We Are The Road Crew: Surviving A Pandemic

A roadie is at the front of a stage adjusting a mic stand as the crowd wait for the band.
"roadie on stage" by Cilou101 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

COVID-19 is just the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it? Not content with being a mass-murdering bastard and driving entire families apart, it’s also managed to wheedle its way into everyday life. You can’t nip to the shops anymore, can’t pop out for a quick pint, and the idea of sending your kids to school has been replaced by having them at home, all the time. There’s no chance of escaping the house for a nice meal at your favorite eatery, all the cinemas are closed down, and sporting events, at least in the UK, are back to allowing only those involved to be there. And God help you if you have a job that requires you to mingle with other human beings, as by now you’ve either found yourself working from home, furloughed, or unemployed.

The pandemic has hit every branch of employment extremely hard and nowhere is that truer than the music industry. Let’s face it, unless you’re called Clapton or Zeppelin then there’s a very good chance you’re a working musician and as everyone knows, touring is the lifeblood of a band. It’s where they make their money and not being able to do so means there’s a lot of people who are currently not getting paid. And at the top of that list are those who make up the road crew.

These guys and girls may be behind the scenes, but the road crew are the heartbeat of the operation. They’re the first ones at the show and the last ones to leave, and then they travel to the next town and do it all again. While the performers get all the glory, it’s the road crew who deserve the praise. This is what they do and, for some of them, this is all they know so to suddenly have that torn away from you, through no fault of your own, has dropped a large number of hard-working people in the s*it.

Thanks to Motorhead’s management I was lucky enough to have a socially distanced email conversation with their former Tour Manager, and all-around sound geezer, Eddie Rocha about what an effect the current pandemic has had on the business.

Neil Gray: What were your plans before the pandemic happened? Were you looking to go back out on the road? If so, who were you going to be working with?

Eddie Rocha: 2020 was supposed to be one of my busiest years. After another busy year in 2019 as well. I was in the middle of a Russian Tour with the Swedish band Sabaton. Where I’m the Tour Manager and who I’m currently working with. If we kept going I had booked.

March/April: Sabaton Russian/Belarus Tour
April: South America Tour with Metallica as one of the Stage crew.
June/July/August: European Summer festivals(Various) with Sabaton
Sept/Oct: U.S tour with Sabaton supporting Judas Priest
Nov: Shows with Sabaton that supposed to be confirmed
December: Sabaton Cruise on the Baltic Sea
January/Feb 2021:Sabaton Swedish tour

At the moment we (Sabaton) have booked several Festivals in Europe for the Summer starting in June 2021. But we need to see how the vaccine will do and if promoters will keep the shows on….Basically, 10 months with no work. But hopefully, we can go back soon and I should be able to start working again as a Tour Manager for Sabaton.

NG: Wow. That is a hell of a lot of work you’ve missed out on. So I take it that you and other crew members have been hit quite hard financially by this whole situation?

ER: I was a bit lucky that I got paid for the remaining for the Russian tour and a few summer festivals. Not many bands will do that! I got little support 1000usd from the Live Nation Crew Foundation… But that’s all. No income for more than eight months now. That’s the same situation for 90% of all the road crews. Everyone going through hard times. We all going through savings and soon that will be gone as well…Just hard to find different jobs as what you know and work with for 30 years has just stopped…vanished.

NG: Talking of the Live Nation Crew Foundation, did you have any input on getting it together, or was it done by other people?

ER: At the time in April, I started to see posts from crew friends that applied for the crew nation.
So I did apply and in a month got approved for 1000usd. They did another round in November but for only those who did not receive the previous help. For sure, it was a good gesture from Live Nation. So I was not involved at all in putting it together. It all comes from Live Nation. Also, I know some private people, as well as Motorhead, contributed to Crew Nation to make it possible for Live Nation to get all the funds.

NG: One final question. How do you see this pandemic affecting business in the long-term? After all, it’s going to be a while before you guys and girls can get back on the road, but do you think it’ll have any permanent effects? And how will it make you approach your work any differently, if at all?

ER: If we’re lucky and somehow able to start at some point in 2021, it still gonna be difficult.
If social distancing is still in place and they limit the venue capacity, it will be near impossible to make it work money-wise. I’m sure many venues are already looking over their air system with better filters. Better toilets, cashless… that will come to stay. But I’m sure as soon as we can be together the mosh pit will be even bigger! People just miss going to concerts, and I’m sure will be no fewer road crew complaints about how long they have to work and how many hours they go with no sleep! I just hope there are no wages cut, no band fees cut. Promoters have to work deals with governments to reduce their taxes instead so we can get back strong! I believe in 2022 we are back, full power!

It was both a privilege and a pleasure to talk to Eddie Rocha and as soon as all this madness dies down and he makes it back over to England, I’ll be taking the 25YL credit card and buying him a few beers to say thank you. His insight into what is currently happening has been invaluable in helping me understand more about the situation that he and thousands of others find themselves in. There are a lot of people who are, basically, running on fumes. They’re being forced to use the money they’ve put aside for a rainy day because the storm has shown up and it’s pissing down. Luckily there is hope in the form of;

Global Relief Fund For Live Music Crews

Who have said;

Live music inspires millions around the world, but the concerts we all enjoy wouldn’t be possible without the countless crew members working behind the scenes. As COVID-19 puts concerts on pause, we want to extend a helping hand to the touring and venue crews who depend on shows to make a living.”

Crew Nation helps keep people afloat in this most trying of times the best they can, but they need your help to carry on. If you visit the link above you can donate or buy merch and if you’re a road crew member who’s struggling, you can apply for help. The sad fact remains that even though they are doing stellar work, this fund shouldn’t have to exist. Governments worldwide have failed the arts, and nowhere is this more evident than in this country. For those of you that don’t know, a few months back the current assholes in power decided to run this ad campaign as a way to help those who decided to follow their dreams, adapt to life under the current restrictions.

No. That’s not a joke. It seems that our beloved morons in control decided that instead of actually helping out the arts sector, as they f*cking promised to do when this all started, that they’d just tell them to cash it all in for a future in I-F*CUKING-T. God knows just how much this abomination cost, but surely it would’ve been cheaper, both financially and politically, to have taken the money they wasted on this and put it towards keeping their original promises?

But I digress. No-one knows what the future holds for any of us, especially under the f*cked up circumstances we all find ourselves living in at the moment. Still, the one thing I do know is that music has always been there for us throughout our lives, so maybe we should be there for musicians and their road crew in their time of need.

After all, when they finally let us out of our cages and back into the mosh pit, wouldn’t it be nice to have a mosh pit to go back to?

Written by Neil Gray

The Grandmaster of Asian Cinema.

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