Lesson #6 Comments about crew… yes roadies are people too

So today’s blog will address roadies and perhaps gear issues. I’m not certain ’cause I haven’t written it yet. I know everyone wants me to launch into the final blog where I pass on the final secret that makes you into a rock star. Sorry it’s not that simple and I’ve got to cover all kinds of basic issues before writing about how to make you the most popular band in the world.  When I finally do get to the summary a good portion of it will say ‘cover the basics!’ so all of these posts are part of the secret. Also I’d like to point out that pretty soon some of my advise is going to move away from beginning bands and onto how established experienced bands take the next step. If you would like me to write about something like “Album Mastering” or “How to bribe your way onto commercial radio” then speak up. If you don’t request subjects I will cover all of these things in my own haphazard fashion.

So you’re in a band and you think ” Damn this Marshall Stack is Heavy.” You’re correct it is very heavy and hell you shouldn’t be carrying it, you are, after all a star. This is where roadies enter the picture. Roadies are very important in their own way.  When you just start out they are a status symbol.  You show up at the lousy gig and you’ve got a roadie and the other opener band  doesn’t . They all look down their noses at you for not carrying your own guitar and the truth is they are jealous. Great bands have roadies. Really great bands have really great roadies.

So how do you get roadies? Well look around your practice space. There is probably one hanging around already. Roadies are recruited from close friends and, believe it or not, ex members of the band.  Another possibility is to trade off acting as crew with another local band you are tight with.  The point here is that everyone is working together to put on a show. It’s key that you have someone with a zippo when it comes to the part of the set where you hurl flaming raccoons into the audience. You don’t think you can light the raccoon AND play the ripping guitar solo at the same time do you?

Here’s some crew rules

1. Crew dress like the band but a little more workman like. They never outdress the band but they never dress like some stupid fucker that pays at the door.

2, Crew have specific jobs. You work this out during DRESS REHEARSAL. That’s when the band runs through the set as if it was a show. Full stage gear, lights if you’ve got ’em, flash pots, flaming raccoons the whole deal. If you’ve got one crew member then he does it all and you’ve got to teach him how you like things. If  he has to change a string on your strat and it pisses you off so much you cry if the extra length of string above the tuning peg isn’t clipped off then you better tell him. If you’ve got one, then use him, visibly. Have him hand you a guitar. Have him go on stage and set the mic height before you hit the stage. All these little things are part of putting on a show.  Think about it. You go to see a big band and two minutes before they start the roadie is out there doing all those little things that signal the band is about to descend from heaven.  He could have done all these things hours ago but having him do it in front of the audience gets them revved up. It’s part of putting on a show.

3. Treat your roadies well. They get in free anywhere the band gets in free. They eat if the band gets fed. They drink free if the band drinks free. Never give a roadie shit when you have a bad show. This is bad rock manners. If they meet a girl YOU DO NOT ELBOW YOUR WAY IN. They have a universal right to a sex life like you. As a matter of fact that’s the most likely reason they agreed to carry your damn guitar so smile and hand them a rubber.

4.Roadies need to be sober before the show, during the show and until the gear is loaded out safe and sound. If you break this rule you will live to regret it and watch as your cherished TV model Gibson is sold on Ebay by some scumbag guitar thief in Tulsa,OK. Once the responsible stuff is finished the crew gets to get loaded and burn down the hotel just like they are rock stars too.

5. Always keep the road crew involved when you are dealing with the promoter and club people. They need to learn everything you learn. They will grow up to be your tour manager and sound man. These are extremely important positions so having them along when your arguing with the club owner about him undercounting the number that paid at the door helps in many ways. Pretty soon you can trust him to do the arguing and if the argument goes bad, and take it from me they do, he is there for the cage match between the band and the club’s bouncers. The best roadies are sweet people that are smart as shit and when angered can back down a bear from its kill.  Look around does this description fit one of your friends? It does? Guess what he’s gonna be your tour boss.

6. If your roadie gets a job with another band this is a good thing. Yes, you may lose your roadie but in the end it is a good thing. I intend to write a complete blog covering opportunities like this so until I do take my advise, let him go and give him a leatherman as a present. When he calls to tell you that the headline act just threw THE DUMBFUCKS off the tour and they are looking for an opener you’ll start to understand why losing your roadie is not the end of the world.

7. If the band gets paid the roadie gets paid. I don’t care if its fifty cents but the roadie gets paid.  This falls under the heading of treating the roadie fairly and helps to build a bond that causes him to call you three years later to tell you that THE MEGASTARS just threw out their guitarist and they need someone to fly to LA and audition tomorrow.

