Crew, Techies, and Roadies –
the Unsung Heroes of Every Live Performance and Event
At House of Tours, we are in the privileged position of observing and facilitating shows and tours from start to finish. That means that we see much more than the audience do, or even the band for that matter. With the success of the ‘All Killer – No Filler Fest’ fundraiser for the stagehand appeal, we just wanted to spread some love for all the out of work backstage professionals in the music and wider creative industries. We’re talking about the road crew, the lighting, design and technical team. We want to boost up the roadies, the drivers and everyone else who never get an actual round of applause for making the show happen. We see you; we value you and we appreciate you.
What do crew do?
If you’re wondering this, then you’re not the only one. The thing is, unless you do what we do at House of Tours for a living, you just never get the opportunity to see how hard these guys and gals work. Why not? Because as an audience member, you are only witnessing about five percent of the work that goes into making the finished product. The other ninety-five percent is in rehearsals, set up, travel and clean-up. The musicians get to witness about thirty percent of the work that goes into their show, but even they aren’t usually at the venue two nights before an arena performance fiddling with nuts and bolts or piecing together scaffolding towers.
Crew are responsible for moving the set, the equipment and any other bits of kit into each venue, assembling the stage and set in many cases and then taking it all down after the show (striking) and putting it all back into the vans and lorries in pristine condition for the next venue. They work long hours and often don’t get to see a second of the actual performance. This time lapse video from Crew Care shows exactly what we’re talking about. There is so much work to do before the performers even get to the venue.
You can usually recognise a member of the stage crew by the sheer amount of gaffa tape stuck to his or her jeans as if that was what their trousers were actually made of. They can also often be found with an open energy drink in their hands which they inevitably leave on any flat surface, lose, then grab another roadie’s open can. Violence rarely ensues however, because members of the stage crew are usually remarkably laid-back and robust individuals who can cope with almost any disaster without breaking a sweat.
What do we mean by techies?
When we refer to people as “techies”, we mean anyone who is involved in the technical running and production of the show. Would you believe that the lighting team for any large show will involve at least one lighting designer who will visualise the lighting aspects of the overall show and plan where all the lights go, where they point and how the stage should be lit at every moment of the show? There will then be several lighting engineers and technicians whose job it is to execute this vision. They set up the circuits, organise the wires and make sure everything is working without a risk of any electrical disaster. Lighting technicians then work with both the engineers and the designer to rehearse the sequences and then show up to execute every lighting change and pyro, bang on time at the correct moment in the show. What a lot of work! And you never even see them. They don’t get to take a bow for their precision and skill with sliders and switches, but we see you.
The lighting techies do so much to make the show look aesthetically stunning but there’s more. We don’t want to forget the music production and sound engineering side of the tech. They work just as hard and require just as much patience and resilience to work with annoying electrical items that sometimes JUST WON’T WORK! You can usually spot a techie by the Gordon Ramsay style stress lines on their faces from the ghosts of tech rehearsals past. The technical crew often sport huge grey bags under their eyes. Since nothing can be set up without them, they are frequently the first ones there and the last ones to leave because no other aspect of the rehearsal or set-up can happen without their finely tuned equipment which they need to operate. They are often seen carrying doughnuts and other sweet treats to other techies in place of an actual meal which they have no time for, again. Rammstein concerts use spectacular lighting effects and pyrotechnics, and we have all the respect in the world for their hardworking tech crew. You can see what we mean here.
Why aren’t they appreciated more?
Because they aren’t seen. They wear no costumes or stage make-up to stand out to the crowd. The point of them is to be unseen and act as if this entire elaborate, pyrotechnic display, perfectly balanced bass levels and gigantic stage were merely random acts of God. They tend to wear black for the very reason, that if they have to move around the set during the actual show that they aren’t seen by the audience. That’s why no one is tweeting the sound team after a concert congratulating them on their beautifully balanced levels, but we totally should.
Now, we’re not for a moment saying that the frontmen/women, musicians and performers don’t earn their keep. They work extremely hard and had to put in years of dedicated practice and show extraordinary resilience to make it far enough to get on an actual stage in front of a paying audience. We’re just saying that the backstage crew work just as hard as the performers to make their concert or show happen and go off without a hitch.
How can we support them for the future?
On account of public gatherings such as concerts being severely restricted for over fourteen months now, our valued and beloved techies, crew and roadies have been without work for a long time. Given that many of them are freelancers who worked hand to mouth when performances were allowed, you can imagine how they have been fixed during the pandemic. Many of them do not qualify for government support and seem to have slipped through the cracks for financial aid. Being neither the musicians nor the venues themselves, they do not qualify for assistance like the performers may. Sucks to be them, huh? Well, maybe it doesn’t have to. As we come out of this horror show of a viral pandemic, we’re so close to being able to kick-start the live performance industry back up again. It may take a little while, but we’ll be running at full strength soon, we have no doubt, and it would be so great if we didn’t have to attempt to rebuild an entire industry without access to skilled backstage crew. It wouldn’t work. We’d have no show without them and if we can’t support them through the last dregs of the pandemic then the show can’t go on when it’s finished.
House of Tours were so honoured to be able to co-host the stagehand fundraiser event on the first of May, but it’s not too late to donate. If you are able to give and support these valued, skilled workers whose careers have hit a hell of a bump in the road, then please do so here. Please give generously, because we simply cannot rebuild without them. They literally are the builders of the live performance sector. To all you backstage wizards out there, we salute you! We couldn’t rock without you.