The life of a stage hand is a blurry dance of revolving performers, rigging, and tight deadlines. Putting on a high-quality gig requires collaboration between the local stage crew and the incoming tour crew. These two platoons are playing a perpetual game of Speed Dating.
In the live entertainment field, you can never be quite sure what you are getting. One night it’s an incoming Nick Jones concert, the next it could be the Alan Jackson 25th Anniversary tour or a technical trade show. With little to no time for introductions, local stage crews and incoming road crews are forced establish a working relationship instantly.
It would be nice to say this process always goes smoothly, but when has that ever been the case?
People are people, and sometimes disagreements about the best way to do something are inevitable, especially in a high-pressure environment where the stakes are high. There is no lonelier place to be than in the shoes of the person responsible for blowing out the mikes at a KISS show.
Handling this challenging dynamic is a key component of not only a successful gig, but a successful career. There are a few simple rules for local and tour stage hands to improve the odds of a group success.
- Value Safety Above All Else
The ultimate decision maker is safety. Road crew, local crew, it doesn’t matter, if something is unsafe, everything has to stop. It is the responsibility of the entire team to hold each other to the highest standards and speak up when they see a potential issue. Never be afraid to bring up concerns about the well-being of your team, the performers, and the audience.
- Defer to the Tour Crew
Even though the local crew might be setting up the rig, the Tour Group is the one responsible for the final rig. That doesn’t mean that a senior local stage crew member can’t pull a younger tour crew member aside later to discuss alternative methods, but when it’s set up time, just follow their lead.
- Pick Your Battles
For the most part, after a few shows the tour crew is going to have a pretty good idea of what they want out of a gig, and they will simply spend the rest of the tour fine-tuning that model. Don’t waste time arguing about the best way to tie up a cable, just wrap it and move on to the next one.
- Get the Details After
War stories are best saved for post-show. Experienced professionals aren’t going to enjoy lectures about the way things were handled in another show when they are busy trying to make the current one work.
The last and most important thing to remember is: it takes everyone. Both groups have the same goal and it’s never worth it to get lost in the weeds about small technical stuff. Whether you are a road dog or a local crew member, try and keep these tips in mind at your next gig.