Tour Tales # 1

TOUR TALES # 1

If I had a paragraph to describe glory in my own words, my mind would immediately jump to life on the road as an independent musician.

There are few things in Western culture that can duplicate the thrilling sensation of satisfaction and reward while gaining almost nothing in return… I say that last sentence with as much warm-hearted inflection as possible. The risk is immeasurable, the distances ride nigh on forever, the tour vehicles usually built of nothing more than duct tape and bristol board, as it would seem. But the experience, man… one could fill the void of a life of solidarity in a single weekend, or at least acquire it’s taste. Playing from your heart [almost] every night to an audience that slowly swells in bright-eyed loyalty along with sheer numbers with each sweep of the continent you make. Meeting new individuals, trying new foods, casting your gaze on many of nature’s beautiful vistas… They are all drops in the bucket of our lives.

They say that wisdom comes with age, and I agree with that statement from a sight lacking of any peripherals whatsoever. I would argue that wisdom comes from experience, as my experiences have built me a fountain of wisdom to draw upon in nearly every situation I find myself within as well as a foundation on which I can exist.

If I had a paragraph to describe glory in my own words, I would then smile and laugh, as I could not possibly fit my entire description into a single paragraph.

This tale begins much like many of the tales of glory, lowliness and general neutrality: from within the confines of a tour vehicle…

Motoring along the Trans-Canada highway through the Canadian Prairies is usually a task devoid of any labour beyond keeping your eyes open. As long as you have petrol in the tank, your foot to the floor and can fit the width of your vehicle within a space as wide as a city bus is long, then you only have a 15+ hour drive until you see mountains beginning to loom on the horizon. The highway is mostly a straight line, that occasionally veers to avoid the odd farmhouse or the railroad that runs parallel to it. You can almost see the curve of the Earth along several higher stretches of this place, and the view of the sky is immense.

To say this drive is an exhilarating one would be reserved to only the most creative handful of people. Or those with a really sweet entertainment system installed in their van.

I remember my first drive across the Prairies. It was midsummer, bug season, 36 degrees celsius, and every person in that van had only begun to get on everyone else’s nerves. We had no room to stretch our legs, the AC didn’t work in the van (they never do). It was… glorious.

But let’s fast forward to April of 2015. I was fronting Vesperia as we toured the *entirety* of Canada with a Finnish band called Kalmah. I can only imagine what bizarre things a rugged Canadian man would encounter in Finland, but I doubt the thoughts were very different from within the minds of our Finnish friends.

That particular night of the tour had us stationed at The Exchange in Regina, which is the capital of Saskatchewan. I’d like to say that The Exchange is the capital of metal music in Saskatchewan, but my knowledge of that province and it’s metal scene are limited to my brief tenures there, along with its potash exports.

The show went as well as any of us could hope for, and our van’s ‘check engine’ light had finally stopped flashing – relinquishing its efforts at alerting us to smolder into a beautiful bright amber in the darkness of the growing Saskatchewan night. Beauty comes in many forms.

We finished our after show pizza after packing our gear and then took off for an overnight drive to Lethbridge in hopes of getting our van repaired. With any struggling tour van, most of those experienced will jump at any small noise or turn the CD player down to figure out what is wrong. What I heard in that instance of us driving into the heart of downtown Regina begun as a grinding noise. It sounded like our muffler had fallen off… man was I wrong…

I had begun to tell everyone to shut the fuck up from their revelling so I could hear the noise when it begun to get louder and louder. It was then I saw police cruiser lights behind me, which I immediately began to pull off to the side of the road for.

At that moment, we all stared wide-eyed out of the van as a pickup truck barrelled past us, front tires both blown out and the muffler dragging on the ground (I knew the sound!), creating a bright plumage of sparks trailing high and far behind it. They were maybe going 80 or so… Which is pretty good if you’re missing half your tires.

Then one, two, five, eight police cruisers also blasted past us in pursuit of the truck. A dozen more then emerged from both sides of an intersection ahead to block the way. Amazingly, two police helicopters also circled ahead.

Whoever was driving that pickup truck must have gotten WAY too carried away playing Grand Theft Auto. That would have been a full 3 stars at least. Maybe 4, but we couldn’t tell if there were any undercover police. I’ll stick with 3 stars for this story.

Snapping out of my amazement, I drove on. A police barricade officer had us go down a sidestreet and we were soon on the Trans-Canada and onward to Lethbridge. We found out the next night that the guys in Kalmah had seen it all from their hotel windows.

We stayed up all night talking about it as we finished our night drive across the Prairies, which passed the time away easily enough.

Later on we found out that a bunch of teenage kids had stolen a pickup and went on a joyride all over Regina. They were definitely playing real life Grand Theft Auto.

The moral of the story: I’d love to bestow you with some life altering knowledge gleaned from this story, but there isn’t really a lesson to be learned here. Let’s just say that the Prairies aren’t all that bad, it could be much worse and… keep the car chases to video games, kids…


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