By Ashley Aron
‘Tis the season! Treat touring band members to a present they’ll really enjoy on the road.
Many bands tour right up until the holidays and right after as well. In the spirit of giving, it’s not uncommon for fans to bring gifts to a show and spread some holiday cheer (or in any season, really). However, sometimes those gifts can have good intentions but end up being completely inappropriate for a touring band. If you’re heading to a show this month and feeling generous, I present to you my official do’s and don’ts of band gift-giving.
· Hygiene products. When you’re traveling in a van with four or so other people, it can get very smelly very quickly. Everyone I’ve ever talked to about touring experience, be it in 95-degree heat or blizzard conditions, has said that staying clean is extremely difficult. Suggestions: travel-size shampoo/conditioner, dry shampoo, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, mouthwash, and Q-tips.
· Things to deter the highway blues. Touring is about 85 percent travel time, so helping bands kill time en route to their next tour date is always a hit when it comes to gifts. Suggestions: Sudoku/crossword puzzle books, DVDs, or anything that can fit in their backpack. Instead of a giant board game, think of smaller things like Uno cards or Catch Phrase.
· Snack time! While on tour, a band’s food budget is usually pretty low, resulting in a diet made up of fast food and vending machine goods. A fresh food item can change that. Suggestions: fresh fruit (not a lot; you don’t want any leftovers to rot), canned soup, granola bars, or maybe some homemade candy famous in your hometown. If you bring them sweets, toss in some of those dinosaur flossers, too.
· GIFT CARDS TO EVERYWHERE. Gift cards seem like one of those “easy way out” presents in regard to family and friends, but they are the perfect gift for band members. It fits in their wallets and helps them get the essentials. You could technically give them cash, but this just seems less skeevy. Suggestions: Starbucks, Target, Wal-Mart, fast food joints, gas cards, or one of those Visa gift cards they can use anywhere.
· Get creative! I’ve heard some great stories about things fans have given to bands that they didn’t even think they needed. Spare laptop/phone chargers, sewing kits, duct tape, mixtapes of your favorite local bands, extra socks, tea bags, or even a stack of pre-stamped envelopes and stationary for writing letters home. If you have the means to ask the band directly what they’d like, see if they’re in dire need of any one particular item.
DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT…
· Alcohol, if you’re under 21. It’s awkward for the band and makes you look creepy. If you’re legal to do so, a much better alternative is to buy them a round of drinks at the venue.
· Drugs. Regardless of the shady ginger frontman consistently begging for drugs via Twitter, don’t do it. Raiding your parents’ medicine cabinet or bringing enough weed to get you arrested is never a good idea, so just…no. Bands have more than enough resources to get their fix, and you shouldn’t be one of them.
· Fan art. I know you spent three weeks on that charcoal sketch of their album cover, but have you seen how much free space is in a van of five dudes? Sadly, not nearly enough for an 18×24 canvas. Instead of giving the band a piece of art that will likely be “left behind” at the venue that night, give them a photo or scan an 8×11 copy so it’s easier for them to appreciate your hard work.
· Going big. In addition to the fan art, nothing you give the band should be bigger than what can fit in a backpack. Bands appreciate their fans thinking of them beyond buying a CD or shirt, they truly do. However, something they don’t appreciate is the immense guilt they feel by leaving a gift behind because it won’t fit in the van. Think travel-size for everything.