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

Oh Hai My Fellow Readers…


Sorry for the lack of blogging updates. Ive been really busy with the tour and riding. With those two I have very little time to write much or anything else for that matter. Im not complaining. Im sitting in my hotel room at Mont Tremblant Quebec right now looking out to a nice evening and a beautiful scenery. Just got back in from a short ride around the area. Took some nice pics as well as earlier coming in.

This week has had us in Canada. Sarnia Ontario, Ottawa Ontario, Toronto Ontario and Thursday in Quebec City then heading back to Toronto for a Saturday show. Monday we will be back in the USA in Uncasville CT with 3 following shows in Philly, Saratoga Spring and Wantaugh NY. We then head home for a short tour break. We will be off July 25 – Aug 4 and start up again Aug 5 in Salt Lake City UT. So ill fly home from NY and then fly to UT a few days early to get situated and then prolly ride a day or so in the area. Might even hit up the Red Rock Brewery in SLC to see what the soup of the day is lol.

Since June 29 on the first show Ive had a great time. Been some really great shows. Rush will also be heading back to Brazil for an Oct 8 show in Sao Paolo and an Oct 10 show in Rio. That will make for some wild Brazilian fans! The show is awesome. Neil Peart is sporting a new copper colored DW Drum Kit and a new set of Signature Pro-Mark Time Machine Tour sticks. The stage has also taken a change from Geddy’s usuall Henhouse units lol to a time machine setup. Neil’s Drum Solo is a bit shorter this time around but he has added a new set of samples to his MalletKAT and the Finale has some really awesome animated drum video. The opening of the show starts off with a funny lil video featuring all three members of the band. Alex as a fat producer, Neil as a cop and Geddy as a restaurant worker. You just have to see it for yourself if you goto a show or you can find the videos on youtube im sure. In past years Tom Sawyer opened with a small minute long South Park skit made by the creators just for Rush. It features the characters pretending to be Rush and playing Tom Sawyer. This time around you wont see that bit. This time it is a continuation of the opening skit with all three band members again….you just have to see it all for yourself.

So on the other hand, nothing else is going on. Just keeping busy. In fact I am about to goto sleep as soon as I finish this blog. Long day tomorrow getting to Quebec City. This was just a detour I chose to take because well, thats me! Of course I have pics for your viewing pleasure. Some have seen a few of them on Facebook and I probably will post some on Flickr as well once I get more free time. Of course I will finish this blog with a few pics from the ride today and maybe a few from St Catharines. I will see once I get to that in just a moment.

In Slipknot news….well there is none to be honest with you. Ive received quite a few complaints about people angry that Slipknot as a whole is not included in the Hard Rock Cafe thing with Corey. I can relate to many of your rants about that but for the most part he was singled out because of his work with Slipknot and Stone Sour. More so because of what he has accomplished. Although he has not done so alone he is the frontman of both bands and you all should know that the frontman/woman is always the one that gets the most notariety in the group. Shitty I know but thats how it is when it comes to celebrities in America. Fear not though Slipknot fans, the band has received many accolades from all over the world. To be nominated for Grammy’s and winning one, to having the hottest selling DVDs and albums around the world. Sure Slipknot may not sell 100 million albums like these pussy ass bitches in pop/rap but hey at least you Maggots are the real deal and not band followers simply because you think the guys are hot. If thats the only reason you like any band then you need to slap the shit out of yourself and get a mother fucking reality check. Seriously people! In my last blog I discussed this more in depth if you read it. I wont get into that again….

So yes nothing much else to write about. Oh wait. Well lets see the other day I got a fucking flat tire. Had to patch it up and fill the tire. Luckily a nice young man and his girlfriend saw me stranded and offered to take me the short distance into town to fill up with air and brought me back. There are nice people in this world! I offered the young man some Canadian cash but he refused and simply said it was a pleasure. He then said he was going to the show in Toronto. Wow, how could he have known I was on the tour? Then as I got the tire back on the bike and noticed I was about due for an oil change. It hit me! I pulled out my oil and filter from my bags and i noticed I had the holographic sticker on the rear of my hard bags that said, “Got Peart?” LOL..Still though I wondered how he would have known. The other guys were ahead of me and maybe this guy and his girlfriend saw them up ahead and figured I had to have been with them. Thats about the only thing I can figure. So the night of the show I saw that guy and his girlfriend as well as a few other people and I gave him a small gesture of appreciation. Now im not one to go and take Neil Peart’s drumsticks. Im not stupid and I wont even ask. So i did get one each of Alex and Geddy’s picks and took them to the young fan. He was happy and it felt nice to give that guy something back in return for his generosity. It was only about 2 miles to town but that would have been a very long 4 mile walk there and back!!

