What is a Roadie? (or roadies?) They are the technicians and support people who travel with a band on tour in sleeper buses, and handle every part of a live concert. This term covers many people: tour managers, production managers, stage managers, front of house and monitor engineers, lighting directors, lighting designers, lighting techs, guitar techs, bass techs, drum techs, pyrotechnic techs, security, drivers, merchandise crew and caterers. They are the unsung heros that make concerts "live"
The road crew are uncredited, though in some cases many bands thank their crew in album sleeve liner notes.
A roadie's job is difficult and they get little to no sleep while out on the road touring, in some cases up to 9 months without seeing their familes and friends. They sleep on a bus in very tight quarters in things they call "coffins" (see photo below) with about 11 other people. Roadies are the ones responsible for getting into the venue early to set-up the stage, load in band equipment, hang the lights and do "everything" to make the show happen. Roadies are the ones who stay long after the band has left to break it all down and start over again in a new town. Roadies work very long days with no days off, typically for months at a time. They sleep when they can. A Roadie having a social life while touring is kind of unheard of. Roadies are like family jumping from one gig to another, almost like a carnival worker, its a passion not just "a job."
To have fun, Roadies come up with code names for people on tour, and speak in code. They have a language on-to-themselves and it is kind of funny some of the things roadies say. I have put some of the terms and what they mean:
Hot Bagging - taking a bag into the toiliet and doing number 2 and tossing it out the window, due to the smell ( you can't shit on a bus) you can be exciled.
Oil Spotted - getting left behind from your tour bus. It means the oil spot left on the ground from the bus after it has already left and you missed the bus and you have to find you're own way to the next show.
Lot Lizzards - People who stand outside the tour busses waiting for either backstage passes or to see the band.
With new TV shows like Vinyl, and Cameron Crowe's - Roadies, I am sure the resurgance of some of the terms like "hot bagging" will resurface again. I love to listen to the road crew talk, because I found it amusing, and the stories they have were nothing short of brilliant. They hold many secrets of the private lives of many bands, and to get a roadie to talk candid about their experiences, would probably never happen - if they want to keep working. I would never admit to anything I ever saw backstage but I can tell you the "shit does get real."
"And yes—the Van Halen 'no brown M&Ms' thing on the tour rider was true!"
Kris Embrey is the author of "Tell Me You Want Me" a fiction book based on the life of a background singer touring with the hottest band in rock and roll. Archway Publishing a Simon and Schuster Company.