The Local Roadie Encyclopedia
Just as work has gradually slowed down and I expect it to soon become next to nothing like last year, I get a small book of text messages dumped on me and we’re back at it at full force. For December, this is an exceptionally busy period.
As it happens every so often, we get a big production (Slipknot in this case) and just like every time, I am surprised by how many newcomers we have. Although RoadRunner must have over a hundred people in their list, there’s about 15 of us that make up the core. It has been suggested to make a comic book about us, as we are all pretty much a caricature of our own.
I’ve had to do very different jobs the couple days, and as I was preparing in the morning, it hit me that my attire changes completely depending on the kind of task I’ll be doing. With the variety of things to do, your gear changes fundamentally depending on what you have ahead that day. So let’s line it up, why don’t we!
- Stagehands aka sheep, hands, people.
The masses. The Bulk. The Grunts. An irregular bunch of folks wondering what they’re supposed to do next. Dressed in crewshirts and torn jeans. The better ones are recognized by their Leatherman or similar tool. Come in all shapes and sizes, but generally aren’t the sharpest. Be patient with them. They try. Oh and provide crewshirts.
Poor bastards. Theoretically the same as stagehands, but burdened with the most tedious of tasks like feeding camera cable during the show or placing crash barriers all day. Ironically though, since their task is so specific and requires a degree of autonomy, they aren’t necessarily the dumbest of the bunch. Attire would be about the same standard as the stagehands.
- Crew Chief aka chief, chef.
Easily recognized by his walkie-talkie. Has an increased possibility of speaking your language, and generally knows what’s going on. He would be the guy to go to regarding any problems regarding the local crew. Dressed like the other stagehands, though often it is quite obvious that he has a higher income. Watch out for gloves and whatnot.
- Forklift Driver aka forklift, fork, (mother) forker.
That would be the guy on the machine. Be very patient with this person. He is sitting on top of a diesel engine, possibly even in a cabin, and has all kinds of mechanics in front of him – he can’t see shit. Don’t start yelling at him if his response is not immediate. Don’t assume he can see everything that’s going on – guide him using the appropriate signals, make sure he can see them. Easily spotted by warm clothing, as their job is to sit still all day long, in the draft and often outside. They carry a minimum of equipment as they are not allowed to leave their forklift, anyway. Often "the fat guy" of the group, quite useless unless driving the fork.
- Scaffolder aka scaffer, steel dog.
Don’t fuck with a scaffer. He is above you, passing steel two-meter pipes and fat chance is you’re not wearing your helmet. Scaffers are perhaps the most easily found of all: Light clothing that allows climbing and respiration during work, always carrying a scaff hammer, which is nothing more than a roofing hammer re-purposed, and possibly a wrench of some sort for the clamps. Regularly packed with climbing gear and safeties they don’t use. They can be found in both black steel structures and actual scaffolding, but always you will go "These guys are mad" As they depend on teamwork to function, it is important to work along as they go. Try to figure out their system so you can anticipate.
- Steelhand aka LEDGER GODDAMNIT!
Somewhere between scaffers and stagehands, you have steelhands. Not capable, interested, fearless or trustworthy enough to be allowed to climb, so they’re stuck on the lower levels passing up ledgers and whatever is desired up there. The clever ones wear a helmet as they are constantly working underneath the climbers. I can guarantee you that several of them have never seen a scaff pipe from up close, and the result is horrible stacks that will have to be redone. Always. No exceptions.
- Rigger aka WHAT!?
Arrogant bunch, but with good reason. Recognisable by their climbing equipment and ropes used to pull up motor chains, which are attached in the roof structure. A roof structure that is not made to be climbed in. They will walk over beams thirty meters up without any security, stopping at any given spot to pull up steel chains. For some reason, they refuse to use radios, so that shouting at the top of their lungs is the only available form of communication when they want to address their helper on the floor.
I’ve been every one of these at some point, so needless to say I have a whole bunch of equipment at home that I don’t even use. With some practice, you will come to recognize each one as they walk into the venue. Understand their purpose, and your job suddenly gets quite a bit easier.