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riders on the storm
it's okay; i'm with the band.
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)

You’ve heard the stories.

A contract technical rider, the binding document between performers, promoters and venues, outlines key elements that are necessary for a show’s success. Specifications cover myriad safety, outfitting, performance and power issues, as well as expectations for medical assistance, security, ticket handling and advertising. And of course, essentials like food, beverages, and suitable atmospheric conditions are detailed so the routine of the performers and crew isn’t interrupted and they can do their job effectively.

But you’ve heard the stories.

Van Halen requiring two pounds of M&Ms in a bowl, with all the brown candies removed. Jennifer Lopez demanding an all white dressing room, complete with white furniture, white walls, white carpeting and white flowers. KISS expecting an eight-person Jacuzzi setup backstage and a visit from a local sorority after the show. Industry insiders say seemingly outlandish demands highlighted on riders are for the protection of the artist: if each item on the rider is provided for exactly as written, then the performance will be a success and disaster-prone situations, especially where safety and staging are concerned, are avoided.

But who can say what is necessary, and what is nonsense?

The Rolling Stones require a snooker (not pool, snooker) table, complete with cues and chalk. The band members travel with their own snooker balls. And their own furniture.

Christina Aguilera demands a whole bottle of Flintstones Vitamins with extra Vitamin C, four votive candles with matches and one roll of APS film at 200-speed exposure.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers not only expect a package of “white crew socks, sized 9-13, sports logo okay” but also “one large pair of plaid cotton jockey shorts and two medium white crew neck cotton t-shirts, preferred quality Hanes or Calvin.” Moby also wants his undergarments waiting for him at the venue: “10 pairs white cotton crew socks and 10 pairs cotton boxer shorts.” (Notice size is not specified.)

Frank Sinatra and Ozzy Osborne both require(d) doses of Decadron. Ozzy also needs a B-12 booster shot before each show, as does David Sanborn.

Johnny Cash expects to display the American flag “in full view of the entire audience.” Little Richard “reserves the right to freely distribute a book of the moral views of the Artist.”

Savage Garden requires “at all dining sessions, a full variety of condiments shall be available. These condiments include tomato sauce, HP sauce, Tabasco sauce, a selection of mustards, chutneys, b-b-q sauce, Worchester sauce, salt and pepper, mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, Vegemite, a selection of jams and peanut butter.”

Busta Rhymes would appreciate one box of Lifestyles or Rough Rider ribbed condoms, as well as a bag of peppermints.

The venue is not to decorate Barry Manilow’s star room, as his fan club shows up at 11:00 a.m. the day of each show to do that. However, the venue is required to provide “soft toilet tissue and unscented deodorant spray for the Artist’s bathroom.”

Capital letters for emphasis and brand naming are all quite common on riders, based on the credo “if you don’t ask, you won’t get.” But often riders are detailed with proper, polite language: “We require offices, but do not desire to displace you from yours, as you have your own work to do.” Some even outline issues larger than thyself: “No less than 10% of backstage staff will be female” or “we are a charitable and environmentally conscious organization: please recycle and donate all remaining food to local shelters” or even “It is just a suggestion, but since 70% of our audience is female, perhaps converting the men’s restrooms on the main concourse to women’s restrooms would better accommodate our fans and your patrons.”

Most acts demand the same thing; some are just more particular than others. Like sea-faring travelers of yore, almost every artist expects citrus. Sometimes a gallon of Minute Maid is just fine. Other times the demand is specific: non-pasteurized, fresh-squeezed orange juice, with a “THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO THE BAND!!!” notation immediately following the request. Some performers are even more detailed: “The following only needs to be supplied if your show falls on Monday, Wednesday, or Saturday: 1 orange, 1 grapefruit, 1 lemon and 1 quart fresh strawberries.”

Liquor in many forms is often expected, although if budget is an issue, that’s usually the first thing compromised. Cigarettes are a big item, too. Occasionally it’s just one pack of smokes “with a disposable Bic lighter, preferably without child lock and NOT GREEN” but most of the time, it’s an entire carton.

