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Unchartered waters: Squeeze’s post-pandemic foray into the US

Manager Suzanne Hunt gives insight into how legendary rock band Squeeze became the first UK band to tour the US since the pandemic

10 Dec 2021

We planned Squeeze’s Nomadband tour back in 2019. There were to be three legs: the first was in February 2020, the shortest run, and the band left the US a couple of weeks before Covid hit.

We did two shows with Hall & Oates, one being Madison Square Garden, and seven of our own shows, and the tour was an amazing success, on the back of another great one in 2019.

We all arrived back just before restrictions started coming in. The other two legs were due to take place over summer 2020 but were rescheduled to summer 2021.

What we had to learn since Covid, was that we could not just plan everything way in advance, we had to accept that things could change at any time and we would need to adapt and change accordingly.

We were continually waiting, looking at the latest guidance, and talking with Hall & Oates, management, our US agent, and Live Nation regularly.

The final decision, to put our shows on sale and go for it, was made in early June. That was the cut-off point if we were to have enough time to arrange visa appointments. Without confirmed on-sale shows, we would not have the relevant paperwork. Also, this time was needed to promote the shows.

What we had to learn since Covid, was that we could not just plan everything way in advance

Guidance and Covid rules were continually changing with no notice. We had our three-year visa application approved really easily, but the US Embassy was not open fully for visa services. Keeping everyone safe and clear of Covid infection was also another big challenge that needed to be taken very seriously.

Once we knew the tour was going ahead, instead of having months to plan and prep, we had to pull everything together in just over six weeks. We did not want to incur any charges if we were not going to do the tour, so had to wait. Again, there were many hoops to jump through to manage to get the visas in our passports.

Managing to arrange emergency appointments for all personnel was very challenging. The extra amount of supporting paperwork was huge. Arranging all the Covid requirements for travel and making sure all personnel had the correct paperwork was also complicated.

Sourcing all the supplies and vehicles we required was far harder than usual as supply and services across the country were very compromised – bus companies were low on drivers and supply companies had much longer lead times than normal, plus low stocks.

Everyone on the tour was tested at least three times a week. All local venue personnel, our crew, and the band wore masks at the venues, except in our dressing rooms and production office, and everyone except the band wore masks during the shows. We all avoided any crowded bars/ restaurants/shops and tried to eat outside as much as possible.

We had no meet and greets, no handshaking, and kept our distance from anyone who was not in our touring bubble. We only met friends on the road outside and again, kept our distance.

If I were to offer advice on planning upcoming tours, it would be to still take Covid seriously

We asked for all backstage areas to be sanitised before our arrival, and all personnel had hand sanitiser on them and used it regularly. It was very much a team effort. A lot of thought and time went into planning the tour, and the fact we managed to get through 47 shows without cancelling one means that I think we did a good job.

The shows were absolutely amazing. The crowds were all so up for having a good time, and quite a few of our shows were the first in the venues since Covid, so they were especially special. Hall & Oates were really great.

The whole band and crew were amazing to work with, and their shows were incredible. Luckily, their approach to Covid was just like ours. We were one very happy large touring family, and it was one of our most memorable tours.

If I were to offer advice on planning upcoming tours, it would be to still take Covid seriously. We are just about to go on the road with Madness in the UK. Luckily, again, their approach towards keeping safe with Covid is very similar to ours.

We will all be testing before every show, wearing masks, keeping our distance, no after shows with guests or meet and greets, sanitising regularly. It is just not worth the risk to drop our guard.

There is still no insurance to cover performers if shows are cancelled due to Covid. We have all been out of work for such a long time, and we need to protect ourselves as much as possible and keep the wheels turning on those buses.

 


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