Monday, 1 January 2001

Fun with riders

A basic rider is in two parts: technical rider and catering rider. It's the latter part I've been working with as a venue coordinator, but I usually get both since I'm the one who has most contact with the band and knows who to send them to in case something is missing or different from their demands. And let me tell you this: there is always something different. A technical rider worth its salt is usually scribbled all over with the changes arranged with management. If you're very lucky, the band has been informed about this.

The technical rider is usually pretty boring (Iggy Pop's is an exception), with detailed descriptions of everything they need for the stage. Everything too large or expensive to travel with is the venue's job to get. Pianos, drum sets*, monitor, amplifiers and anything else they can think about. It usually contains a stage plot, which is a description of where everything should go on stage. Ideally, a stageplot should look something like this. More often than not, it looks like this:

*) Bands sharing the stage at a festival or a concert with short changeover will usually share a drum set, with each drummer having his own specifications as to how it will be. For bands travelling on a small budget, drum sets are usually on the technical rider. Very new bands sometimes assume cymbals and drumsticks are included. Protip: they're not.|

In the technical rider is often a spot where the band asks for local riggers to help them carry their stuff, and negotiates a fee for every local rigger who doesn't show. Small bands don't actually need any help with their gear, but it's a good way to earn some extra beer money in case the riggers don't show up. Larger bands will be pissed if they don't show, as it leads to a lot of unnecessary work for their own crew.

Now small bands sometimes try their luck with a technical rider asking for better gear than the venue can afford or their music need. Most of the time they get "nice try" scribbled on the rider and whatever sound/light gear the venue's got lying around. If their requests are completely ridiculous (like eight moving heads in a venue with a roof so low they would probably knock themselves unconscious with just one) they will be mocked mercilessly for years to come. (But mocking happens a lot in this business. The light engineer who's strobes sent a guitarist into an epileptic fit twice still gets to hear it whenever he fires up his rig.)

Now to the catering rider. A catering rider is where the band note how many dressing rooms they need, what food they want (both dinner and backstage catering), drinks (water, alcohol, smoothies). This is also where they alert us about allergies, vegetarians (and vegans *shiver* **) and any other medical condition we need to take into account (like epilepsy or back problems).

**) I don't have anything against vegans, but my country does. It's almost hopeless finding anything vegan in Norway, where even the margarine contains milk. The vegan artists I've worked with have been surprisingly good sports when their lunch turns out to be potato chips, bananas and tofu.|

In Norway we usually go to great lengths to fulfil the catering rider, which I know is uncommon in the rest of Europe. In the US it depends on the venue, and in the UK you need to be pretty famous before the venue even bother reading the catering rider. Since we're so far away from everywhere else, we try to feed bands so they come back. We take pride in fulfilling as many of the non-stupid requests on the rider as possible.

Don't ask for drugs in your rider. Most likely scenario is that you won't get them, but you just made sure that everyone will pay special attention to you, both to grab the dealer and make sure he never gets in again and to make damn sure you don't take anything before the show. If you need drugs, be discreet about it and don't even think about asking before your gig. We care a lot less what you do to yourself after you've fulfilled your part of the contract. In fact most of the alcohol will in many cases be held back until after the show, as we don't care for having a shitfaced singer get his foot stuck in the barricades (yes, this happened), or stripping onstage (yes, this too) or beating up the drummer the moment you're off stage (yes, but they fired the guy on the spot). We don't care if the rest of the band has to carry you home as long as you finished your job before you got drunk.

Bands starting out have three choices when it comes to food: pizza, stew or nothing at all. More popular bands (especially those who don't live in the same city they're playing in) get three options as well: take out (e.g. pizza or chinese), restaurant food brought to the backstage (high-class take out) or a buy out.

The venue prefers buy out, since giving them money in hand and sending them out to get their own food is always the simplest solution for us. We're usually more than happy to recommend a restaurant, and more often than not the buy out is more than the food would have been. Everyone wins!

Get in food is true to its name food prepared for the band when they get to the venue. Smaller bands usually have very small demands (bread and spread), while larger bands wants more fancy stuff. Often special requests for juice, fruit baskets, cheese platters and particular kinds of bread, along with speciality teas (with honey, ginger, lemon or whatever they like in their tea). Coffee is a given for get in, to the point that no one has to request it in a rider. Unless you want caffeine free coffee, in which case you really need to explain your logic (repeatedly!).