Cups, plates and utensils are a major deal breaker. Some prefer opaque cups, others, clear. Some want specifically black Solo plastic cups, usually followed by the threat “NO STYROFOAM. EVER. AT ALL” while others express “NO PAPER OR PLASTIC UTENSILS OR SERVINGWEAR OF ANY KIND!!” Many demand china, silverware, ceramic coffee cups and glass drinking tumblers.
Which opens up the pantry. There is not enough space on the Intrepid server to highlight performers' eating specifications. But just toy with the idea of cocktail weenies in a special sauce (“recipe to be provided via fax the day before show for preparation day of show”) or the meaning behind “DAVE LIKES STINKY CHEESE” or a litany of items that can be found “in any health food store, providing one is within proximity” or “Cristal champagne with Bendy-brand straws.” To some, veggie trays must have "a variety but remember, cauliflower BLOWS” and others require an assortment of whole fruits, vegetables and "a juice machine-a Mr. Juicer is nice.” There’s also the reminder that “allergies can kill” after specifying a particular type of non-wheat pasta and “local fare is always appreciated, because we like variety. Unless it’s goat.”

Not all, but most items are kept by the artist and entourage. Some riders actually require empty cardboard boxes to be placed under the linen-draped and skirted tables for ease of transporting items (spoils?) to the bus. Some riders are more to the point: “The following is to be placed on the bus during the show” preceding a list of foodstuffs that no six people could consume in 48 hours, much less in the time it takes to get from Kansas City to Topeka.

It can be said consistency of furniture, pipe and draping, carpeting and such ancillary touches create a homier environment to ease the stressful jolt of constant relocation and uncertainty. And prepping in a funky locker room isn’t exactly inspirational if you’re not planning to pound someone into the Astroturf. But please. A demand for "matching furniture in brown leather" or "A meditation room decorated in any color but blue" or "All lighted signs must be covered with gauze fabric" and “No odors of any kind within range of the Artist"?

It leads one to wonder, just what would I expect as a performer? What comforts of home, what necessities to peak performance, what stage design for my theater of the mind would be required? This is what my jazzy-rock singing self decided:


In Artist’s dressing room:

-Piped and draped with beige monk’s cloth muslin, carpeted with beige rabbit fur. Artist roams in bare feet, and prefers not to stick to the cement.
-Please decorate with plants (plastic okay but must look realistic) like ferns and palms, and single real tulips (of any color but color must be the same) in solitary (matching) vases tastefully positioned throughout the room.
-Arts and Crafts style sofa, loveseat and 4 armchairs, plus adequate tabling. If not Arts and Crafts, matching ensemble preferred.
-Lighting should be non-florescent, fluted torchéres, dimmable. Furio brand from Target, if possible.
-Tri-fold full-length mirror w/complimentary magic genie.
-Dressing room must have private bathroom/shower facilities, complete w/hot and cold running water, 12 each green (sage or forest okay, but not lime) hand and bath towels, 1 4-ct. package Charmin toilet tissue, 1 boutique box Puffs facial tissue, 2 6-oz bottles Zia lotion and body scrub.
-2 8-ft. tables, covered with white linen and matching skirting.
-2 cases 16-oz bottles San Pellegrino Still (NO GAS), room temperature.
-1 box Good Earth Green Tea, 1 honey bear and Japanese tea service w/spoons. (NO PLASTIC!!!!)
-1 Brazilian confectioner, skilled in the art of chocolate-making. Artist expects fresh chocolate before and after the performance.
-1 6-pack A&W Root Beer. (bottled and iced. NO FISH ICE)
-6 frosty mugs.
-1 gift pack Perrier Jouët champagne and glass set. Glasses to be used by Artist, then washed and given to a couple attending concert celebrating wedding or anniversary.
-1 package each: Pringles (low fat-any flavor) and Veggie Booty (available at health food store). Items are to remain unopened.
-1 Irish-Indian massage therapist with perfect pitch and broad hands. Massage therapist must sit quietly in corner (reading is allowed) until called upon. Massage therapist is not permitted to use Artist’s bathroom facilities.

And you wonder why ticket prices are so high.

preview a few


Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

more about tracey l. kelley


portrait of an artist: eli lieb
an enlightened musician sharing his inner vision
by tracey l. kelley
topic: music
published: 1.30.12

portrait of an artist: chad elliott
illustrating an emotional landscape
by tracey l. kelley
topic: music
published: 10.30.09


russ carr
4.22.02 @ 12:28a

Um. Just what is "unscented deodorant spray"? If you can't smell the spray, doesn't that suggest you could still smell the odor?

I'll be back with my demands..um..."required environmental enhancements" in a few moments.

matt morin
4.22.02 @ 1:56a

They make unscented anti-perspirant, but not unscented deoderant.

