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Touring on a Shoe String (or: Running on the Smell of an Oily Rag)


When, as part of your job, you are required to travel consistently from place to place, you encounter a series of pesky charges that, with the help of a little ingenuity, can be quite easily avoided. These methods can be executed without labeling one as necessarily ‘cheap’, a ‘tight hippy’, or even stealing! All you need are a few simple routines, financial awareness, and the elementary knowledge that “RENT MONEY IS DEAD MONEY”.


1. Airport Trolleys: A necessary evil when transporting 14 pieces of cumbersome musical instruments. In some airports these incur no charge, but often carry a price tag as high as $4 each! However, discarded trolleys, pre-used and awaiting recall, can be secured with a keen eye and quick foot. The sides of check-in counters are a gold-mine of these treasures, second only to the head of taxi lines.


2. Excess Baggage: Everyone has their limit!. Company policy can be a matter of discretion, and a little friendliness costs nothing but can go a long way. But even without bending any rules, methods can be applied to reorganise your hulking load of guitars and drum cases into a more pallet-able formation. Cases of similar size can be strapped together with packing tape and classed as One Item, provided the overall weight is within reason. Sweet! The threat of using guitar strings to choke fellow passengers forbids your axe to be allowed as a carry-on, but roll and shove as many personal items as you can into a backpack—as long as you don’t appear to be physically groaning under its weight, the likelihood of it making the overhead lockers is high.


3. Free Food: Without a constant base or kitchen, paying for every meal is a practice that soon carries a large price tag. When frequently using air travel, breakfasts can be delayed until after check in, when lounge facilities become available. Flights departing 12:00-3:00 PM are classed as ‘lunch flights’, and therefore carry a more satisfying cargo than that of their pissy snack-offering alternatives.


4. Parking: 3-star hotels do not necessarily provide parking in inner-city locations, and separate spaces must be secured. This problem is also rampant amongst venues. Look for side-streets and other lanes within walking distance, or avoid tickets by parking at hours in which attendants are least likely to be on the prowl. One time we cut a long-term parking by 2/3 by backing the van to the entry position, scamming a fresh ticket, then promptly exiting out the other side. Another time our sound guy spent 40 minutes pretending to pay for a parking ticket.


5. A-Tissue!: Got a runny nose, a cold, or are you just allergic to the Whole World? Hotels frequently include a crisp new box of tissues, freshly replaced per guest period, as part of their ‘Included Necessities’, easily swept up into your luggage on exit.


6. Recycling: Everybody’s doing it! The thrifty tour manager knows that paper for booking confirmations and Day Sheets is easily printed on both sides, saving money, luggage space, and the environment! It can also be stolen out of the complimentary photocopy machines in airline club lounges.


7. Internerd: Keeping on top of artwork, scheduling, and business communications means never going for too long without Internet access. Unsecured wireless networks are oases in a sea of overpriced public wi-fi zones, especially in American cities. See how many emails you can download at the traffic lights on an open signal before you’re driven away! Cafes with a wireless service are an excellent excuse for more espresso, and once again, airport lounges with ethernet cables can be temporarily redirected.


8. Washing: The sweet smell of a successful show quickly bleeds through your suitcase, until you’re like a BO bakery. But washing charges, especially in the UK, can swell to as much as $20 for two small loads! Bathtubs can be effective as laundry tubs with a bit of powder and patience, and furniture can work in lieu of a line. Swimming in your underwear is a cheeky yet practical thrill. The last few days are often the hardest, when your own gleaming machine is just around the corner, but don’t despair—executing a shirt-swap with the band you’re traveling with presents all in the tour party with a souvenir and fresh threads to see you over the finish line.


9. Don’t Forget Your Friends!: With so little time to spare once back home, putting on a party for your friends is a great way of bringing everybody together. Share the wealth—save up excess rider drinks and freight them with your gear, to break out on an appropriate occasion. Riders are also a great source of honey, an attractive yet pricey alternative to sugar when whipping up a home brew.


10. Honor Thy Parents: Once again, folks, rent money is dead money, especially when your bed is only required for a week every quarter or so! And admit it, you miss your family when you’re away. Don’t feel embarrassed about returning to your old room in the suburbs. Its bed may not have crispy sheets and present a mint on the pillow, but its free and its warm—at the hearth and the heart!.


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According to the Grates’ official website, “The Grates are three little children from Australia that are called Patience (she sings), Alana (she drums), and Jhon (he guitars). These guys can best be personally described by their corresponding Spirit Animals; Pae is a seal, Alana is a tadpole, and Jhon is a grizzly bear.” Then again, the same bio claims to riddled with factual errors. What we do know is that the Grates play a fuzzy, lo-fi, hyperkinetic punk rock fueled by an off-kilter sense of humor and a bottomless capacity for fun. The Grates’ Gravity Won’t Get You High hits stores on August 29, 2006. [multiple songs on MySpace]


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