How Being a Dad is Like Being on Tour

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.

From the Cradle to the Stage

Practicing my stage presence was never one of my hobbies, but it totally is now. Now that I have a child, my hands are, for the most part, no longer functional parts of my body. The space they used to occupy is now 100% filled with baby for a large part of my evenings. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for metal stuff. Or much else, for that matter.

So when inspiration strikes, it’s best to just run with it.

I’ve found that by mimicking a few of metal’s luminaries I can actually get some stuff done. You just have to know whose stage presence will work best. Here are a few I hope you’ll find as useful as I have:

The Robert Trujillo

Robert Trujillo, bassist of Metallica, performing with his trademark stage presence: the crab walk.

I’ll admit I rolled my eyes like everybody else at Newstead’s replacement. His exaggerated bassist’s swagger seemed like he was overcompensating for something. Like, nobody was going to notice you on any …And Justice for All songs anyway, dude. But in the days since the birth of my daughter, I want to send ‘ol Robbie a thank you note. Aping his crab-walk is the only way I can reach the wall socket to plug in my phone while still holding my kid.

As an added plus, I can then drum my fingers along my baby’s back like frets on a bass, which helps release gas that’s gotten trapped in her clenched bowels. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if that was one of the reasons he got the gig in the first place.

The Tipton-Downing Slide

Synchronizing your stage presence is dorky as hell, but if you’re gonna do it, you may as well do it like the pros. Judas Priest guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing must have double-majored in twin-guitar dorkery back in the ’70s before graduating to metal gods, and turns out their style holds up pretty well. Their patented back-and-forth swaying helps me relax my daughter on a daily basis, and I gotta give em credit – it’s a lot harder to keep up than it looks. I have to practice it in a mirror to make sure I’m doing it right, which is the closest thing to playing “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” with my kid as I’m likely to get. At this age, anyway.

The David Lee Roth

Van Halen's David Lee Roth, bending over backward to retrieve a pink pacifier on the ground.

I don’t think Diamond Dave is a practical guy. Anyone who can do the splits and waggle his fingers in the air while singing “Jump” can’t be, can he? But those of us on the pragmatic side can learn a lot from dear ‘ol DLR, especially if we’re holding a baby instead of a mic stand.

Now, I’m nowhere near as flexible as Mr. Roth is, and I’m not committed enough to get on his level (I’m only mostly metal, remember?) But sometimes you gotta get down Davey-style to retrieve a pacifier that’s fallen on the floor.. Just don’t make me wear a glittery vest.

The Trooper Clutch

 

Iron Maiden's "The Trooper," which depicts mascot Eddie in British soldier gear, a flag in one hand, a saber in the other. A baby is clutched against him in this version, though.
“You wake my wife, but you wake me too! Your midnight screaming is because you pooed!”

My daughter is a bit older now, or I’m just more confident when holding her. Maybe both? I’m no longer convinced that how I hold her is the sole thing keeping her from instant death. It’s enough where I’ve been able to get a bit creative when I have to hold her but still have Shit I Have to Do.

The Trooper Clutch is one I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of since she’s gotten better at supporting her neck. I just hold her against my chest with my forearm, and my hands can do their thing. It’s a little like having one human arm and one stunted Tyrannosaur claw, but hey, whatever works. And if I ever feel the need to express my patriotism by holding a sword, a flag, and my baby, I’ll at least know I’m physically capable.

“Baby! Has taken my hands! Taken my arms! Taken my hobbies!”

I have one thing I do in my free time, except at some point I ceased to have any free time, and now I am barely aware of “time” at all. Writing this blog is like an accessory to this Not-Time, a bonus track to the full album that is taking care of a newborn. All the other hobbies I try to keep up just kind of trickle down around those.

It’s not so bad. The little creature has her moments. And I figure if Rick Allen can still play two-hour sets one-handed, surely I can handle a measly twenty minutes. I don’t need to rig up a bionic drum kit to help me hold my daughter, but maybe that’s not such a bad idea.

Still, I’m looking forward to the day when I can regain the use of my hands. That day’s quickly approaching – she’s already craning her neck out of her rock ‘n’ play. Next thing you know she’ll be typing up this blog for me, and then I’ll really have to find some new hobbies.