The Road!

The Road – Shane Ó Fearghail

Aarhus – Denmark – February 2016

In light of the very sad news that I read about as I made my way by train to Vienna from
Denmark on Sunday, regarding the four English musicians (Viola Beach) and their manager that plummeted to their deaths in a horrific road accident as they drove home from a concert in Sweden; I felt compelled to write and share this piece in solidarity with all traveling musicians, in the hope that there may be some understanding as to what a musician on the road has to do to simply get to that stage, room or venue!

When you go to a concert, as a fan or a member of the audience, there are so many factors involved! You have to plan your night right, you have to plan your day. You will need to organise tickets or seating depending on the show… think about transport etc. You will need to eat, contact friends and get your gear ready,  you know the drill – spruce yourself up and get your glad rags on (some of us needing longer than others), because you are going out to enjoy yourself with friends, maybe a partner or who knows… solo, if that’s how you roll; It’s all good! Whether it be simply going to a pub or a bar where there is live music… or the coolest of music venues, you will make the effort. It is a night out and we all like to enjoy yourselves!

Viola Beach – Photo Courtesy of the BBC.

And what of the musician and crew. That person or people on the stage that play for you and entertain you. Do you ever stopped to think about what they have to do to get there? Seriously… While you watch and sing, chat or dance, ever pause to consider what a musician, performer, actor or even comedian has had to do to present themselves in front of a live audience!

Like you they would have had to eat, get ready, get to the gig, organise themselves but with that little bit extra on top. For example, aside from the performance itself, the act would would have had to: Book the gig months in advance, prepare transport whether it be local or coming from abroad, rehearse, develop the act, promote the show, write the songs, learn the songs, buy the gear, set up the gear, take down the gear (After all the fun has been had), not to mention make it to the venue on time – (with the gear in tow), take the gear home and then store the gear. In between all of that there is the small issue of a two hour plus passionate performance to entertain all who have come to the show. And like most working people… musicians pay taxes!

So why am I sharing this. Does it really matter! Well for me it does, as I sit here on a  train traveling 14 hours south to Vienna from Denmark. It matters as my mind drifts and I think about the families and friends… and that I know on other trains, cars and planes, my friends and colleagues are doing exactly the same! As we speak I know that four of my friends, who are working musicians, are touring around Europe either performing or moving to promote what they do. In writing this I wanted to give my support and share my sadness with the family and friends of those who have died, not just at the weekend, but to all traveling musicians. You see we work in an industry that is travel based. Yes the benefits far outweigh the negatives it’s just that when you factor in the distance one has to travel and all the variables, the risk becomes extremely high. And music my friends is a risky enough business! And I will say nothing here about take home pay…

BlackColm Vearncombe – Aka Black

All I would ask is for those who love music, listen and attend shows… to think twice. To understand the music makers and listen to them! This will filter into any performance you attend and in return with good grace, it will feed into the performance and come right back to you. You see when a musician or musicians die on the road, they are in a place set in motion by goodwill and intent and it’s heartbreaking to see lives cut short in the pursuit of happiness and entertainment for all concerned!  Only recently back in Ireland last January we lost another shining light – Colin Vearncombe aka ‘Black’, as he drove from his home in West Cork to Cork airport, where he was due to attend a singer/songwriter workshop in Scotland; his car sliding on ice causing him to have a fatal car crash. So you see, whether it be established stars or youngsters in cars, traveling adds another weight to the scenario and hits far too close to the bone!

So maybe, in the moment of madness, when the fun is at its height, or for that lonely musician in the corner who is doing his best to entertain a room that doesn’t listen and doesn’t care (the performer is expected to be there), share a thought, or a smile and take a few seconds to consider… That they have travelled many miles and overcome many obstacles and issues just to be there… To perform to you!

To all musicians and artists out there! Love and respect. To all our families, friends and loved ones… Thank you!

Faoin grá