Concert Touring: The Crew and The Production


you know i have been in the music business for over 10 years and I have worked with some of the biggest names in the business. one of the things that has always pissed me off about being a roadie/tech is ignorant fans. Fans that expect us to cater to them. Fans that expect us to give them free shit and most of all, fans that think they can perform our jobs much better than we do. So this blog is about those ignorant mother fuckers. Sorry, you fans are not all like this but im sure some of you know some people like this. The majority are younger fans like teenagers but the following is my thoughts.

In case you dont know, concert productions are by far a stressful job. The idea of traveling from city to city and country to country sounds awesome and it is but with that comes the rigors of the job. There are plenty of jobs in concert production. From the tour manager and stage manager to the backline techs, sound engineers, lighting and sound techs, FOH (front of house), monitor world…etc….Each of these jobs consists of professionals very skilled in their field. Together we construct a full concert production from an empty arena or venue. Some bands travel with minimum equipiment and use house sound and lighting. This means that most work is just stage props and backline (band gear). Then you take bands like U2 that travel with 15 semis or Rush that travel with 7-8 semis. These productions are full scale and require must more time. At the crack of dawn riggers begin laying out rig points and measuring where points will be placed so that truss, lighting, PA and whatever else the production requires to be in the air can be hoisted up. This involves math and a good eye. As you know every venue is different. Your band may play in front of 12,000 on Monday night and only load 4-5 trucks worth of gear into a venue and then Tuesday night play in an arena capable of holding 20,000 or more people. Then a full 7 truck production goes into play.

There is much more to this than just hanging some chains in the air and hoisting up all the hardware. There is sound and each venue is different. One venue may have great acoustics while the next may have shitty acoustics. A good sound engineer can help compensate for this. For instance Brad Madix. He is a great FOH engineer. I wish I could just record the entire process and let people see just how the job gets done and how stress can get to us. Its not just the work at hand but also family life as well. Being away from home for months and months. Very similar to The Deadlist Catch show where the fisherman are away from home but make really good money. As a roadie the job is hard, stressful and it can be overwhelming. Sound is one thing but getting lighting programmed is also another issue. Before a concert even begins to tour everything must be set up. Lighting structures, video montages, sound setups and monitor world is NOT the same as Front of House. Monitors are designed for the band to hear what they are playing. They dont hear what you hear. Many even using click tracks just to stay on timing.

Concert productions employ local stagehands to help with the building of the show. Usually just known as labor. lol. Never fun when we get FNGs out there either that dont know how to coil snakes or attach PA together to be hung in the air. Most stagehands are experienced and when asked to perform a fucntion they will do as we say. Even after all the PA, sound and lighting is set up and ready to go there still comes the stage and the backline. The techs then re-string guitars, tune and polish and drum techs spend hours depending on the kit putting things together and tuning as well as placement. Then comes mic’ing up all the speaker cabs and drums and getting monitors in place…..you name it…just so much.

By early afternoon or so a crew on top of things can get the show ready to roll and the only thing left is for the band to soundcheck if they get one and then get the show on the road. During the show all crew and techs are on top of their jobs. Making sure the sound is the way it needs to be. Making sure the band can hear themselves through their monitors and ear pieces and all of their equipment is in show condition. This also includes being on instant standby in case the guitarist needs to swtich immediately after a song or in many cases the guitar tech or drum tech may need to trigger certain effects or switch effects patches. Lorne Wheaton does this for Neil Peart of Rush on his drum solos when he changes his Roland V-Drum sounds. Dimebag Darrell’s tech also did this for him triggering and actually performing some of the effects so that Dime didnt have to. RIP Dime…..

I could go on and on about this entire subject. I know most people want to get backstage to meet the band and feel important for a night and others are interested in the full aspect of concert production. Its great when fans appreciate the work we put in for them to even have a show to attend. Doesn’t matter if your spending all day setting up the sound or stage or just spending 3 hours tuning and re-stringing some guitars or basses. Work is work and it has its ups and downs. sure there are the groupies. Women offering sex, blowjobs or money to meet the band. Many crew will accept a groupies offers and take them to the dressing rooms or the bus for a quick fuck. I’d rather not put my cock into a woman that I know absolutely nothing about even if she is the hottest girl to come on to me. Even with a condom. Just not my motif. I’d rather hop on the motorcycle and just ride to the next city as Neil Peart does than hook up with the skanks of the shows. In my opinion, the free pussy is very tempting but certainly not worth the prize. I have a special gal back home that I can be with for those things rather than be a manwhore. lol.

