How to Travel Like a Rock Star, According to a Rock Star

How to Travel Like a Rock Star, According to a Rock Star

Touring musicians are the ultimate road warriors. They’re away for months at a time, with multi-city itineraries, long sets, late nights, and lodging options that are memorable—and not always in a good way. We caught up with Wylie Gelber, the bassist of Dawes, to talk travel as the L.A.-based group tours on the heels of their latest album, All Your Favorite Bands.

How long have you been on the road?
We’ve been out for two months and have another two to go before we get an actual break. We do get to go home for a night on August 24, but then the next day we go to Europe. After that it’s off to Australia and New Zealand. Every time we put out a new record, we always forget how hard we have to tour.

Describe your travel philosophy.
Chill and calm. I see so many people in airports losing their minds over things that are out of their control—plane delays, lost luggage. All it does is make you feel crazy. The best thing to do is to just think, whatever, I might miss my flight or my bags might get lost, but it’s just part of travel.

What’s the secret to not killing your travel companions on these longer stints?
I love my band members, so when we first started touring, we used to book our airline seats next to each other so we could all hang out. It was a little intense. These days we find our own corners and splatter ourselves against the windows of the plane and try to sleep. When you do all these crazy long flights, it doesn’t matter if you’re sitting next to your best friend. You just want to put your headphones on and listen to a record and close your eyes and try to forget that you have 14 hours left to go.

What’s the coolest venue you’ve played so far?
First Avenue in Minneapolis is one of our all-time favorite venues. It’s got a great vibe and the crowd is always fun. In D.C., we like the 9:30 Club because it’s so dialed in. They’ve been on tour before so they’ve thought of everything we need. Things work, the sound is great, and they treat you nicely.

What’s the first thing you seek out in a new place? I like to build things—gear, furniture, whatever—and I have a large collection of tools. So every time I wake up in a different town, I try to go to a hardware store. They’re usually run by old curmudgeons used to seeing the same eight customers, and they think I’m this weirdo because I’m a young guy who cruises in with his headphones on. I’ve gotten some crazy vintage tools that way over the years.

Any standout meals on the road? Anytime we’re in Chicago, we go to Avec, a Mediterranean place in the West Loop. We’re also really big on barbecue, so if we’re in a barbecue zone, we go nuts. Usually we’ll send one guy out to buy it for entire crew. We were just in Kansas City and had insanely good barbeque from Joe’s Kansas City.

What do you look for in a hotel?
For years we stayed in these disgusting hotels that were your literal nightmare. We’d sleep fully clothed with a hoodie on and with all the lights on. Things have definitely improved, but still, a great hotel to us doesn’t have to be fancy; it’s simply a really clean place that looks more inviting than your bunk on the bus.

Let’s play spin the globe—name the one place you’ve always wanted to go. I just found out that we have a show in New Zealand, and I’m stoked to go there. From what I hear, it sounds like one of the most beautiful and pure places on earth.

What city would you visit just to explore the music scene?
New Orleans. When I’m there, I feel like I’m just a small part of an enormous music scene that’s happening all around me. The city revolves around musicians. You’ll hear someone playing in the street, and they’ve never made a recording in their lives, but it doesn’t make them any less significant.

What’s on your travel playlist right now?
Lately I’ve been listening to Crusaders, this old school jazz band that phased over into soul jazz. And I’m always listening to Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield.

Where’s the first place you’ll go when you’re finally back home in L.A.?
The rest of the guys in the band live on the opposite side of town from me, and they like to hang out at the Hermosillo, a bar in Highland Park. But the one I like is closer to me in Culver City, and it’s called the Cozy Inn. It’s a great spot with neon Budweiser signs and a really good shuffleboard table. It’s everything I need to feel right at home again.

Want more? Check out what musician Julia Stone packs to visit Sydney, Australia.

Jennifer Flowers is an award-winning journalist and the senior deputy editor of Afar.
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