As I gazed out the hotel window on the 32nd floor of the Renaissance on 35th in Midtown Manhattan, holding a well-mixed vieux carré on my day off halfway through my east-coast tour, I had no clue that a week and a half later I would be wiping sweat and oil from my brow in humidity-ridden Crowley, Louisiana with my van in flames behind me.

The arduous labor of love that is organizing and running through a tour comes with a mixed bag of highs and lows. Months of planning, emailing, compromising, budgeting, van prepping and practicing materialize into a journey that only lasts a fraction of the time spent planning it.

Thus the tour begins, your hometown left behind and three weeks of the hum of the road, cheap food, raw smells and ringing ears on the horizon. DIY touring is not for the faint of heart; if you’re expecting comfortable hotels and after parties every night, you should turn the van around and hang it up. If you’re up for a challenge and a true bonding experience, hop in the van and let’s go.

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Each day’s drive ends with a 30-to-45-minute performance in someone’s blisteringly hot basement, a hole-in-the-wall bar, a safe space or the occasional crowded living room.

The shows blur by, but they make the traveling, horrible cuisine and heavy lifting of the day worth every mile traveled.

Post-set activities include loading the van back up while drenched in sweat, making new friends who won’t remember your name after that night and trading cassettes for a place to sleep.

The nights are usually late, spent laughing with friends you don’t see often and sharing fast-food leftovers and personal stories, usually culminating in uncomfortable sleeping situations. Sleep doesn’t last long, and it shouldn’t unless you want to miss out on something.

Each day begins early, with a four-to-14 hour drive to the next city, bags under your eyes and wearing the same t-shirt you’ve had on for three days.

As difficult or uncomfortable as it sounds, the times I’ve had on the road have been some of the happiest moments in my short 23 years on earth.

Whether it’s finding yourself in a drunken haze in Brooklyn talking to strangers, playing in front of a packed venue or an empty basement or in a tow truck bound for the nearest town in the middle of nowhere, no experience is like touring.

If one thing can be said about tour, it is that bonds are made stronger whether it’s the bond between yourself and your band mates, sharing blankets in a cold basement in Salt Lake City in the middle of winter; the bond between the Facebook friends who finally become tangible, real people; or the bond fans share with your music. I’m not sure where my next tour will take me this summer, but I do know I count the days until I grip the leather of my rusted ’05 Ford tour van. See you on the road.

Haunter is a progressive black/death metal outfit based out of San Anto, Tejas. Upon releasing their debut album “Thrinodia” (released by Red River Family Records) in 2016, the San Antonio trio successfully completed two lengthy tours to the west and east coast in support of the release. In 2017, the band will release their new LP, spend two weeks in Europe during the summer, and have a fall tour of the U.S. to the Pacific Northwest. “Thrinodia” can be streamed/downloaded/purchased in cassette format at hauntertx.bandcamp.com.

IG: hauntertx

FB: facebook.com/hauntertx

Photos courtesy of Enrique Bonilla.

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