Access All Areas: On the road With You Me At Six
Heading to a music festival? While you're out front enjoying the plentiful supply of live music thrills, spare a thought for the hard-working, gear-laden tech crews who will be oiling the wheels of your favourite band's festival performance.
From in-ear monitor catastrophes, slippery drum risers and over-stretched stage managers, to impossible 20-minute changeovers, tuning-warping humidity, and dressing rooms the size of toilet cubicles, these incredible techs are practised in the fine art of getting the job done.
Professionals who have honed their trade with some of the biggest, hottest, and most influential acts in the world, these drum, guitar, bass and keys techs, plus backline wonders, tour managers, production managers, stage managers, lighting engineers, production directors and sound directors have decades of experience between them.
In an exclusive series on MusicRadar, Access All Areas brings you an invaluable insight into what it takes to tech at festivals, how to survive one of the toughest days of your working life, and when to stand back and say, 'job well done'.
Rob Highcroft, tour manager
As tour manager for one of the biggest pop punk bands around right now, Rob Highcroft has seen and done it all. Working his way up from driver, merch seller, and general tea boy, Rob has five years of tour manager experience under his belt. "I have done all sorts of roles on tour, and it all depends on what the job requires," says Rob.
Working for Band Tours Ltd, Rob looks after a slew of acts on the road, including The Blackout, Asking Alexandria, We Are The In Crowd and Escape The Fate. Who better than Rob to give us some insider info on the role he'll be holding down on this summer's festival circuit?
As a tour manager, what are the main differences between working a festival and a normal You Me At Six show?
"The main thing with a festival is that you need to adapt to it not being your own show. There may be 50 other bands playing and everyone is pushed to the limit. When you do a club show you can advance the whole tour easily, but with festivals you need to be very specific because if you forget something, that's it! The day itself is very different too. You will spend a lot of time getting ready (if you play later on the bill), but when it's go-time, it's on! A [festival gig] is fast paced: no sound checks, just plug in and go."
What are the first things you need to do at a festival?
"I wake up early and walk around the site to get my bearings - there's nothing worse than a band member asking you where the nearest toilet is and you don't know! Then it's a case of meeting the artist liaison for the day to get things like passes and catering tickets. It's always worth checking in with the stage manager early, even if you don't play until much later. You want him to know that you are ready for when they need you.
"I will make sure we are parked in the right spot and good for our load-in time, then I'll start waking up the crew to get to work and load the stage in. After that, it's a case of putting everything together on the day sheet with all the press for the day and keeping time aside to make sure you get to where you need to be."
Is it difficult getting the band and crew around a busy festival site?
"The hard thing with a festival is that you must play when you are meant to. There's no five minutes here or there where you can go on a little later if something is wrong. [At a festival] it's all about timing and making sure the band get over to the stage in the car when they need to. You should allow enough time for those two people who always need a piss before they play, and make sure that you know where that loo next to the stage is!
"During the performance, it's a case of making sure that everyone is happy and that their techs are taking care of the show. When the band come off, I will make sure that our car is waiting for us to take them back to the dressing room so that they can quickly clean up and start their press."
When heading out to a festival, what essential items do you pack in your tech kit bag?
"Good question. I keep picking up new things each time I'm out, but a few of the basics are: your 1510 Peli case [waterproof, durable storage case], a good torch, a printer with a battery – [accessing] power is a bitch sometimes – and a good set of boots for the horrible mud you come across. You also need some waterproofs and a good winter jacket, as the weather can be your best friend and your worst nightmare all in one day."
What are the most important things to consider as a tour manager?
"To take your time in the preparation stage and make sure you have all bases covered. Being a tour manager is mainly about common sense. You have to think, 'what if this happened?' and have a plan in place for that. Bands are unpredictable and they always want to do things their way, so have a plan laid out to make sure that you have a back up. If all else fails, just leave them to get so drunk that they black out and then carry them back to the bus."