Steve Albini, Damon Krukowski Write About Touring Amid A Pandemic People Are Pretending Is Over
Touring is back in full swing, but artists have been consistently forced to cancel dates as they or someone in their party test positive for COVID. Pandemic concerns were a big factor in the article we published earlier this month about why musicians are expected to miserable on tour just to break even. Pitchfork recently published one about musicians begging fans to mask up at concerts. Two voices that have emerged on social media talking about the realities of touring in this time are Steve Albini and Damon Krukowski.
A couple days ago, Albini wrote a viral Twitter thread that addressed the recent rollback of mask mandates. “Pre-pandemic, a principal joy of touring was social, having people in the dressing room, hanging out after the show, going to an after-party… nobody is doing any of that now,” Albini wrote. “The consequences of exposure on tour are magnified a thousandfold over a normal night at home.”
“Please don’t take offense that bands aren’t as sociable or outgoing now. It doesn’t mean they think less of you, it means they think the world of you and don’t want to magnify what is already serious risk, to you, to them, to the rest of the world,” he continued. “Frankly, it’s incredible that shows are happening at all. Nothing about touring at the moment even approximates normal, so count your blessings that people are willing to risk literal ruin to even try. Don’t linger on what isn’t ideal about things.”
“We’re all adapting to this, like losing a limb. Bands have to behave differently now,” Albini concluded. “As audience, the people we’re doing it for, all we ask is that you care about each other when you come see us. We’re all at the same gig and we all want it to be awesome. Some of that is on you.”
In a recent edition of Galaxie 500 drummer and Damon And Naomi member Damon Krukowski’s newsletter, Krukowski pointed out the string of show cancellations over the past month from the likes of Spoon, Bob Mould, Superchunk, Low, Car Seat Headrest, and many more, as well as Coachella’s first weekend that operated without any masking or vaccination requirements.
“Consider what catching COVID on the road means for a touring musician,” Krukowski wrote. “Aside from the health risks we are all familiar with, there is lost income – and potentially very heavy debts. All the committed expenses of a tour remain: travel bookings, visas, vehicles, band, crew, equipment, merch… without any earnings to offset them. Bands can’t get insurance against cancelled shows.”
“This – plus the frustration and disappointment of missed performances – is why you might see announcement of cancellation for a few dates only, with the hopeful plan that tour will pick up again a bit further down the road,” Krukowski continued. “Unfortunately, if you check back later, you’ll often find that those cancellations have continued, or the tour abandoned. At best, there are rescheduled shows months in the future. But no matter what, you can assume it is a mess for all involved.”
Krukowski goes on to talk about the contrast between artists’ pandemic touring struggles and the actions of massive companies like AEG and Live Nation, who are touting record profits for their festivals. Read the full newsletter here.