Riders on the Form: Adventures in Booking with Philip Shive
By Phillip Shive
A few years before my tenure as a talent buyer, I couldn’t have told you the difference between Black Flag and the Black Eyed Peas, or 7 Seconds and 7 Mary 3. I’m not ashamed of this at all — I have no hipster cachet-story of listening to Slayer in the comforting clasp of the uterine wall, no street cred to precede me. The market for baseball cards had recently gone to shit and the hair below had come in nicely; rock & roll was just the natural progression of things.
I met Neal “MF” Harper, the future owner of the Milestone, at the first of a couple of DIY spots that would eventually snowball into the re-opening of Charlotte’s venerable Milestone in 2004. Living by my personal mantra of seat of the pants/skin of the teeth/eye of the tiger, I was obliged to accept the position of Talent Buyer when it was rendered by process of elimination. I vowed to bring in folks who would get Civil War-drunk seven nights a week in a musky, windowless building established in the Year of Our Dark Lord 1969 and held together by band stickers and liquor fumes.
Now, the transition from what I had known in the DIY world of sharing shitty pizzas and signs of the horns to becoming a “commercial promoter” was tumultuous. One of the first shows we had in our Milestone salad days was a country-core band from Harrisonburg, VA called Lex Vegas. Ray, their guitarist/vocalist, was also a promoter, and if you let them stay over at your house they would clean it or mow your lawn in addition to cooking a meal for you. Cool, no? Well, this experience was the polar opposite of my introduction to the concert rider:
Against Me! — “This RIDER is hereby considered an integral part of the CONTRACT and if not met 100% is in VIOLATION.” I got them the 12 tennis balls. I’m not sure what they did with them, but they left them on the floor of the beer storage room…I mean, green room. Disposable Ben-Wa Balls?
Mike Doughty — I had to Google “Kombucha” to see if it was an African drum of some sort. Had it been an African drum I would have had an easier time acquiring it over the fizzy mulch-juice; they didn’t even sell it in my forsaken Gaston County. Doughty was cool though and even had a stalker come to the show who gave him a note with a Starbucks gift card (which was some kind of inside joke, I reckon). He discarded it immediately and shortly thereafter I tried Starbucks for the first time.
Anal Cunt — Ray of Lex Vegas had them booked one snowy day in Harrisonburg. He said they refused to play until they had six cans of Sprite. At the Milestone, they unleashed all kinds of bigotry onstage, maybe because we had Sierra Mist. However, there is redemption in both of these anecdotes; at Ray’s show someone hit the singer in the pecker with a snowball from 40 feet. He drank his last Sprite as a mortal not long after the Milestone show. Comeuppance can be a bitch!
Sometimes, things went awry from the get-go.
Destruction — The German thrash innovators arrived for an early load-in and never departed the tour bus. Their tour manager, who obviously was trying to make up excuses as to why they wouldn’t be performing, decided to mic check and dick around for a couple of hours and then declared that there wasn’t enough PA. The Destruction message board told a different story the next day: “We legends of metal do not play der shithole club.” Your band is named Destruction, you should have been thrilled to play the Ghetto Fortress, which was okay enough for everyone from R.E.M. to Nirvana (or whomever you wanna add here) before you. Maybe the tour manager got a whiff of the men’s restroom and decided it would give their song “Sentence of Death” an unwanted new meaning.
Inspectah Deck — Two hours into the night’s lineup, I finally got their manager on the phone. They demanded a large sum of cash on arrival or they wouldn’t perform. I went to the ATM. They asked why there are so many white people in attendance. I made $17 off the door that night, but the bonus was we got the untouched $300 in fish, chicken leg quarters, Heineken, rare flavors of Vitamin Water, etc., as they refused to touch it. We had been ridden.
PRO TIP: Don’t pre-emptively agree to allow the artist to spend the night at your house until after the set.
Eugene Robinson — He was doing a book release tour for Fight. Our Friday night show had a miserable 25-person turnout. I listened to the prolific writer, Oxbow vocalist, and legendary MMA fighter tell stories of mass bloodletting and face-checking. If you aren’t familiar, he’s an enormous black man who brandishes a swastika and a couple of pentagram tattoos, and makes any military school “scared-straight” fella look like Dudley Do-Right. He’s a heavy sleeper, too, and building up the chutzpah to physically wake him didn’t strike me till I was already an hour late for work. Go see him when you can and look into the eyes of Satan. I’m a fan.
Lest ye mistake me for a Negative Nabob I had a great time. I made some Myspace friends, a couple of bucks, made out with some scandalous women, and made my way back to finishing college. These days I promote shows independently and also have a small roster of bands I book. Feel free to contact me if your band needs a champagne-tasting on a hot-air balloon. I’d be happy to pass the gas while pouring Andre from my butt cheeks, but only because you’re a superstar.
Philip Shive is a butcher, a booker, and a video-maker (all true, too!). He was the talent buyer for the Milestone from 2004-2010. You can keep up with his current travesties at voiceofpizza.com.