Like Father, Like Son – a Mother-Daughter Adventure

I took my ten year old to her first metal show last week. Yes, I subjected her 100+ decibels and 10,000+ rowdy, sweaty (and a few inebriated) fans.

But before you snatch away my Mom-of-the-Year Award and stomp it to bits with your sensible shoes, hear me out.

There were earplugs involved. And backstage passes. And amusement park rides. I couldn’t resist.

Little Miss M is no stranger to concerts. She attended many a moe. show in utero, and had her first 3-day festival experience at nine months old.

Baby's First Backstage Pass

All Access Babyphoto credit Mitch Cohen

When other kids are tagging along with their parents to office buildings and cubicles on “Take Your Child to Work Day”, we regularly give her a taste of our livelihood each summer as she witnesses stages built, lighting trusses hung, catering set up and crew running around like headless chickens with Maglites. She has happy reunions with other band kids who, like her, don’t exactly realize how rare it is to play house in a tour bus, to play tag backstage and to fall asleep side-stage while the band plays on.

Iron Maiden, Camden NJ 2012


So I knew she would do OK in the concert environment. However, she has never stood in gen pop, watching a stage ignite in pyro flames and fireworks, with a skeletal mascot leering out from ever-changing backdrops and making 3-D appearances in statues as big and impressive as an Easter Island Moai.

If you hadn’t guessed by now, the metal show was Iron Maiden. For those of you who aren’t aware of my admiration for their frontman Bruce Dickinson, you might want to click here.

Iron Maiden, Bristow VA 2012


It’s been over twenty-seven years since I first began seeing them live, and I never imagined they would still be touring well into their 50s and still performing top-notch. They never just phone in a show on auto-pilot, it’s always 110% effort and genuine.


And I always tell people: as long as they keep playing like this, I will keep going to shows.  This is no nostalgia act. For them, or for me. But realistically, I know the time is, as Bruce would say, running low.

So I thought it was time to show my daughter something I really love and enjoy, and to introduce her to the friends I have made along the way.

Ready for the show, maybe.

The band was playing 40 minutes from my house – the closest they’ve been since 2005. No borders to cross, no planes to catch. The shed was part of a local amusement park, so first there were rides:

Good thing she had my friend Dawn as her partner in crime for the rides!

Then there was the backstage part. With root beer.

Then came a weird and wonderful opportunity – I introduced my child to Bruce’s child. Like his father, Austin Dickinson is making waves with his distinctive voice in his own band, Rise To Remain. They are one of the many bands on Warped Tour this summer, and they happened to have a show the very next night at the same venue. So Austin came down to watch his dad’s show.

He was charming and gracious and I think he gained a new fan! Now the Dickinson-Topper circle is complete…until maybe the day when my grandchildren are famous and Bruce’s grandchildren want to meet them.

Oh, and the show? She loved it! Earplugs and all. Bruce (wearing a shirt on stage designed by his younger son Griffin, who recently launched a clothing company, Griffin Allstar) and the rest of the band thoroughly entertained and enthralled her.

“What is the most important thing in life?” an attendee of the Forum IAB marketing conference in Warsaw, Poland recently asked the guest speaker after his riveting 40 minute lecture on Customer Value Management. (Yes, I said ‘riveting’ and ‘marketing’ in the same breath!)

“Your children. Your family.” The speaker replied. The speaker was Bruce Dickinson. And the crowd hung on to his every word. (Told you. Riveting!)

Sadly the Youtube video containing the informal Q&A has been made private, but you can still watch the speech itself here and here. I wish I had transcribed what he had said about supporting and taking care of your children, as it was pretty wise. Spend time with your kids, pay attention to them. Show interest in what they do. We cannot all model our kids’ T-shirts in front of 15,000 fans each night, but we can love them and take an interest in what they want to do in life.