Generally the more famous bands get more and better food. They can demand both get-in food, lunch, dinner or buy-out and after-gig food. The latter is almost always pizzas, as not much else is open at that time of night. After gig food is necessary as some artists prefer not to eat too much before a concert (after all if you're in a rock / metal band, a concert is a pretty hard work-out).

My own personal trick is to always by a bunch of bananas, some to give when the band arrives for get-in. It's usually their first meal of the day, and sometimes they're hung over from the day before. Coffee and bananas fix bad moods better than anything else I've tried (especially as many bands refuse to eat chocolate). They're also great to hide away to the evening, when some of the band members are hungry, but don't want dinner, or are hungry after the gig but don't want to leave yet. Why they don't pack a lunch I don't know. Maybe it's not rock n' roll enough for them.

Bottled water is expensive. Fancy imported bottled water even more so. Bands asking for local stuff are appreciated (even more appreciated was the artist that asked for bottled water, adding "Evian is NOT water"). If you ask for fancy important water, more often than not you'll find that you didn't get it. I've yet to see someone throw a hissyfit over this. Maybe I've been lucky.

Juice is by request only, and even requesting individual cartons won't lead to you getting them. It's damn expensive, and usually they get the largest family sizes one can get. Anything more fancy than regular orange and apple juice has to be searched for, and usually we don't have it.

Beer: Local beer is king. Usually the venue has a deal with the brewery that provides them with beer for the bars to also get them backstage beer. Unfortunately that doesn't include *insert fancy imported beer here*. We can get Stella Artois and Guinness, but if you want other pale ales or stouts, we really have to like you to bother trying. American beers are almost impossible to get in Norway (face it, even most Americans don't like American beer). Anything besides Duff and Pabst (yes, we have hipsters too) has to be especially ordered from neighbouring countries.

Eco food and drink: We'll try, but sometimes it's just impossible. It's a hell of a lot more expensive, and things like ecological gherkins and eco-salt is impossible to get. We probably won't broadcast the fact that we couldn't get the eco version of something, and most artists understand that we did our best. When it comes to eco alcohol (beer, wine), that is actually easier than getting eco bread, both because we have a local eco beer (nøgne Ø) which has been a world champion these last few years, and because ecological alcohol don't cost that much more than regular alcohol (which is seriously overpriced in this country), you'll probably get it.

Spirits: again something we really have to like you to get you, at least if the alcohol contents is over a certain point (I think 0.17%). If you're "everyone and their father knows who you are" famous, you might get spirits. If you're not, you won't get it. Same goes for cigarettes and snuff.

Now for the fun part. Some bands add the weirdest things to their rider. This is a list of my favourites:
  • clean socks,
  • my favourite dvd (for their tour bus),
  • Eddie the Head action figure
  • four different flavours of chocolate milk
  • a leather cap
  • a bullwhip
  • the gayest pair of underwear I could find
  • Elvis Presley (we made him out of carton and had him share the stage with them, so now they can brag they've played with Elvis)
  • glitter
  • a picture of [unpopular politician] to deface
  • necklaces to bring down to their scorned wives after the gig
  • chocolate cake with candles
  • a small lego toy, worth no more than $12
  • cornflakes, to mess up the backstage area when they leave (we used up a whole roll of duct tape band-proofing that box. They did not manage to open it, so they took it with them.)

Masseuses and chiropractors aren't unheard of. The stress some artists put on their bodies can be enough for chronic conditions (tinnitus and joint / back issues are the most common), and the stress of a tour can be enough to break even the hardest of musicians.

Special requests with payment for the gig only happens when the band and the organizers know each other well, as any mess with payments can get all parts into trouble. I know of cases where a band got paid with a check containing 200 staples (impossible to cash before the staples were removed) , got paid only in coppers (copper coins; in Norway the only coppers left are worth $0.09), and one band who played Hot, Warm, Cold (no: tampen brenner) to find the check we'd hid backstage (it was in the CD player).


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