In the summer of 2012, I was fortunate enough to score (through a mutual friend of Lita Ford guitarist Mitch Perry) backstage passes on the Def Leppard/Poison/Lita Ford “Rock Of Ages” tour when they played in Denver, Colorado, Jones Beach Pavilion in New York, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. From these three concert experiences, I compiled the following observations (so you didn’t have to).
During the show, when someone backstage says to you in a kind, soothing voice “no, no, no…you’re fine where you are”—MOVE IMMEDIATELY. This is because you’re about to be run down by: 1) A rock star frantically switching out a guitar; 2) A rock star frantically looking for his cell phone to call his girlfriend/wife during the crucial Pre-Set Window before he finds himself single/divorced; 3) A rock star frantically switching out a roadie; 4) A throng of fans who won “meet & greet” passes from their local radio station, each of whom considers you One Small Obstacle on their way to The Target; 5) A small child—most likely the offspring of one of the many rock stars wandering around—wearing noise reduction headphones, traversing the backstage area at 300mph on a Razr scooter.
2. Fire In the Hole!
Tour buses are “no fly zones” for personal photography. If you are stupid enough to take a photograph on one of the buses, you will be wrestled to the ground by a member of the road crew and held there while a bomb squad from a nearby military base uses remote-control robots to detonate your iPhone, “Monsters, Inc-style.”
3. Ask Me How I Know.
If it looks like a RV on steroids, it is *not* a bus—it is somebody’s home. This is a helpful fact I wish I’d known before I barged into one particular rock star’s non-bus home without knocking. Luckily, that happened on Day 2 of the three shows I attended, so I only had to die of embarrassment over my groupie faux pas for one day. Also, I cannot look that person in the eye. Also, it is seared in my brain forever. Also, it is a constant reminder of why I will never be one of the cool kids. Ever.
4. Who’s There?
Fun fact: Knocking on a tour bus door makes you feel like an ass-hat. Picture yourself knocking on, say, an airplane, or an industrial-sized grill, and that’s sort of what it feels like. As an added bonus, no one actually ever answers the tour bus door, leaving you with plenty of time on your hands to imagine the people on the bus looking out at you through the impenetrable, tinted windows, and pointing and laughing until they pee their pants.
5. Does This Spandex Make Me Look Old?
When you are told that there is a “Wardrobe Manager” traveling with the tour, don’t laugh. Although it looks to the untrained eye as if the guys in the various bands simply wear whatever on the floor of their bus is “least stinky”, the fact is that the Nonchalant Rock Star Persona has nothing whatsoever to do with long hair, stage makeup, or musicality, and everything to do with that fashionably torn “Pour Some Sugar On Me” t-shirt. Rock Star Fashion: It’s all about subtlety, baby.
6. Call Me.
If a rock star and an attractive woman sitting in close proximity look cozy and comfortable with each other and tell you that they’ve known each other for years, don’t congratulate them for their determination to stay together despite the tour/the odds/the fates/the surplus of vaginas wandering around. Trust me: despite the genetic proof of their sexual union wandering around backstage somewhere, these two are not still together (if they ever were in the first place). Forcing this fact into the open may result in the rock star expressing inappropriate, overt relief in the form of poorly concealed grinning while his baby-momma glares at you as she sulkily adjusts her tourniquet-like spandex.
7. No, Seriously: I’m Friends With the Band
Waiting at the security checkpoint to get backstage will give you plenty of time to work on your “bored, indifferent” look that makes it clear to the nearby audience that you are a seasoned, Almost Famous, Penny Lane-type groupie, and not some Sticky Booger-type amateur. Perfecting this look of haughty contempt will remove any suspicions they may be harboring that you’ve been, say, traded to Guns N Roses for a six-pack of beer, and you’re simply staging there before being collected by the road crew and loaded onto a tractor trailer with the sound boards. If any audience member has the audacity to ask you how long you plan to stand there before you give up on getting backstage to meet the band, cut them short with: “Just think: any other city in the world besides Albuquerque and you’d still be a virgin.”
8. Who Is Your Daddy, and What Does He Do?
Rock stars’ kids think their parents are just as uncool as your kids think you are. The only difference? Dude, you actually are fucking uncool.
9. We’ll Leave the Light On For You
When the reservations person at the venue resort hotel says that there are no vacancies because the entire place is booked due to the concert that night, and he offers you the number for a “nice Motel 6 right down the road,” what he really means is that there are no vacancies for someone as unimportant as you.
10. What Can I Getcha?
A better title for the Tour Manager is “Ticketmaster Concierge Magician Mom.” Need a room in the completely-booked venue hotel? Why, here’s a nice suite for the same price (and you’re welcome). Hungry? Meal vouchers AND a 10lb bag of trail mix will suddenly materialize from his jeans pocket. Lost your phone/girlfriend/tour bus/sanity? He just happens to have a burner phone, a map, a hug, and a coupon to a nearby brothel for you. Seriously, the guy exudes an aura of “It’s All Taken Care Of.”
Sure, listen with the proper combination of interest and sympathy as every rock star and member of the road crew recounts their recent projectile vomiting/food poisoning story, but don’t consider this an open invitation to tell them how part of your long skirt ended up falling into the toilet an hour earlier, and you had to wash it in the sink with hand soap and water. Trust me: They won’t think it’s the fascinating gut-buster that you do.
12. The Hardest Job You’ll Ever Love.
What’s a rock ‘n’ roll tour like? Imagine YOUR one-week childhood summer camp experience—complete with interpersonal minefields, dubious buffet “mystery foods,” girl’s camp panty raids, emotional breakdowns, homesickness, and humidity—take away the lake and the latrine, add guitars and a good beat you can dance to, put it all on wheels, and drive it across the country. Sure, it’s a lot more fun than your job as Senior Pencil Pusher at Soul-Sucking & Mindnumbing, LLC, but trust me: being a rock star is a fucking job.