In my many years as a rock fan and journalist backstage, enjoying complimentary champagne and mingling with high-profile superstars, I can unfortunately say I did not always know how to act! I thought that to “get noticed” and make friends meant being overly confident and dressing like Courtney Love on her worst morning-after walk of shame. I was a smart girl with a lot to say, but my thoughts on what it meant to be the life of the party were far from accurate! I tried too hard! My used-to-be tactics on socializing back then still make me cringe in horror! Did I really fall over onto Johnny Depp that summer night in LA, spilling salsa on his shoes?! Why did I bother to tell Coldplay’s Chris Martin all about the kind of dish soap my mother used to clean her fine china with?
What was wrong with me?! I suppose I was a bit intimidated by the multitude of great talent that surrounded me. I wanted to be like them, and I was, but (like I said) I tried too hard. It took me some time to realize that to relax, be kind, and stay classy wasn’t actually all that difficult, or boring. Actually, it’s preferred!
Now with my fine list of suggestions on improving your backstage etiquette, I implore you, my good friends, to not make the same mistakes I once did!
1 . A PHONE CHARGER
First and foremost, don’t keep that pretty little face of yours down as you scroll through your Facebook feed ignoring the rock and roll buzz around you. Don’t check into the venue, forget about Twitter, and don’t worry about what filter you’ll put on that bathroom selfie later. Just be cool! Have some manners, have some fun, and mingle a bit! Not to mention, you’ll need all the phone juice you can get if you make a new friend and need to add their digits to your address book. That’s why your phone charger is a must! You don’t want to be frantically asking around to borrow someone else’s as you miss all the excitement backstage!
Contrary to popular belief, sunglasses can be worn at night – especially when you’re a rockstar. And YOU are a rockstar. A fancy pair of shades comes in handy when you’re feeling shy or want to seem a little mysterious. Shades give the impression that you’re ready to take on the paparazzi and a swarm of fans outside the tour bus doors, just like your fellow famous rock and roll friends are. Who knows, you might even be up all night partying and end up crashing on an extra bed in the hotel room, in which case you’ll successfully put a damper on the morning sunlight that threatens to make your hangover even worse.
That’s right, you heard me! Sharpies! Bring a few brand new black and silver sharpies! Bring a whole box of them if you feel so inclined! Let’s face it, no one wants to look like a creepy fan-girl, but in instances where you just need to snag an autograph of one of your rock and roll idols, you’ll totally be prepared. Don’t forget that you will be a savior to those around you who are not prepared, which can even serve as a great segue into striking up a conversation on the many ups and downs of tour life: where your rockstar buddies meet adoring fans who usually want autographs, and who sometimes don’t have a sharpie on hand like you do.
4. THE OUTFIT
I know, girls! I’m pointing out the obvious here. But, seriously, let me give you a few pointers about your ensemble. If you think for one second your outfit is OK, it’s just that: OK! And “OK “does not mean phenomenal. Remember that black is the universal color of rock and roll, and anything over-the-top is usually just enough. But don’t dress like a prostitute, please. Chances are you won’t be the only girl backstage, and you don’t want to come across as “the one who is trying too hard and looking for a good lay.” You’re not there for that! You’re there to make a lasting impression, and to flaunt what you’ve got tactfully. So always consider a killer jacket, badass boots, big hair, lipstick, a bag big enough to carry around without hassle, and maybe even some glitter on those cheeks. And skip the push-up bra! Don’t sell out!
5. AN EXTRA PAIR OF PANTIES
That is, of course, if you wear any to begin with! And get your head out of the gutter! I’m not contradicting myself in regards to the delicious ensemble you should be sporting backstage either, but what if you end up on the road for a day or two with your buddies? Do you really want to slip on that sweaty, day-old lace thong? NOPE. Not me. And who knows what your dirty-minded rockstar comrades have in mind. Maybe they’ll fashionably sport that fresh pair themselves over their tight, custom hip huggers! Laugh if you must, but I’ve seen it all.
6. BUSINESS CARDS
So, what. You’re “just” a sales rep, or you walk dogs for a living, have some confidence in yourself! If you have something to say, and if you make a connection backstage, people will want to stay in touch! No one cares if you work in the industry or not, you’re still cool because you’re you! Yes, I know you can just take out your phone and dial in a number, but in alliance with my first bit of advice about the necessity of a phone charger, should you not bring it and your phone dies, that business card is your calling card. Make sure they’re cute, too! Rockstars meet a lot of people on the road, and if they forget you until the day they reach into their pocket to pull out their wallet for a crisp hundred-dollar bill, well, there’s your name and number, too.
Maybe you went to a fancy Italian restaurant before the show and that garlic bread was just a little too overpowering. Maybe the strawberries served alongside that backstage champagne just got stuck between your pearly white front chops and now you refuse to flash that sexy smile! Well, none of this would matter if you brought along your trusted bag of tricks! I’m talking about floss and a toothbrush! Mouthwash and toothpaste! Besides, do you really want to lean in to someone over the blasting music and mutter how much you love the band when your breath smells like it could cast away Dracula himself? I didn’t think so. Bring some gum along as well!
You heard me! Or did you?! Well, actually you would hear me if you had in your earplugs! Despite their intended purpose to drown out the powerful volume of a live show (or even a sound check), earplugs are meant to turn down the dynamics, filtering out what is “too much to bear.” I have to add, if you don’t have earplugs in your pocket, you’re a rock and roll rookie! Protect your eardrums! You want to be able to enjoy the sound of the birds on a relaxing summer day, don’t you? If you don’t have earplugs, here’s a trick taught to me by front man Spike of the London Quireboys: “You don’t need earplugs! Just break off the filter of two cigarettes and shove them in your ears, damn it!” Good advice, Spike!
9. SWEET EMOTION, I MEAN… “DISPOSITION”
Yes, that was a bit of a play on words, but what would a rock and roll guideline to backstage etiquette be without a reference to Aerosmith?! Anyway, that’s right. Have a sweet disposition! Don’t be a bitch. Don’t be arrogant! Hell, you’re better off being shy. Rockstars and the hardworking, traveling team of blokes behind them bust their asses to put on a good show for us – their fans. The tour manager, the lighting crew, the merch team, the band… they’re dirty, tired, and when it comes down to the production of putting on a show, everyone is stressed out and probably deserves a raise. Say please, say thank you, and be sure to stay out of the way! You want to be an appropriate addition to the backstage party, not a lush. Which reminds me, keep your drinking in check! No one wants to hold your hair back as your spewing that extra whiskey shot into the toilet. And chances are you’ll never be put on the guest list again.
10. YOUR PASS
I don’t care who you are or why you’re there, but be sure to have your credentials on you at all times, in full view! It’s your way of showing respect to the people who consider you worthy of an “All Access” laminate or “VIP” sticker. You’re also helping out the security guards who won’t have to stop you and ask if you have a pass. And if they do, don’t give them attitude, OK? They are just doing their job, and you won’t be doing yours as a special guest if you can’t follow the rules. I know rock and roll is all about not following the rules, but respect is always appreciated. And you’re too classy to disrespect anyone. Remember that, and you’ll be welcome backstage every time.
And there you have it! Like I said, it took me some time to figure out the ins-and-outs of appropriate behavior as a member of Club Backstage. But there really is etiquette to this stuff. Consider them my best-kept secrets based on hard earned experience! Follow these guidelines and you will find I sure as hell have your backs!
Story: Kate Catalina