‘The Harder the Heart’
What time is it?
Lying in my 'coffin' bunk on our double-decked tour bus, staring at the ceiling a few centimetres away. I wait for that sudden laughter from a group of men below deck as they will undoubtedly make their way back for bus call, just in time; They were seasoned operators. My bed gradually sways as we take off, 3 am, bang on time. Downstairs in the distance, laughter turns into divulgement, cracking of beers turn into a scavenge for wine bottles, and the 'outro' commences, someone's final attempt to prolong the boys' night in on the bus, albeit with poor choice of a forgotten 80s anthem. "For fucks sakes come on! Day off tomorrow innit!", one shouts.
I take my first conscious breath through a terribly stuffed up nose. If there is anything worse than air circulation on aircrafts, it has got to be tour buses. A hint of sunlight pierces through the emergency exit from which I sleep adjacent to; A conscious effort on my part. I pull my curtains to the sound of nothingness. What time is it? I somehow always fall asleep despite the bickering beneath. Look out the window. Perhaps I've been here before, but they all look the same anyway. I set foot on that familiar carpeted floor of the bus; there is no one left onboard. I start the day like how I ended the previous night, alone. How do they do it anyway?
My last name written in capital letters on an envelope, left on the kitchenette countertop. I grab my luggage from the bay, along with the hotel keycard left for me. It's the Hilton Prague today. At least I've never been here. The view, then the bathroom, followed by the texture of the duvet against my skin, and lastly the channels on television. My entrance ritual for every hotel room. Please have HBO.
The noon sun gives way to an uninspiring hotel room sunset, as hours disappear from me hovering around the room in various stages of somnolence. "Lobby in 15. Theres an Irish down the road", the crew group chat beckons. What time is it? Also, what is more culturally enriching than a group of British men spending their evening overseas drinking Guinness in an Irish Pub? One pint leads to many, the usual suspects chat up locals, I finish my last cigarette, take a couple of seconds in a static lift to remember what floor I'm on, and I'm staring at a strangely familiar ceiling yet again. Although, not before I indulge in room service bringing me a vegetarian pasta which I'll never finish at 2 in the morning.
I walk into the venue, and get greetings back like the previous night of unchecked alcohol consumption never happened. Load in at 11, soundcheck at 2, press at 5, meet and greet at 6, doors at 7, support, on stage at half 9, curfew at 11, bus call TBC. The smell of dried alcohol, the stickiness beneath your feet, the sad, forced cleanliness of your dressing room, the dreadful repetition of vocal checks. What time is it?
Another couple of hours gone as I wonder the venue in stasis, none of the task at hand my responsibility. It's more like getting out of everyone's way, really. As the band finally arrives, I wipe my lenses down, pop in new batteries, and shadow a group of men for the rest of the day with a camera. "Keep smiling to the fans", I thought to myself, as I shake some strangers' hands whom I've apparently met before, and try to keep my heart rate in check as stage time approaches. "It's not even my show!" It's not the nervousness of performance, but the anxiety of running with the program; the system; the machine. Also, what time is it? The house lights fade to black, the kabuki drops, and the next 2 hours are a blur.
Don't fuck up now.
With the deed done and my heart rate back to normal, I sit hunched in my production room, cracking a can of Czech pilsner. What time is it? My tour manager pokes his head round the room. "Bus call at 3am!”