Friday, May 30, 2008

Iggy & the Stooges contract rider

Apparently, this is the real deal. Because the seminal punk band doesn't travel with its own sound gear -- apparently, not even their own guitar stands -- they require a detailed appendix to their contract (known as a "rider") specifying everything, including how the monitor mixes should be set up:
For the sidefills, can we have two great big enormous things please, of a type that might be venerated as gods by the inhabitants of Easter Island, capable of reaching volumes that would make Beelzebub soil his underpants, and driven by amplifiers that could provide the power for a Monster Truck Rally.
(Via Hit & Run.) Having spent much time in my teens and early 20s knocking about as a singer in a series of dead-end garage/party bands, I sympathize with the roadie's obsessive attention to having quality stage monitors.

Garage bands, at least back in my day, tended to be dominated by a--hole lead guitarists. You'd go over to audition as a singer, and the a--hole lead guitarist would be playing through a Marshall stack, the bass player would have at least a 200-watt 2x12 amp, and maybe -- maybe -- your vocals would be miked through the B-channel of a 100-watt Fender amp. Once the drummer (and perhaps a rhythm guitarist as well) joined in, your vocals would be almost completely inaudible above the din. After four or five songs, you'd be hoarse from trying to sing loud enough to hear yourself.

It always amazed me that these a--hole lead guitarist characters, who could afford to invest hundreds and hundreds of dollars into guitars, amps and effects, never thought to spend a few hundred bucks for a small P.A. set up, sufficient to let the singer hear himself in practice. After years of frustration with these experiences, I bought my own 260-watt system for such purposes.

There is some sort of testosterone-driven obsession with sheer loudness -- the old Spinal Tap "turn it up to 11" thing -- that warps the minds of many rock musicians, especially lead guitarists. I have seldom encountered a rock guitarist who didn't suffer from this personality defect.

An illustrative anecdote: I once played a pool-party gig on the south side of Atlanta with a band led by a lead guitarist. We got there early, set up our gear, did a sound check, then the guitarist and his girlfriend went swimming an hour or so before the party was to begin.

This band wanted to perform Journey's "Loving, Touching, Feeling," which was at the very top of my vocal range. So I said, "OK, but we'll have to do that song first, because once I've sung a few songs and my voice starts getting ragged, I'll never be able to hit those high notes." And I warmed up my voice beforehand with the idea of taking the stage, then going right into the song.

So, we go out, get onstage, the lead guitarist picks up his guitar and hits a few notes to test it and says, "Wait a minute, there's something wrong." For the next 20 minutes, we all stood around, looking like moron amateurs, while the lead guitarist tried to figure out what was wrong with his equipment. Finally, the drummer got fed up and yelled, "Just forget about it. We're gonna play now, or I'm out of here."

Well, we struggled through, but the guitarist kept having these tantrums, stopping for five minutes between songs to try to figure out why his equipment didn't sound right (to him). It was August, I was sweating like a pig and getting dehydrated, and by the end of the gig my voice sounded like Joe Cocker on a bad night.

Of course, afterwards, we all figured out what the guitarist's problem was: He'd gotten water in his ears while swimming. It wasn't his equipment, it was his ears.

Nightmare experiences like that were routine as a singer in the garage-band circuit of the late '70s and '80s. Looking back on it, I realize that for a lot of those hard-rock guitar-god wannabes, playing in a band was mostly a egoistic macho thing. They never thought of music as show business -- i.e., entertaining the audience -- and so they never tried to see it from the audience member's perspective. Rather than trying to produce an entertaining performance that would please the crowd, the guitar-god wannabe was more interested in demonstrating his superior awesomeness.

It's a completely unprofessional attitude. Whatever the medium -- music, dance, drama -- a show-biz professional is always most concerned with pleasing the audience. The lead guitarists of my garage-band youth never seemed to have an adequate grasp of the show-biz aspect in rock 'n' roll.

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