Guest columnist John Robb
Guest columnist John RobbWriter, commentator and musician
There you are backstage in a room lit by those energy sapping, curious strip lights full of dead flies. You have been sat in the back of a van for ten hours. Your only break, the occasional motorway services with their strange luminosity – and that’s just the food.
Backstage is silent. It’s damp. It’s freezing and the graffiti is the same old witless scrawl of genitalia and insults.
You’re looking at the spread of food on the table – six packets of crisps, some curious looking sweets and a tired looking ham sandwich that even the flies are ignoring. It’s food for children – not for road warriors; it’s food for people who don’t eat; it’s food for people who don’t care about themselves or the rest of the world.
Rock n roll is a curious occupation. When I joined this world, way back in the punk rock wars, it felt like a revolution of the everyday but now it feels like some curious backwards colony of conservative thinking. A place where the Rolling Stones fly shepherds pie round the world and people still eat pork pies.
Everyone knows that touring is not quite the glamorous occupation of hoary old myth. That doesn’t stop it being one of the great lifestyles though and in the past few decades being a vegetarian on the road has got a lot easier. We once spent seven days in Poland eating sunflower seeds plucked from the husk of the flower and bits of stale bread. There we were once, trying to explain vegetarianism in a Hungarian roadside restaurant by drawing an egg and ending up with chicken. In France, our host kindly cooked us a chicken each believing it was vegetarian food because it was a plant eating animal. Our one meat eater had a slavering banquet whilst the host was out of the room.
On the other hand, there were Dutch squats where tempeh was the staple a decade before you could buy it in the UK. In the 21st century, being vegetarian, and now vegan, has never been easier. Criss-crossing Germany is now a pleasure. The nation that pretty well defined modern vegetarian culture has endless great health food shops where once even the humble banana would have been hard to source.
In an act that is so un-rock n roll that I almost feel embarrassed typing it, we always take a sturdy cardboard box in the van and keep it topped up with non-animal foodstuffs.
Touring is the last great thrill left in our over-sanitised world. It’s the last chance to be a pretend pirate and live beyond the law but a place where, with a bit of thinking, you can leave the animals alone and stay vegan even in the most high decibel of environments. Even if you are faced with those six packets of crisps.