In the early 90s, I worked on a local crew at arena shows. Most of them were in Red Deer, Alberta, so: lots of country-pop bands. It was fascinating at first. I got to turn down the lights for Rita MacNeil! (She had faux Turkish rugs and silk umbrella trees, packed in road boxes, like the amps and mic stands. They made up her set.) I wrapped cords for Kenny Rogers! (His stage was in the round, with band members underneath. When we cleaned up, it was another kind of false floor made up of dozen-clutches of red and yellow roses, heaps of them, thrown there by the made-up, gold-chained women in the stands.) I worked the green room for Sharon, Lois, and Bram! (They cursed violently as soon as they left their audience of four-year-olds. Surely, for the sole benefit of those locals delivering their half-time buffet in the green room.) And I ran a band manager down highway two to his Calgary flight in my 1981 Toyota Tercel. We were late. I got a speeding ticket. He split the fine with me. But mostly, he seemed grumpy about being woken from his between-shows nap.
But really, you know that there was no glamour at all. There were shall-not-be-named jerks, who were full of themselves. They hired travelling crews who were full of themselves and screamed profanities, over headset, at local crew. There were thoughtful souls, like Alan Jackson, who had a complete suite of road boxes to himself. We thought he was the most egotistical EVER, until we realized that he was NBA-sized. All of his equipment was at least a foot taller than anything ever seen before. He was kind, thanking the crew and everyone else. His crew was kind, calling us all together, team-meeting-style, to thank us for working the show. They gave everyone T-shirts.
Now that I am more of a grown-up, I can see more clearly from these productions, where fear and love lie. Fear: must scream at local crew before I get screamed at and love: t-shirts for the people!
I can see more clearly how the constructs of on-stage and off-stage work. On-stage: delight the children! Off-stage: shock the staff! On stage: make it look like my living room. Off stage: these comforts I present to you go in a case on the bus like everything else.
We each choose our show times, and how we will show up for them: they want to see me, so they will only see me, not the people who make the music. And what happens after: the roses are great, but clearly I can't take them.
And I more clearly see among my contemporaries now, how we make these choices every day. We decide when we go "on-stage" how much we reveal. We decide how we treat our helpers and our audiences. We decide what our "off-stage" looks like, and how much of a performance that might also be.
We choose how we set up our presences, we choose how we show up for them, and we choose whether we bring the roses home.
And sometimes, what we really, really want is a nap.