Three Touring Musicians Share Strategies for Eating Healthy When Traveling on a Budget
Fans love nothing more than to see their favorite bands giving their all live in concert, but how many of us have ever thought about what it actually takes to keep those bands healthy and happy day after day on tour? Fifty Grande talked to Ceremony guitarist Anthony Anzaldo, Dirty Dishes vocalist/guitarist Jenny Tuite and former Shudder to Think frontman turned film and TV composer Craig Wedren about how a little advance planning, the occasional assist from modern technology, and the good old-fashioned kindness of family and friends help sustain them on the road.
FAST FOOD OR JUNK FOOD:
Anthony Anzaldo: If you were in a band in the early 2000s, Taco Bell was really the only place that could accommodate vegans and vegetarians. I haven’t eaten there in close to five years. We did a tour in 2015 and we stopped there, so I thought I’d try it. I got two standard bean-and-cheese burritos minus the cheese, but I couldn’t even finish one of them. After taking such a long break from eating it, it was unbearably disgusting. It is not food! A way to stay healthy on tour is to not eat fast food, period. But now Del Taco has Beyond Meat. I was watching “Pose” on TV a few nights ago, and a commercial for the Impossible Whopper came on. We’re living in a time where there are now commercials for Impossible Burgers at Burger King on network television. It’s a really exciting time. No more “In-N-Out burger, hold the patty, hold the cheese.”
Jenny Tuite: Everyone I know who tours hates Subway, just because you eat so much of it. If you can’t eat any more peanut butter, Subway is a last resort. Clif Bars also make you feel disgusting. It’s better than eating a Snickers, but looking at a Clif Bar almost makes me shudder.
Craig Wedren: When Shudder to Think first started touring in the late ’80s, there was nary a Taco Bell. At some point, Taco Bell started popping up, which was huge. [Bassist] Stuart [Hill] was vegan way back then, so could get a bean taco and not starve or shrivel from malnourishment. The next revelation was Subway, which was almost like a gourmet health-food option. Denny’s was sort of fine dining. We’d pool our money or per diems and “go out for dinner” there, like as a family. Far be it from me to slander Denny’s, because it really helped us, but it wasn’t great. Subway felt really fresh. You could get whole-wheat bread and some turkey or whatever. It wasn’t falling off the bone, but it didn’t seem too packaged. Other than that, we’d make do at rest stops or 7-Elevens with whatever was in the heater — those horrible burgers or the nuke-’em-yourself burritos. Even as a teenager and in my early 20s, I felt sick a lot on tour.
THE H20 DILEMMA:
Anzaldo: I try to drink one to two gallons of water a day when I’m home. But on tour, staying properly hydrated is tough, especially on long drives. I’m at the age now where I feel silly peeing in a water bottle, but we also can’t be stopping every 45 minutes. So when we get to our location, I immediately down three bottles of water.
Tuite: It’s easier to find beer than water when you get to a venue. But you can’t drink it on a 10-hour drive because you’d have to go to the bathroom all the time. A rule I made for myself is that before I get in the van, I pack a huge container of water that I don’t drink until the van stops. Once it does, I will force myself to drink pretty much all of it. It’s been a game changer. It makes me feel so much better.
Wedren: I always had a thermos of hot water and honey and lemon with a raw ginger root. It’s one of the many things that go into a good show or touring in general that nobody ever thinks about. I have crazy reflux, the acid from which gets up into my vocal cords and tears them apart. For me, that nixes caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, tomatoes, or anything spicy, which is really a bummer because I love all of those things. When I’m going to be singing, I just cut all of that out. On tour, I stay pretty monkish. I don’t smoke anything because of my lungs and throat. I had cancer in my 20s and that whole zone got radiated, and there are long-term effects like dryness. So that requires a lot of water and vocal rest.
Anzaldo: In the mid-2000s, we were driving somewhere between Denver and Salt Lake City. Hummus was standard tour food because it’s really filling and pretty much everywhere. So we pull into a giant grocery store somewhere off I-80, trying to find hummus. I asked one of the workers where the hummus was, and they were like, “Hummus? What’s that? I’ve never heard of that. But we have tofu…” That’s pretty much what it was like in those early years for us. A friend of mine who is a singer in another band only eats fruit on tour. Essentially he only eats bananas — something like 30 of them a day. I think he unloads all the peels in an open field whenever they drive by one.
