You’d Be Surprised What Musicians Really Have on Their Tour Riders

Band members from Dashboard Confessional, Young the Giant, Jukebox the Ghost, and more share the weird—and healthy—snacks they stow backstage, plus memories of attempting to cook on the road.
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A typical tour for a musician lasts about six weeks, which means six weeks living backstage or in hotel rooms and tour bus bunks—and missing home cooked meals. So when we were at Firefly Music Festival this year in Dover, Delaware, we asked a few musicians what they keep on their tour riders to stay healthy or satisfy junk cravings, how they attempt to cook on the road, and what they eat the second they get back to their real homes. Check out what they revealed below.

Chris Carrabba Dashboard Confessional

Chris Carrabba, lead singer of Dashboard Confessional.

What’s on your tour rider?

Chris Carrabba, lead singer, Dashboard Confessional: If I'm not at a restaurant where I'm really going for it, I eat like a hippie, but the other hippies are like, "Dude, you're trying too hard." Trail mix and fruit and stuff like that are kind of my bag. And I like to get a nice local coffee. I am always looking forward to my next cup and collect bags from tours and drink them in order when I get home, saving the labels in a Tupperware for next time I'm in that city.

Alison Wonderland, EDM artist: I always have a whole jar of Manuka honey, trail mix, veggies and hummus—anything to snack and graze that isn’t heavy or I’ll feel like I can’t move! And it's kind of embarrassing, but I definitely have Pedialyte on my rider because you can get dehydrated, especially from flying and air conditioning and forgetting to drink water when you're in a rush. And I'm pretty bad at remembering that. I used to like grape, but now I’m into the orange flavor.

Ben Thornewill, singer, Jukebox the Ghost: Rarely do I excited with rider food because it's mostly functional—trail mix, some Smart Food popcorn, chips and salsa, kombucha for my bandmate Tommy. But for me, there's the small pleasures of having a bowl of cereal. For some reason that feels exotic. Honey Bunches of Oats with almond milk. Nice mix. Not too sweet. Makes me feel not insane after the show.

Babs Szabo, co-founder of Emo Nite: Better Booch kombucha in citrus every day. And we have food trucks in the parking lot of our LA events, like tacos or ice cream. Even though we throw a party every night, to survive DJing until 2 a.m. I don’t drink—just water—and try to find some sort of rice or quinoa with veggies and salmon during the day.

Francois Comtois, drummer, Young the Giant: Unsweetened dried mangoes, dark chocolate, plain San Pellegrino, and Waterloo sparkling water. I love black cherry. Other than that, we like to ask for "nice cheese." We're cheese fiends! Sometimes you end up with someone who knows what's up and they'll bring you a Manchego or a Camembert or something, and sometimes you get slices of American. If I had my dream, I’d have Tomme de Savoie. It's just like raw cow's milk cheese. It's very mild but has great nutty flavor and a great texture. I also love Camembert and cheese curds because I’m from Quebec. But I eat all the cheese at lunch! Cheese right before the show is a disaster waiting to happen.

Have you ever tried to cook on your tour bus?

Alison: One time, I tried to cook for my manager. It was such a disaster that I've become a little scared of cooking these days. Basically I tried to bake a salmon in foil, and apparently there was a chemical reaction with the garlic and the lemon... and the salmon turned blue!

Chris: Sometimes we cook on the bus. We discovered it's a ventilation issue—our very first bus we found out burned down before we got it because someone tried to make a souffle. We cook out and grill right next to the bus most of the summertime and even into the fall on a little Traeger that stows on the bottom of the bus. We've got a couple of would-be chefs on our crew that I think in another life, their passion could've lead them to a different career. My production manager is from Texas. He's a barbecue guy through and through. He kind of takes the lead on that. I like turkey and chicken, and there are vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores. Everything goes on the grill at the same time, which is great because then my turkey burger tastes like ribs.

Francois: We haven’t. Our bus driver has some of those Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches. I've been temped a couple of times to microwave one. I'd be more afraid of what he would do to me if I ate one of his Jimmy Dean sausages. We’re thinking of getting a little Weber to do summer tour cookouts with, though.

Ben: I don’t cook, but I have a tea routine. I make this anti-voice-losing tea. It's fresh chopped or shaved or ground ginger, lemon, honey, two bags of Throat Coat for about 10 minutes and apple cider vinegar. And cayenne pepper if I'm feeling saucy. It gets the job done. I make a thermos full and it stays hot, and I just sip at it through the show.

What’s the first food you make when you get home to your own kitchen?

Babs: I make what I call the Babs Bowl: brown rice, sweet potato, avocado, pumpkin seeds, kale, lentils, and dried cranberries. And sometimes soup from Whole Foods and a kombucha.

Francois: Anything on the grill is usually a pretty safe bet. I really like my chili verde recipe. It's kind of like a low and slow with pork butt. Tomatillos and then dried rehydrated chilis to make a salsa. I started making homemade corn tortillas with masa. If I could have that the day I get back, I'd be in paradise.

Ben: I usually do a nice stovetop salmon with an asparagus bake and then some sort of grain and sweet potato mixture of something or another. And a nice glass of red wine.

Alison: When I get home from tour, I actually crave pho a lot. For some reason it just makes me feel so much better. Or I love going to a Jewish deli and getting chicken soup, which is full of revitalizing nutrients.

Chris: There's this dish my grandmother used to make. You use the pasta sauce from the night before and you poach your eggs in the sauce. It takes on all the flavor of the onions, basil, and tomato. It's really, really delicious. That's kind of the first thing I make when I get home.