring brings my musical family together. This togetherness strengthens collective understanding that manifests itself on stage; in the studio, our shared experiences provides the fabric of which we sew arrangements together, and ensures that emotions flow in unison. The glue that is our love for music is further cemented by hardened friendships. As we started to leave school and enter working/corporate lives, we are allowed less time to tour, which makes touring even more precious.
We play hard, and work even harder. After all, the impetus of playing music at all is because we intend to enjoy ourselves. Similar to how touring is not all play, touring isn’t all work. We’ve had our fair share of golden moments, and witnessed the harsh contrast of dark and dull hours.
The most recent memory being Jie (lead guitarist) spraining his back minutes before our set, as he attempted to shift his amp on stage. He played through a 30 minute set in blinding pain (I had to activate his pedals for him), rooted to one spot, and performed like a champ. The moment we completed the set, I ran to grab our van and rushed him to the nearest hospital in foreign unfamiliar lands. We took turns dozing off on hospital chairs while waiting for him till 3 a.m. Thank you Canadian Music Week 2015.
Experiences like this make us tighter. I know my guys have my back (as we had his) regardless of good or bad times. And I can do my job as a songwriter and band leader in peace.
Touring isn’t easy. We function in a cacophony of roles, sometimes overlapping, sometimes based on no experience at all. Stage manager, roadie, tour manager, merchandise crew, videographer, photographer, sound man, stage hands, musicians – we are these roles and more, 24/7. It’s tough, it’s rough, but it’s worth it. The satisfaction is immense when we share laughter with our audiences, when we acknowledge applause from strangers, and when we keep our hearts warm with each other’s company.
So as we landed in Tokyo, I felt a familiar squeeze at the bottom of my gut. It could have been the changing air pressure my stomach was getting used to. But I chose to believe it to be a cocktail of excitement, fear, anxiety, and positive stress from the great unknown. New experiences, and new memories.
Memories. Yes, we do it for the music. But more importantly, we do it for the memories that music affords.