Packin' and stackin' Nov 30, 2009 18:25:45 GMT -5
Post by ekforum on Nov 30, 2009 18:25:45 GMT -5
Q - Can you put in words how long it takes to put up & take down a stage? Is the pay good, perks? What inspires these ARMY ANTS? Seems like a never ending chore...packin' and stackin' from town to town.
Joe When we arrived at the venue, the stage was already built. Stage call was 12:30 and sound and lights would unload first, band equipment was last out of the truck. The sound and lights would take about an hour and 1/2 before the stage was clear and we could start setting the amp line.
Setting the amp line is really an understatement. Three guitars, Bass, drums and piano was a lot of equipment. We also had a power distribution system that tied into the house mains, a drum riser and an F'n grand piano. We also carried a carpet we rolled out to cover the stage. Setting the stage included stringing the mini-snakes and running the electric power. All electric connections were carefully taped and all cable runs were tapped down too. The best way to avoid accidents was to prevent them. There were no loose cables or wires that could be tripped over and jerked out. Back stage was as tight and as neat as the front. Behind the amp line, we lined up all the work cases and this area between the amps and the work boxes was a no-man's land for everybody except the crew. Failure was not an option.
After the line was set, there was a lot of daily maintenance, housekeeping and sometimes special projects. Daily maintenance included changing guitar strings, tuning the piano, polishing the drums and stuff like that. Housekeeping included all the taping I mentioned above and insuring that there was a clear pathway to the stage for the band, nothing to trip or stumble over no matter what their intoxication level. Our goal was to make sure that nothing we could control could fail, of course we had no control over the band.
I ran a tight stage. If the stage wasn't under control, it would take control.
Around 4:30, the band would arrive for their sound check. They would play some of the current set but mostly would work on new material, sometimes riffing on some song they'd been listening to on the bus.
After the sound check, we'd pull the drum riser back so the front was even with the amp line and move the piano and other keyboards off to the side. I had a couple of heavy duty quad boxes I'd put in front of the amps for power for the openers and they had a nice clean stage with plenty of room. I didn't want them to have any excuse for messing with our stuff. We gave the openers what ever they needed sound and lights except for the mirror ball. Were they going to make it too hot for Skynyrd??? I don't think so and if they did, more power to them. We did a lot of shows with Charlie Daniels and Billy would let Taz use his piano. I wanted the whole show to be good.
After this, we'd have dinner. Sometimes it was pretty good, sometimes especially in the earlier days it was just fast food crap. Some guys would go to the hotel but most would hang around.
When the openers finished their set, our crew would be right there to help shuffle their gear off stage and get ready for our show. We were really efficient and the set change was always 20 minutes or less. I've seen some shows where the set change lasted an hour or more, if that ever happened with Skynyrd, it wasn't because of the crew.
After the show, we'd pack up and load the truck.
Now this was the normal routine and there was a lot of cushion. We wanted this cushion because you could never tell what problems you might find. There was one time though that I'm sure we broke some records. Evansville Indiana, Roberts Stadium (basketball stadium), they were have graduation exercises and they weren't finished until 30 minutes before the doors were to open for the show. For the load in there was a wide truck ramp that went down to floor level so we had the trucks unloaded and all the equipment at the door ready to roll in. As soon as they finished their graduation exercises we were rolling everything in. The PA was stacked up before the crowd had even cleared the hall. When the doors opened 30 minutes later, we were ready for the openers to set their line.
We were the best!!!
The pay? It took ten years and two degrees before I was making as much.
The Perks? How about having the best seats in the house for the greatest Rock n' Roll band in the world, every night?!?!? Meeting some truly famous and talented people. Traveling all over the country seeing more places and things than you'd ever see in a normal lifetime. Having the chance to snag some sweet young girl that was trying for a rock star but would settle for a roadie. Did you ever have a job where you could get stoned and no one cared or gave you any crap?
Did you ever hear about the guy whose job was shoveling elephant shit in the circus, Someone asked him why he didn't get a regular job. His answer... What and leave Show Business???
We were a team and a winning team. A truly elusive camaraderie that if you've never had you've missed something.
Boring??? Not Fun??? You know, it's still a job, you take the bad with the good, you do what you've got to do. Do you think it's still fun to play Freebird every night after 35 years?
What ever you do, you can be fun and pleasant or you can be miserable, it's up to you and you make the difference.