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This is a series of lessons from the on-the-road gear guys and music insider and what they learned and saw on the road. Some are from roadies who were there and some are from the players themselves and what they learned.

LESSON #4: Pranking the opening act

This lesson is from gear roadie Steve Dikum. Steve honed his skills from spending close to 20 years on the road. He’s toured with bands like ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac, Warren Zevon, Aerosmith and Little Feat; just to name a few. Here’s a story of when he worked for Z.Z. Top.

I don’t know if they still carry it on today, but pranking the opening act is a true roadie tradition. I learned it from the ZZ guys. And it had been going on for years before that. What happens is that on the last day of your tour, you find some way of screwing with the opening act.

And since we were the main bands crew, in the order of hierarchy, we were actually considered one step above the opening act. So we could screw with them, and they couldn’t do a thing about it. In fact, it wasn’t proper for them to even get mad about it.

I’ll give you an example. There was one tour where The Uninvited was opening for ZZ Top. These guys had the look of old west cowboys with long coats and hats. And our final show was in Louisiana, or some southern state. So, we let these guys play their entire 45-minute set. And then they left the stage. Waiting for the audience to applaud loud enough for them to go back out there to do their big encore song. Which was their big hit.

So, the lights are out, the audience is shouting. They run back out there, lights come up. And they quickly realized – they had no drum set. We had run out there in the dark, and removed the entire drum set. All we left was the snare. Not even a seat. So the drummer had to play the whole song on nothing but a snare.

The other part of that prank, which unfortunately didn’t get pulled off, was to lure the lead singer to the side of the stage where the sound crew guys were prepared to handcuff a fat chick to him. Unfortunately, after the drum kit maneuver, he was too cautious.

Another time, Ivan Neville was opening for Little Feat. And he did this thing in his show where the rest of the band would leave for a song, and he would sit out there and play keyboards, alone, with just one spotlight coming down on him. And in the middle of that song, he’d take a cigarette, flip it up into the air, and catch it in his mouth.

Well, this night, he gets to that point in his song, flips the cigarette in the air… and about 200 pummeled down on him. We had guys lining the sides of the stage with handfuls of cigarettes.

Neville just threw his hands in the air and laughed.

We actually had a band once that was disappointed we didn’t prank them. They thought we didn’t like them. It was Aerosmith. And Steven was bummed we didn’t come up with anything cool to screw with them.

So, if you’re going on the road, you better have a sense of humor. Because you’re either going to get screwed with, or be expected to deliver on some creative pranking.

This story originally came from Vintage Guitar Magazine and this website.

Copyright 2007 RockandRollDoctor

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