In the beginning I mentioned the idiots. The ignorant fuckers that bitch and call the crew losers. Why? Are you one of those people? Why do you think the crew are losers? We work for the band. We deal with your favorite artists daily and we get to know them on a personal level. In many cases becoming personal friends with them and they ask for us over and over again to tour with them because they like our work ethic. As a fan you work hard and buy your tickets for your favorite show(s). As crew we put those million dollar shows together day in and out for you to come see and rather than blast your stereo with the music we give you a full concert production with 100K’s of power of sound to enjoy for the evening and not only do you get to hear the band raw and live but you can get pics, swag, and if your lucky to be near the stage maybe a drumstick or guitar/bass pick. That is the icing on the cake to your live concert.

One thing fans do is wait by the buses or back door for their favorite bands to come out. Many times you get autographs and pics with them. In other instances you dont. They wont come out until after everyone has left or in many cases like my current bosses, the band leaves the venue immediately after the show. In conclusion we the crew and the band really dont owe you any more than they have already given you. They came to your city. You paid your ticket money and you got a show. Autographs, pics and meet and greets dont always come with that price. Some bands offer meet and greet VIP packages that allow you to meet the band before or after the show and get VIP seating up front with a few other gifts. For a price usually ranging from $200 to $400 and up thats a hefty price to pay but the huge fan will pay it if they see it worth it and worth their money. Nothing wrong with that. Just remember folks, your favorite bands have no problem visiting with you and signing autographs and taking pics. Some artists are not very good with dealing with the public and some altogether choose to exclude themselves from meet and greets of any kind. So before you talk bad about them remember that they deal with that every night and every day and minute of their lives. They might be sick for a few days and dont want to intereact with anyone and then a few days later feel better and get out there and talk with you happily. So dont get pissy if they dont spend 20 minutes or even 5 minutes talking to you. Respect the bands and they will respect you just learn when to not invade their personal space. Not always a good idea to attack a celeb when they are out eating or with their family and kids.

In this business I have met many greats. Bruce Springsteen, George Strait, Billy Joel, Ozzy, Bette Midler, Xtina, Britney Spears…etc to name a few. Many will easily say hi and talk to you but many of them also just appreciate a quick hello and have a good show rather than a full conversation. Learn their body language and if it feels a bit funny then its probably best to not try interaction with them. Many people have cursed their favorite bands because they had bad experiences with some of them. It is easy to catch a rockstar on a bad day. lol……

Think smart and for fucks sake, instead of being an ignorant mother fucker or bitch and calling us crew names, thank us for our hard work. It really is appreciated in the end.

G

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10 responses to “Concert Touring: The Crew and The Production

  1. Thank you for writing about this. I enjoyed reading it. I’m a newbie subscriber to your blog (the cookie prize was very tempting!) & your stories & insights amuse & fascinate me.

    When I was in college, a friend & I were talking about what we consider to be an amazing job. We both agreed that we would like to work for our favorite bands as a crew member or roadie. Even though we thought it was futile (we live halfway around the world!) & we knew the work would be hard, we still dreamt of it…because to us the best reward would’ve been the music.

    It really disappoints me when fans don’t appreciate the overall aspect of watching a concert…they think it’s just that easy because all they have to do is buy a ticket and show up to the gig. Also, there’s never a good excuse for being rude & offering sex just to get a backstage pass is just plain sad & desperate in my opinion.

    I live in Manila, Philippines…and we don’t get as much bands that tour us like say, Japan or London or Mexico. It’s even more annoying when some political shit happens and you find out that the concert ticket you just bought is now for refund because the show is not going to push through. Of course, I nor the bands dont have any control in situations like that so even if it’s a bit heartbreaking, there’s not much we can do.

