Feature by: Mark Steinwachs
Feature photo courtesy of Brent Baxter Photography
Video courtesy of KatyCats Youtube

Mark Steinwachs spent 12 years on the road touring with all forms of music and theater acts and is now the General Manager at Bandit Lites, an industry leader in concert lighting production.

Popstar X is belting out their biggest hit on stage. The lights are ballyhooing and strobbing all over the arena. The PA is so loud it rattles your brain. The crowd is going bat-shit crazy.

But who got us to this point?

This isn’t going to be a post about the folks dressed in black that scamper to and fro during load-in and out (we already know about them), and of course we need Popstar X or else why would you be there in the first place? This week I’m going to give a shout-out to three of the unsung heroes of the touring world.

The Drivers: It’s going to be a little difficult to do a show if you don’t have any gear or crew at the venue. They sleep the day away, rarely seeing a show and get to the venue just in time to get their gear/crew and get on the road. When you are asleep they are at work. Drivers don’t get to take a day off if the roads are “too bad” to drive in. They get to the gig no matter what. Good drivers are gold on tour, and there are two types of them.
Truck Drivers: A good driver (or set of drivers) can shave huge chunks of time off your day by quickly backing into tough arenas and helping with your pack each night. You think I’m kidding about that? Come to Bandit Lites and watch a rookie back into our docks (can take 10-15 minutes) compared to a seasoned road dog (2-3 minutes).
Bus Drivers: A good driver glides along the road as you enjoy a precious few hours sleep before you have to start your next day. A crappy bus driver, well, you can wake up feeling sore from getting tossed around in your bunk (I’ve been there). One driver referred to us as his “little eggs” because that’s how he thought of us in our bunks. Silly, but he took pride in giving us a smooth ride each night.

The Caterers: Food. Food. And more food. . I talk about catering and food a lot don’t I? Think there’s a reason for that? Breakfast in catering is how most of us start our day and after-show food is how most of us end our night. Whether you tour with catering or it is provided each day, whether there is an extravagant budget for catering or there is a limited budget, catering will be an oft talked about subject during the tour. A good lunch (soup please!) and a smiling face in catering will make a long load-in a little more tolerable. Another reason catering and the crew are vital, well, have you ever had food poisoning? Imagine an entire crew going down with it. No bueno.

The Production Assistant: Most people who haven’t toured hear this phrase and think about the young kid, just out of school, looking for their chance to make it. In the touring world, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you’ve toured with a good PA, you’ll never want to be without one. Need your laundry done? PA’s got your back. Bus stock? The PA is all over it. Towels for the dressing rooms? You guessed it. Hell, labeling whose dressing room is whose and where they are—that’s the PA too. Need a runner? Your PA has the list. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the PA is that critical link between the show world and the real world.

Next time you are at a show, remember that the lifeblood of the tour may not be the Popstar or the crew dressed in black, but those who really live behind the scenes.

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