Live > Equipment
The backstage scene before an ELP concert is a contrast from the backstage antics of a typical rock production. The job of handling the enormous amount of equipment with the proper care and efficiency turns the ELP roadies into specialists of sorts, with each man of the road crew designated for a particular job.
backstage area of the Munich show
backstage area of the San Diego show
It’s all very organized, and it has to be. An ELP gig starts as early as 8 o’clock in the morning - the time that the road crew starts to unload the three forty-foot equipment trailers that spent the night at the venue ELP will be performing in twelve hours later. Usually a union crew is provided to help the ELP roadmen out, but sometimes they’re left on their own.
The roadies are the hired mercenaries of the music business, a tough and self-sufficient group of men whose duties are to care for the equipment, get it arranged and set up for the concerts, and to anticipate the wishes of their masters.
Heavy-duty forklift trucks bring out the equipment, piece by piece, and line it up at the back of the stage, as the construction of the sound towers at either side of the stage begins. The sound towers and the wall of speaker cabinets lining the stage when fully set up could very easily be mistaken for a miniature N.Y. skyline, and after that phase of the set-up is done, the electricians come on to hook up the speakers and amplifiers. The team of electricians that wire ELP's sound set-up is headed by Andy Hendrickson, who also handles the sound mix that is fed to the sound towers at stageside from ELP's specially constructed mixing board. Allan Coleman and Bill Huff are key men in the chain; they supervise the work of the electrical technicians from IES, the company that provides the traveling sound system for the show. While the work of the other roadies is important, Hendrickson, Coleman and Huff’s work is crucial; the P.A. mix the audience hears, the monitor mix that is fed back to ELP (while they are performing), and the quadraphonic sound mix that the recording came from, are all their responsibility.
Besides the road crew that sets up the stage, wiring, and lights, there are six roadies that cater to the individual needs of the three band members, and they work under the watchful eye of Mike O'Shay, ELP's stage manager. Keith Emerson's huge keyboard setup requires no less than three roadies to keep it safe and in working order. Peter Morley and Bobby Richardson are responsible for most of the keyboards, and a newcomer, Mick, is in charge of Keith's infamous synthesizers. Setting up Emerson's many keyboards and synthesizers requires that these men know as much or more about the way the synthesizer works than Emerson himself. As with all synthesizers, the roadies must tune Emerson's four different ways - for pitch, volume, tone color, and attack-decay. All of those elements of the sound must be tuned for each voice the synthesizer is producing. All of this is done on the patchboard on the face of the synthesizer, and it takes time to get it right because Keith is a perfectionist about the way his equipment is set up.
The most immense rock machine of the world had an immense appetite. For the concerts the management made applications for the following catering requirement:
3 bottles of red wine, 2 bottles of white wine, a bottle of cognac, 24 bottles of beer, 24 bottles of Coke, 4 litre milk, 4 litre orange juice, 3 litre tomato juice, tea and coffee. Before the concert all stage workers and engineers must get a warm meal. And during the show a cold buffet had to be available.
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