When concerts and tours are canceled en masse, it’s not only the musicians that suffer. There are countless people behind the scenes who make these events happen and, like the rest off us, they’re all struggling to make sense of the current situation while figuring out how to pay bills right now. We reached out to tell some of their stories.
When the tattooed gladiators strut onto their stage and the roar goes up from the crowd, another unheard roar happens deep in the dark recesses under and around the stage. These are the roadies, the unseen few, the black knights of flight cases and amps. They are invisible movers and shakers that make the show come alive. Sound engineers, video guys, backline techs, and lighting.
Don’t be fooled by their disheveled look or sweat-stained brows, these are some of the brightest, most talented people you will ever meet. They come from all walks of life to live this nomadic existence and most could never do anything but. Musicians become great because of their love of the music — we become who we are because of our love of the randomness of our lifestyle. Once we were the carnies jumping from circus to carnival, now we inhabit the arenas and festivals of the world. For most of us, this plague of COVID-19 is devastating. When we take off our plastic dog tags, we disappear like specters back into the endless obscurity of limbo. I have watched many of my close friends from some of the biggest touring productions in the world fly home in the last few weeks, their gigs canceled mid-flight. We don’t find jobs easily, we don’t play well with those outside our industry; for us the death knell is ringing loud and clear and we are lost on an ocean of chaos. This world of entertainment has changed. It will never be the same. Elvis has left the building and he ain’t coming back. For me, I write screenplays. It’s my escape from not directing shows. I have had to find a new passion or wilt into the black hole that is left of entertainment.
My recent tour with The Dollyrots was postponed. I’ve been their touring drummer since 2018. Out of work now because the spring tour was canceled. However, I’ve also been a roadie/drum tech/tour manager for The Darts. So obviously I’m looking for work now since I had budgeted through April/May with the tour.
I’m a 34-year-old audio engineer, with five years of live sound experience with hundreds and hundreds of shows under my belt. I currently work for The Standard Hotel in West Hollywood, The Dresden for their Monday night music series, Joe’s Great American in Burbank, as well as for SoSound production company. I’ve currently been out of work since mid-March due to the coronavirus. It has forced the venues I work at to cancel all upcoming events, and in some cases close indefinitely and with being a freelance audio engineer that doesn’t put me in a position to receive any unemployment. As so many people are affected by the pandemic, it’s hit the music and entertainment industry plenty hard, and not just the performers but the behind-the-scenes folks like myself too. I luckily have an office gig with the L.A. Phil to fall back on, however I just got word that our city-owned office may shut down if L.A. officials decided to do a full lockdown. So meanwhile I’ll continue to look for mixing work online that I can do at my home studio. I wish everyone the best of luck through these times.