Feature by: Mark Steinwachs
Photos courtesy of img stock
Video courtesy of Brad Paisley 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.

If you’ve ever been at the last show of a tour you may have witnessed some interesting things on stage. The last show is when the crew and band play “little” pranks on each other. While these do not ruin a show, they do make moments of it interesting. No, I’m not going to say what tours, but a few of those moments were…

The whole crew coming out on stage in diapers and bonnets during the opening act’s song, “Baby Girl.”

The crew band opening the show when the kabuki dropped.

Dismantling the opening act drum kit in the middle of their last song.

Lowering in a blow-up sex doll over a lead singer’s head.

There are numerous things that go on during a regular show that the crowd normally won’t see unless they are looking for it. The next time you go to a show, see how many of the following ten things you can spot.

Crew Dance-Off: I have been a part of more than one of these. Spot the crew sidestage or backstage getting their groove on. This normally happens during the same song every night.

Guitar Pick Slingin’: We’ve all seen the guitar player sending his picks flying out into the crowd, but have you noticed his guitar tech doing it? Or have you noticed them throwing them at each other?

Advanced Level Slingin’: There may (or may not) have been a tour where gummy candy was a regular weapon. It may (or may not) have escalated to using a blow dart gun loaded with said gummy.

The Inside Joke: There’s always some moment in a show where a band member will look to a crew guy and they share a laugh or a nod. Normally there is something funny that happened that involves that part of the song.

The Pissed Off Pop-Star: Each person on stage has their own way of showing displeasure to their respective roadies. This doesn’t mean yelling at them mid-show (that is the rare exception) but normally a hand gesture or shake of the head. This is bad when you get it confused with the Inside Joke. One of my former Popstars would give you the “double barrel shotgun” if he was pissed. I got it once.

When It Goes Wrong: There;s a lot of stuff that can go awry during a show. Most times you will never know (we’re good at fixing it quickly and quietly), but keep an eye out for the odd guy in black on stage calmly working on something.

Crew Are People Too: Even the roadie type have a moment now and again. On one tour, we all ran on stage to help end a song each night. There was another where I had to go on stage and “remind” the trombone player he needed to take his solo. You get the idea.

Pre-Load-Out Staging: Look to the sides of the stage, when guys are up and about shuffling cases around and starting to put things away, you know the show is almost over.

The Bored Roadie: There are some shows where the guys in black have stuff to do every song; trusses are moving, set pieces are changing, costume changes, etc. But more often than not, once the show is going, there are crew waiting for load-out to start. I’ve said this thousands of times in my life and I will say it thousands more: Bored crew = Happy show.

Find the Popstar: Where are they entering stage from? Is it stage right? Stage left? Front of house? An elevator under the set? Normally the crew knows where the Popstar will be (makes it easier to light them and such), but I was on one tour where my Popstar ran out to front of house when the arena went black. He tapped me on the shoulder and sprinted off in some direction for me to attempt to pick him up with follow spots. This also led to one of my best outbursts ever.

We’ll end with a classic…

The Guitar Toss: We’ve all seen it. The guitarist pulls off his axe and lofts it in to the air toward his tech. It majestically flies across stage. Will it be caught? Will it hit the ground? It’s a catch!

And we’ll do it all again tomorrow night.

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