On your way in there is the usual ebb of first night acclimatization. Even having played a venue previously didn’t entitle you to know if the same manager, waiters or bouncers would even work there anymore. Their turnover rate is pretty high. A familiar face is always good at putting one at ease and then your next thought is to find the dressing room.
The majority of these places boast dressing rooms that are tawdry, even scented by spilled beer or alcohol. Then it blends with an array of strange smelling cleaning fluids to mask the inane attempts of a lowly paid maintenance worker. I was always appreciative of clean rooms, well lit and secure. Nowadays, I wouldn’t put it past some places to have live feed cameras spying on their artists. Things have changed in this regard. When I was working in this industry, there was always a healthy respect shown to me and my fellow entertainers.
Because I happen to enjoy pretty costumes, I would provide my own wardrobe, carrying as many as five outfits for floor shows and dance sets. The lights are strong and quite hot. Dance around underneath their glow and sing and play a few percussion instruments and voila. You have broken a sweat. It is hard work, so I really enjoyed repairing my make-up, hair, and donning dry clothes.
This was good in the way that I did not have to spend too much time on my breaks, being hit on or making idle conversations. I left the stage, cleaned up, changed clothes, smoked and grabbed a drink from the bar. Sometimes it was juice or soda, but usually it was a mixed drink. By then, drink in hand, all I had time for were rushed blurs of hellos and engaging smiles, a hand shake, a swift hug and I was headed for the stage.
One-Two-Three-Four – Wham! Music began and we were off. The dancers hit the floor and we jammed for another forty minutes. Sometimes there were shows and the audience sat and relaxed during this time. The times I was on a concert, we worked forty-five to sixty minutes and then the PR began and there were after parties to attend. I enjoyed the variation of my career.
A major concern was getting the sound system to produce a well blended mix of our voices and instruments. The majority of the evening my vocal chords were the ones getting hammered. For the most part, I had adequate monitors but when the band played louder and louder, the competition was harsh. Drinks flowed and these guys knew how to throw down the shooters and glasses of beers. All they had to do was turn up the volume on their instruments. I on the other hand was made to expend much more energy in forcing more air through my frame, in order to keep a steady pace. At the end of the night I wrapped my neck with scarfs to keep my throat warm and I readily admit that I sucked on a lot of Halls lozenges. I helped that company get rich.
Never knowing what mood the crowd was going to be in leaves one on tender hooks, like walking across bottles and not breaking any. As soon as the first note was strummed, the smile was there on my face. Hate to bark about it but I was always smiling for five to ten people at a time. After a few drinks the guys warmed up, or rather woke up and their faces took on the appearance of enjoyment.
Night clubs are cozy places where you can meet folks who are out for a good time, meeting friends or just hiding and hanging out with the regulars. No special reason to go clubbing, but nice to be out of their houses. Many times clubs are in hotels and their happy hour crowds spill over into the night and workers who’s spouses are eating alone, were out partying with their co-workers and friends. The club proved to be a sanctuary and the band made it even better. Who wanted to go home?
Four to six hours of this mostly great mood and it was time to make the final change and this time back into cosy comfortable clothes. Flat shoes were the best part of coming out of those high heels. Sometimes after being on my feet and jumping up and down on the hard stage, dancing back and forth for hours, my feet were so thankful I got off of them, that I literally had to just sit still. My body would vibrate and the wealth of relaxing waves washed over my being. Silence was golden and a few minutes of it cures many things.
Time to gather my belongings together, pack them up and be on my way. That is if I wasn’t convinced to hang out for a bit more. After hours, even on a week night was normal and many of us would end up going out to eat at a local restaurant. I most often had my main meal in the late afternoon and then would lie down in order to compose myself before heading off to the shower. Eating before a performance is a tremendous mistake. So eating in the wee hours of the morning was a normal time for me to eat.
Because I love food and good conversations, I would drive into my parking lot or driveway around 3 AM. Music would be playing softly and I would put my clothes on their padded hangers allowing them to air out, before returning them to the closet. My dry cleaning bills were huge.
Getting back to the hub of my story is easily explained now. By the end of the evening, you might leave with your friends by way of the front door or go out the door you entered hours earlier. But the point is, you never leave the same person, as the person you were when first you arrived. Something or someone always changes you.
The next time you see a sign bearing the name “Stage Door,” you might see it a little differently than you did before.