“What’s the strangest (weird, interesting, funny, etc.) thing you’ve ever seen requested on a rider?” Let’s see what our panel of audio professionals has to say.
Christopher “Sully” Sullivan: While still a young, wide-eyed “soundling” trying to find my way in the Philadelphia music scene, I found myself faced with a rider from Bad Religion. I was working for a regional company and my boss handed me their rider as it pertained to an upcoming show at a local rock club. The venue itself was an old burlesque house with a proscenium stage opening of about 35 feet.
Excitedly, I began to read the document that would allow me to interact with a big-time front of house engineer and impress the punk out of him with my skills. I scrolled past the catering and hospitality section and landed on the audio portion. This is the sum total of what it said: “Front of house sound system, 25,000 watts.”
I scrolled a little farther down seeking the rest of it, but there was nothing more under audio except the FOH engineer’s phone number. So I dialed him up. A deeply Manchester, England-accented voice answered and I immediately explained my purpose in life to him, then waited, pen ready for the specifics he was going to lay on me.
Him: “Are you able to read, mate?”
Me: “Yes… yes I can.”
Him: “OK, good. Did you read the part about 25,000 watts?”
Him: “Do you not understand 25,000 watts?”
Me: “No, I understand it.”
Him: “Good. See you at the gig.” Click.
That was the advance. For those curious, I stacked three-high, three-wide Turbosound TMS-3s plus 24-inch subs on the ground, and effectively closed the proscenium opening to a slot. Prior to the gig, the gigantic, bearded FOH engineer showed up, played a DAT (digital audio tape) of his band with every driver into limit, then muted it, nodded to me and said, “Right. That’ll do,” and he walked off.
Craig Leerman: The weirdest rider I ever got was years ago from the band Jackyl that required a mic for a chainsaw and one for a wooden barstool that the chainsaw was to cut during a song. Shure SM57s were requested as first choice for both applications. During the song “The Lumberjack,” the chainsaw was used as an instrument, played a solo, then proceeded to be used to cut up the barstool to show everybody that it indeed was a real chainsaw sporting a really sharp blade.
Becky Pell: I see lots of riders when I’m doing pre-production for the Glastonbury Festival, and the hands-down best has to be from the Foo Fighters. (I’m not talking out of school here as there are leaked excerpts which are widely available online.) It’s a really entertaining read with coloring pages, word searches and some hilarious jokes! The genius of it is that it makes you want to read it thoroughly, unlike most riders, which are dry as dust and can make it all too easy to think “yeah yeah” and end up missing things.
Incidentally, the whole “no brown M&Ms” thing is usually just to see if the promoter is paying attention! And on my own riders I’ve been known to request “no grumpy know-it-alls who’d rather be anywhere else” on the local production crew…
Erik Matlock: I think the craziest yet most common and frustrating thing on riders is usually the date. Back in the day when I worked with a “hired gun” sound crew most of the time, we were constantly handed outdated riders and stage plots. Maybe three shows out of 10 involved the classic conversation where someone says, “Oh, you got the old paperwork.”
At the bare minimum, it meant losing half an hour of setup time. Even when we double-checked our details, someone would almost always show up for sound check with an “updated” stack of papers. Working with the same artist repeatedly obviously resolves most of that, but the poor souls at festivals and one-offs will probably always struggle with it.