NO MATTER HOW MUCH ONE TRIES TO ARGUE THE FINER points of stadium architecture, from the stunning, innovative lines of the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube in Beijing to the majestic collonades of the ancient Roman Coloseum, in the end you still have a big, uncomfortable building made of stone or concrete with really bad acoustics—bad for audiences and bad for performers—yet year after year, bands subject themselves and their fans to what could be frequently described as evenings of cavernous, booming discomfort.
Within even the most thoughtfully designed venues, there is only one thing less intrinsically ergonomic than the house seating, and that is the accomodations backstage: labyrinthine passages leading to chambers of tile and cement, better suited to sweating athletes than musicians. These areas, filled with the hustle and bustle of road crew and promotion staff and groupies and media all buzzing around, attending to the band like worker drones attending to the queen, are where the action really lies in the period before a big stadium show. Oh, and how appropriate this simile would be if only the band in subject was Queen, but in this case it was not. It was Aerosmith.
I was excited to meet Tom Hamilton as I was admitted past the crew entrance and escorted by a pretty, efficacious woman wielding a walkie-talkie through twisting, grey hallways past columns of drones wearing big black boots, shorts, and tattoos, pushing and pulling big black road cases here and there, and finally led to a door guarded by a man so large that it could only have been the headliner’s dressing room.
The door opened and I was transported into an opulent sultan’s tent wherein waited Tom with drummer Joey Kramer, engaged in their pre-show routine (which after years on the road they seemed to have honed down to almost nothing) and Jasmine, who was very busy managing the draperies and candles. After pleasantries, Joey wandered away, Tom went to select some wardrobe, and I was left with Jasmine, who fussed excessively over the exact placement of the candles on the coffee table.
“So, what do you do?” I finally asked after way too many seconds of awkward silence had passed.
“I’m in charge of ambience.”
“Ambience? What do you mean?”
“You know, the couches, tapestries, rugs. All this stuff .”
I should have known it was a phony setup. This wasn’t really a nomad harem. The absence of live yaks should have been a dead giveaway. It was merely a tile shower room with the nozzles hidden behind these fabrics. I had been duped. Good thing I had left my goat at home. I had avoided yet another embarrassing faux pas.
I have heard tales of famously ostentatious contract riders: the Van Halen brown M&M rider; Iggy Pop demanding a Bob Hope impersonator; and the Foo Fighters’ 2011 52-page tome —but this seemed to kick the bar up a little higher in my level of expectation. I guess if you are an iconic band of rock gods, you can afford to preserve the muse at any cost. If this was the venue dressing room, I shuddered to think of the tour buses.
Tom returned and fell right into place in the lap of this temporarily exotic habitat, and I guess as we snapped away at photos, the mood affected us all a bit. On the drive home after the show, my mind wistfully drifted to arid lands far away. To caravans, date palms, and Shangri-La.
So now, if you will excuse me, I have to go feed my goat.