So yeah that was really cool and something that would have taken me hours only took me about 45 minutes. Very thankful! Im sure with much more riding left I will have more stories to tell from this lonely road. Although its nice to be on this tour I am no where near buddies with Bubba so I respect that space as hopefully any Rush fan should. If you have watched Beyond the Lighted Stage or read any of Bubba’s books then you know he is not the most fan friendliest guy but not in a mean way. So respect his space and if you do see him, give him a nod or a wave and dont make a scene. Just be casual and its best not to approach him. Neil’s riding partner Michael is licensed private investigator and security for the band so its best to not get in their way.

Besides that, I am going to sleep. Take care my fellow friends, fans, readers or whatever you consider yourselves lol…..oooooooooooooh did you subscribe to my blog yet? Its on the right hand side of the main page. Enter your email address to subscribe. I would greatly appreciate it and hell tell your friends to read my shit. The more readers the better. Since I have blogged about Paul Gray I have had quite a few blog hits. Sadly, I hate that it has happened because of such a sad event but I do appreciate the reads, clicks, rates or whatever. Link me if you wish on your own blogs or whatever. Anyways, subscribe to my blog and hey, there is still time to win that free cookie!!! MMMMMMMMMM! LOL

peace out my friends!

Kansas City Reporter Dogs Rush


of course people are entitled to their opinions but obviously Michael Judge, the writer of the review for http://www.kansascity.com is not a Rush fan and doesn’t understand the concept of being a Rush fan. He mentions how Rush could play such old songs as Freewill and 2112 after all of these years. Michael, that is because those songs are trademark to Rush. Just as Tom Sawyer, Spirit of Radio and others. Those songs are what you hear playing in the rotation on the radio stations. Neil Peart is the last person to tell you he is a great drummer. He would tell you he just loves drums. Neil is considered one of the greatest drummers of our time but others beg to differ. Thats fine. Neil would agree. So its no surprise that you would see people air drumming along with Neil. It is also one of the things that Neil notices while behind the kit. If you have ever read any of his books you would learn more about him as a person and his way of thinking and how he sees the industry and the idea of fans. Fans know that catchy signs and air drumming are just ways that they may end up with a pair of NEP sticks after his drum solo.

Rush is progressive rock. There are bands that play their songs live as they did on the album. Honestly, there is nothing wrong with that. People like Britney Spears and such that lip sync must go along with the music as its played or else risk going off sync. Lets take for instance Slipknot. Slipknot performs their songs for the most part as they are on the albums. The difference is the energy. You dont get the same energy in the album and you do at a live show. Its heavier and it is RAW. Same goes with Rush. Neil Peart doesn’t play every fill the same. He will tell you he lagged and that he didnt do this fill right or that part of his solo right and he will critique himself. Just as Alex Lifeson will say that he amazes himself that he makes it through a solo at times because he likes to go in different directions at times depending on his feel. Geddy going between keyboards and bass…..Not an easy feat for many and on top of that singing.

Rush sets themselves apart from other bands. Neil Peart’s lyrics dont have to make sense to others. Those that have followed the band know what he is saying in his songs. There is a story behind his lyrics and his way of writing which he describes in detail in his books. Neil uses the MalletKAT and Alex and Geddy MIDI-controllers that control certain sounds and effects used in their show. What is the problem with that? Pink Floyd also has done the same. Rush could employ touring musicians for keyboards and such but they choose not to. Triggering of effects and sounds is common in the touring world now. When Dimebag Darrell was alive his techs would activate manually some of his effects so he didnt have to onstage.

