On the Road with the Format: A Chorus of Coughs

Cough, hello, cough.

So, if you’re one of those reading this diary of sorts, you might have already come to the conclusion that touring is just one giant traveling festival of grabass. But what you may not have known is that much like any other festival, this one has its setbacks. Just like Woodstock had its bad acid, our little festival always goes through this one setback. What I’m talking about, of course, is that one week per tour that every single person gets sick.

It’s a lot like a zombie movie; one person gets a cough, everyone else does their best to avoid this person, then slowly, as each day passes, another one goes down. It’s unavoidable. You can take vitamins, you can down Airborne, you can start taking antibiotics, and it doesn’t matter. Eventually it’s your turn. At night, the sleeping quarters of the bus sound like bingo night at a Florida retirement home. As if being sick isn’t enough, the sound of coughing in surround sound doesn’t exactly put you to sleep. And to make it even worse, we are all (with the exception of two) chain smokers (yes, I know, green tour full of smokers, go figure) and when we get sick, we don’t smoke, and when we don’t smoke, we get uptight and cranky. It’s a sure thing — happens every single tour.

So why — the time we are on the East Coast, wives have flown out to stay for the week, girlfriends are riding along, it’s crowded but everyone is happy — does someone have to get the cough? I know where it started, I’m not going to name names, but all was well before the cough entered the bus. We started last week with a day off in New York City. Nor’easter was a giant bust. I remember being told that it was supposed to be “that one storm they based that one movie, The Perfect Storm off of…only…on steroids!!!” I had to go to Worcester on Sunday (April 15), the day the storm was supposed to start, and drove all the way back to NYC in the same day, so I’m pretty sure I covered a lot of ground to make a valid assessment of this storm, and what I saw was pretty fucking weak. The only thing it hindered my girlfriend and I from doing was getting out of the car to go into Dunkin’ Donuts, so we just went through the drive-thru (speaking of which, I’d like to say that I love the East Coast, as if it’s not amazing enough to spend two weeks on the East Coast and only manage to drive, at the most, two hours in between cities, they make your short drive from New York to Vermont to Boston to Jersey that much easier by inserting a million Dunkin’ Donuts in between, and I wouldn’t have a problem stopping at each one).

So, we made the best of Nor’easter Monday in Manhattan by taking Sam (my songwriting counterpart) and his wife to their first Broadway musical. Now I’m not going to name names because I pretty much loved the show we saw (granted the second half was resolved a little quickly and the songs weren’t as good post-intermission), but the lead in the play could not stop spitting all over the place. It was one thing to be singing and spitting, but to be having a quiet conversation on stage and still spitting all over the first seven rows was something else. If anything, this actor’s lips were The Perfect Storm on meth! He was so much worse than Nor’easter. But all that aside, we had a nice time and ended the night getting “douchechills,” celebrating our sound guy’s birthday at some hipster bar in Brooklyn.

Tuesday (April 17) was our own headlining show in Hackensack, NJ. It was fun, we debuted a song we had just recently written and recorded for the “sappy scene” in some movie (more on that soon). I thought it turned out okay for being a song I wrote in 10 minutes, while watching the scene on repeat and trying to figure out what an overdramatic “modern rock” band would do. The answer is always simple — big drums, stupid echo guitar, and an organ — but we actually ended up liking the song, so we spent the last day off in Chicago, rehearsing, and trying to get rid of a lot of those elements and make it more like a song we might write for ourselves. I think we’re getting there, and playing it live on Tuesday was the first step, even though I constantly messed up my instrumental debut on the organ.

Wednesday (April 18) was a random beach town in New Hampshire. Because of the storm, it was pretty much a ghost town. The only really relevant thing was the cough I heard. Thursday (April 19) was our first show in Boston, and at that point, it was too late. Everyone was getting sick, and I was doing my best to avoid it. In fact, I thought I had it beat. I knew we were going to be in Boston for three nights, so I figured I would get a hotel and keep my distance from all the other dudes. The only problem is that my girlfriend had it the worst, and it’s not like I was just going to leave her in the bus while I slept in a plush bed. So with me she came, or should I say “down with her I went.” Friday (April 20), she felt better and had to catch a flight, so of course I spent all day Thursday trying to help her feel better, make her tea, you know, just nice stuff like that. And how does she reward me? She gets me sick and bails. To make matters even worse, we have two shows that day. I’m bad, but I get this way every tour. This is just day one. Tomorrow will be hell.

Saturday (April 21), of course, the fact that I limited my cigarette intake to four the previous day means nothing, nor does the fact that I slept for ten hours in a hotel and took all necessary antibiotics. There is no escaping tour sickness. All the wives and girlfriends left, and they all left us to die together — a chorus of coughs. I barely get through our show with Guster, joking to the crowd about how our bus is sick, as is the “reverb” (non-profit green organization on tour with us) and yet Guster isn’t sick in their hometown. In fact, Guster manages to bring BOB SAGAT out on stage. That is the opposite of sick, and naturally, we don’t get to see it because we are all too busy being bundled up in our bunks. The good news is that it’s a Sunday and we are all starting to feel much better. That and the weather has cleared up, so the chances of a reoccurrence is very, very slim. Looking back it was still a great week.

Yet, I can’t help but wonder if the saliva that omitted from the mouth of that Broadway actor was laced with the common cold.

Something is always laced at the festival.

— Nate

On the Web:
Campus Consciousness Tour website


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