“We’re just a bunch of roadies,” production manager extraordinaire Charlie Hernandez said. He then demonstrated how powerful a bunch of roadies could be. After the Haitian earthquake last year, Hernandez got on the phone, got the use of a private jet from one client/acquaintance, got building materials, supplies, food, volunteers, and was on the ground in Port au Prince working while most organizations were still mobilizing. Roadies work quick. Roadies build cities. Every night.
Around 500 roadies and people who support the road crews spent three days in Scottsdale for the Tour Link Conference last week, and the power of the roadie was in full effect. Everyone involved in putting on a concert, with the exception of the artist and the promoter attended, and did what they do best – partied hard.
They also learned, networked, and met some of the legends in their field. Folks like Dinky Dawson, who has been on the road since the early 60s, and Benny Collins, who worked on Michael Jackson’s road extravaganzas for years. This is one of the high points of Tour Link. Everyone is available and accessible, and a maximum of two degrees of separation from you. The show is intimate – even a first timer like myself (albeit working on the staff) – could meet and talk with pretty nearly anyone there. No one thinks of themselves as “too important.” It was not unusual to see younger tour personnel hanging out with people who have come up through the ranks to positions of responsibility and their own companies.
Put on by the folks who put out the Road Book, Venue Book, the Mobile Production Monthly, and the
mobileproductionpro.com website (in the interest of full disclosure, I’m one of them) this is all the brainchild of Larry Smith, who was Senior Director at Performance Magazine and the Summit Conference back in the day. To hear everyone tell it, this year’s Tour Link eclipsed the old Performance conferences in scope, spectacle, and attendance.
Most people don’t think of the professionals behind the scenes when they go to a concert, but these are the guys who make the modern concert experience what it is: The truckers and freight companies that haul everything, the bus drivers, coach companies, and private jet charter companies that haul everyone, the hotels where they stay, the riggers, lighting peeps, video peeps, backline techs, caterers, tour designers, tour managers, tour accountants, two-way radio companies, and on and on. That’s who Tour Link celebrates.
And celebrate they did. The highlight of the concert is the Top Dog awards show. Here, the best caterers, video and lighting companies, hotels, road managers, everyone who puts the show on, has the opportunity for recognition. Like the Grammys, The Top Dogs are voted on by their peers. The tour that took the most awards this year was Bon Jovi. The party ran until three in the morning, and beyond.