Access All Areas: behind the scenes with the world's hottest live acts
We all know what music festivals are like, right? Lots of music, warm beer, mud, wacky hats... But have you ever wondered about all the hard work that goes on backstage to make those big headline set run smoothly?
Next time 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.
Over the course of summer 2011, MusicRadar spent time on the road with the teams behind the scenes for a diverse cross-section of artists - including some of the world's biggest live acts, up-and-coming bands and field-filling pop acts.
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.
Read on to get exclusive access behind the scene with U2, Slipknot, The Killers, Rush, Paolo Nutini, The Vaccines and more...
First up: On the road with U2
On the road with U2
We meet: Jake Berry, production director. Sam O'Sullivan, U2 back line chief. Joe O'Herlihy, U2 sound director.
Without question the biggest touring band in the world, U2's festival performances have gone down in the annuls of rock history. With some of the largest touring productions ever designed, it's no surprise that U2 have a world-class tech crew to bring their creations to life.
On the road with Slipknot
We meet: Gary Garner, production manager
Head gaffa for one of the biggest metal bands in the world, Gary Garner has both hands full with the extensive tech crew that surrounds Slipknot. Add to that a huge pyro-filled production and a rotating drum kit riser, plus enough gear and rigging to full six semi trucks, and it's easy to see why Gary's job starts well in advance of Slipknot's actual festival performance or tour.
On the road with Paolo Nutini
We meet: Malcolm Stevenson aka Malky, backline tech
After a hiatus between 1997 and 2003, backline tech Malcolm Stevenson has worked for a host of genre-defining bands including Idlewild, Interpol, Echo & The Bunnymen and Mogwai. With nearly 10 years experience to share, Malcolm's approach to tech-ing involves preparation, an ability to think on your feet, and remembering to enjoying the moment when your work at a festival is done.
On the road with Bombay Bicycle Club
We meet: Louis Bhose, keyboards, electronics, backline tech
Kick-starting his tech career in 2009, Louis Bhose is not only an accomplished keyboard player (he's played on sessions for Eliza Doolittle, Remi Nicole and more), but a one-man tech band. Currently holding down the job of touring keyboard player for Bombay Bicycle Club, that's just the beginning of his diverse role.
On the road with Bon Jovi
We meet: the tech crew, and check out the whole live rig
Ever the nosy so-and-sos, MusicRadar jumped at the chance of having a backstage tour of Bon Jovi's mammoth guitar and keys rigs last year when The Circle tour reached Bristol, UK.
With much gear fondling and drooling to be had, we chatted to backline crew chief Mike Rew, David Bryan's keyboard tech Bill St Amor, and Kurt Kassinoff, guitar tech to Jon Bon Jovi and longtime touring rhythm guitarist Bobby Bandiera. We also managed to sneak a look at some of Richie Sambora's live gear into the bargain.
On the road with You Me At Six
We meet: 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.
On the road with Children Of Bodom
We meet: Neubi, guitar tech, bass tech, production manager and stage manager
So busy he forgot to tell us his surname, Neubi holds down a host of duties in the Children Of Bodom tech crew. Not only is he tech for one of the wildest metal players in town, Alexi Laiho, but Neubi also techs for bass player Henkka Sepällä.
On the road with Funeral For A Friend
We meet: Steven Kneale, drum tech
A real young gun in the world of techs, Steven Kneale is three years fresh into his career. Having worked as part of the Twin Atlantic road crew, Steven got his break in Funeral For A Friend when Raw Power Management came knocking.
On the road with Buckcherry
We meet: Terry Gray, drum tech
Buckcherry are known for their riff-drenched rock and insanely catchy tunes, as well as their hard-hitting drummer Xavier Muriel. An arena band in the States and a festival favourite in the UK, Buckcherry are the party band that everyone loves.
On the road with The Vaccines
We meet: Chris Shipton aka Shippo, backline tech (drums, guitars, keys, vocals)
The Vaccines were some of the hottest property on the festival circuit last summer. Backline tech Chris Shipton adheres to an 'all hands on deck' mantra when tech-ing for The Vaccines, getting his hands extremely dirty during each single show.
On the road with Rush
We meet: the tech crew and check out all the backline gear
With a dazzling multimedia presentation and a brilliantly rendered steampunk motif, the Time Machine tour is a three-hour precision operation both on stage and off. But for the seasoned pros who toil behind the scenes, it’s an all-day and all-night affair as they make sure every speaker line is assembled and hung properly, each video screen is good to go and every blast of pyro goes off without a hitch.
On the road with The Killers
We meet: David Fidyrch aka Fiddy, bass tech
Like any newbie tech, David Fidyrch cut his teeth on a variety of instruments when starting out. Working with various bands for over 10 years, David now handles tech duties for The Killers bass guitarist Mark Stoermer. He has also leant his guitar and backline tech-ing skills to a variety of acts including MGMT (backline tech), Laura Marling (guitar tech), Louis XIV (guitar tech), and Stellastarr* (backline tech).