I know in my day I've had my fair share of rock star fantasties. It'd be amazing to stand on stage and display your art to the masses. Whether "the masses" encompasses ten of your best friends or hundreds of strangers who want to be your best friend, it must be a glorious feeling to actually make it to the point of making music, and then after that, taking that music on the road. Sara Jaffe and Mia Clarke, of indy ladybands Erase Errata and Electrelane, respectively, recently released The Art of Touring, a photo heavy diary of sorts that chronicles the journeys of the vans of bands like Times New Viking, Pit Er Pat and Le Tigre. Why does this matter as anything more than a kewl, voyeuristic glance into some of your favorite bands' knapsacks and polaroid collections?
Well, to be fair, it is fantastic for fans of these bands to get to see some of their art other than their music. Devendra Banhart, Tara Jane O'Neil and Erika Spring Forster of Au Revoir Simone submitted art to the tome. Photography of some of the bridges, stages, sunsets and architechture seen by Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and Emma Gaze of Electrelane is not only beautiful but crushes the stereotype that touring bands only take pictures of themselves chugging from a beer bong or the aftermath of said chugging in the form of a destroyed hotel room. Jaffe and Clarke, along with Johanna Fateman of Le Tigre and Jean Smith of Mecca Normal, among others, contribute writing to the book. We're seeing a side of these artists we haven't before, as they not only show us what other wonderful things they can do besides the wonderful music they create, but also show us what they've seen as they've ventured out to play.
What is also exciting is the fact that none of these bands are playing ampitheatres, there aren't huge flashy stage shows a la The Rolling Stones to get in the way of the music. These are bands whose covers are still affordable, whose message is still progressive, whose agenda it isn't to become zillionaires and take over the world. The editors' bands in particular are fabulous. Erase Errata and Electrelane are two of the most well-known queer bands of this era. What is particularly great about those bands is that their queer status is not what is most interesting about them: it is their oustanding musicianship, which is how it should be. While it's nice to know their lyrics are, at times, liberal (meaning that message is being sent in basement bars and rock clubs across the globe), it is even nicer to know that Erase Errata, Electrelane and all the bands in The Art of Touring got to travel and see what they saw and live the dream I know I have. Touring in itself is an art, but the what is taken from touring is, as well. It is exciting to see that part of rock stardom is being continually moved or inspired by something you see, things that are just as beautiful as the ways you continually move and inspire others.