Kaotican Alphabet

Roadie #42 – Blog #32

#42 and the Budapest backline panic

There were photographers and video cameras when we landed in Prague yesterday. Quite a pack of them, actually. Today, here in Budapest, there is a lone photographer and a couple of guys with a video camera and a microphone. Chris and security chief Kelly Samuels have quite the double act worked out when it comes to pap evasion. They’ve slid by un-noticed and without fuss through London and Manhattan’s most hardened and ruthless press hounds.

We sit in our van as today’s hapless would-be TV interviewer misses each and every band member whilst trying to chat to Franksy to find out what time they’ll be arriving. Once all the van doors slam shut and he realises that he’s missed out, he throws his coat at the first van out of frustration. It’s truly the first time I’ve ever heard a vanful of touring folks simultaneously "awwwwwww"-ing at a pap. Bless his cotton socks. Taking his exclusive with us, we whizz off into Budapest.

I’ve not been here before. It’s increasingly rare to be able to say that these days, which is a sure sign it’s time for me to find a proper job before I turn into a haggard old roadie telling war stories that interest nobody. Obviously, there’s many would say I missed that particular boat quite some time ago, but hey…

Today’s venue is very shiny and curved from the outside, giving it the appearance of some kind of futuristic breadmaking device. Once inside, it’s a pretty standard arena scene, albeit a very big one. The one immediate "spot the difference" when we get inside though, is that the band’s gear is missing.

The stage is set as always, but there is a complete lack of drumkit, piano, amps, guitars and so on. It seems that the truck carrying the "Backline" (roadie term for the band’s equipment, as opposed to the lights, sound, video etc) has broken down en route and has only just arrived. Given that the doors open to the punters in about 3 hours, that’s not good.

Times like this prove a crew though. Everyone is mucking in, there’s sound crew getting the Viva La Vida tympani out of its case, lampies and riggers are pushing boxes of guitar gear and a lot is happening very quickly in a very productive chaos.

It’s made all the more bizarre by the fact that soundman Dan Green is playing last night’s gig through the sound system to get a feel for the room. He’s chosen Strawberry Swing, which is gentle, relaxed and joyous. Beneath the speakers it’s like an ant farm on Red Bull, but floating through the air, the band is playing and all is well.

By 7, the stage is set, Albert Hammond’s gear is up and ready and the punters wander in none the wiser. I expect that the backline crew are now negotiating for a 4pm load in every day in order to secure a bit more valuable bunk time. I know I would be.

It’s a huge long arena here in Budapest, which creates a strange audio effect known as "slapback". It’s most noticeable when monitor engineer Chris Wood is walking round with the radio mic giving it the "one two" (yes, roadies do really do this). It sounds as huge and powerful as ever coming out of the PA, but half a second later, it sounds distinctly as though there is someone at the far end of the arena with a large megaphone, mimicking him.

None of this impacts upon the show, of course. In fact, it’s rather a stormer. It’s a very noisy crowd and a solidly powerful night from the chaps. Onwards to Vienna!


Cast your daily vote for Roadie #42 in the Best Blog category at the 2008 BT Digital Music Awards