I'd love a promoter to place an ad that said:

"Dear [band name] fans. As a local promoter I was attempting to bring [band name] to town for your enjoyment, but [band name] had the following demands, which I thought were ridiculous. Please write [band name] and let them know you'd be happy to pay to see them play, but you will not pay to support a lifestyle so amazingly self-centerer and egotistical."

Not that it would happen but...

tracey kelley
4.22.02 @ 9:12a

If anyone has time to read any of the riders linked to the column, read the one from the Foo Fighters - a couple really funny quotes in this column are from that. It just radiates with Dave Grohl's humor.

When I was in promotions, we'd get some of these and just howl.

michelle von euw
4.22.02 @ 9:21a

Tracey, what band wrote this: “It is just a suggestion, but since 70% of our audience is female, perhaps converting the men’s restrooms on the main concourse to women’s restrooms would better accommodate our fans and your patrons.”? They are now my new favorite band.

tracey kelley
4.22.02 @ 10:18a

The Dixie Chicks. I also agree it's a brilliant suggestion. Why new public buildings don't have twice as many women's bathrooms is beyond me.

Oh, please don't let this descend into a potty-mouthed discussion.

joe procopio
4.22.02 @ 11:33a

In defense of Van Halen (but only Roth Van Halen), the M&M thing is in their contract as clarification that the thing got read. If they showed up and the M&Ms were in their dressing room minus the green ones, they knew they were going to have an easy time of things. If not, their road manager got on the phone and found out what else wasn't adhered to.

Note: Only try this if you're bigger than the entity reading the contract. I've heard stories from agents and publishers about first-time novelists embedding a "please remove this page before returning" page in their manuscript for confirmation that the agent/pub read the manuscript. Nothing pisses them off more.

tracey kelley
4.22.02 @ 5:27p

Ouch. That sounds like a really boneheaded thing to do.

Speaking of VH, what's with the combo Roth/Hagar tour rumor?

mike julianelle
4.22.02 @ 7:30p

Not a rumor. It's official. In my book, Roth is the man. That's rock. Hagar's VH is watered-down, adult-oriented stuff. I like some songs, but VH was much better with Roth, in my opinion.

tracey kelley
4.23.02 @ 8:32a

Yes. Ask me how much I hate the Hagar line "Only time will tell if we stand the test of time." Go ahead. Ask me.

mike julianelle
4.23.02 @ 10:01a

How much?

How about "like some kind of alien..." AWESOME line, Sammy. He needs to get back to his classic lyrics, like "chalk me up for 1-25, post my face wanted dead or alive, take my license, ALL THAT JIVE..."

Everybody now!

tracey kelley
4.23.02 @ 10:21a

Grrrrr. I mean, there are insipid rock lyrics and then there are just out and out plain STUPID words strung together.

I think the thing that struck me funny about the riders is the sense of entitlement. Why is it that we can't demand these things from our long-term employers?

adam kraemer
4.23.02 @ 10:46a

I think I mentioned that in a column once. Right up there with Marc Cohn's "Do I really feel the way I do?"

From the F.A.Q. on Guster's web site: Q: Are you guys a Christian band?

A:Rather than answer this one with a simple yes/no, we suggest you check the following sources for clues: 1) Brian's last name -- "Rosenworcel." 2) Any photo of Ryan where you can see his profile. 3) The Guster Backstage Contract Rider, where we stipify that "the dressing room must be furnished with plenty of borscht, noodle kugels, potato latkes, gefilte fish and homemade rugulah for dessert."

Oh, and regarding mens/womens bathrooms, it's often a zoning thing (my father's an architect), requiring the facilities for each gender to be equal, which totally ignores the differences in plumbing.

joe procopio
4.23.02 @ 11:48a

Three words. Love. Walks. In.

I defy anyone to play this song and then play "Drop Dead Legs" and tell me Hagar Van Halen had anything on Roth Van Halen.

mike julianelle
4.23.02 @ 11:50a

My favorite VH song might be "Unchained". It rocks. But I like a lot of Roth and very little Hagar.

russ carr
4.23.02 @ 12:06p

Tracey, thank you. I'd successfully avoided hearing "Why Can't This Be Love" for a Very. Long. Time. Enough that I'd forgotten the song. What do I hear in the car this morning? Grrrr....

Right now someone is making better money than you.
Right now fish are peeing in the water.
Right now David Lee Roth's hairline is receding.
Right now Janey's crying.
Right now.

adam kraemer
4.23.02 @ 12:21p

Actually, you can even tell from the stuff they recorded with Roth for the Greatest Hits album. "Me Wise Magic" kicks a whole bunch of ass.

