In 2014, a twist of fate transformed Charlie Crowe from a guitarist touring with big acts to a guitar tech gig on Miranda Lambert’s Platinum Tour. Happily, he’s now back playing hellacious guitar for Brooks and Dunn, but his 2014 tour diaries provide GP readers a rare behind-the-scenes look into the professional country-music scene.
The other backline guys and I can’t really get started on our duties until after 10 am, so I have plenty of time to wake up, have coffee, and get a good breakfast before clocking in. A bunch of Miranda’s crew are 20-to 30-something ultra-nerds who are experts on modern gear, and so not the “roadies” archetype from the generation that got stoned and chased groupies after shows. Instead, they’re specialists more likely to be watching Game of Thrones or assembling 3-D sci-fi models. Around 11 am, I unpack road cases, construct my workstation, and start stretching strings and tuning guitars. Line check (without band) or soundcheck (with band) happens between 2:30 and 3 pm. If there’s time, the other techs and I will jam out on classic rock in an empty arena through a million-dollar sound system. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun that is.
After that, I take a nap, eat dinner, shower, suit up in my black tech clothes, attach walkie-talkie and wireless monitor packs, and tune guitars again. Around 9:15 pm, the intro video of Miranda and Carrie Underwood’s “Something Bad” rolls and churns up the audience. I take [Lambert guitarist] Scotty Wray a Telecaster, hand him a guitar pick, straighten his jacket under his guitar strap, do a fist bump, and return to my workstation.
The crowd gets louder as a timer on the video counts down to 00:00. That’s when the band kicks into “Fastest Girl in Town” and double doors in the bottom center of the video wall swing open to reveal Miranda before she walks down a flight of stairs to center stage. Now, the show revs up to full throttle, and it feels like a mechanical bull I’m trying to hang on to as I tune guitars and stay aware of cues from the set list. I take Scotty a different Telecaster for “Kerosene.” After that, I deliver a silver Telecaster for “Platinum.” Hit after hit, I take out guitars for “Heart Like Mine,” “Baggage Claim,” “Priscilla,” “Over You,” “All Kinds of Kinds,” “Famous in a Small Town,” a cover of “Mississippi Queen,” then “Mama’s Broken Heart.”
By this time, it’s halfway through the show, and I get to relax a bit, because it’s the only time Scotty plays the same guitar for two songs. It takes me a few nerve-wracking gigs to get my footing, settle down, and really pay attention to the music.