My unsung life as a roadie

Now that I’m married to a musician, I can add a new job description to my resumé: roadie.

According to Wikipedia, roadies are “the technicians or support personnel who travel with a band on tour, usually in sleeper buses, and handle every part of the concert productions except actually performing the music with the musicians.”

Ok, so I don’t travel in a sleeper bus. Nor do I handle any part of the productions. Set up microphones? Fiddle with the lighting? I don’t think so. I’m not even trusted to wind up the miles of cords and cables when everything is done. Those are precise jobs for precise results. When they start with that stuff, I know enough to stay out of the way.

So, the only part of that definition that fits me is that I don’t perform any music with the musicians. Audiences, you may now breathe a sigh of relief.

But what I AM good at is carrying things.

At Woodwalk, in Egg Harbor, Wis.

Guitars, stands, satchels full of gizmos, CDs for sale–and, in some locations, the dog and dog bed. Oh yeah! Sometimes, when the concert is outside, we get to take the dog.

I haven’t been conscripted for this duty, you understand. It’s a labor of love. And there’s always that fleeting brush with fame that goes with it. As we troop into a venue and head for the stage, waiting patrons watch the commotion. George they recognize. Jeanne they know. Pat’s familiar. Who’s she? they wonder as their glances fall on me. She’s carrying a guitar. Maybe she’s someone important. They soon learn better, of course, but I have that one small moment of might-be. It’s enough.

Sometimes those moments are more than fleeting. At a coffee house in Chicago, as Betsy and I were staggering in with guitars in each hand for my George and her Pat, we met some fellas on the sidewalk outside. They gave us a look and raised their eyebrows.

“Well now, maybe we’ll stick around for the show,” one of them said.  We grinned and assured them they should. Who were we to disappoint them early on by telling them it wouldn’t be an all-girl revue?

“Maybe we should have offered them autographs now, while we had the chance,” I told Betsy. What a missed opportunity. Roadies seldom get asked to sign anything.

Once the show begins, I put on another hat. I become the photographer. Sometimes I stay inconspicuous by shooting from wherever I’m sitting. Other times, I march around like the newspaper person I once was, maneuvering myself close to the stage, behind the stage, front and center of the stage–wherever I think I can get a good shot. This activity does often garner a modicum of respect from the audience. They don’t need to know that I’m not shooting for a publication. I look official–and sometimes I AM official, when the photos are used for publicity shots or online PR or end up on George’s web page. (www.musicbygeorge.com)

But then that image changes again when the show is over, and I start lugging equipment again. That’s when I wonder, maybe there’s a glamor to being close to the stars? Maybe there’s some roadie-envy among the lookers-on?

After all, some roadies do have their moments. The Doobie Brothers’ lighting roadie, Bobby LaKind, eventually became a full member of the band. James Hetfield of Metallica has been—at least twice—temporarily replaced in his guitar duties by his roadie John Marshall during his various injuries. U2’s “One Tree Hill” on the album The Joshua Tree is dedicated to Greg Carroll, who was a stagehand in New Zealand.

The sad truth is, however, that those instances are probably the exception, rather than the rule. It’s far more likely that the rest of Wikipedia’s definition of roadie is closer to the truth: “The road crew are generally uncredited.”

Ah well, at least, being married to the musician himself, I get private concerts in my living room. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hK4Jn-I8FrE) That’s better than giving out autographs any day!

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About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
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2 Responses to My unsung life as a roadie

  1. Bonnie says:

    Thanks for the link Monica. I always thought a roadie protected the preformers from the audience.

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