Dave Bidini of seminal Can-rock band The Rheostatics wrote a book about touring this expansive country called “On A Cold Road”. I believe it should be handed out to every youngster with their first guitar pick. It not only is anecdotal about Bidini’s experience touring from Pacific to Atlantic as the opening act for The Tragically Hip, but it teaches the value of respecting those who have gone before you, the ones who first blazed that trail between Edmonton and Calgary, Red Deer to Winnipeg, Kingston to Chicoutimi; those who first felt the near despair one feels when topping a rare prairie hill to be presented with another vast expanse of nothing. It teaches you to respect just how huge our country is, and how unbelievably hard it is to make your mark in it, as a young touring rock band; in the USA, one gig is an hour from the next, but in Canada, it can be more than a day.
So, that book is required reading for any young band, if you ask me. Sadly, they don’t ask me, and thus I don’t know if Pocket City had read it before they left on March 2nd to embark on their first cross country tour. I don’t know if they were aware of the danger and magic; the highs and lows. I don’t know if they will look up from their instruments at their homecoming show at Molly Blooms on April 14th and know just what a monumental occasion it is, to go and come back, and live to tell the tale.
There’s another, older book about the road, written by a man named Kerouac. In his book, he tells a story about the seedy underbelly of a country trying desperately to maintain its wholesome facade, and how that grime is vastly more interesting and vibrant than what the Cleaver family could offer. No one is more aware of this than a touring rock band. It’s there, in your face, every night and every day. Every corner, every wrong turn, is both an opportunity and a curse, waiting to happen. The road has made bands tighter, vulcanizing them under the pressure. Poverty and starvation makes you hungrier; this is not a bad thing. The weak break up; the strong survive, flourish, and return home nearly unrecognizable in their resolve. Talent and promise becomes razor sharp ability. In short, a cross-country tour is the single most important step a Canadian rock band can undertake. Which is why so many usually don’t complete one.
There’s yet another, even older story about the road, and this one is called “The Prodigal Son”. For those unfamiliar with the story, it’s actually not about the road. It’s about youthful rebellion; getting away, cutting the apron strings, and seeing the world; sin, contrition, and redemption. And it’s about how no matter how much the world has beaten you down, there’s one place you can return to, that will accept you with open arms, and clean the road dirt off your broken feet and set you right again. This story is about a place called “Home”.
Welcome home, Pocket City. Welcome home.