I don't dislike Hagar Van Halen, but it definitely takes a back seat to the original.

jael mchenry
4.23.02 @ 12:26p

Marc Cohen. "Do I really feel the way I feel." To rhyme with Beale.

I'm not defending, heaven forbid, just clarifying.

russ carr
4.23.02 @ 12:29p

As long as we're outing crappy lyricists, I'd like to submit the entire catalog of Sheryl Crow.

mike julianelle
4.23.02 @ 12:51p

Agreed. And Creed. Indeed.

adam kraemer
4.23.02 @ 1:07p

You're right, Jael. And that really makes the lyric even worse.

tracey kelley
4.23.02 @ 3:43p

Augh! Sheryl Crow! Watched the National Colition for Breast Cancer concert the other night, (great movement, btw)and just wished I could have been there live, in the front row, with a sign that read "GET OFF THE STAGE YOU WHINY..."

E-v-e-r-y song is whine, whine, whine in that tinny little voice of hers. Eck.

Rhymes with Beale. Better than trying to rhyme orange, I guess.

russ carr
4.23.02 @ 4:01p

Line from her new song: "Every time I feel lame, I'm looking up."

Bet she's got a stiff neck, eh?

tracey kelley
4.23.02 @ 8:34p

(Tracey's Matt, typing on Tracey's computer)

That's "Jamie's Cryin'" and not Janie, for crying out loud. Lyrics may also be exchanged for "Oh, oh, oh, Jamie's pregnant." It puts the whole song in a different light. Or dark.

russ carr
4.23.02 @ 10:32p

Mea culpa. Janey's the one with the gun.

tracey kelley
4.24.02 @ 2:53a

Holy crap, that was my husband! He's been 'neakin' 'round my computer while I was away!

adam kraemer
4.24.02 @ 9:56a

Not much of a job of sneaking, given that he identified himself first.

Can anyone come up with a song lyric containing the name "Tracey"? (References to Dick Tracy not included.)


russ carr
4.24.02 @ 10:35a

Always up to the challenge. Dear Tracey by Sara Hickman.

Nice going, Russ - joe

tracey kelley
4.24.02 @ 10:57a

There is "Tracie" by Level 42 and "Tracy" by the 60's group The Buckinghams.

Naturally, I would know these things.

Russ, this is me, whistling.

michelle von euw
4.24.02 @ 11:19a

Yes, but is there a song with Jael in the lyrics? (The judges will accept JL)

(I'm leaving my own name out of this, since I was named for a song. But since then, both Guns N Roses and Enough Z Nough have followed up with odes to me)

tracey kelley
4.24.02 @ 11:31a

What, Michelle by the Beatles?

Accessing useless music trivia database: No Jael found.

michelle von euw
4.24.02 @ 11:36a

That's the one, Tracey.

russ carr
4.24.02 @ 11:39a

Mahalo, Joe. I'd guess Russ is less likely, too. But not so unlikely as Sigbjørn.

russ carr
4.24.02 @ 11:42a

How about a song ABOUT Jael? Well, not ours, but her namesake.

michelle von euw
4.24.02 @ 11:49a

WOW. Russ, you win some kind of award for coming up with that one.

russ carr
4.24.02 @ 12:04p

The name Jael also appears in a piece of erotic poetry by Herman "Moby Dick" Melville.

adam kraemer
4.24.02 @ 12:44p

Found one: Jael.

sarah ficke
4.24.02 @ 10:59p

C'mon, Jael, would you rather have no songs with your name in them or the two lame ones I've got?

russ carr
4.24.02 @ 11:06p

I'm hearing Hall & Oates and Starship. (Tho' I think one of those was spelled 'Sara.')

sarah ficke
4.24.02 @ 11:30p

You're right on both counts. But you can't hear the "h" so as far as I'm concerned, it's the same thing.

Sigh... if only David Bowie had included my name in one of the Labyrinth songs, it would have made up for the pain that is Hall & Oates.

tracey kelley
4.25.02 @ 8:43a

Well, neither one of mine were exactly Number 1 hits.

jael mchenry
4.25.02 @ 9:27a

My name is also in a poem by Dorothy Parker, which, lemme tell ya, is a much more fun and positive connotation than that one Russ dug up. Freaky illustrations, too.

Now what we really need is a Sigbjorn song.

tracey kelley
4.25.02 @ 9:59a

Knowing how to properly pronounce it would be a start.

adam kraemer
4.25.02 @ 10:18a

Maybe Joe could write one for Brilliant's next album.

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