I’ve always been very appreciative and respectful of the crew on tour. A road crew for a big rock and roll production is divided into various teams. A stage manager, a production manager, and a tour manager direct these teams to make sure the sound crew, lighting crew, truck and bus drivers, limo drivers, pilots, electricians, carpenters, and all band personnel work together to make the show happen each night in a different city.
The lighting team includes riggers and spotlight operators, plus a lighting designer who runs the light show. They are the first into the hall to wire the lights onto the trusses and “fly” them over the stage before anything else can be set up. A video crew operates cameras and runs films. The stage crew handles setup of the stage itself—including carpet, risers, and power. The sound crew handles the P.A. system, front of house sound, and monitors. Backstage, there’s a production team that advances the next show and a tour accountant who settles the money and deals with the tour’s operating costs—including providing per diem funds for the band and crew. A catering staff provides three meals a day for the entire crew, including dinner and after-show food for the band.
Then there are the techs who handle our instruments before, during, and after the show. Many famous guitar players have their techs switch amp channels, hit pedals, and even route their signals to different amps—all the while tuning a guitar for the next song in the show. I’ve always preferred to do the sonic changes myself, instead of being tied to the same tones every night, but I can see the advantages of having a tech script out and handle the guitar sounds for guitarists who run all around the stage.
A big production with semi trucks, busses, and a sizeable crew can run upwards of $80,000 a day. On a smaller tour, like with my own three-piece group, the crew is stripped down to two or three people, but it works much the same way a big tour works. Everyone has a specific responsibility to ensure a great show each night. As the tour rolls on, the efficiency of the crew tightens up, allowing me to focus on how to present the music at the highest artistic and entertainment level.
As we rely on house sound systems, we don’t need a crew to construct a huge P.A. system every night—just a front of house mixer who can also handle monitors. The guitar tech also takes care of the bass rig and helps set up the drums. The tour manager can direct the venue’s contractually provided loaders to move the gear and uncase it. The tour manager can double as our “merchandise engineer,” as well as handle the accounting at the end of the show, and then advance the next show.
A good crew pulls off a show like clockwork. They’re problem solvers who know music and gear and can fix anything and everything from a bad tube or cable to a bus breakdown. The show will go on!
Carl Verheyen is a crtically acclaimed, Grammy-nominated guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, arranger, producer, clinician, educator, and tone master with 12 CDs, two live DVDs, and two books released worldwide.