Just about a month ago I did a post on the disturbingly common idiocy of concertgoers. I also mentioned the fact that I'd been to many, many concerts, but not always as a ticketholder. I spent much of the 90s working, at least part-time, as a stagehand.
I had never seen the Rolling Stones when they came to town on their "No Security Tour," (a total lie by the way - they had security like everywhere) so I arranged to work for the crew, meaning a free show, but hard work until the wee hours. After arriving just prior to the show, I got my "working crew" pass - essentially a backstage pass without the privilege of hanging with the band - and staked out a spot near the back of the arena so as to watch the show without interfering with paying customers.
The show began, and it was very elaborate and loud, as expected. Within a few minutes a, I'll just call her an "overdone concert floozy," wandered over, cigarette in one hand and expensive-yet-cheap beer in the other, and started talking to me about the Stones, her kid, her junior high days, etc. Basically, all crap I had no interest in knowing about. After all these years I wanted to watch the band.
Before long the topic of my backstage pass came up, and she stated that I could "get so much 'slice' with that thing." (It's noteworthy to me that one of the most disgusting expressions for the female organ I've ever heard came from a woman.) I really wasn't interested in "slice" or getting sacked for giving my pass to someone or explaining that it wasn't a general backstage pass but one for working crew only. At the moment I only wanted to watch the show.
After way too long it became apparent that there would be no backstage pass forthcoming, and the woman shook my hand and said it was nice talking to me. But not before putting her hand on my chest, right where the pass happened to be affixed, and saying, "Wow, you're in really good shape! You must work out."
Give me a flippin' break, lady. Your disingenuous and self-serving flattery will get you nowhere. I'm a man of average, respectable build, and have never had anything resembling a "six-pack" on my chest. Though I have had many a pint in my hands.
So, I still have never really enjoyed a Stones show in person. Mick seemed cool. He waved at us working crew stiffs as he hopped into a limo after the show. In my experience, most artists did not acknowledge the plebeians.
I had a similar "floozy fan" experience at a Meatloaf show during his 90s revival. She got my attention and said that she wanted to pose as my wife or girlfriend and go backstage with me. I explained that it didn't work that way. She grabbed my hand, ostensibly looking for a wedding ring, and said I could call her sometime if I wanted. I told her it still didn't work that way. I guess you can't blame her for trying.
I find it interesting that the first concert where I ever saw women taking their tops off and throwing them at the band was (purportedly) Christian rock band Creed. Hmm.
A show where the tops stayed on but the girls screamed at the tops of their lungs was *NSYNC. I actually stood out at the front of the stage in the dark, with 20,000 screaming girls at my feet, holding a line to a curtain which I was to yank down on cue at the start of the show. During the performance itself I was also in the envious position (from the audience's perspective) of occupying one of two small booths at the back of the stage where *NSYNCers would retreat when one of their cohorts was doing a solo spot. I was pretty much invisible in there.
Prior to the show, when the group arrived, "Young Mr. T." made it known he was not pleased with our old, ricketty stage. "Yo, this stage is fucked up," he said, complete with ghetto gesticulations. Yo, you're a pathetic poseur, Mr. Whitekidfromthesuburbs. Mr. T's future (or then-current?) girlfriend, a newcomer named Britney Spears, was the show's opening act. I later gave my pass and t-shirt from the show to a friend's preteen daughter, who, stunned, coveted if for days before taking it to school for "show and tell."
I wish I could remember the name of the rap or hip-hip artist who came to the venue with his own security posse, which then proceeded to tell our in-house security staff they were not permitted anywhere near the backstage area. Yeah, right. It made for some tense confrontations, let me tell you.
Country singer Travis Tritt, who I'm no fan of music-wise, was a pretty decent guy. He stopped on his way out after the show, while us stagehands were loading the trucks, and said something to the effect of, "I want to thank you guys for all your hard work. I really appreciate it." Respect. I actually valued my $7.00/hr. that evening.
I had an interesting run-in with (now) late Blind Melon singer Shannon Hoon. Or, rather, he had a rather interesting run-in with a large metal door. His band opened for Lenny Kravitz (possibly?), and as Hoon ran unsteadily off the stage after their set I held a door open so he could go back to the dressing rooms. He failed to notice me and instead ran right into an adjacent door that was barred shut. Hence, my holding the good "door" open for him. He then stumbled through my door relatively unharmed.
I once stumbled across Sheryl Crow backstage. Not literally, but I happened to pass by once as she was playing ping-pong. A good musician, but let me tell you, her appearance on album covers and MTV was a miracle of modern makeup. She looked rather, umm, road-weary, in addition to having some "complexion" issues. Oh well, nobody's perfect.
Steve Winwood is a talented little guy. And I mean that in the nicest way possible. I worked for him on a show during the 90s revival of Traffic. I walked just feet behind him pushing a roadcase after the show, and noticed he was quite the diminutive fellow. But, again, very big on talent. Way to overcompensate, Stevie Boy!
Also on the small side was Ronnie James Dio, who was back with Black Sabbath for a stint, and who formerly sang with Rainbow and, aptly, Elf. But RJD had a big heart. He was very gracious with his fans, stopping for pictures and autographs after the show. He even gave them his trademark "devil horns" salute. Nice chap.
This is getting long, so I'd better wrap it up.
Back in about '93 or so Foreigner did a coheadlining tour with the Doobie Brothers. I'd never seen either, so, as a child of the 70s and a grownup wanting to make a few bucks and see a show for free, I worked the gig. Say what you want about a generic "corporate rock" sound, but Foreigner really kicked ass on stage.
After their set founder/guitarist Mick Jones stepped off to the wings near me, Les Paul still on his chest, and lit up a cigarette. I was applauding the band as much as anyone in the audience, because the show really was good. After a few puffs, Mick stamped out his cigarette, and gave me a wink and a nod (it was a "Thanks, mate!" kind of thing, not a gay kind of thing, as some infantile acquaintances have suggested) before heading back out for an encore. That was cool.
I don't exactly miss my stagehand days, but I do enjoy recalling some of the memories. I worked a lot of shows I didn't detail here - INXS (with the late Michael Hutchence), Santana, Bob Dylan, Garth Brooks, EWF (Earth, Wind & Fire), Moody Blues, Snoop Dog, Jethro Tull, ZZ Top, Boston, Jimmy Buffett, Duran Duran, Stevie Nicks, Reba McEntire, Kenny G (dear God!), Steve Miller Band, Pat Benatar, and the list goes on and on.
Now you know why no one is ever allowed to play Jackson Browne's song "The Load-Out" in my presence.
Note: Pictures of me with artists were not taken during my stagehand days, but later. This just seemed to be a good post in which to include them.