And now, time for some actually useful advice from seasoned road dog and tour manager to the stars (the Hold Steady, Drive-By-Truckers, and othersbut who’s asking?) Dave Burton. Today’s inquiry: How to tour during covid-19?

You’re no longer on tour. After spending the better part of two years splayed out on the sofa in the Heisman pose, pining for more Phoebe Waller–Bridge and the penultimate Peaky Blinders, it's time to go make the donuts. You’ve picked your nose in Poughkeepsie, NY ‘til the cows have come home. You’ve sent out more resumes than you can count and did a coin toss between the U.S. postal service and a white dude’s taqueria, and opted for the latter as your professional pivot. When the touring finally starts off again, you’re vaccinated, boosted, and ready to roll.

But it ain’t til the end of the pandemic until you get back in the saddle for a week in the upper Midwest. After all the over-priced covid tests, double-masking, hyper-diligence, and delta avoidance, you’ve managed to stay footloose and rona free, and plan to stay that way.

Your first proper tour culminates with the Omicron variant kicking down the doors.  The routing is drawn through all of COVID-ia. You are prepared with an army’s worth of KN95 masks and rapid tests to match. You call all of  your cronies to gauge their covid protocols. The gamut ranges from EMTs and covid compliance officers to a weekly test of one person in the van, thinking if one’s got it, they all do.

After spending the better part of two years splayed out on the sofa in the Heisman pose, pining for more Phoebe Waller–Bridge and the penultimate ‘Peaky Blinders,’ it’s time to go make the donuts

You and the group collectively work for the greater good: wear the mask, don’t dine inside, no epic nights in Atlanta’s infamous strip club the Clermont lounge, no tonsil hockey right now. You spend a calendar month anxious about the coco, paying too close attention to social media and all the tours that were canceled. You double down and you make it to the finish line COVID free, a month of touring put safely to bed with nary a scare.

With a month off, you try to maintain the status quo. Are hazmat suits a thing yet? Spit guards? Do The Flaming Lips offer those human bubbles for a group rate? You see COVID everywhere. All the tours are losing members. Tour managers are playing bass, bass players are playing drums, sound people are packing the van. It’s comical, it’s beautiful, it’s life.

You are back out again, five weeks starting with a week of hometown shows. You try to close the backstage entirely, but the rider spiders (people) make it through the cracks. Colleagues are calling it incredulous that their dressing rooms are open to the great unwashed population. You march further into COVID-ia, parts of the world with less masks, less local mandates, and more tour managerial tyranny. You trundle towards the U.S./Canadian border, fill out all the apps, and do some necessary surveillance testing. You are warned that Toronto is a hot spot, so you double bag it all. You worry about everything. You push the barricades further from the stage and send non-compliant locals home.

The concerns continue. You dole out pre-arrival negative tests, you carry more PPE in your suitcase than socks and jocks. You instill “mask it or casket” edicts. You go from club to hotel to an outdoor breakfast to club to coffee to club to hotel ad infinitum. The mask stays on, backstage stays closed. You research train and bus schedules to Buffalo, New York. You make it back to the shack safely. Everywhere is COVID, but it ain’t in you.

Or is it? You’ve got 72 hours at home before heading out again. You test negative at home each day. You feel like shit and blame it on allergies. You hide out. You feel worse each day. You wake up, hose off, and call a LYFT to the airport. You grab a rapid and test positive. You take another, and the two lines appear again. You are screwed. There will be no Delta skymiles this weekend. You email your team. “I’ve got the fucking coco,” you say, and spend the next three days filling the fill in tour manager’s responsibilities from afar.  It’s a murphy’s law tour in a murphy’s law life.

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