Rock Hobo Road, Vol. 4: Eat My Rider
Posted on April 13th, 2011
Before I get on with the story, I have to make a few things clear about touring, and my job as a lighting designer. (Henceforth referred to as “LD”)
LD’s are a weird bunch. They are often loners, and not well understood. In the grand scheme of things it’s a lonely existence being surrounded by the sound guys, all chummy and high fiving about PA systems and amps and guitars. Rarely is there anyone to high-five the the LD about getting all the moving lights and dimmers to fit on one DMX line. Yeah, I know. Nerds.
The work schedule of an LD is generally pretty weird too. Most of the time they are the last to leave a club or theater at the end of the night because they have to wait for the sound guys to move all the gear off the stage before the trusses full of lights can come down over stage to be dismantled.
They are usually the first ones into a venue before soundcheck, because all those lights they took down a few meager hours ago in a town whose name they’ve already forgotten have to go back up before sound and back line loads in.
So, when an LD needs to eat, the food has to be close by, fast, and not require many utensils.
This is where we enter the important world of the rider. The rider is akin to a list of demands from a kidnapper. Except instead of being made from little cut up letters pasted together from magazines, the tour manager actually types it up and emails it ahead of time to all the venues on the tour schedule. Also, instead of having to take someone against their will to get these things, the venue will oblige the band without the need to cut off anyone’s pinky toe. They do this to make the artist and crew comfortable. They want to do it. Really.
The rider usually contains a list of foods, snacks, and drinks as well as normal needs like tissues, gum, breath mints, cough drops and other sundries just to make life a little nicer.
The common misconception of the rider is that the venue provides this list of items as a form of hospitality. In reality, the band pays for every item and the money usually comes straight out of the money the venue was going to pay them for performing. So, if you ever find yourself in the good graces of someone who gave you a backstage pass to meet your favorite band in the dressing room, please think twice about putting that bottle of Oban 14 year single malt in your skater backpack because they will hate you for it, and even worse, if a roadie catches you depriving them of their scotch you’ll probably die. Instead, when you’re backstage you should pretend you’re at your childhood friend’s grandma’s house. Only take the weird candy in the candy bowl, and if you have weed, you should offer it to her. Wait, what? Bad analogy.
Why do we care about the rider? Well my foodie friends, this is mainly what I will be eating for my daytime meal for the next two weeks straight. Why is this significant? Because the rider never changes, but the venue does, and therefore the food varies only slightly. It’s kind of like Supersize me, but instead of McGrub and soda, you’re limited to cold cuts and beer.
Let the games begin!