I’m part of a strange brotherhood that lives away
from home in coffin sized bedrooms, airport terminals, hotels, side
streets and parking lots. We have families, we lose families, we run
and hide… mostly we have one another. We have adopted each other and
we are all related. We love, we grumble, we forgive and in time, we go
home to try to make sense of who we are.
We have to re-learn how
to speak to our wives and remember that the cutting style of attention
has no place at home. We’re not soldiers but we could be warriors.
We’re not businessmen but we can upgrade with the best of them. We’re
not IT guys but watch us hack into a building everyday to keep our
phone bills down. Call us techs, call us roadies, call us…we are
always looking for the next gig. Call us lampies, humheads, noiseboys,
part timers, country clubbers, squints, stage manglers, carps,
vidiots… we all respond to douchebag if yelled out of the lighting
truss when it means not getting hit in the head.
It’s a strong
bond; normal folk (and sometimes even our immediate family) don’t
really understand. I’ve known some of my co-workers longer than my
wife. We’ve been places together that are not on the vacation circuit.
If not at the same time, often in spirit, noticing the same anomalies
and oddities. Rich people pays us well to shorten our lives with
stress, long hours, bad food and hard, often dangerous work. We are
paid in money, black cotton clothes, free bags, stolen batteries and
collected frequent flier miles. We’re not special but we are clearly
different. Our connection to show business makes us glamorous to others
but it can be anything but. The bond between us is strong; it’s the
reason I’m flying to LA today.
A Great Loss
One of mentors passed away recently. It was too soon. I am not
really sure if our way of life could be to blame but it could be. We
seem to fight the lessons of how to care for ourselves and have to be
reminded daily. We get so good at taking care of other people’s lives.
Sometimes we don’t even make it through the day, we binge, we medicate,
we reward ourselves in lieu of the forgotten thank yous that go unsaid.
We try to fill the hole; I’m not gonna pull up a soapbox here but I’ve
put a name on it for myself and I’m not terribly unique.
friend taught me a few lessons that I needed badly and carry with me to
this day. We met in the mid-80’s early in my “career” when I was still
fucked up on whatever I had and young in every way. He told me to calm
down and relax. I still have problems with that one. He was the best
example of getting more flies with honey than with vinegar. He was
smooth, friendly and so rarely resorted to yelling or anger in a
There are plenty of others whose style
is harsh, belittling, demeaning and condescending; it gets results but
in the concert biz you often return to the scene of the crime. People
remember you, how you treated them and your level of service
corresponds to what a jerk you were. By being polite and calm, the
whole complexion of the day can change when the local people see you.
It can make things a whole lot easier.
I’ve been accused of
being aloof and elitist by some, but I think I’m just easily
distracted… as well as aloof and a bit “partial”. I honestly think
that when people I see on the road are glad to see me it’s because of
the efforts I’ve made with the lesson of kindness he taught me.
My friend was a festival stage manager when I first met him. Corralling
23 bands in two days with no set change time on a turntable gig is no
small feat. It requires a few disciplines: good advance work, seeing
the big picture, sensing flow, going with that flow, adapting to
changes beyond your control… real Serenity Prayer stuff.
Certain events can really get away from you when multiple things shift all at once.
Imagine that an artist is somewhat loaded and on some kind of ego trip… it shouldn’t be all that hard;
Add to that the union stage hands coming up on a meal penalty;
inexperienced band crew (oh, I don’t know, maybe a relative of the
artist let’s say) not being able to do their job without being slapped
by the artist’s wife/manager/enforcer;
VIP’s in the wrong place
at the wrong place at the wrong time (showing a drunken girlfriend what
“backstage” is like during a set change by standing in the load out
door way, perhaps both of them with a drink in each hand and on a cell
Add in a technical difficulty of some sort (bad snake line);
Someone from a group that doesn’t go on for another 4 hours insisting on being the center of attention;
How about the parking lot attendant walking up and asking you to find out whose car is parked in the fire lane without keys?
add the artist on stage currently is going over his allotted time by
adding yet another song and your boss telling you it’s time to get him
off. It can push you to the edge unless you stay centered.
friend would stay calm, delegate, prioritize and smile. The smile was
real too… most of the time. We did our best to watch each other’s
back and run a safe, smooth and professional show. He often would have
to deal with the political nonsense while us young guys would do the
physical shiftin… we had the easier job. When it came down to
spinning the stage and starting the next bands performance, we all
waited for his signal. He sometimes got his signal from someone else
but we all keyed off of him.
I’ve worked with other good
people over the years that have taught me other important lessons (like
the meat under all that gravy might be dog) but he has a special place
in my life and in my heart. He trusted and taught me what I needed to
know. I hope I can carry his lessons with me always.
was Bill Cope. He is survived by a wonderful wife, a growing son and a
group of friends and co-workers who still can’t grasp his departure and
will try to make him proud in his absence.
We’ll do our best to spin without you.