Sunday, 8 July 2012

Backstage at Bluesfest 10: Musician management

It looks cool, but being a television producer can be one of the hardest jobs around.
There are many words for it -- tedious, hot, tiring, incredibly frustrating -- and you sometimes have to wait hours to get a 30 second clip especially when you're covering live music festivals.
Scott and I produced a documentary nine years ago, Carnival of The Blues: Ten Days at the Ottawa Bluesfest, and we had the opportunity to interview nearly all the stars. We soon learned there was a rhythm to it.
First you had to get to the crusty old road manager who would leave you cooling your heels for hours. This was just to find out whether you even had a shot at speaking to an artist. You had to push, cajole and charm these old assholes who take on airs because they are in the business of protecting the rich and famous from the media.
Once you get to the artist, though, it's a great experience for the most part. Some of them are happy to talk to the media, I mean, who wouldn't want to? But you have to expect a few divas.
We put in a request for an interview with Sheryl Crowe and got the hand. She was such a control freak that the entire green room had to be cleared of everyone but her people.
We did get a note back from her which answered the question we asked all the artists: what do you like about festivals? A poorly written, misspelled note.

Great television.
Blue Rodeo also gave us the finger. Blue Rodeo. I mean, these guys show up to the opening of an envelop but are too snooty to do media. So we didn't cover them at all.
Among the nice guys? Elvis Costello who was thoughtful and charming. Also some blues greats: Pinetop Perkins, Sonny Landreth, Jack deKeyzer. Robert Cool Bell of Kool and the Gang. Daniel Lanois.
And a couple of band geeks from the Groove Hogs who tried to pick me up.
That was a highlight for me.
If you like gossip, there's nothing better than hanging out backstage.
We had a terrific conversation with Farmer (pictured above with me in a very butch hairstyle -- never go to Rinaldo's and give them free reign!). Farmer was the guitar wrangler -- the guy who set up the gitboxes and tuned them prior to the show -- for the Allman Brothers.

Farmer was an engaging Southern gentleman who was only too happy to fill us in on Gregg Allman's difficulties with drugs and alcohol, explaining that there was no booze within a hundred feet of Gregg, he was so fragile in his recovery.

That meant no booze on the bus or on stage.
Gregg did not do green rooms. He got off the bus, did his show and got back on the bus.
If he got a whiff, Farmer said, he was finished.
Farmer also gave up the booze after nearly killing himself, but he did give us the Allman Brothers Band favorite recipe for hooch.
Take a cast iron frying pan, heat up a couple ounces of SevenUp, then pour in a bottle of Wild Turkey. Stir and serve straight up and hot.
What's so good about it?
"It makes you fall down a lot," he chuckled. "I used to fall down a lot."

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