When you look back at your favourite Aussie pub gig or concert tour, you bask in the memory of the artist, music, and performance, but no thought is given to the crew behind the scenes. Roadies are the silent band members and unsung heroes of our music and entertainment industry. The Australian Road Crew Association (ARCA) is giving back to this forgotten sector, where the industry did not.
Road crew (roadies) are the technicians and support personnel who travel with a band on tour and handle the concert production. The roles typically include; production managers, stage managers, front-of-house sound engineers, monitor engineers, lighting technicians, instrument technicians, truck drivers, and merchandise crew.
In an interview with Australian Musician, Ian “Piggy” Peel, co-founder of ARCA recalled a typical day as a Roadie …
“You’d get up at 6 am, jump on a plane, go to the gig, set it up, do a sound check, do the gig, pull it down, pack it up, go to the Hotel (if you could remember where it was), go to sleep, this is now 2 in the morning, get up at 6 am, go to the airport. That was constant for years, with a few breaks in between tours. Sometimes no break, you went from one tour to the next. You just kept going, living out of a suitcase.”
You’d have to be crazy, right? It was a tough and generally thankless life, and you’d take relief where you could get it. There’s an old Roadies’ creed: “If it’s wet, drink it. If it’s dry, smoke it. If it moves, **** it. If it doesn’t move, throw it back in the truck.”
The Birth of ARCA
Ian “Piggy” Peel wondered what happened to the crew from the 70s and 80s, and discovered there were more ‘passed’ than still on the living list. The organisation uncovered a high suicide rate within the Roadie community, with around 30 suicides from a group of 190 crew. It was time to get the survivors back together.
The first crew reunion took place on 25 November, 2012, at the St Kilda Bowls Club in Melbourne. It was bigger and far more emotional than anyone anticipated. The need for support within the industry and particularly support for the ‘old guard’ was recognised, and so the Australian Road Crew Collective was born.
The practical, legal, accounting, and other issues of setting up a ‘social club’ and benevolent fund were worked through. The Australian Road Crew Association Pty Ltd (ARCA) official launch was on 21 July, 2013 at the Bald Faced Stag Hotel in Sydney.
The Way We Were: ARCA Reel
To be a “Roadie’ is to be part of a unique community, the backbone of the Australian music business. ARCA ensures the stories, memories, and members are not lost. With the goal of bringing credibility and dignity to roadies who are doing it tough, and encouraging camaraderie within a support system.
ARCA is a ridgy didge charity that prohibits the distribution of income or property to shareholders and pays nothing to the Directors.
The primary aim is to facilitate and encourage social interaction between members, and the secondary aim is to raise funds to help its members.
Support Act Collaboration
ARCA recently began collaborating with Support Act, which offered its expertise in social and welfare issues. Support Act has established a dedicated fund, with any donations used solely to assist Road Crew through Support Act’s crisis service.
To donate, visit Support Act’s website and you’ll be asked if you’d like to make a donation (a) where help is most needed (b) to the Roadies (Crew) Fund, or (c) to the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline.
“If it wasn’t for the crew, the bands wouldn’t have been successful. It doesn’t matter how good they were.” Ian Piggy Peel.
The Desk Tape Series
This incredible series of recordings came about when Piggy begged the question “how many of the boys kept some old tapes?” Fortunately, the answer was ‘plenty’, and some 1200 hours of audio were recovered and donated. This catalogues an enormous piece of Aussie music history.
The desk tapes were taken from the mixing console and only recorded what went to the PA. This series acknowledges the skill of our front-of-house engineers. An example of the historic value of these recordings is the Dutch Tilders tape, recorded in 1973 by Pete Howell with just two microphones.
Acts including Australian Crawl, The Church, Cold Chisel, Crowded House, Jo Jo Zep, Wendy Matthews, Men At Work, Mental As Anything, Midnight Oil, The Models, and Paul Kelly have expressed a willingness to participate and assist the crews who helped them on their journey.
Each release will acknowledge the importance of roadies, and recognition to the engineers. ARCA will retain 20% to assist the organisation, with the balance going directly to the Roadies Fund, through the partnership with Support Act.
Do yourself, and our precious Roadies a favour, and purchase a piece of Aussie Music history with The Desk Top Series.