Kaotican Alphabet

Roadie #42 – Blog #101

#42 and the dodgy merch

Italy can occasionally be challenging for the roadie community. Things are never quite as you expect them and you get the distinct impression sometimes that people would rather be wearing sunglasses and smoking cigarettes than helping you get the job done. Quite frankly, I don’t blame them. There’s something about the gorgeous weather that makes all this effort seem just a little silly.

The pay-off of course, is that the Italians are some of the best crowds you’ll ever witness. Wonderfully warm and passionate people, they turn any gig into an emotional event. They’re inventive folks too. The DIY ethic is strongly present in the bootleg merchandise. It’s present at every show, but normally, it’s some folks stood over the road from the venue with a few T-shirts over their arms, looking shiftily round for the law.

Here though, they have a whole street bazaar outside the venue with stall upon stall of dodgy merch. Over the years, we’ve picked up some great dodgy merch. From Dublin, T-shirts with the D missing from the band’s name. From Singapore, a T-shirt bearing the correct band name, spelt correctly, but with a picture of the lads from Travis on it. I seem to remember a Mexican bottle opener with a Coldplay decal on it, which lasted all of five minutes before peeling off to reveal the AC/DC logo beneath.

Whilst the White Lies are on, I grab 50 Euros from petty cash and ride out there on a golf buggy with Eric Wagner, Coldplay’s official Merchandiser. We bump into Bash, Will’s drumtech on the way and set off in search of the tackiest offerings available today.

It’s actually a wee bit disappointing, as much of it looks quite passable. It’s worth it though, for the sight of Eric (who has spent the entire day trying to get these folks shut down) haggling with one guy over a hat that was more expensive than the (much higher quality) official gear – and being told it was full price or nothing.

Marta from lights was kind enough to model the stripey top for us, but found that as soon as she put her hands in the pockets, the stitching came undone. Just remember folks – it may look like a bargain, but you get what you pay for… 😉

Altogether more impressive, is the co-ordinated fan display at the top of the show. They’ve brought their own balloons and some even have paper crowns. Before the band even set foot on the stage, the atmosphere is fully charged and the show only goes on to be an undoubted highlight.

We get to Bern Stade De Suisse and it’s been wet. Very wet. All day. We arrive though and it’s starting to look up. I’m all set for writing about how the clouds parted and the sun came out for the show, but mother nature has other ideas. By the C-stage, it’s quite simply chucking it down. As ever, the crowd don’t disappoint and they give it their all regardless.

They also do this amazing thing here where instead of clapping and stamping their feet for an encore, they waggle their fingertips. Most odd the first time you see it, but very impressive. Chris comes back on and starts The Scientist, but by now, mother nature has had enough of being ignored. In one of the quietest sections of the show, comes thunder and lightning that appears to be mocking our meagre attempts at sub bass and flashing lights.

Chris ad-libs into the "thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening" bit from Bohemian Rhapsody and the place erupts. It’s a real shame that this stadium run is so short, as it seems to suit them very well. Still – at least we know what they’re capable of now…