Tuite: Apples are THE fruit. They’re hard, so you can’t squash or sit on them. They stay good for a really long time, and they don’t have a peel, so you’re not holding a fucking banana peel for 70 million miles across the United States. Once I ate so much peanut butter on tour that afterward my doctor told me I had a dangerously high lipid blood count. Remember that anywhere there’s coffee, there’s a hot water spigot. With that, you can make things like oatmeal, which for me is a lifesaver. I really can’t say enough about it. Tuna fish in a bag — it sounds gross, but if you want protein not in the form of chicken nuggets, it’s very doable. It’s not as disgusting as it seems. And plus it’s in a bag, so you can’t cut your hand open on the can.
Wedren: You learn what’s available and what your body can handle, and in my case what my voice could handle. I didn’t want to overdo dairy or feel too bloated and burp-y. I’d stock up on Corn Nuts, which I still think are God’s greatest snack. Dairy causes a lot of phlegm, so that pretty much nixed cheeseburgers, cheese burritos, and milkshakes. I just started going more truck-stop natural with the Corn Nuts and peanuts, and then of course the occasional Twizzlers treat.
AN APP-LE A DAY:
Anzaldo: I was visiting my grandparents in Omaha this past weekend, and I didn’t have a whole lot of time to leave their house. Modern Love is located there, which is one of my favorite restaurants in the country. I was able to DoorDash a meal from there for three bucks, which would have been unthinkable even a few years ago.
Tuite: Food deserts are real. There are places like Montana or North Dakota where you absolutely cannot get any healthy food at all. It sounds ridiculous when you’re somewhere where it’s readily available. It’s a little bit easier now with apps and Googling, but sometimes literally nothing shows up. It just doesn’t exist.
Wedren: It would be interesting to tour as much now as I used to with Shudder to Think because there are so many more options out there. The jaunts I do on my own are so different, between the food apps I have that will show me what’s around in any location or Yelp, which didn’t exist, to Whole Foods and green markets all over. It has been extraordinary to watch, although I curse the fact that we were on the wrong end of the century line to take advantage of it.
Anzaldo: In Europe, it’s so much harder to eat well on tour. It has gotten easier, but the taste of a falafel now gives me PTSD. When I eat it in the States, it reminds me of being in Europe, hungry, away from home, with nothing else to eat. European venues also make this vat of stew and vegetables, which is known as punk stew or punk slop, and that’s the food for the entire band and crew. Let’s just say punk stew is not a band-favorite meal (laughs). We always wonder, why does this place not possess any salt or pepper, yet there’s an uncountable amount of ingredients in here?
Tuite: If I had a sandwich for every beer or drink ticket I was offered at a venue, I’d be happy and healthy. Some places have some form of food and you just want to kiss their feet, even if it’s waxy apples. And a lot of times, if we’re playing a basement venue, the people that throw the shows will have the bands stay over and will make us really delicious food. I feel like I ate a lot of vegan chili in those places. It’s always really sweet when people cook for you.
Wedren: We’d depend on relatives, particularly my grandma in Cleveland, and occasional friends we’d stay with. You would do what you could to connect the dots between home-cooked meals, which were incredible. My grandma would make a ton of food for us to take back on the road, and that would last us a few days until the next aunt or uncle would materialize. Around 1993, we started getting wined and dined by major labels, and we were young enough that it was still really special to go to a cool restaurant in New York. It felt like playing dress-up of being a “rock band.” But like all things, it was so totally transitory and fleeting. It’s a good thing to remind myself of now. I’ll take my composing teams out to a great meal, or if i’m playing a show with friends, we’ll make an effort to have dinner together. There’s much more of a savoring of it now, having been through so many phases of food and music and travel.
Ceremony’s album, “In the Spirit World Now,” is out now on Relapse Records. Dirty Dishes’ new music resides at dirtydishes.bandcamp.com and on Jenny Tuite’s Psychic Access platform. Craig Wedren’s film and TV scores can be heard on HBO’s “Mrs. Fletcher,” NBC’s “New Amsterdam,” and Hulu’s “Shrill.”