Sunday, April 15, 2007

Brought To You By...UPDATED!

The guys and gals behind the scenes that make your concert experience an enjoyable one are many and usually faceless. You won't see us unless we are fixing a problem on stage or maybe during an instrument change. We are called 'roadies" by most people, though we like to refer to ourselves as "crew" or "techs". We sometimes call each other roadies much in the same manner as other people use disparaging stereotypes or "slurs" to refer to themselves. The production, wardrobe, backline, audio, lighting, carpentry, rigging, security and video departments are full of talented men and women who get there first and leave last. Here's a look at some of the fine folks on this tour.

John "McGee" McGarry is the drum tech. He's a Boston native with a great accent - no "r's" allowed.

Suzanne Cordes, a model-cum-down rigger is helping take care of the dressing rooms on this tour, since we are not carrying any lights or P.A. of our own. She makes sure all of the details are covered by show time: the right drinks in the right coolers, quick-change mirrors in place...and I'm sure a thousand other things I am not aware of since I am usually on deck and she is backstage. This photo is from the plane ride to Argentina via Brazil.

Todd Wilkinson is the stage tech. He places the microphones, runs all of the mic cables and makes sure that signal goes in and comes out at the right spot. He is a fellow musician and Nashvillian.

Bruce "Haystack" Hendrix and Greg "Lil' G" Howard letting me know it's time to rock. Keyboard and stage right guitar techs, respectively. Both are great players and good "hangs". Bruce is a keyboard programmer and runs the computer rigs, Greg is an accomplished pedalboard and amplifier builder. This photo was taken shortly after a 5:00 a.m. lobby call/6:00 a.m. stage call. We get in extra early in festival situations, since there are several bands performing before us. We set up first and the other bands set up in front of our gear. Tonight there are two local Argentinian openers, then Evanescence and Velvet Revolver.

Brad "Burt" Johnson, monitor engineer. "Burt" because he was once introduced from the stage by that name. He has a busy gig, keeping the in-ear monitor mix together for the lead singer.

Liz Meyer and Andy Soteropoulos. Liz is one of the wardrobe women who prepares the stage clothes and dressing rooms for the band. Andy is a sound tech who works in Monitor World keeping track of the band's ear mixes.

Production Manager Steve Drymalski chats with Security Guy Tony "T-Fed" Fedewa at the airport in Guadalajara. Steve is the lead vocalist in the crew band and plays a mean harmonica. Tony likes coffee.

Stage Manager Moe Haggadone and Electrician Arturo "Tootie" Martinez at the venue in Guadalajara. Moe was my Production Manager on a couple of the John Fogerty tours. Tootie's skills in speaking Spanish helped out a lot...especially in restaurants!

The fabulous Joe Sagara, IT tech and teleprompters. Joe gets the wireless networks up and running throughout the venue and when asked to help with a PC problem, will tell you to "buy a Mac" I am.

Joe Victoria. Cameraman and bringer of good cheer. Joe is always in an upbeat mood, and takes a mean photograph..sorry this one does not do him justice!

Jim Ebdon, Front of House engineer. Jim is the man responsible for what the audience hears each night.

Lighting Director Jason DeBoer. Jason runs the light show, which on this run has been different in every city since we are not carrying our own rig.

Michael "Daddy-O" Richard
. Daddy-O is a carpenter, which means he builds the stage as needed in each venue, secures all of our monitors, carpets, decking and quick change booths.

Joe's guitar tech and backline crew chief Jim Survis. He's also worked for Jimmy Page, so his Guitar Hero creds are pretty much secured.

Security Guy Mike "Gio" Giammarco. Along with Tony, he keeps the gig safe for everyone.

Production Manager Mark Hogue. He steers the ship, advances the shows and makes sure we have what we need when we need it.

Fan Club Rep Amanda Ayre. She gets the VIP tickets together and conducts tours of the stage and venue for the Fan Club members.

Production Assistant Karen Colvin. She makes the travel arrangements among a hundred other things. A busy gig.

Couldn't get to everyone, I'll try next tour!

Monday, April 09, 2007

South Of The Border

Tonight we fly from Miami to Brazil, via Puerto Rico. This will be my first time riding in a combination cargo/passenger plane. All of our gear is on this charter, along with 32 seats for the crew. A total of 10 hours of flight time, roughly, and we will be in Sao Paolo, Brazil for the first show of the South America/Mexico leg of the 2007 World Tour. I may not be "seeing the world", but we will be flying over a lot of it.

I have never been to South America, and only worked in Mexico City once, last year with John Fogerty. It doesn't look like we will have much time to play the tourist, but I'll try to take some photos when I see something of special interest. This is pretty much a head-down, keep moving series of shows as far as work goes. The gear needs to be "palletized" (i.e. put on wooden pallets) after every show so it can fly to the next country. We won't see the usual method of using trucks to transport our gear until we hit Mexico.

After the Mexico City show, we have several days off in Las Vegas before we play a benefit concert at Mandalay Bay. I'm planning on sitting by the pool and working on my tan for most of that time off, with an occasional visit to the games of chance inside the casino.

I'm excited to start this tour. I did two weeks with Aerosmith last year and now I'm signed up for the whole 2007 tour. I feel like I'm actually a part of the team this time around, and that certainly helps the confidence factor. Tom Hamilton is back on bass, and we just met last week, since David Hull was filling in for him while I filled in for Jerry Sabatino last year. Tom is a great guy, a great player with excellent gear, and is low-key and low-maintenance. That makes it even easier for me to get into the groove of a new tour with a new band, new crew and new tour management.

Time to get some of that Miami sunshine into my skin and maybe burn away the nasty head cold I contracted a few days ago. Nothing worse than international travel when you are sick, and this cold has spread to a few other guys on the crew... See y'all later!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Rehearsal of Fortune

Well, I've been in Boston the past several days, at rehearsal for the Aerosmith South/Central American tour that gets things started for this year, with a longer European Tour in the Summer. The gear has been checked over, fixed, cleaned, tweaked or replaced and the band began running through songs as a whole today.

I have seen a lot of rehearsals as a tech in my day, and participated as a musician in many more. They can be tiresome, monotonous affairs where details get picked through and scrutinized until it stops being fun long before it's time to go. Not so with this rehearsal. I noticed an interesting phenomenon that was new to me.

Instead of rehearsing a tune from top to bottom, over and over, until it is ready, Aerosmith concentrate on the feel or groove of the song. The rhythm section of Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton will find a four bar phrase to play - maybe a fragment of a verse or a chorus - and work on it until it feels right. Then guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford chime in with complimentary parts and the whole sequence repeats until all of the parts are flowing in a tight groove. Then, Steven Tyler will count it off and start the actual arrangement.

This is a great way to make sure that the essence of the song - the groove, the part that makes you feel good and gets the listener involved in a physical level - gets sorted out right away, so that the lyrics, melody and arrangement have a strong foundation to sit upon. I have never seen this done in this manner before. I have heard of bands (Aerosmith included) who sometimes write their songs this way. Someone will get a catchy riff going and they groove on it until a song structure is agreed upon. But I never thought of using that trick to make an old standard feel young again, or make you remember what it is about a tune that makes your body move.

It's a little odd that the very band that inspired me to play guitar, and therefore eventually become a tech is now the band I work for. It's very cool that they continue to inspire me 30+ years later.