    It really does mean a lot to me when bands are able to come & perform for us. There’s really not much more that I could ask for. (if they come back for a 2nd time then that’s icing on the cake!) We’re so far off & sometimes I think we don’t even register in the consciousness of promoters & bands. So I just want to say thank you to people like you who make it possible for people like me to have a chance at watching my favorite bands & experiencing their music live. You rock.

  2. Fizzywoohoo – thanks for the comment! I know what you mean about touring in other countries. with Slipknot I was able to goto Thailand and Korea and even Russia but with Stone Sour. Its sad that countries across the world cant just find peace with one another and allow entertainers to travel and entertain their people. Rush for example toured in South America and never thought they would have such a large fan base there. Hence the DVD entitled Rush in Rio. Now this October we will be hitting South America again and those fans like you said it will be the icing on the cake for them to see and hear one of their favorite bands live again. Even if this is their last trip to South America the fact they have gone there twice means alot to those fans.

    in the concert touring business there are plenty of perks but one of my favorites is being able to see the show live every night. looking out onto that stage from any angle out into the audience and seeing 20,000, 40,000 or even 100,000 people is unreal. I may never get to be a rockstar but as a roadie I get to live that childhood dream through their eyes and its just as good as the real thing….minus the money, fame and all that but thats ok…

    • I heard about that Slipknot show in Thailand..I think that was way back in 2004–argh! I was dying of envy! I want to see them live badly! I think there were reports that Slipknot was also scheduled to perform in Manila then (Nov.13) & it was even included on the tour schedule posted on the website & the tickets were already being sold…then something happened I guess & it got cancelled. *sniff*

      For some reason, I can’t find any fan videos of that concert in Thailand. Are asian crowds any different from your opinion? Or it doesn’t really matter wherever the fans are from?

      At least the fans from the Philippines & Thailand are still quite lucky as opposed to say…Malaysia. They’re pretty strict over there about foreign artists performing–for religious & censorship reasons I think. (like no swearing & no taking off of shirts for bands/male artists or skimpy attires for girls)

  3. Hey Gill, dont give a fuck about those stupid asses-it so retarded to curse your favorite band or even its crew for not fullfilling some unrealistic wishes, just plain stupid. You are right-this is one privileged beautiful but hard business, and everyone-you as crew and your band-is trying to offer the best-for money of course-day by day. Me as fan and music lover appreciatte that very much-and I said already-even if I bought some ticket-and got only 2-5 songs-I would be very satisfied to be part of that experience.

    Funny and very true about writing of those groupies-I would behave the same way-it would not just be my thing, not even close.

    I can believe that it is unreal to hang out with such famous stars-even see them in real life, it makes U wanna become one rockstar imediatelly-not just to experience such things as big money & fame, but to give the audience some good vibes through music making. One of rare things that connects people from all around world is just that-music.

    Keep rocking bro 8))

    • Im not sure where you could look in the UK but in the USA you could check with Upstaging Inc. Their website is http://www.upstaging.com they hire people for lighting, rigging and such. It is one of the most respected companies used in the United States today. I believe you can inquire about jobs on their website. You can also check a website called http://www.roadie.net they post jobs in the touring industry and the site is run by a former roadie and is maintained by current roadies who donate their time.

      Check them out!

    • not sure about the company but there is a company called StageTruck in Europe. they might be able to hire you for work. Im not sure if they just provide trucks for tours or tour staff as well.

    • to be honest it is not easy to get in as a touring crew member. There are schools that teach some of the basics of the road but mainly tour management and production. Most of us know people or the artists personally which is why we have our jobs as techs. Others work for companies like Upstaging Inc but you have to have bonafide experience in the field not just an interest. Not saying that you just want to get close to the artists but this job is not about hanging with the artists. There really is tons of work.

  4. Hi, this is a good article to let everyone know the roadie jobs.

    I live in Hong Kong, it’s lucky we have a lot of bands / artist come here to have a show, but we have nothing chance to work in backstage or music record company.

    I know many friends really want to work in music industry, but the record companies never post the internship job to let the people join their company, because those record companies just let the staff’s family members or close friends to join, which means a lot of peoples doesn’t have any chance to know about this industry.

    I think US / UK’s people are really lucky enough to have a lot of chance can join this industry or work with the artist.

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