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Backstreet - your guide to Ligging
The final chord of Vision Thing is fading into the midnight air; the last few photons are flying out of the dying filaments of the strobes; on-stage the Gods in leather trousers have departed to be replaced by roadies and bum cleavage; the masses are streaming out of the enormodome and where five minutes earlier ten-thousand punters were crushed together there is now nothing but emptiness and a million crushed plastic cups with the tour sponsor's name on them. It's the end of another blinding Sisters gig and you have a choice: do you catch the night bus back to your dismal bedsit to post the setlist on the internet? or do you try and blag backstage to talk to Eldritch about the finer points of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus? Of course you want to. But do you know how? Here's how.
The first barrier to backstage nirvana is the meathead doing security. Now this will usually be local security provided by the venue, but if it's a festival then security may have been subcontracted out and you're facing an unemployed, and unemployable, specimen of Thatcher's youth. These people come in all shapes and sizes. Venue security are usually of the traditional 'bouncer' species - ugly, fight-hardened, but professional. They know what they're doing. If you've got the correct passes and are sober enough to walk in a straight line then you're in. If Thatcher's protégé is in charge, things are a little more problematic. Persistence and threats of extreme physical violence can help here, but life would be easier if such idiots were given work more suited to their talents - portaloo attendant, for example.
A short digression about the taxonomy of passes may be instructive at this point. The lower grades of pass are ill-defined and vary depending on country, whether it's a one-off gig or part of a tour, and exactly how huge the band (and their corporate ego) is at the time of the show. However, the following pass types are commonly available. First and least is the basic guest list. This gets you into the gig without paying, but little else. Next up, but still pretty scummy, is the press pass. These are usually allocated by the promoter. If you're lucky enough to know the promoter's phone number it might be worth pretending to be a journalist and applying for a press pass or better still a photographer pass as this allows you to watch the gig from the pit in front of the stage. Press passes/guest list may get you backstage, or you may need a separate backstage pass. Sometimes there are backstage passes that are distinct from mere guest list status, and are reserved for special guests, or certain people who have certain substances that certain bands certainly require after a gig. Enough said. Top of the tree, the Holy Grail of passes, the Milan cathedral of Sisters religious fervour is the Access All Areas pass. Fantastically, mythically, difficult to get hold of, these precious items are strictly restricted to band and crew . They allow you to go anywhere you damn well want to, extending all the way to the stage during performance. In order to confer the chosen few a visible sign of their superior status the Sisters AAA pass comes in the form of a lavishly made laminate, replete with head & star logo, worn on a chain around the neck. Touching one of these babies can cure leprosy and, Lazarus-like, bring the dead back to life. Maybe. But I digress - our aspirant ligger is still at the backstage entrance... and hasn't got a pass.
Now, at this point we're going to have to face some hard truths about the world as is. Gentlemen - you're going to find it difficult to get past the meathead. The Sisters are not Led Zeppelin, but they are a rock'n'roll band, with rock'n'roll appetites, and if you're wearing fishnets and look like Emmanuelle Béart in Un Coeur en Hiver then you've got a better chance of getting past security than those looking like Ray Winstone in Nil by Mouth. Ray mate, it's Game Over, you've missed that last bus and it's started raining. Emmanuelle, darling, step this way.
So ladies, chatting up the bouncer is an unpleasant necessity, but at least you'll have the satisfaction of dumping Mr Meathead as soon as you've gained entrance. You are now backstage, in Daedalus' labyrinth and getting closer to the Minotaur. The area literally at the back of the stage is a curious kind of hinterland. The faint aroma of dry ice lingers, there are electrical cables and dead pieces of gaffer tape strewn across the floor, stage hands are silently putting meaningless bits of equipment into flight cases. There is little of interest here, so head for anywhere with light and the sound of conversation.
The main backstage ligging area varies enormously with venue. The Fenton, Leeds is not the same as Wembley Arena, London, but the one common factor is that there are two levels, two grades of partying going on. Let's call them, for the sake of argument, Class B and Class A. The music industry likes to think that it is, barring the odd, loathed aberration (Collins, Clapton, etc.) a relatively left-wing art form, so in theory a commitment to equality should be picked up as part of the ethical baggage of the industry's politics. Theory and practice couldn't be further apart: the music industry is hopelessly class, or more accurately celebrity, conscious. Our Class A celebs and Class B pondlife have to be rigorously separated. This occasionally takes the form of a roped-off VIP section, but at the sort of arena the Sisters are currently playing, the dividing line is the Sisters' dressing room door. Outside of the dressing room you're unlikely to meet Eldritch, but Adam Pearson and Mike Varjak usually make an appearance and are friendly and approachable, especially if you look like Emmanuelle Béart. But you're here with a mission: to talk philosophy with Eldritch. The dressing room door is patrolled by band security. This means the Sisters in-house gentleman paratrooper, Ian Robertson, a.k.a Robbo, ex-road manager for Oasis, ex-Paratroop Regiment, ex-security for Sigue Sigue Sputnik. This is a more serious prospect than getting past venue security. In fact your only chance is to be a known face, or to get in with a known face...
...I knock on the door, it opens six inches and a face appears. I recognise it and it recognises me and nods. The door opens and I'm in. But here's where the story ends. Cause I'm not taking you in there with me. I'm just not. Not yet.
Passes: Top left, Forum Aftershow Lig (pay bar!) 6/9/00. Top right, Fort Lauderdale backstage lig (free drinks), 1999. Bottom Left, Eurorock AAA (Free drinks - waiter service!) 1998. Bottom right - Trip the Light Fantastic Aftershow, valid all tour.
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