Tour buses are basically synonymous with sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, and also that scene in Almost Famous that guaranteed you’ve still got “Tiny Dancer” in your head. But now some bands are ditching buses altogether. It doesn’t matter if you’re just a guy with a guitar who wants to get up on that stage and sing your heart out or if you’re a 10-piece band with the show to match — you can pull off a whole tour minus the gas-guzzling groupie machine.
Ben Sollee and his band, for example, are on a Ditch the Van tour this summer — they’re biking from gig to gig, and hauling their gear, including drums and a cello, behind them.
We all agree that it’s a tremendous amount of physical effort to ride our bikes to shows. All of us still have questions about how financially sustainable it is to spend more time playing fewer, smaller shows. But, the rewards, we all agreed, are in the personal satisfaction of delivering yourself and your goods somewhere completely under your own power. And, like all the other tours by bike, that task seems to invite good people in to our lives.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Railroad Revival Tour, which goes from Duluth, Ga., to Oakland, Calif., and features big names like Willie Nelson & Family, Band of Horses, Jamey Johnson, and John Reilly & Friends. Artists who participated in the tour last year claimed there was minimal drama “despite some bathing less than others.” We’re willing to bet tour buses have that problem sometimes too.