The Riot Before
Contributed by ben_conoley, Posted by Say-10 Dispatches

Our latest series of Dispatches comes courtesy of Richmond, Virginia's The Riot Before who have just embarked on their first tour of Europe. In today's episode, vocalist/guitarist Brett Adams discuses his pre-tour thoughts. Tune in later this week for more of the band's tales from the road.

Most experience, I think, is informed more by our idea of each general moment and what it represents than by the literal interpretation of what actually is happening around us. For example, if I were challenged to walk across a three inch wide balance beam, twenty feet long and two feet off the ground, I would do so without hesitation. Completely confident of my ability to walk a straight line, assuming I’m sober, I would casually saunter across the beam, my mind mostly wandering, my proprioception subconscious. But transport that same balance beam to the edge of a tall cliff and things change. I would be nothing but hesitation and fear. My heart would race, my stomach clench, every step would be slow and involved, taking up all my focus and concentration. In all of this, the beam would be the same, my ability to walk and balance would remain unchanged, only the surroundings would be altered. But that would be enough to affect my interpretation of the event (from low risk to high) and it would make all the difference.

Touring has become, over the past few years, somewhat like walking across a low balance beam. It’s not that I don’t love it, I do, but like all things repeated, its uniqueness has eroded and dimmed. Naive excitement has been replaced by steadied experience. Routines and habits have developed and edges have dulled, and there is now something almost commonplace by being in a new city each day, sleeping on a new floor. In a lot of ways this evolution is great. After all, routines are something our brains and bodies naturally establish in order to make life easier. For example, a tennis pro has swung a racket so many times that the movement is no longer conscious. His body just knows. This routine of motion allows him to focus instead on intricate strategy, on subtle nuances of the game, and as a result he becomes a better player and enjoys the game at a higher level. Similarly, touring for us has become less about frontiers and more about familiarity. There are individual routines we have all established (consciously or un-) which make being on tour pleasant and predictable, and allow us to enjoy it more without bickering endlessly or caving under the accumulating fatigue of sitting idly (which, if you’ve never been on tour before, encompasses at least 80% of one’s day).

But when I woke up after what could only very generously be called sleep, in a window seat of a 757, with the sun edging above the horizon and painting the sky of Western Europe in vibrant orange and pale blue, I began to really feel the enormity of this tour’s change in setting, in environment, and a long forgotten nervous expectation re-asserted itself in my pre-tour disposition. Though I had long pined to travel across the Atlantic, and had generally thought of myself as the perfect candidate for a classy, transcontinental lifestyle (professional foie gras taster?), this would be my first actual trip "across the pond," and while I knew that traveling from one Western democracy to another didn’t really qualify as an enormous cultural leap, I was still apprehensive about what awaited me in the land of my ancestors. After all, I had heard that some of these people barely even knew how to speak English! Savages! And so this general apprehension married with my burgeoning nerves about touring in a completely new place, and suddenly the once benign balance beam looked imposing.

Luckily, in the midst of this revelation I had another that didn’t necessarily steady my nerves (I’ve found that nerves don’t really respect me as an authority), but it did serve to justify the experience of the tour ahead, whatever the outcome. It occurred to me, sleep starved in coach, flying over rural London, that I was crossing a goal off of my list. Right there. Right then. It was happening. I thought back when I was 20, working as a door to door salesman in Bowling Green, KY, by far the most ridiculous and emotionally draining job I’ve ever had. I spent most of that summer learning the extremes of just how awful I was at sales, sweating in the choking Kentucky heat, lonely, repeatedly rejected. I was there because the job had the potential of being very lucrative, many of the people I worked with made thousands, and I needed to save up enough money to buy a guitar amp so that I could finally start a band. But halfway through the summer it became quite evident that I would not be making near enough to get an amp, and in fact I began to get worried that, after factoring in living expenses, I would end up in the red. I spent my long sale-less days dreaming of starting a band and going on tour. I left the south that August and went back to California with $80, crushed, a total failure. It would take another year, and another slightly less absurd summer job (worked on a farm), before I could get that amp. And now, six years later I found myself in an airplane, flying over Europe, about to spend three weeks traveling to six countries, playing songs in the band I finally formed, and in that moment it was literally a dream come true.

And I know this is sappy, and is probably the last forum in the world where sappiness is tolerated, let alone celebrated, but it meant a shit-ton to me in that moment, and it still does. So, well, fuck it.

So I sat there, in my seat, looking out the window, smiling. I should have been tired and grumpy. I should have been dreading the approaching jet-lag, the accumulating exhaustion of no sleep, long lay-overs, and extreme time changes. But I smiled. I’m sure the older German lady sitting next to me thought I was insane. But she didn’t know that my smile was informed not by that current moment, but by what it represented, by where it sat in a much larger and more significant context. I was crossing off a goal that I thought for a long time was impossible. It was one of those moments where it was almost like the present, rather than speeding towards the past, slowed down and just let me savor it.

Not long later we landed in Hamburg, on a beautiful cloudless day—on a sky-as-cheesey-metaphor kinda day—and I got off the plane, incredibly excited for the weeks to come, more optimistic than I’ve been in a long time.

…then I took a pretty gross dump, cause, well, airport food.