Andrew Sprague is a great guy who I have known through the music world for many years. If you are not familiar with the term Tour Manager; they are the ones responsible for everything you pay money to see at a concert. Tour managers travel every day with the band to ensure that they arrive safely and efficiently, that the venue, sound and security are in order and that everything goes off without a hinge leaving fans in awe. Traveling every week alone is no easy task. Imagine being responsible for the travel of twelve or more people carrying nearly priceless instruments! Andy has worked with many of the greats and is currently touring with modern legends, Taking Back Sunday. In my days I have experienced many tour managers and aside from being one of the most intimidating, Andrew is also one of the best and nicest (deep down). Andrew was kind enough to do a Q&A session with us for part two of our Interesting Travel Stories & Tips Weekly Feature and it certainly does not disappoint....
If you could invent one innovation for flying/traveling what would it be?
AS: An anti–turbulence modulator? That’s what I’d call it. Every flight as smooth as sliding on a sheet of ice.
Any interesting customs experiences?
AS: When you travel with as much gear as we do, we typically get to have a chat with customs agents. It’s a good idea to have a carnet sorted so you don’t run into any issues. One time during such a stop in New Zealand, one of their dogs stopped at my personal backpack. I immediately thought someone planted drugs in my bag a la the Ganja Queen! The agent asked if it was my bag, I confidently said “yes” while thoughts of what New Zealand prison might be like ran through my head. An Agent then informed me that his furry partner was a “Currency Detecting Dog”. Needless to say, I was relieved and impressed with the dogs capabilities as I did have multiple currencies in my bag (nowhere near the $10,000 limit) Here’s the dog that “caught” me, she’s pretty cool!
What was your best flight?
AS: Amsterdam to Dubai on the Emirates A380 was one of those flights that you just don’t want to end. That is one incredible aircraft. My other favorite was a Singapore Airlines flight from LA to Tokyo. The Singapore Slings were going down easy, and my friend Nate and I spent most of the flight standing in the galley talking about (and figuring out) life. Ah, memories.
Any good celebrity spottings?
AS: A good celebrity sighting for me personally, as a massive Chicago Bears fan, I had ex- Bears head coach Lovie Smith sitting behind me on a flight from Chicago to Tampa. I couldn’t work up the nerve to say anything though. Otherwise, the girl from Pulp Fiction (the “… and I’ll execute every (expletive) last one of you” girl) was on a flight a few years back. I was waiting for her to scream that line on the plane.
Top Three favorite cities?
AS: London, Berlin, Chicago. I’ve always been a bit of an anglophile, so London is where it’s at for me. Berlin, this is more of a recent development. I still have so much to explore there, but the people, the food, the energy; it’s an incredible city. Chicago, it’s where I was born and will always be the greatest city in the world.
Best airport experience?
AS: If I have to have a best experience, I’d say the 12-hour layovers at Singapore Changi. They have everything you’d ever need for when you’re stuck inside an airport for that long. Including a butterfly garden…
Favorite Airport Lounge?
AS: The new(er) Centurion Lounge by American Express in Las Vegas. Their breakfast was amazing! Poached Eggs with tomato and basil, lemon ricotta pancakes! Unreal. The world needs more of those. All the Qantas lounges in Australia are solid as well.
Money matters to everyone but it seriously matters when you fly almost every week. Any tips for finding the cheapest ticket?
AS: I tend to check all possible outlets when booking travel. I’ll compare everything. Hipmunk and Kayak are good resources for comparisons. However, I ALWAYS book with the airline direct. It saves so much hassle when flights are cancelled or if you run into any other setbacks. Another thing I’ve started doing recently is looking into small regional airports. Living in Grand Rapids, MI, there have been times when getting a flight out of Muskegon can be significantly cheaper and only 20 min. further drive…
What have you used your miles on?
AS: My honeymoon, I used my miles for 2 round-trip tickets to London, and 5 days at a nice hotel in Kensington. Also, if you’ve got a small amount of miles about to expire, magazine subscriptions are a good way to use them. And donating your miles is always a nice option; I’ve donated in the past through United to Airlink, http://www.airlink-info.org/about
Favorite venue on tour?
AS: The Norva in Norfolk, VA. It’s a standard touring person response; they have a basketball court, hot tub, ping-pong table, and great big dressing rooms. A lot of stuff to just break the monotony of tour life.
Who is the funniest guy you've toured with?
AS: Ed Reyes, guitarist for Taking Back Sunday. And at the same time, he drives me crazy.
Strangest or funniest flying experience?
AS: On an Air New Zealand flight, the flight attendant yelled at me for asking to make sure our group would be getting meals. This was a flight where you had to have meals purchased with your ticket. Traveling with 11 other people, I needed to know we had everything squared away. I was very polite about it, I promise. The flight attendant was flailing (seriously) about and said things like, ”You Americans, always so impatient.” And “Are you related to George Bush? No? You could’ve fooled me.” I’m still not sure what the full meaning of that query is. He must have had a terrible time on a flight with our ex-president. That being said, Air New Zealand does have the best pre-flight safety videos.
Best band you've opened for or had open?
AS: Die Antwoord played with Anberlin when we were opening for Linkin Park in Germany. That was an interesting sight, as I don’t think they entertained the Linkin Park fans, but they didn’t let it affect their performance in the least. A band called Marmozets were just opening up for Taking Back Sunday in Europe, they’re just too young and talented for their own good!
Whats your favorite "Elite" perk when flying?
AS: First class upgrades. 100%.
What's your favorite airline or Alliance?
AS: United and United MileagePlus have treated me very well over the years, but if I could fly everywhere on the Emirates A380, I’d be cool with that.
Speaking from experience, no matter how sweet and cute the customs dog seems, it is never fun to be approached and sniffed. I totally agree with Andy on the American Express Centurion Lounges, they are the best. Did you know they are available to anyone who has any American Express card and free for the cardholder and two guests to anyone with a Platinum card? From what I can tell it seems like Andy has done really well sticking within the Star Alliance and crediting his miles to United regardless of which airline he flies within Star Alliance. What beats a free honeymoon?!