If my kid decides she never wants to see another metal show again, I will be OK with that. I’m glad I got to share a part of me she hadn’t been privy to before, and I hope she will always remember the side of me not defined by “mom” standards. I hope her own interests and passions and beliefs continue to expand and I will always fight my way to front row and center to cheer her on.


Rock and Roll Riders

“But dude…it’s on our rider.” Ah yes, magic words in the music biz. What is this sacred document I speak of?

A tour rider is a written set of requests or demands made by an artist prior to a performance. To ensure the comfort, safety and happiness of the artist, the promoter or venue will do their best to honor the details on the rider. From deli trays to daiquiri mix (don’t forget the blender!), from herbal tea to JD, items on a rider provide both a comfort and a service to the entire entourage. By providing as many items as they can, the promoter shows he/she is paying attention to the details.

Imagine agreeing to work for a company, job site unseen. And when you get there, the cubicle you are supposed to spend 8 hours working in is filthy. There is no chair for you. To do your job properly, you need a .9mm mechanical pencil, and all that has been supplied is a broken crayon and a scented marker. Lunch was supposed to be provided, and all you find waiting is a limp braid of string cheese and some stale crackers.

Dude, you should’ve had a rider!

moe., the band I work for, plays an average of 70 shows a year, and every show has a contract that passes through my hands. And each contract contains a standard rider. The Production side of a rider is all tech specs and usually pretty boring. But the Catering and Hospitality section of a rider, depending on the band or diva you are dealing with, can be pure comic gold. It can become a rock n roll scavenger hunt as promoters send runners scampering to find specific items.

You can find some ridiculous and over the top tour riders here. Some, like Iggy Pop‘s and the Foo Fighter‘s riders, read like stand-up comedy. (Click and read them, trust me. Very funny!) Others have requests that make you do double-takes and spit-takes. Say what? Janet Jackson prefers Votivo Red Currant scent candles and organic creamy peanut butter backstage. Bruce Springsteen has simple needs – among them cinnamon raisin bagels and assorted yogurts (but NO lemon). Adele also has some no-nos: “North American beer is NOT acceptable.” Faith Hill apparently likes astro-turf in her artist’s compound. Aerosmith insists their VIP guest room be decorated in an “East Indian style”, lined with dark colored pipe and drape. And yes, Van Halen really did ask for all the brown M&Ms to be plucked from the bowl.

moe.’s current rider reads pretty standard. Practical, classy and 90% organic (like them). At one time, they used to request diapers. One never knew when a wife and baby might pop in on tour and experience a diaper emergency at midnight! Packs of white cotton socks were also kindly requested. Logical enough – take ten adult men, stick them on a tour bus for 3 weeks with no laundry facilities… clean socks after a gig are gratefully appreciated! Nowadays, the band is pushing a greener initiative – asking that when possible, cloth napkins, real silverware, gallon jugs of spring water instead of individual bottles, etc can be provided to cut down on waste. And there are some really cool organizations out there to help put any excess (food, etc) to good use – Rock and Wrap It Up does just that. They box up all prepared but untouched meals following rock concerts and sporting events then deliver them to local food banks and charitable agencies.

Some promoters really go above and beyond. One told me once that he, knowing the singer of a certain band was a skilled pilot (who could that be?) and its drummer a avid golfer, made sure there were aviation and golfing magazines in their dressing room. Very thoughtful and trust me, I don’t care how big the band is…they will remember that kindness, that extra mile.

Sticks and Stones album cake

Almost too pretty to eat - a cake with the band's Sticks and Stones cover arrived backstage in NYC one night. The band cut pieces and shared it with the crowd.

There is definitely a certain comfort in finding your requested items, night after night, no matter what city/town or venue/bar you find yourself in. I know that on any given night on tour, I can walk into moe.’s dressing room and usually find red Twizzlers and a good white wine. The one thing that used to be on their rider, yet still remains elusive however, is an original G.I. Joe with Kung Fu Grip. The bass player had one when he was a kid, and has always wanted a replacement.

G.I. Joe w/kung fu grip

The elusive rider item