Real-life roadies review Roadies: ‘I felt like a nurse watching an hour of ER’

We asked some battle-hardened stagehands to watch Cameron Crowes new show and give us their verdict on load-in fashion, tour managers and groupies

Tina Farris, tour manager, the Roots

Roadies is very Cameron Crowe, but pretty accurate. I was impressed by details such as a laundry bag, something crew members have on big tours. In the opening scene, the guy in bed with a girl [Bill, played by Luke Wilson] turns out to be the tour manager, but thats the joke. The tour manager is the rock star. You have the most access to everything and youre not beholden to security guards or fans. When I was first on the road as a child with my grandfather, who worked for Motown, the stars played golf but the crews partied. I suppose that Crowes series is ultimately about a lifestyle that nobody wants to give up. I could relate to the characters although Ive never encountered a female production manager [Shelli, played by Carla Gugino].

The one that really threw me was Kelly [Imogen Poots], a lighting tech who rides around backstage on a skateboard. I thought, Oh please Then I remembered that on the Black Eyed Peas tour we rode around on Segways, but not right underneath the lighting rig! Thats ridiculous. I have encountered fans in singers dressing rooms but they were way nicer. I missed the rite of passage element that was so great about Almost Famous. The Roadies scene that most bothers me is the one where the crazy stalker person supposedly uses the singers microphone to simulate a blow job. They used a drum mic! That still haunts me.

Ken Barr, Kiss/Alice Cooper roadie-turned-author of We Are The Road Crew

Alice
Alice Cooper part of the family Photograph: PJP photos/REX/Shutterstock

I spent years on the road with Kiss and Alice Cooper and recognised my life in Roadies. It nails that sense of family among the crew. I once had a relative dying when I was in Perth, Australia and the Alice Cooper organization helped me get back to Florida just before that person died. These people become your brothers and, increasingly, sisters. Cameron Crowe has shone a light on lives that most people are oblivious about. Obviously there are cliches and I imagine the love interest is to pull in a mass audience, but I laughed when I saw the day list [itinerary] pinned up. When youre in a different concrete building every 24 hours you literally dont know where you are.

Youd never get a stalker in a dressing room in real life, but there are posters backstage of well-known crazies, just like in Roadies. Girls trading blow jobs for tickets does happen. In the 70s, bands issued them with different coloured passes according to what sexual acts theyd do, but Roadies captures something I watched happen, as everything became big business. Now, bands dont sell as many records so theyre out all day doing interviews and promo, not drinking Jack Daniels until 5am. When Alice traded drink and drugs for golf, the crew carried on partying. Alice paid for the carnage. One night the hotel damages bill was three pages long. He just laughed and said, Well, I cant do it any more. Thank god somebody can.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WnLeNWBoMU?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed]

Mark Wilson, production manager, Manchester Albert Hall, UK

I could relate to the chemistry between Bill and Shelli, because I work closely with a female tour manager myself. We bounce off each other all the time and share the feeling of elation after a successful show. Crowes thrown romance in because it helps the story, but its not as if a workplace relationship would never happen. When Shelli says, Protect the band, understand the band, forgive the band, thats how it is. They make outlandish demands, such as requesting a pinball machine for the dressing room, which takes eight guys to carry in and goes unused. You smile and carry on. My favourite character is the stage manager, who says things like Ronnie Van Zandt gave me this medallion and Roger Waters is my house guest. You do get those kind of larger than life characters, who think they own the place.

No
No one looks that glamourous at load in. Photograph: Diana Scrimgeour/Redferns

Dawn White, former tour manager

I dont know whose version of the road this show is. They did a really good job of the guitar techs workbox, but I kept thinking, None of this ever happened. To me, Cameron Crowes written from the perspective of someone whos never been backstage and has a dream of what its like. Its great that hes got so many female characters there are more women on tours now but a production manager in high-heeled shoes is absurd. Then theres the dynamic between her and the male tour manager its all Oh, youre husbands never here and hands touching. If youre gonna show women on the road, dont present them as the love interest. Show them as the strong, powerhouse people they are, who are essentially giving their child-bearing years to a band. Or show the human story of men and women who cant give up the road because they need the money.

Some of Roadies is farcical. If tour managers do go to bed with people, its clandestine. Youd certainly never let the production manager walk in. Nor have I ever seen a groupie in a dressing room. My problem was always fending off eager guitar geeks! But a guy guarding the dressing room isnt going to give up his laminate pass and livelihood for a quickie. There is this saying What goes on on the road stays on the road and an iron code of trust because people want to remain employable, so its difficult to uncover the real, much darker stories. I once walked in on a roadie whod dropped his cocaine in the toilet so was drinking the toilet water, and Ive seen a guy whod wrapped himself in duct tape while some girl gave him a blow job. I thought Yeeuch, but that would make way more interesting television.

Peter
Peter Cambor as Milo and Keisha Castle-Hughes as Donna in Roadies. Photograph: Patrick Wymore/Showtime

Emma Edgar, tour manager, Everything Everything/Placebo/Gerard Way

Roadies isnt as bad as I expected. I felt like being a nurse and watching an hour of ER. The late-night chat with the bus driver felt familiar. Drivers are our unsung therapists: if you cant sleep, you get up and talk to them. Other bits just felt ridiculous and far too glossy. Nobodys that well groomed at load-in. You certainly dont stand around in a circle and chat about the city youre in, and the idea that the lighting girl would quit because the band wont change the setlist is just absurd. I like the subplot of idealism versus corporatism, because people want to believe its art over commerce. In reality theyre hand in hand. The big bands travel with accountants, but theyd never fire someone onstage or in front of everyone. It would be done discreetly, but in Roadies, everything is exaggerated for TV: its a year in a career condensed into an hour. If they wanted to show reality, it would be short bursts of really intense activity, followed by hours and hours of us sitting around in airports staring at our phones.

Roadies starts at 10pm on 26 June on Showtime

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/jun/24/roadies-cameron-crowe-review-touring

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