Sunday, March 22, 2009

Off Topic - Memory Lane

I've posted a couple times now about my past life as a lighting roadie. As it happens we moved in January and last night I was finally getting to the last couple boxes of things in my office and behold...some of my old tour stuff fell into my hands! So I shuffled a few laminated tour passes onto my comfy chair (no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!) and snapped a photo.

Proof! That this old roadie isn't imagining things, I actually did that stuff...I think. Now if I could just figure out what I did with my old itineraries and daily gig diary?!? What's in the picture?

My first tour working for R.A. Roth (Atlanta based lighting company) was with Frankie Beverly and Maze (bottom right).When I got home from that one I did some one nighters until 38 Special (middle row, third from left) left for eight months (six weeks on 1 week off roughly). During that tour I got to work with Huey Lewis and the News, Michael Stanley Band, Joan Jett, Eddie Money, Golden Earring, Night Ranger, Cheap Trick, Ratt...probably a few more I can't recall.

During a week off from that tour we tweaked the lighting rig and did a Donnie and Marie Osmond concert in Memphis for a convention that also had Barbara Walters as a speaker. During her talk one of the lamps over her head burned out audibly which unnerved her a bit, she looked up and then moved her microphone stand back a little. A few minutes later a circuit breaker in one of our dimmer racks "popped" too which caused her to move back even further, embarrassing as by now people were starting to look back at me as if saying, "what are you doing to her??". It was so quiet with just her speaking that such things really stood out in the room. Awkward!

When I got home from that one we prepped The Fixx (top right corner) tour that left for four months straight, left in August and came home in December. Then some one nighters until the Teena Marie (top row, second from left)tour left for a little over a month. I got to drive a 24 foot truck to California to start that one and at the end I drove it back, non-stop, by myself, from the west coast. Lots of coffee and by the end I was desperate to not drive for awhile! Yes the trucking industry frowns on that sort of nonsense. I was finish the rest...

Somewhere in the midst of those was a brief stint with Rick James (top row, third from left). Next up was a short tour with Scandal featuring Patty Smythe (bottom row, first one), we toured the north east a bit and ended with a few nights at the Ritz in NYC.

Then we prepped for the Fresh Festival (middle row, fourth from left), which included nearly all the major rappers (Run DMC, Whodini, Grand Master Flash, Fat Boys etc) of the day as well as a dance duo called Shabadoo and Shrimp and a double dutch jump rope group. There wer two stages that cycled back and forth as groups switched out. The dance duo was fun because I did their lighting on the center house stage, an island in the middle of the audience. Their routine was a fast and furious demo/tour through dance styles for the last century ending with the current, for the 80's, break dancing. The spotlight calls took a lot of mental practice because their routine changed so quickly, sometimes a 10-20 second period.

Once that one wrapped up I did a bunch of one nighters including a very short run with Otis Day and the Nights, yes from the movie Animal House fame! It was a series of college Toga Party gigs! No laminated tour pass from that one though. Another one nighter was delivering some spotlights to a Kiss concert in South Carolina. I was pretty beat by the time I got there and a little before show time I curled up on a road case under the stage and went to sleep. I slept right through the entire concert!! Opening act and Kiss! Slept like a "rock"! I woke up to someone saying, "Has anyone seen that spotlight guy Steve anywhere?".

Then it was off with Kool and the Gang for a few months. They had opening acts The Mary Jane Girls, Ready for the World and a couple others I can't recall now.

During some time off at one point I got to hang out after a recording session in Atlanta with Foghat had wrapped for the day. My friend Lamar was doing their lighting at the time and he invited me along. I was a little more than in awe since as a lad I remembered sitting in my friend's basement listening to "Fool for the City" and thinking what a cool song!!

My last tour for R.A. Roth was Stevie Ray Vaughn (middle row, first from left). The Fabulous Thunderbirds (Stevie's brother Jimmie Lee played guitar for them) opened the show and I got to do their lighting for their show, cool! I got off the road when that tour went overseas. I was shocked and saddened to hear about losing Stevie in 1990 while I was working at a job site in Nyack, NY. In 1992 I got a chance to visit briefly with Chris (drums) and Tommy (bass) at a club where Arc Angels played.

Tens years passed and I found myself looking for a job suddenly. The very next day an opportunity to do a tour with Soul Asylum (bottom row, second from left) came my way so I signed on as their rigger! As it turned out I also got a job offer the following week for a full time job and fortunately they were willing to wait for me till I got back from the tour. One of their opening acts I really enjoyed was Matthew Sweet. The band I had been playing with for a few years covered several of his songs now and then. At the end of that tour the drum tech for Soul Asylum's drummer, Sterling Campbell, gave me some drum heads that he didn't like and some barely used sticks, but too used for him to continue using, to take home with me. I used those for a long, long time!!

The last pass in the picture (bottom row, third from left) is from the Soul Asylum tour too. They played the grand opening party for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH. Iggy Pop was there as well as a bunch of others. I got to visit with some of my friends with Clair Brothers Audio who had been there for several days already.Natalie Merchant performed too which reminds me that I once gave her a soccer lesson at St. Lawrence University in upstate NY.

I did a lot of stage hand work over the years after I stopped touring and I did the rigging for her show at the college as well as deliver some spot lights from the stage lighting company I was working for. A friend from the earlier Fresh Festival tour I did, the sound engineer, and I were catching up on things and at lunch he mentioned to her that I played soccer. She said she needed a lesson because a nephew/niece was starting to play and she wanted to be able to "talk the talk and walk the walk" so to speak. We spent about a half hour in the field behind the theater kicking a ball around. Surreal...

Surreal seems like as good a place to stop as any...thanks for letting me indulge my reminiscing!


Anonymous said...

Amazing itinerary, Steve. My tastes run to SRV & Thunderbirds so I'm very impressed that you have them on your resume. Great post.
Glenn Nelson

Lamar Still said...

Impressive blog but I remember when you were a rooky! LOL from Lamar Still