Kaotican Alphabet

Roadie #42 – Blog #103

#42 and the "best gig we've ever done - ever"

It’s utterly crazy. I’ve heard crowds excited before the band come on, many times. Here in Paris though, it’s completely berserk. They start Mexican waving, Again, not unusual. Then they start the Viva Chant. This too, happens very often. Here though, they get louder and louder until there is just a fantastic roaring cheer going on – a full 20 minutes before the band have even left the dressing room.

It actually feels quite peculiar – it’s like they can see something we can’t. As us roadies scurry about making busy with gaffer tape and cables, they’re screaming like it’s time for the encores. Myself and Neill do a lot of checks via walkie talkie and the crowd is so loud when he’s at the B-stage that I simply can’t hear his voice over the noise. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years now and I have never experienced this.

On a tour of this length, the repetition and fatigue can easily leave you punch-drunk and numb a lot of the time. Sometimes though, things like this happen that jolt you out of that. Cynicism and a refusal to be impressed are almost a job requirement amongst roadies, but it is impossible to ignore the level of excitement firing off all around the stadium tonight. This is plainly going to be a night that a lot of people here will remember for the rest of their lives. It’s hard not to be affected by that.

Now, Chris is an enthusiastic fella. He’s said on more than one occasion "that was the best gig we’ve ever done – ever". For me though, tonight I might just be in full agreement. There’s something completely unquantifiable about what makes a show truly outstanding. It’s not something you can take a photograph of, or point a video camera at.

For me, the Paris show genuinely is the best show I’ve seen on this tour so far. Quite possibly in the time I’ve worked for them. There’s an exchange of energy between the audience and the band that feeds upon itself until it feels like the whole place is humming. A very special night on a tour of great shows.

This brings us to Nijmegan. You’ll have to forgive me now, for talking a while about the Flaming Lips. As a show, they’re utterly the most joyous thing that you’ll ever see. Their gigs are the most gloriously bonkers thing you’ll ever see. Again, sleep deprivation robs me of the words to do them justice. Go see for yourselves, you have my personal guarantee that you won’t regret it.

As people, they’re every bit as wonderful. As I potter in my workstation below the stage, I spot Chris sat at the side of the stage with Wayne Coyne, both watching Bat For Lashes play. Despite the hugeness of the show and the machine that this tour has become, it’s great to see two folks simply enjoying each other’s company and having such genuine shared enthusiasm for another artist.

Neill, who works alongside me, is an old friend of the Lips, having worked for them some time ago. Stephen, their drummer spends much of Coldplay’s show standing with Neill and I, watching the show on our little monitor and out of the peephole through the stage. He’s animated, enthusiastic and clearly having fun.

When the band bust out a very rare version of Trouble on the C-stage, he lets slip that it was for him. Apparently, Chris asked the Lips guys earlier if they’d play Somewhere Over The Rainbow tonight. Stephen asked for Trouble in return. Seems like a fair deal to me. Everyone’s a winner…

We leave the huge site at Nijmegen, racing the 60,000 punters out with the help of a police escort. All very flash. For some wonderfully odd reason, the only hotel available to us tonight is a nice, but somewhat basic place a little out of town. When I get to the room, it reminds me of the hotels at motorway services that I spent so much of my early roadie career staying in. Now, admittedly, I’m not sharing rooms like the old days, but the nostalgia is kicking off nonetheless.

When I head into the bar, there’s a very small group of us gathered for a free bar and a wind down. It continues the "just like the old days" vibe perfectly. The barman has stepped outside to collect glasses on the terrace. Will leans over the bar and picks up a glass, proceeding to pour himself a beer. It really is like the old days. It’s always the drummers…

Two shows in a row means a very rare chance for the crew to enjoy a break from the constant (and rather gruelling) schedule of loading in and loading out the show. The fact that nobody can string a sentence together means it’s hard to find out how exactly they went about celebrating their night of freedom, but it’s a fair bet that they were extremely thorough.

There’s no impromptu version of Trouble out on the C-stage tonight. Instead, the audience take matters into their own hands and seize a between-song moment to start singing Happy Birthday to Jonny. It’s another "this is the second time we’ve sung him happy birthday on this tour" moment.

I’m writing this laid on a sofa in an empty hut that used to be a dressing room. The sounds outside the door are of hundreds of flightcases being wrestled into trucks. People shout in several languages and forklifts buzz about busily. Tonight I’ve bypassed the runner in favour of a ride back to Manchester on the crew bus. Two nights of "just like the old days" – dear god, will someone please stop me….