Touring is a grind. To say you’re out of your comfort zone while out on The Road (Bob Seger’s, not Cormac McCarthy’s) is a serious understatement.
You’re miles from home, severed from the ones you hold most dear, trapped with who can only be politely described as volatile company. But when you’re on that stage, you have to put your game face on, night after night. The show must go on.
Basically, it’s a lot like being with your kid in public.
The Essential Salts
Since I entered Dad-dom, I feel obligated to fulfill a certain set of social expectations. I don’t think these expectations are entirely different from playing live music before a crowd of strangers. In both music and parenting, you have to be able to handle your shit, or the curtain is ripped back, and the magical immersion is broken. The jig is up.
I’ve already spoken plenty about my many insecurities. But what I’m talking about here aligns more with good ‘ol common sense. Forget making a good first impression — when you enter a room in Dad Mode, people will expect you to have read the instruction booklet.
Does he know how to hold the baby? Does he know he has to hold the baby rightside up?
See? Basic shit. You’ll notice I didn’t say anything like “how often does he defer to Mama to tell him what to do?” I can’t assume the complex relationships parents have with each other. Maybe Mom doesn’t want your clumsy-ass handling the kiddo, I don’t know. But if you are holding the kid, then you’d better damn well know which way is up.
Same goes for playing live while on tour.
Does he know how to play his instrument?
There’s no “right” way to deal with mistakes (but there is a “wrong” way, as Mariah Carey has recently proven), but it’s not too much to ask that you know your own damn songs before you make people pay to see them, yeah?
Basically, this all amounts to “you bothered to make the damn kid, so you’d better have at least the bare minimum skills to support her.”
Giving ‘em a Good Show
Some parentals have a natural talent for showmanship. Not everyone does; some of us have to fake it. And fake it you must to protect the credulity of your station. I’m a dad, and even if my kid is acting shitty, how I react will affect whether people are happy to see us enter a room or if they’ll break out the fake china versions of their smiles.
In musical terms, this translates to who will come out to see your shows. It’s all about putting on a good public face and being a good sport.
You smile. Wave at your adoring fans. Sign an autograph or two. And when the meet-and-greet is over, you’re back to screaming at each other about who pooped where.
See, unless I tell them, no one knows Gorgonna can be an absolute terror when being put to bed. They only see how lovely my daughter is and how proud I am to be her dada. Those aren’t untrue by any means, just more a matter of good showmanship.
Some Final Thoughts and Shit
One thing is for sure: you should never hesitate to go socialize. I find that being a dad in public makes me feel equal parts accomplishment and anxiety, but that the highs far outweigh the lows. Social interactions are healthy for kiddies; you can’t keep ’em out of the spotlight forever.
Same with touring/playing live — the positive feedback from the crowd and satisfaction of a show well-played more than makes up for any mid-song fuck-ups or petty band spats.
I’m sure there’s an argument buried in this post about how we shouldn’t give into societal pressures. But you know what, I just have to ask myself how I want (that’s ME, personally) to have people see me as: a confident human being, capable of taking care of his child, who wants to show the damn thing off because I’m proud of her. That idea drives me toward self improvement, and I can’t really see that as a bad thing.
Parenting and playing music are things you should do, should you have the opportunity. They have their challenges, but the worthwhile things on this earth often do, don’t they?
The show must go on.