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‘No Brown M&Ms’: Top Ten Tour Riders of the Stars

Peter Hodgson
|
03.18.2014
Van Halen

Life on the road is hard. You're away from your loved ones, your neighborhood and all your stuff! When you're far from home for so long, little familiarities backstage can be the only link to home and normal life that you have, so bands can be forgiven for requesting the occasional unusual or specific comfort item - anything to bring some sanity to those weeks or months away. Backstage riders – the contract document that spells out a band’s backstage requirements – are notorious for diva-like demands, but when you get to the heart of it, most rider requests are just about making the artist feel a little more at home.

10. Ted Nugent
Ted Nugent's 2002 rider stipulates that the tour is very environmentally conscious, and as such, no Styrofoam or polystyrene cups, plates or containers are to be used. Catering requirements include one box of MAN SIZED KLEENEX (yes, it’s written in uppercase in the rider for emphasis), and although the Nuge requests a carving knife, carving fork and cutting board for roasted chicken, that chicken is to be supplied by the concert booker rather than caught by Ted's own bare hands.

9. John Mayer Trio
Aside from requesting a wide variety of oral hygiene products and a box of children's breakfast cereal (one probably being related to the other), the 2005 John Mayer Trio tour rider clearly sets out Mayer's audience audio taping policy: let the audience have at it! Tapers are allowed to record the entire performance as long as they're not obstructing the view of other concertgoers (and even if they are, they are asked nicely to lower their tripod microphones or move to another area). The rider also advises that there is no barricade for the show, as the crowd is “very well behaved,” and suggests where to deposit small gifts and notes left by fans. Awww.

8. David Bowie
David Bowie's backstage food requirements appear quite minimal (although one imagines the elegant Mr. Bowie dining in the finest of gourmet establishments around town and looking super-cool while doing so, rather than tucking into a sweaty tray of deli meets backstage). It seems his main stipulation is a 12-cup Mr. Coffee machine. Temperatures are to be kept at a chilly 14-18 degrees Celsius in dressing rooms, which are to be stocked with rugs, sofas and dimmable lighting.

7. Black Sabbath
On the 2001 Ozzfest tour, Ozzy Osbourne kept a semblance of home life around him in amongst the excitement of a reunited Black Sabbath, via a dedicated Osbourne Family dressing room in addition to his own. The family room was stocked with candy bars, ice cream, veggie soup and various beverages and, more importantly for family man Ozzy, little Osbournes.

6. Metallica
The reigning kings of thrash metal insisted in 2004 that bacon be available at every meal and throughout the day. Interestingly, although Metallica are famous for jamming and writing in their tuning room prior to performances, their tuning room requirements are quite humble: four padded folding chairs with no arms, and three separate electrical outlets. Not even so much as a dimmable desk lamp in terms of ambience.

5. Bret Michaels
The Poison front man's rider from his 2010 solo Roses & Thorns tour reiterated that his name was to be spelled “Bret Michaels” on promotional materials, not Brett (or, presumably, Bert Miracles, a common nickname among fans on certain online message boards). The rider also points out Mr. Michaels' views on soft drinks, stating in no uncertain terms that that Sprite “is no substitute for Mountain Dew.”

4. Rush
In the Beyond The Lighted Stage documentary, the members of Rush talk of their excitement when they first realized they could order alcoholic beverages to be provided backstage by the promoter. Guitarist Alex Lifeson is even pictured posing proudly with a case of Heineken. Lifeson's love of a Heiney must have waned over the years, because by 1990 the rider specifically stated “absolutely no Heineken,” while outlining a selection of fine liquors to provide for the band.

3. Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters riders are notoriously entertaining to read. The band once famously requested a variety of 'stinky cheeses.' They also request Gatorade in 'wacky colors,’ and their taste in DVDs is relatively broad - with the exception of no Jamie Kennedy, Martin Lawrence or sports movies. A vegetarian soup of the day is requested because "meaty soups make roadies fart." Moreover, the Foo Fighters rider sums up the importance of the document in maintaining a sense of continuity for the band: "The silly items like gum and candy bars make a difference to these boys that are far from their families and friends."

2. Iggy Pop
For an Iggy And The Stooges tour, requirements included a monitor engineer who is "not afraid of death," as well as instructions from backline/stage manager Jos Grain for camera crews filming the show as unobtrusively as possible: "At a wet festival somewhere I once saw a guitarist being followed all over the stage by a cameraman and sidekick all covered, in bright fluorescent plastic sheeting, including the camera It looked like he was being stalked by a demented pantomime horse! I personally thought it looked absolutely terrible, and I speak as someone who believes that most rock and roll bands would be improved by the introduction of a pantomime horse." Grain goes on to warn that "Iggy adores breaking cameras, so really it's best not to get too close to him. Of course, I will be on hand to try and prevent him from destroying your equipment; unfortunately, there is only one person I can think of who likes to break cameras more than he does, and that's me."

1. Van Halen
By far and away the most legendary concert rider requirement was Van Halen's 1982 request for a bowl of M&Ms with the brown ones removed. Far from a mere flaunting of ego, this was actually a clever trick planted within the rider to raise a red flag if the staging requirements had been ignored by local crew. As David Lee Roth explained in his autobiography Crazy From The Heat, if brown M&Ms were found in the backstage area, it would be a good bet that some important technical aspect of the contract had also been overlooked (although a glance at the actual document casts doubt on Dave's story that the M&M requirement was placed amongst the staging schematics - it was actually within the catering menu between the pretzels and the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups).

More riders can be seen at thesmokinggun.com.

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