A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Concert

Question: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Answer: “Practise”.
But this only tells half the story. Sometimes the most nerve-racking part of giving concerts is actually getting to the venue in the first place. Practice and advanced navigation skills might be closer to what’s required.
For a start there are the one-way systems. Every town seems to think it hasn’t quite arrived until it can offer you a one-way system carefully designed to trick and to tantalise. Despite spying from a distance the church/town hall/ theatre where the concert is to take place, the musician, town planners have decided, should not be able actually to get to the stage door without circling round for ages until they finally execute an illegal manoeuvre in a pedestrian shopping area and abandon their car in a random multi-storey car park before walking the rest of the way. Praise be to the inventor of suitcases on wheels.
If you can carry all your stuff, you can of course go by train but that usually involves staying the night at your destination which is not always without its perils. At one (admittedly beautiful) stately home situated in the depths of the country side, the darkness was so profound that when I came back from using the bathroom in the middle of the night, I entered what I thought was the entrance to my room but which turned out to be, I realised as I tumbled headlong, the top of a flight of stairs. Luckily the stairs had a bend quite early on. And what are a few bruises between friends?
Friday and Saturday night stays at such places should come with a warning as they tend to be dominated by the techno beat of wedding discos…Unless of course you feel like a party to get you in the mood for your concert the next day. If you want to practise in your hotel a good tip can be to have the TV on loudly at the same time – other guests don’t seem to find loud telly as objectionable as scales and arpeggios.
Often the great thing when staying away from home is the breakfasts; eggs, bacon, and that fried curiosity you only ever convince yourself to have for breakfast in a hotel – black pudding. However at one b&b, mine hostess’ preferred technique for clearing the tables involved licking her finger and scooping the scraps into her mouth. “You know the last musician who stayed here wouldn’t eat anything at all.” She said. “I don’t know why.”
Back stage staff at concert venues are always kind and helpful even if it seems to be nobody’s actual duty to wash up the piles of coffee mugs in your dressing room used by the previous night’s performers. Often they will offer you some refreshment and this can be preferable to taking pot luck in a strange city before a performance. In Tokyo some colleagues of mine realised, only when the owner started to shout and gesticulate, that what they thought was an intimate noodle bar was actually the front room of someone’s home.
In Istanbul a deep background rumbling noise awoke me from a pre-concert nap. “No worry – if there is full earthquake you get under table and you fine” the promoter reassured me. This was going to be one concert when I really wouldn’t want the audience’s world to be shaken.
Sometimes just to walk out on stage having survived the hazards of foreign travel and food (deep fried cockerels’ testicles in Taiwan(!)) feels like quite an achievement. What a relief to know that, for the next hour or two at any rate, you are in control of what is going to happen!