   I managed an upstate New York band called The Figgs. When I signed them they were really young. The bassist was still in high school.  We did some indy records with me producing and when I thought they were ready we set up a showcase. (I believe I mentioned them getting signed in another blog) The result of the showcase was a record deal within a week. The record deal put them in a position where I could talk them onto the first Cranberries tour in the USA.  The tour was five thousand seats a night – theaters mainly but on the whole fairly large venues for a young band.  They didn’t have a roadie, just a kid that they had known since they were little tots. He was a janitor at the local grammar school and weekends he spent at the local nudist colony with his hometown girl.  I called him and told him he was the new tour manager. He thought for about ten seconds and said ‘Great! What do I do?”.  He didn’t know the first thing about it. I taught him as he went along.  But the key point is that the band could trust him, really trust him and I could trust him as well. I knew he would do what was best for the band and if that meant that he had to tell me that one of the band members was drinking too much or that they were playing lousy I knew I could count on him.

By the time he decided to give it up and get married he was a pro with a phone book full of road manager friends, a bank account full of cash and a lifetime of stories to tell………………….Oh yeah, you can try an ad on Craigslist, you never know where you’ll find your first dedicated member of your entourage. Here’s some ad copy that might work.

ARE YOU LARGE AND LOVE MUSIC?!

Local rock band seeks road crew. Can you carry guitar amps up and down staircases while drunk?  Do you have a sixth sense about speed traps and can act as if you know how to drive any vehicle including an M1 tank? Can you tune a guitar without playing some lame solo to prove you coulda been a rockstar? Can you count to 4500 by 5’s when exhausted as long as you know some of it is yours? Do bar bouncers seem to have an unnatural respect for your personal space? Can you say “no” to anyone including hot women? Does your Grandma know you are a good kid? Is it possible she’s right and none of your friends suspect it? If you’ve answered yes to all of these questions then you are already a roadie you just haven’t started working yet. If you would like to start your karmic life of rock adventure call Sluggo at 845-555-1212. Call today!! First three callers receive an email with a list of errands to do…………………

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7 thoughts on “Lesson #6 Comments about crew… yes roadies are people too

  1. Do you think a roadie is as big of a part of playing gigs as the performance and the band? or do you think this is just something that should come naturally as needed?

      • 🙂
        Ha. I am a future songwriter/singer, extremely successful, who is looking for a blog to give her some great advice on solo performing. Do you have the knowledge to not only help rockstars, ablaze in the light of their own glory, but to also help songwriters that are dripping with personality and capable of thought-provoking lyrics combined with tasteful accompaniment?

  2. OK. I am sure this is the craziest question you may have answered in your blog…..here goes. Is there a chance you have a suggestion of how to reach a roadie that traveled with Yes in the late ’70s? I went to their concert in my hometown and flew to Chicago with Bob (complements of Bob) to see Yes play, and then returned to my humble home in Louisville, KY. My suitcases were on the porch when I returned. I had to grovel to be allowed to stay in my home, but it was worth every bit of it. I had an amazing time with Bob, his fellow roadies and the band, YES.
    Thanks in advance for your response. Happy blogging, Kathleen

    • Gee that is a first. I agree that roadies are wonderful people and I can imagine that touring with Yes and their road crew in the 70’s was an experience that has stuck with you for all these years. I have met more than one roadie that had Yes on their touring resume. It’s considered an excellent resume item since Yes were often doing cutting edge lights and sound during their 70’s tours. I gotta ask the obvious burning question, did Bob leave you with child when you groveled your way back in the door?
      Well, no matter. You have your reasons. Next I should mention that being a roadie is a hardworking, hard partying lifestyle. As a result many of the old crews have shuffled off this mortal coil. (I once spent a pleasant weekend with a gent named Chas. the original tour manager to the British greats. He spent the weekend telling me small faces and humble pie stories. He also claimed to have started the perpetual road managers poker game in LA that went on continuously for two decades and appears in a scene of the film “almost famous”. He wasn’t the only person I’ve met that made that claim but his claim was the most believable…I digress)
      Ok, how to help you. Let’s see if I was to try to find this guy…..hmmmm. Ok I’ve got a possible path. First google Yes Uk management. Add international calling to your cell phone (make sure your husband doesn’t see that bill) call the bands uk management company. Get them on the line and tell them YOU ARE A MANAGER and you are looking for info. Read my blog for,phone tips. Remember, always be sweet to whomever answers the phone cause they can be a treasure trove of info. Find out who managed the band in the past. Once you get their 70s managers name google him. He probably still works in the business. You could also try the official yes website. The people that run it will likely know the names of old managers, old tour manager etc. you are basically trying to hunt down any characters that ran the tours. Believe it or not some crew stay with bands for decades. The key to finding your mystery date is to find their old manager. Managers are notoriously good at remembering people. Start to turn over rocks and burn up the cell phone minutes. Now come to think of it Chas might have known Bob………

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