19th April 2011. What was supposed to be a nice simple day: meeting a good friend from São Paulo, having lunch together and watching a gig at night (for free), turned out to be an amazing day to break the same old boring routine.
Since my friend Juliana Negri was working for the production of the Queensrÿche shows in Brazil, she invited me to hang out with her backstage. I was not a Queensrÿche fan back then (shame on me, I know!) but I didn’t think twice and said “Sure! Why not?”
I was most curious about Geoff Tate. Everybody had told me before what a hell of a singer he was (still is, btw) – “Top three in the Metal scene”, people said.
First thing on my mind was: “How am I going to get into the venue backstage? Shall I just say: I’m with the band! – How many people do that to get in? How will the venue staff know I’m serious and not just some random fan trying to sneak in?”
To my surprise, lack of security was what I found! It took me a few minutes to figure out where the back entrance was but once I found it, there was no single soul to stop me from getting in. I had never been in a backstage before apart from the Tribuzy show in São Paulo, the one when the DVD was recorded. But that was a post gig kind of thing and this one was a bit different.
Anyway, the backstage seems like an office. There are a few rooms with desks, computers, toilets and down the corridor on the right you have the stage. My friend introduced me to her work mates in one of the rooms and then showed me the rest. One of the rooms was for the tour manager and the other one for the band crew. There was also (of course) a dressing room and a room full of food, drinks and all the cool stuff! No wonder why this was the room where I spent most of that afternoon.
Another great moment that I remember from that afternoon was when I went to the stage. I saw the guitar tech doing what he was supposed to do while making out with a groupie and I sat and played tried to play on Scott Rockenfield’s drums! That was cool! It was also the first time I saw the audience from another angle. Ok, there was nobody there at the time, the venue was completely empty, but I could very well imagine what is to be on a stage.
Once I was back in the backstage I realized some of the band members had arrived. One of them was talking with his wife on the phone and checking how things were back at home, the other one was browsing the net and was pretty pissed off that his hockey team had lost the night before. After that he went to the stage for a quick sound check and I followed him.
He wanted to see what kind of speakers the venue had. He was telling me that depending on the speakers there’s some kind of adjustments that need to be done to his preset. Dummie me! To me, speakers were simply speakers! I didn’t know they change from place to place.
Have you ever heard stories about rock stars demanding impossible things from the production? I wouldn’t say the guys from Queensrÿche act like ‘rock stars’. They act like ordinary people, like you and me. But something like that happened. Geoff Tate asked for a special coffee blend from Starbucks. Guess what? We didn’t have Starbucks in Rio back then. The thing is, he didn’t care! He wanted his bloody coffee! So, one girl had to fly all the way to São Paulo to get the coffee for him.
The thing is, I don’t even know if he drank it at all. I remember that I put a teapot and bags of Darjeeling tea especially for him next to the drums and that was what he drank all night long.
After a few chats here and there with the band crew, band members and fans that were already waiting outside, my friend came to me and said: “The production has just realized they’re short on staff! So, we need your help. There’s no money involved here and if you are willing to help, you will do so because of the fun and that’s it”.
I didn’t think twice and replied: “What do I have to do?” She added: “Pretty much work as a translator. The venue staff needs to communicate with the band staff and things like that. You’ll be there to help.” Sounded fun at the time and still sounds fun. I’d do it again if asked to.
During the gig I found myself talking to the spotlight guys through radio, translating whatever the band’s light engineer said to me. That was a huge responsibility! Imagine if one of them missed Geoff Tate at an important moment of the show for example?
One funny moment that night was when the dry ice smoke machine wouldn’t stop working and the band’s engineer telling me to go there on the bloody stage and shut it myself! Well, I went there but I couldn’t do it! I simply didn’t know how to do it.
Oh man, I remember his face! He was pretty pissed with me! He ended up going there himself, but before he went he showed me how to work on the light board so that I could work with it while he fixed the situation. It was cool to work with the lights. I remember changing it from lavender to yellow and yellow to lavender during a whole song!
Another thing that was fun about that night was when friends bumped into me in the venue and saw me working on the light board or coming and going from the backstage into the venue with an all access pass and they couldn’t figure out what was happening. I simply couldn’t stop in order to explain to them what the hell was happening.
As for the gig itself, it was amazing! Very technical, great musicians and a hell of a singer! The venue was far from being sold out and I could see in the eyes of the fans that were there that they were having the moment of their lives.
As for me, well, that was the moment when I first realized how the business is, what happens behind a big production, what it takes to give the fans the best moment of their lives. Apart from the coffee story, I could see that rock stars are normal people like you and me, who worry about home, make silly voices on the mobile to make their kids laugh, get mad when their team loses, wear glasses to read tiny letters and stuff like that.
Have I become a Queensrÿche fan after that? I have to admit that I haven’t. However, I’ve listened to all of their albums and watched videos on YouTube. I would recognize their music if I listened to it on the radio. They are good. They are great, actually! But I don’t know, I guess I’m just a strange guy…