01 July 2012

Why I loved being a stagehand

I often complain at concerts. Since I began working in audio production, I started really noticing all the shit the engineer who's mixing the show is doing wrong. Witnessing some country-singer-dude cover Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and Sugarland cober a Beyonce hit=horrors straight from the bowels of hell. So being a stagehand, in some ways, ruined the joy of music for me.
And yet.
I've met Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Mickey, and Minnie, as well as other big time tv and movie stars, and flirted with Buzz Lightyear. I've watched Broadway smash hits from the best seats in the house. I've stood in the stage left wing while The Mikado brought me to tears and The Color Purple took my breath away.
I sat through Ian Anderson's sound check. For the record, outsiders are generally not allowed to sit through Ian Anderson's sound check, but we were house audio and an exception was made for us. I also got to sit anywhere I wanted for the show, which was phenomenal.
I heard The American Tragedy, my favorite regional band, mixed by real engineers who actually did them justice. It was an amazing experience, both times. To hear the room so full of the sounds of "In the Wake of the Muse"; two very distinct guitars dancing perfectly with each other while bass, drums, and vocals weave in and out seamlessly; lows so low you cannot hear them--you feel them filling your chest and making it hard to breathe, with Trey's kick drum stopping your heart and Jason's bass restarting it; mids that dance across your skin; Adam's vocals caressing your ears; the highs from Jackie's guitar penetrating to the very core of your being; it was almost orgasmic.
Standing on the arena floor, listening to 3 Doors Down perform live some of the music that helped me make it through my prison time; I maintained my consummate professional game face while inside I was crying tears of joy for all that once was and tears of joy for all that is now.
Kenny Wayne Shepard. I've worked Kenny Wayne shows on two separate occasions. I didn't have much opinion of him outside of recognizing that he is an extremely talented guitarist, and my first time watching him perform didn't give me an opinion one way or another. (In his defense, it was a fundraiser for the local mayor during his campaign. Meh.) The second time I worked a Kenny Wayne show, it was the opening performance of the "Blues from the Backroads" tour at the historic Strand Theatre in Shreveport. I watched from the stage left wing as some of the greatest names in Louisiana blues shared the stage with him. One passed away before the tour was finished. It was an honor to sit so close and watch those greats perform. It was also an honor to get a glimpse of young Mr. Shepard's character when he was finally forced to deal with one drunken douche canoe who was heckling and throwing bottles at the stage. Young Mr. Shepard handled himself with grace and dignity AND made the guy look such an ass that the entire audience booed him. I have nothing but immense respect and admiration for Kenny Wayne Shepard these days, and enjoy his music all the more for it. To watch the transformation to quiet, unassuming guy before the show to guitar legend on stage was awe inspiring; the man plays like he loves to play, like his life depends on his playing, like he is pouring out a piece of his soul just for you.
Kevin Costner. We worked with him a few times while he was in Shreveport filming "The Guardian". Moving our gear from his living room to the trailer while he plays guitar in his sweats was a total SQUEE moment. Working the superbowl party the next day, standing in a small group talking about golf (and how Mr. Costner sucks at it) made him human to me. In one conversation, he went from superstar to screamingly funny (and uber nice) guy. Working with him at the Air Force base when he performed for the airmen, he made us feel like old, dear friends when he walked to front-of house after sound check and greeted us warmly, staying to talk a while. I developed a tremendous respect for his talent, because HELLO? Can you say Mr. Brooks or Devil Anse Hatfield? Hard to reconcile those characters with the man himself. That's talent.

(author's note: this post is being amended to include the shit that got lost in the ether between typing it on my phone and it posting to this blog, also correcting the typos that made it through)

unforgettable moments in an otherwise humdrum life. Those were the things that made the occupational hazards of being a stagehand well worth the bullshit. I owe a great thank you to Dawn for the music swag that brought the joy back to my music. (#thisiswhyiloveher)


  1. I've seen many a music act up close, and I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes the illusion is broken and you lose respect for them. But then there are those musicians who exceed your expectations with their talent, and blow you away with their personalities. I was lucky enough to be in studio with the amazingly talented Natalie Cole. She took my breath away, and she was nice as could be. After time in the studio, she hung around long enough to take photos with employees. She renewed my faith in musicians. I'm glad Kenny Wayne did that for you too.

    1. Those musicians are what music is about, and your swag brought that joy back, made it fresh again. Thank you.

  2. What an amazing fucking life you've led.

    1. what's so funny, my dear, is that these are experiences I've had since I got clean. How fucking awesome is that?