Roadie #42 - Blog #45
What on earth did roadies do before the laptop? Roadies and laptops are like kids with colouring books - give them a laptop and a wi-fi connection and they're quiet for hours. More seriously though, technology has genuinely changed the human experience of touring. There's no getting around the fact that a major tour means weeks at a time away from those that you love, which will never be anything but difficult.
I'm old enough, though, to remember the days when touring abroad was like being sent to the moon. No mobile phones, no texts, definitely no email or any of that. If you were organised, you'd get a calling card from a train station which bought you an hour or so of call time. You could use this on a day off from a payphone and just hope that you could juggle the time difference well enough to find that someone was in and awake when you called.
Getting the news from home meant trying to find a British newspaper, which would usually be a silly price and a couple of days out of date. Trying to watch foreign TV was usually amusing for all the wrong reasons and if the language barrier was too high, completely useless for finding out what was going on in the world.
These days, technology has shrunk the world to the point where although we are still physically absent, we needn't feel quite so far away. I tend to communicate with home via text message a lot. It's instant, so you can have a conversation of sorts wherever you are. The BBC website is truly a wonder of the modern age and I can see exactly what's going on at home, I can listen to Radio 4 whenever I like and (in theory) I can even watch the same TV shows that my other half is watching at home.
A brief wander about the venue after soundcheck sees a different example of all this at every turn. Some roadies are sat on flightcases emailing or Facebook-ing. Others are on Skype calling home to check in. On a good day, when the wind is in the right direction and the internet gods are smiling, some folks even get a video chat in. I remember a friend of mine some time ago coming into catering beaming with joy, because he'd just read his children a bedtime story over webcam.
Today there is football on in England and Dan P (the band's personal trainer) has got the match streaming onto his laptop in catering - attracting quite a crowd. Of course, there are those that would argue that a crew full of people sat behind laptop screens is a social nightmare - that people are spending less time on genuine interaction by disappearing into their own little worlds. This is all nonsense, of course.
Firstly, in addition to a proliferation of all the latest in communications technology on tour, there is also a ready supply of probably the oldest social lubricant known to man. I'm talking, of course, of booze. The days of permanently wasted roadies are long since over. The job has become much more demanding as shows have got immeasurably more complex. It's pretty fair to say though, that everyone enjoys a drink once the trucks are packed and this tends to keep the smiles and the laughter to the fore.
Secondly, you'd be hard pressed to find a job (outside of the armed forces) which involves being at such constant close quarters to your workmates. There's nothing like living on a bus together as well as working under pretty high pressure for learning everything there is to know about someone. This high intensity living is like a kind of social arc-welding in many ways. Relationships form very, very quickly, but tend to be good solid lasting ones. It's one of the payoffs of the job, to be honest.
Talking of roadies, I have to mention a rather lovely "Roadies Rock" banner with the names of several of the longest serving crew on it. How on earth do these people know? The banner's creators shouted to me (by name) as I made my way under the stage for pre-show checks. I have to admit I'm far too shy to know what to do besides smile - but thanks!
So that's about it. I guess I should dig you out a photo. Here's another one of Mr Champion (I know, I know, the last one was him, too). This time during Strawberry Swing. Keep your "big balls" jokes to yourself, please...