by Joe Wong
photos courtesy of the band
Born in Minneapolis, Lori Barbero attended high school in New York in the late 70s, where she witnessed early punk shows in the East Village. She worked at a Nathan’s hot dog stand, and her boss was so taken with her (in a non-creepy, paternal sense) that he gifted her a houseboat in Key West, Fl, where she lived briefly after high school.
After a short stint at college in Duluth, Lori returned to Minneapolis. There, she became a figure in the seminal indie scene. In 1987, Lori met Kat Bjelland with whom she co-founded the highly influential band Babes In Toyland. The band broke into the mainstream with the release of its 1992 album, Fontanelle. After releasing three more albums and maintaining a relentless touring schedule, Babes in Toyland ended their initial run as a band in 2001. Now back together, the band has been rapidly selling out reunion shows.
JW: Tell me about your first tour.
LB: I believe it was in 1988 with Die Kreuzen from Milwaukee headlining, White Zombie was the middle band and Babes in Toyland were the opener. It was really super fun, because Die Kreuzen have been old friends of mine since the early 80s. To be quite honest I do not remember the attendance of any of the shows, and I really didn’t have any expectations. We were just on the road for the first time, with a couple bands that already had toured before. So we just pretty much followed their cue. As far as the stress as speckles of the tour I don’t remember feeling any stress at all. It was just really fine. You know I’m just traveling from town to town, meeting new people, hanging out with friends, playing some rock ‘n roll wasn’t stressful to me.
JW: Which tours do you remember as most successful?
LB: I’m guessing the most popular and financially successful tour was Lollapalooza 1993. It was the only time Babes ever had a tour bus, which was mandatory, because of the long overnight drives. It was a pretty big deal. All of the bands were somewhat successful, and it was just a festival on wheels. I had a really good time on lollapalooza. To be quite honest, there wasn’t really any tours I disliked. The attendance for the audiences for Lollapalooza averaged around 16,000 to 18,000 people per show. I guess the most stressful thing about that tour gala was just making sure that everyone was getting enough rest and taking care of themselves. It was really a crazy party on wheels.
JW: Did you have any strategies for getting along as a band while on the road for extended stretches?
LB: Have really good communication, respect for each other, and make sure that you have boundaries when people need their space. All of that’s really important when you’re spending a lot of time on tour or have relations with anybody, for that matter.
JW: Do you exercise on tour?
LB: I do a lot of stretching with my arms and neck because drumming is really physical, as you know, so that’s a lot of exercise. The other regular exercise I get is when I’m out and about I try to go to a lot of art galleries and antique shops. I love to venture to new places in each city we go to.
JW: You toured prior to the proliferation of the Internet. How did that shape the experience?
LB: I’ve brought up to quite a few touring bands, friends, telling stories, how we toured pre cell phones and GPS. You had to pay a lot more attention to getting from point A to point B back then. For example advancing your shows on a payphone, reading maps, printing directions from somewhere before tour, printing itineraries, and the list goes on and on. I’d love to see a band go on tour today without any cell phones or GPS, and write a journal about it.
JW: Any favorite tour meals?
LB: The best meals I’ve been on tour I’m pretty sure hands-down were in Europe. All the food is fresh, not a bunch of chemicals and crap, and it’s just a different way of life and style of eating. I can’t wait to go back there in May and June and enjoy the delicacies of Europe.
JW: Do any particular funny memories stand out?
LB: I can’t really recall any funny memories of being on the road, because I’m usually laughing all the time, but I could write a 50 chapter book about all the crazy experiences, strange stories, most memorable and uncommon life that Babes experienced throughout all of our tours. There was a time when we were touring about 10 months a year for 10 years solid. No regrets. The road is hard, but it sure is beautiful.
Joe Wong is a drummer and composer based in Los Angeles. He hosts The Trap Set, a weekly podcast about the lives of drummers.