Roadies band together but wild image remains

Rock road crews have some growing up to do, writes Marianne Macdonald
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The Independent Online
The roadie claim to have shed its beer-swilling, bird-chasing, cocaine-snorting image was conclusively disproven at the industry's first-ever convention yesterday.

While roadies spoke convincingly of the myth of the "fat arsehole who can't string two words together" and the "pony-tailed bumbag-wearing drug-taking animal" events at the Marquee Club, London, suggested the industry still had some growing up to do.

Claims of professionalism were shaken by a delay of an hour in starting the convention and the sparse attendance of roadies, notorious for getting up after midday.

Things declined more steeply when neither of the two pre-picked roadie teams turned up for the quiz, which featured questions such as "What did the band Poison install in their tour bus in the mid-1980s to turn pleasure into profit?" (A coin-operated co

n dom dispenser.)

Other questions provoked blank silence, such as how Dolly Parton furnished her tour bus (as a log cabin) and how big the model of Stonehenge in the film Spinal Tap was supposed to be (18 feet. The industry's reputation for intelligence was not enhanced by the second leg of the quiz either, which required them to match the words `job', `butter' and `chocolate hob' with `bob' or `nob'.

But the relaxed approach disguised concern over pay and employment. Since the recession, roadies' daily rates have been halved in some cases. A decline in gigs has resulted in savage competition for jobs.

The death of Tim Warhurst, who broke his neck after falling from a stack of speakers in August during preparations for a Take That concert, has also focused attention on safety issues. It is an area to be examined by the Production Services Association, formed in July to represent people working in the music industry. Jerry Gilbert, editor of Live!, a magazine aimed at roadies, added: "The Sixties concept of the roadie who works backstage for the beer and the birds is long gone." Although j udging by yesterday's performance, his readers still haven't noticed.