Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Concert Season

There has been a veritable flurry of activity from the old roadie community lately. I have several e-mail chains that are at least 10 messages long, with a couple hundred recipients. So far I have resisted the urge to reply, "Unsubscribe!", which is usually my oh-so-subtle way of pointing out to people that "Reply all" is not the only option. Anyway, it started with some semi-coincidental commemorations, both happy and sad. Several couples are celebrating high numbered wedding anniversaries, and there have been a couple of weddings, finally legitimizing relationships lasting 30 years or so. I try not to consider the possibility that these are related to some of the sadder events, and I secretly hope that no one has been driven to the altar by thought of being cut out of an inheritance that they helped to build because they do not enjoy the legal status of a spouse.

On the other side, we have commemorations of old friends gone to that great gig in the sky. Old friends with names like Poodle, Dirty Mike, Goat, BJ, CD, Lunar and too many others have fallen to causes accidental and self-inflicted, and with each one there are stories. Lunar was queen of the electronics shop, and for years she was the only one anyone trusted to solder snakes. These were the 99-pin monster cables (not to be confused with Monster cables) that ran from the control boards out in the house to the lighting and sound systems backstage. The 99 wires were color coded with little stripes, and all had to be soldered to the right pin on a plug only about three inches across. Someone asked Lunar one time how she dealt with all of those itty bitty pins and wires, and she said, "I just smoke a joint or two and they get bigger*." I guess Steve Martin had something with that "getting small" thing, after all.

Several other old comrades are celebrating the anniversary of their first show, which is less of a coincidence than it might seem. Summer was outdoor show and big festival season, and everybody who was anybody was packing up all the equipment they could scrounge and heading out for Red Rocks or Pine Knob or the Meriweather Post Pavilion, where they would play for a few thousand of their closest friends. Wineskins and blankets were everywhere, and the SHOWCO shop was usually empty save some old curtains, a few bubble machines (don't ask) and the Who's giant spotlights. Of course, for every Genesis show at Wembley Stadium, there were too many like the Bee Gees at the Pontiac Silverdome, REO Speedwagon at the Rockford Jam. or KC and the Sunshine Band at a drive-in theater in Buffalo (all stories for another time). As August rolled towards September we would hit the state fair circuit in the upper midwest and Canada. All the gigs were at racetracks or rodeo arenas or just out in a random field, and the roadies had to drag all the equipment through the mud and string miles of extra cable and make it all work somehow each and every day. We didn't really care for State Fair season, though I'm still a sucker for a corn dog and some cotton candy.

Summer was the time to get hired if you wanted to be a roadie, and more than one was picked up at a show and learning the trade on the road a few days later. It wasn't always pleasant, it was never easy, but it was more than any other time of year the reason we were all there. And it definitely broke the monotony of 100 more or less identical hockey/basketball/multipurpose arenas in a row.

The conversation has moved on to t-shirts, some of which are now worth $1000 or more. So if I ever gave you a shirt, you should be ashamed of yourself because I know what you probably did for it. But you should also see if you can find it, because all of mine are long gone. There is actually talk of trying to find the old silk screens and making some new ones. If it happens, I expect you all to buy some.
* Just say no, kids.

1 comment:

  1. Riders in the Sky t shirt shredding. Wish I kept the others. You know I will buy but will seek vintage first! Fun post. Amos