brent backstage

One thing I have learned from rock documentaries and concert films is that one of the sine qua nons of being a big-time rock star is the guy that points out your way with a flashlight. Going to and from the stage, the true major league rock star’s path would be illuminated.*

Usually, it would be by a teamster with a professional-grade flashlight. Sometimes, it would be one of the classic red jobs with the white switch. The Dead chose to go with one of those cheapie deals that fit in your hand like a gun and lasted four minutes tops. After that, you might as well fill a toilet paper roll full of fireflies and point it at people for all the light you were going to get.

*I mention the flashlight guy because he’s always the same: one man, one torch. True rock star afficiandos will remember that there were multiple configurations of the towel/limo process.

Sure, every band needed a towel when they came off the stage. (Elvis needed his towels onstage, hence Charlie Hodge, but I digress.) Some bands had one towel guy with a stack of the things, while others chose to combine the towel hand-off with the water disbursement. The rule of thumb for this is two people passing out stuff for every band member, or you’re going to get a pile-up coming off the stage and that’s how the guy from Styx died.

True superstars get robes, spectacular and fluffy, scads of swaddle. These robes resemble nothing other than a Four Seasons suite in clothes form. They are softer than Neil Patrick Harris at Hooters. They were so soft that you couldn’t put them in the same sentence as “Nixon” and “China.” The robes were so soft they often got mistaken for Drake.

Robes were soft. We’ll note that. Move on.

Once you have your towels/robes (and let’s be honest: if you’re getting a robe, you’re getting a towel to go with it,) then it’s time for the escape. The truly class move is lining the limos up–one per person–in the arena or stadium’s loading dock. Even though you’re inside possibly the most secure location in the country that the president isn’t currently in, large men with bristly mustaches patrol your path. They snap their gum and swivel their heads left and right. Terrorists, groupies, process servers: no one’s getting through.

“They’re in. Coming out,” on the walkie-talkies and the huge metal gate slides up; the police already have their sirens on. Before the cheers have fully dies down, you’re on the access road to the highway. 12 minutes to the hotel. If you rolled the window down, you could hear the cars honking for you. Keep it up.