The point of it all is this….Critics can review and criticize and that is their right. Rush doesnt sound the way they once did in their earlier days. True Neil Peart may not hit the skins as he once did but I take into account that Neil spent years and years on the road and suddenly lost his daughter and wife. Everything seemed to be taken from him he said. His wife, daughter, dog, best friend. In his book Ghost Rider he describes how his life seemed similar to the book Dorothy Parker’s What Fresh Hell Is This by Marion Meade. After all of that pain and sorrow he returned to the band with a new outlook on life and love. I remember reading that Neil said he did not want to be in his 60s and still touring now that he and his wife have a new daughter.

I think Rush has progressed over their 40 year career. They may not be as they once was in their younger days and the “Rush-ians” know that but the devoted fans of the band that enjoy hearing those songs over and over never tire of them. As a musician myself I can play guitar and drums all day with few breaks. One would think that after a long tour run I would put down the sticks or guitar pick and not even touch one but I always end up doing so. A workout for me is sitting behind my R30 Drum Kit and running through an entire 2.5-3 hour set of Rush live. have to put that inherited kit to good use. Its what my friend Victor wanted. He bought it but couldn’t play but always liked me coming over to play it because I would teach him. Then he suddenly died after and arguement with his wife and he had left the kit to me in his will. Stating that I was the only one he knew that could really appreciate having such a drum kit and knew I would take care of it. Neil Peart grew up idolizing Keith Moon and Buddy Rich. I grew up idolizing him.

Rush is a cult following. You wont see many women at their shows and the band will say openly say they know it. Rush has a huge man-following just as portrayed in the movie I Love You Man. It was one way Rush accepted their following for what it is. Rush fans are called geek boys and music techies but hey thats fine. Rush is technical in their music and their music is far more appreciated in its album form live that a fully improvised set. So Neil and Alex may go off with different rifffs and fills but hey thats part of a live show. It doesnt have to be completely different. Sure it may get old playing the same songs over and over again but yes they do it for the fans and yes even at their age it pays the bills. I mean a person works well into their 50s and 60s. Why? Well it pays the bills. As Neil says in his Anatomy of a Drum Solo DVD. Drummers go into solos building their solo and to make it their own. He said also that for a drummer in the end a drummer must go back to accompanying a band because they are part of a band.

I happen to enjoy Rush because of the music and how each song structure stays the same. You can change a song all you want live or on an album but what really attracts the fans is how you perform live. So even if you do it note for note as played on an album or fully improvise the set its the energy the band gives out that the fans pick up on and they return that energy to the band. That energy for that entire show is a loop between the band and the fans. If the crowd doesn’t feel it then the band will eventually not play up to their full potential. There is no energy to feel. Nothing there. Bands will play 40 shows and maybe 2 of those 40 will be “special or magic” shows. Also, someone that is not a fan may pick up on mistakes by the guitarist or drummer. They are human and can make mistakes. The fans get into the music. They feel the music and feed off that energy so even if Neil Peart screws up a fill the fans will either not notice or really wont care because they are there live and feeling that energy….That explains why people will spend $50 to see their favorite band just as a person spends $20 or so for their favorite movie or CD. Would be a pretty boring world if we heard music just once and never heard it again because it was considered “old or outdated.” Jimi Hendrix is dead yet people continue to hear his music and study his techniques.

Thats what makes a live show what it is. An energetic exchange between artist and fan. its the equilibrium.

The Key of Q


It never fails as a touring guitar tech to be asked “what tuning does such and such tune their guitars to?” Its a question every guitar tech from Scary Larry to myself has been asked…..I never knew what to say besides, “about 3 or 4 different ones man.” Then Larry told me, “just tell them they tune to Q.” LOL…So now when people ask me about what tuning the guitars are at I always tell them, “they tune to Q man.” Meant as a joke and sometimes a way to get some annoying people away from me. Not all are annoying. So dont think im saying you people are annoying. Just some are persistent and ask a million questions as if im there to do a magazine interview for them! LOL

So if you ask this question and you hear “the key of Q man,” then its prolly best to laugh at it and leave it alone. Annoying a tech is not a wise decision!! So thats about it. Just a funny lil tidbit I figured I would throw in. I know Denis will probably get a good laugh at this!! LOL….I always do!!