Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Zen and The Art of Being a Roadie

So you voted for being a roadie huh? So be it. Thanks for all the help with my word files you guys.

This is the story of how I first got into the music business, accidently. I never planned it. In the story I don't I was mention travelling with my good friend Robin, but he was there. He's the one who used to wear flourescent socks at school and to this day 30 years later he still wears outrageous socks under his sensible work suits.

I was hitchhiking up the A1 standing at the old Sandy junction, having just been dropped off by a previous lift from Bedford. I was on my way home. Not that I considered home to be home, at this time I was a sort of vagrant, moving about the country stopping off at various friends along the route, always hitchhiking and never staying anywhere longer than two days for fear of out staying my welcome and not being invited back. My theory being was, that if I left while they were still begging me to stay I could go back. If I stayed long enough for them to get fed up with me, I’d lose a perfectly good sacking out place, and in my position, any sack out was a good sack out.
So I’m standing on the side of the A1 and a Luton van pulls up a few yards ahead, I run toward it, you don’t dawdle when someone is offering you a lift. The door is opened and inside are two guys. They’re quite young with long hair and one of them sports a leather waistcoat.
“Where you going?”
“Peterborough.”
“Hop in, we’re going past there.”
I climb in. The guys tell me they are going to Leeds. They are the road crew for a band. Cheap Flights. The band would be playing at Fforde Green in Leeds that night.
So we chat about the band and music and one of them says “Why don’t you come with us?”
“What to Leeds?”
“Sure why not?”
“OK.”
So we sped past Norman Cross, now Junction 17 and carried on northwards.
Fforde Green is a pub on a busy cross roads. It’s a big pub, huge, in the centre is a stage, on the right, stairs leading upstairs to the dressing rooms.
We started unloading the van and wheeling the massive speakers across the floor to the stage. Bass bins, monitors, amplifiers, mike stands, drums. Then all the wires each on needing to be placed and taped down where necessary.
The Manager walked up “OK boys, when’s the band arriving?”
“They’re coming up separately behind us, they’ll be here soon.” Says Andy one of the roadies. We carried on working. The pub started filling up and still the band hadn’t arrived. The manager came to us again and was clearly agitated.
“Where’s the bloody band?” Andy and Rod, the other roadie, looked at each other, they didn’t know what to say, so I stepped in with
“They never turn up too early because they don’t need to set up any equipment, they’ve got us for that, they just turn up and play, so don’t worry, they’ll be here.”
“Oh OK then.” He walks off. Andy and Rod look at me.
“Good thinking. God knows where they are they should have been here ages ago.”
We finished setting up and I said perhaps we should keep looking busy, rather than standing around looking panicked. It was 8:30 and the pub was full.
The manager came back to me.
“What the hells going on? If you’re band doesn’t turn up soon I’m going to have to give all the money back.”
“You don’t want to do that.” I said.
“Too damn right I don’t.”
“Yes I know but don’t be too hasty, if you give the punters their money back, now they’ll just go. At the moment they’re all here drinking beer, so while they’re drinking you’re making money, band or no band.”
That hit the spot. The manager muttered something and walked off.
The crowd was admittedly getting restless. Steve and Rod were alternatively going outside to look up and down the road.
Nine o’clock came and the Manager stormed up. “That’s it I’ve had it with you lot. The band hasn’t got here, and I’m going to have to start giving refunds.”
“Look it’s just nine o’clock, the band is playing two sets with half and hour in between. Give it a little while more, people are still drinking, and the boys will play straight through so you’ll still get your moneys worth.”
The manager looked at his watch, he was not happy but agreed to another fifteen minutes. Ten minutes later John and the boys came running into the pub. Their car had broken down in the middle of nowhere.
There was no time for anything, the boys just got on stage and played. They were brilliant, the crowd went wild.
At the end we all crowded into the dressing room and John Grimaldi noticed me for the first time. “Hello. Who are you?”
Andy and Rod explained that I’d saved the gig, the landlord had wanted to cancel and refund all the ticket money but I’d talked him out of it.
“Great going.” Says John, “Thanks a lot.”
We packed up all the equipment into the back of the Luton van and John says “Mike where are you staying tonight.”
“I don’t know. I hadn’t thought about it.”
“What? You have no plan?”
“That is my plan, I never have a plan, that’s what makes life so interesting, I didn’t plan to come here tonight, I just did.”
“Well you can sleep in the back of the van if you want and we’ll take you back tomorrow.”
“That would work.”
So I slept on top of the speakers wrapped in my sleeping bag and blankets.
The next day, the boys woke me up, "time to hit the road."
"Where you going?"
"London Kensington, then the Corn Dolly in Oxford. Why? Wanna come?"
"You wanna new roadie?"
I never went home, I spent the rest of the summer touring with the band.

Being a roadie was not such a draw for Robin and he went home

iPod now playing - On the road by Canned Heat

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