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Pop and Rock Star Riders: What the Stars Eat Backstage

Pop and Rock Star Riders: What the Stars Eat Backstage

If you were a performer in such demand that you could request, and receive, anything you like, delivered backstage to your dressing room, what might you request

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From Kentucky Fried chicken to whole hot roast chickens, from six pounds of stemless carrots to a Bob Hope impersonator, here are some of the oddest and most specific demands for backstage snacks, from the “riders” (a venue’s contractual obligations to performers) of famous rock stars. Some bands strike an odd balance of junk food with healthy requests. Or chic and fast food mixtures such as champagne and a burger seen recently on Beyoncé's desk.

Pearl Jam needed a loaf of multigrain bread, a dozen fresh bagels, four bags of chips (tortilla and potato) with guacamole and salsa for dipping, sodas but also three quarts of fresh-squeezed fruit juices. In addition to this, the band traveled with their own juicer, for which they asked venues to provide ingredients for mixing healthy potions of ginger, ginseng, and carrots. Their contracts specified that the venue should provide six pounds of carrots, without stems, to make them quicker to juice. By the way Pearl Jam just released their new album.

Most artists specify their choice of beverages and foods, but also insist on certain interior design arrangements. Jennifer Lopez likes apple pie with ice cream, green seedless grapes, and an entirely white room, including white tables and couches—and absolutely no tomato, apple, or grape juices (presumably to minimize the chance of staining the all-white furniture).

Across a broad spectrum of artists, whole roasted chicken wins out as the most-frequently requested edible, for post-concert consumption. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s late sax player, Clarence Clemons, needed a whole roast chicken to be delivered in the middle of the concert, so it was ready for him to tuck into at the end. He also asked for beluga caviar and fancy Carr’s brand water crackers, presumably as an appetizer, but hardly in keeping with the working-class image of the band. Springsteen’s wife, singer Patti Scialfa, liked soy milk, green tea, and protein and energy supplements. Bruce himself expected a guitar security guard, whose sole job is to make sure no one swipes the Boss’ Fenders.

Also into roast chicken is Lady Gaga, who specifies that her whole roast chicken must be still hot when she tucks into it, post-performance. It will be accompanied by an assortment of dried fruit, a veggie plate with ranch dip on ice, twelve bottles of water at room temperature and twelve that are cold, and Starfish brand tuna, among many other nibbles, especially honey. At the top of Lady Gaga’s rider, in capital letters, it reads: “The Honey is very important.” While roasted chicken is nice, some artists are less demanding. Rapper Busta Rhymes requests only three things: champagne, a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a box of condoms. It doesn’t take much for him to get his party started. Also a fan of honey was The Who’s Roger Daltry, who wanted six bottles of tonic water, one bottle of vodka, a jar of honey, two packs of Throat Coat lozenges and vanilla ice cream.

Guitarist Pete Townshend needed two bottles of orange juice, six cans of Coke, six cocktail glasses, and Chamomile tea with milk. Lozenges, and general oral hygiene, are on Ashlee Simpson’s mind. Her dressing room must be stocked with Ricola cough drops, Dentyne Ice or Orbit gum, Cool Mint Listerine, and a toothbrush plus toothpaste. Of course backstage riders are not only for the consumption of the band, but also traveling staff and groupies and fans who will inevitably be hosted in the dressing room post-concert. For those groupies, Al Green required 24 long-stemmed roses, thorns removed, so he could distribute them to his adoring admirers.

The most notorious of band demands came from the 1982 Van Halen tour. Van Halen needed bowls of M&Ms, but every brown M&M had to be removed. Also the band needed herring in sour cream, four cases of Schlitz Malt liquor (16 oz. cans), and eight bottles of wine and liquor—plus a tube of KY jelly (presumably not for consumption). The M&M issue sounds totally excessive, but the band says that they used it as a litmus test, to be sure the organizers actually read the rider carefully. If they found brown M&Ms in the bowl, then they assumed that other details specified in the rider, including details about lighting and ticketing, will also have been shirked upon. Spotting a brown M&M would be a warning sign that other things should be double-checked, to see what else was not attended to as specified in the contract. All this may seem over-the-top, and it really is.

Iggy Pop, recognizing the silliness of the demands of so many bands, created an 18-page joke rider of his own that he nevertheless submitted to venues. In it, he demanded a Bob Hope impersonator, a copy of USA Today “that’s got a story about morbidly obese people,” “a monitor man who speaks good English and is not afraid of death,” that Iggy’s vocal mics should be “strong and punchy…like a bouncing kangaroo,” and that no toy robots are allowed onstage. For food, Iggy is surprisingly easy-going: just coffee and tea, a “thick vegetarian soup,” two enormous pizzas (one four-cheese and one hot pepperoni), and baguettes (which he specifies, in French in the rider, should come from a specialist boulangerie), “maybe a bit of ham and chicken, and some fruit, and chocolate, yum yum.” That’s for the whole band. Then it gets interesting in his personal dressing room, where he would quite like “a full-bodied, Bordeaux type of red wine. Probably French. And something we’ve heard of, but still can’t pronounce.” And in the dressing room of his band, The Stooges?

Well, they want “cauliflower/broccoli, cut into individual florets and thrown immediately into the garbage.” Iggy Pop’s rider is worth reading cover-to-cover, because even the specifications of sound equipment are laced with jokes. It makes you wonder whether Iggy ever made official complaints to the venue if his surrealist rider was not fulfilled to the letter of the contract!

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