Kaotican Alphabet

Roadie #42 – Blog #50

In which #42 reaches his half-century

Chris bounds up to me on the journey into Orlando with a new setlst. It’s been quite a while since we’ve played Setlist Twister. The start of this tour often felt like trying to ride a malfunctioning mechanical bull and then, all of a sudden, seemingly out of completely nowhere, things settled into a definitive form.

The current setlist is pretty much engraved into everyone on the crew’s brains. The endings to songs trigger mental flags that it’s time to carry out the necessary steps to be ready for the next one. As I’ve said before though, familiarity and repetition can become a little tiring. The show has got stronger and stronger night upon night in terms of the band’s performance, but you can’t beat a nice shake-up to keep everyone interested.

The new setlist relies on some elements that we don’t have here yet, which means that we won’t be descending into chaos tonight. In fact, potential for chaos is nicely deflated as the band call a production meeting on stage at the end of soundcheck. It only becomes apparent how much is involved in the gig now when the crowd of people affected by the changes begins to assemble on stage.

This is also only the ‘immediate crew’ and the department heads, but questions fly thick and fast: "If that song is going to follow this one, the balls are going to be in this position – what do you want on them in the change?", "Which mic are you going to sing at if you’re finishing that song on guitar and then going straight to the piano?", "Do you want the longer intro version of that song to give you time to get from here to there, or are we going to go back to the old version?", "Is the piano going to stay out between this song and this one, or do you want it out of the way?" and so it goes on.

It’s all minute tiny details, but they’re exactly the kind of thing that could trip everyone up if they’re not addressed in advance. The informal "round table" approach with the band and crew began in the studio – before rehearsals even began for this tour. Full and open communication between band and crew has been invaluable in getting a lot done quickly and that’s what we’re trying to do here. I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you what the new setlist involves, but I think you’ll like it and rest assured, when things finally fall into place, you’ll be hearing about it here!

Getting to sunny Florida in November is a treat for a bunch of British roadies accustomed to cold grey weather in the winter months. Today, Will’s drumtech Bash tells me of a surfing trip on the day off yesterday. This is all down to Brook, who is the guy who fires all that wonderful butterfly confetti each night. When I first met Brook, I remarked to someone that he was the most Californian person I had ever met – ever. I was quickly informed though, that he hails from down here in Florida. Never was particularly good with geography…

Being as he’s on home turf tonight, I figured now’s a good time to talk about his butterflies. They are a huge high point on the show, obviously and it’s quite possible that the band get the best view of them each night – being as they’re looking down the room right into them. The most amazing thing about them is that they get into absolutely everything. Open any flightcase and there’ll be at least one in there somewhere, they’re in every drawer and every toolbox around the venue. If you leave anything open, they’ll get in there before Lovers In Japan draws to a close.

Every night, the fans in the moving lights are blown through with a "leaf blower" to keep them clear for the next day. I’m reliably informed that at Front Of House (roadie glossary: the enclosure in the crowd where the sound, lighting and video desks are) there is usually a frenzy of "wafting" to keep the little critters out of the mixing desks. One of the sound crew apparently even used to blow across the desk to keep them away. Quite whether this was out of dogged determination or out of a desire to amuse himself, I’m not sure.

My personal favourite butterfly experience has to be coming home for some days off during the European tour and opening my paperback for some bedtime reading hundreds of miles away – only to have one of the luminous little buggers gently drop from between the pages. Given that I’m actually UNDERNEATH the stage while they’re making their descent I still cannot work out how it got there. All good fun. And I have to say, I’m slightly envious of the fact that Brook gets to tell people he fires butterflies out of a canon for a living….

Here’s the drumkit before the encore last night.

Roadie #42