- A True Story
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On the road, transactions were almost always handled in
cash. This was the case for everything from a drug transaction
to a sound company getting paid by the promoter for the
services your company provided that night. This is partially
dictated because in many cases the promoter didn't have
all of the money needed to pay the band, sound company,
light company, union crew, and the venue, until shortly
before showtime. Every so often, a promoter wouldn't have
enough money to pay everyone, or just wouldn't pay anyone;
hence paranoia by anyone owed money on the road.
There was to be a show in Bridgeport, Connecticut in a hockey
rink. We were doing sound and lights for what was supposed
to be a monster funk show. The load in was smooth, union crew,
forklifts, very cool. We brought everything we had for the
PA (we needed it). The stage was at one end of "the ice"
with open seating on the remaining floor (of course the ice
was covered with plywood), and the normal arena seating was
available as well. The venue was probably capable of holding
over 15,000 fans. The show seemed well organized and nothing
seemed unusual. There were six or seven bands including "Willie
Alexander and the Boom Boom Band", "The Jimmy Castor
Bunch", "BT Express", "The Manhattans",
and "Bobby Blue Bland". There was plenty of promoter
representation, plenty of food, plenty of security, nothing
really out of the norm. Sound check was long and tedious,
which was normal for that many bands. Everything was status
About a half an hour before the show I went looking for the
promoter to get paid the $5,000 that we were owed for providing
sound and lights. I had heard ticket sales were good (something
that a paranoid roadie starts looking into as early as when
the truck door is cracked at load in). Strange, I couldn't
find the promoter, only his hired help. Nobody knew where
he was. I started to alert the various band Road Managers.
We also alerted the stage union and security (really off duty
cops, good to have them on your side if things got hairy).
They had already opened the doors and ticket sales were indeed
good. It wasn't a sell-out, but it would be a very full house.
The start time came and went and no promoter. We all began
to come to grips that he had skipped with the gate. Not a
bad scam, collect all the ticket money, don't pay anyone,
and take off before the show starts. A consortium consisting
of representatives of several of the bigger bands, the sound
and light company, the union, and security convened to decide
what to do. The bands were split, some wanted to play others
wanted to get paid or pack up. The union didn't care because
it turns out they get paid in advance. It was the same with
the arena. Well I had to go with Road Rule #10 "Get the
money before the show", and I didn't dare come back to
Rochester without the cash AND trying to explain why we did
the show anyway.
Once the sound and lights were pulling out, the show was
pretty much extinct. We left the PA on long enough for the
police to announce that due to "circumstances beyond
our control" the show was canceled. They assured everyone
that they could go to the place they purchased their tickets
for a full refund, even though that eventuality was in doubt
at the moment. We struck the gear with a hand full of uniformed
police between the crowd and us. This was a very unsettling
experience. I even considered going ahead with the show at
one point, but the bands were pulling their gear so there
was no turning back now. We closed the doors and didn't stop
until we got into New York State.
Now it's a year or so later, and we are doing a show in Cleveland.
This show is much smaller than Bridgeport (and is in the same
theatre that I did that show with Blue Öyster Cult back
on my first road trip). The show on this night is to star
"Cameo", "Bottom & Company", and "Maze."
Like Bridgeport everything went well, good crew, good food,
good promoter. Tonight though I wasn't going to wait until
30 minutes until curtain to get paid, I had learned my lesson.
I confronted the promoter during sound check and presented
him with our invoice for $5,000, the agreed upon price. "Hey
no problem, you guys are great," he replied, "come
with me". He led me to a stage office he had commandeered
for the evening and produced a briefcase. Out of the briefcase
he handed me a business check carefully made out for $5,000.
A check! Did this guy think I was new? "I'm sorry, I
can't take a check unless it's certified," I asserted.
He looked like I had just insulted his mother. "It's
good, you can call the bank," he offered. "Not on
a Saturday night", I pointed out. "Let's call your
boss", he countered. So we called the owner of the sound
company at home back in Rochester, luckily he was there. I
presented the problem and he gave me the answer I knew he
would give, "cash only, no checks".
Myself and the other sound and two light roadies went across
the street and had a nice Chinese dinner while the promoter
tried to gather up $5,000 in cash on a Saturday night. Bear
in mind that this was years before ATM machines. We returned
to the Agora about an hour before the show completely prepared
to strike the show. There was the promoter, notably irritated,
waiting for me. "Come into my office" he said closing
the door behind me. "Here it is, "please count it".
He had pulled it off; he had produced $5,000 in cash. I started
counting the large stack of bills and realized where it came
from. It was all in denominations of fives, tens and twenties.
He had cashed his own check at the box office. I had the money
and that's all that mattered. The count was right; the show
was a go. After I had stashed the cash in my Anvil briefcase
(without anyone seeing) I left the office and went to my place
at the monitor board. Usually show cash is kept in your billfold
or hidden in your pants if it's a lot. With all the small
bills it pretty much filled my entire briefcase, not leaving
me any options. I locked the case and then hid it inside a
larger road case, which I sat on for the entire show. The
show went smoothly.
I'm sorry but I don't remember the performance, but you'll
understand why shortly. At the conclusion of the show things
happen very fast. The same paranoia that forces cash transactions
also mandates a mad dash to the stage to retrieve and account
for all the microphones. Failure to do that could cause one
or two of the most expensive mics to accidentally end up in
a band roadie's back pocket, and then spirited away (e.g.
"I didn't see any microphone"). The show ended,
and I had a dilemma. Guard the cash, or get the mics. Remember
Roadie Rule #3 "Never turn your back on anything of value
on the road." Well that didn't help since I had to favor
one valuable thing or another. I thought about leaving the
briefcase hidden and gathering the mics. No good, that case
would be opened in a matter of seconds, and if a stagehand
found my briefcase hidden there he'd figure out it was valuable.
Then I got it! I had been hanging out with a security guard
all night stage left. I removed my case from its hideout,
handed it to the guard and asked him if he'd watch it for
a minute or two. I hit the stage worried because precious
seconds had expired with my valuable mics exposed. I grabbed
the four most expensive ones and headed back to the mic case
next to the guard who was watching my briefcase. I looked
up and he was gone.
I couldn't have been gone more than 30 seconds, long enough
for him to turn tail and run with the $5,000. I also lost
my first Anvil Briefcase that night, including dozens of backstage
passes that proved I was now an experienced roadie. Ironically
the Blue Öyster Cult backstage pass from that very spot
in that very theatre from that first road trip two years ago
was now gone forever as well. The trip home that night was
long and hard. I wondered if I'd have a job on Monday morning.
I called Duffy at home Sunday and gave him the bad news. At
first I think he suspected that I had pocketed the cash, but
I must have been convincing because he allowed me to come
to work Monday. However he wasn't at all happy about losing
There are two things that haunt me about that night. The first
is that I have no doubt now the promoter's check was good
and that if I had accepted it, everything would have been
fine. Second, this would not be the last time the city of
Cleveland would be horribly cruel to me.
All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2001 Karl Kuenning