From load-in to load-out

author BV date 03/12/13

There are days when every single one of us wish for that near-impossible rock n’ roll dream, to be on the stage rocking out with some awesome tracks, seeing the faces of pure, unadulterated joy in the audience whilst knowing that this, this is the genuine rock star dream. Fewer of us, however, seem to give any considerable amount of thought to the practical and logistical efforts that keep the rock n’ roll dream alive. This article is about just that. For the duration of an entire day, from load-in to load-out, my photographer of the night, Kenny, and myself set about to follow a band called Year of the Goat around to see what goes on behind the scenes. So in case you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a gig to make it successful, this is for you.

18:00 – Load-in

As Kenny and I entered the venue of tonight’s gig, Beta, we noticed that the load-in was already underway as loads of gear was dutifully being hauled inside in preparation of the stage setup. As Kenny and I noted to ourselves that the band consists of no less than six people, we tentatively felt the need to ask the band how they were going to make that work, since the stage is of a relatively small size. ”Not an issue, we’ve played stages way smaller than that one”, was the prompt answer from Mellotron player “Pope” – the guy we would, coincidentally, go on to spend a considerable amount of time talking to. As the small-talk continued, touching upon topics such as accents and English-speaking abilities, Rasmus Toftlund, the sound engineer of the night, made his entrance and was slowly getting ready for the soundcheck – whilst remarking tongue in cheek that Kenny and I were constantly getting in the way, as he was unpacking the sound-desk.

Load-in in progress.

19:00 – Soundchecks and support

Following a rather swift stage setup, the sound-check commences. What I initially thought would take quite a lot of time actually turned out to be relatively quick affair – portraying both the band’s, as well as Rasmus’, startling professionalism. As we undergo the merciless, monotonous pounding of each individual piece of the drum-kit that is necessary for a proper soundcheck, Kenny and I are beginning to wonder where the support band of the night had holed themselves up – having initially seen them unload their gear near the stage, only to disappear rather swiftly after that. In a spur of the moment decision, we decided to leave Year of the Goat to themselves after their very promising soundcheck to figure out where Sea, the support of the night, had gone.

Troops, assemble for soundcheck!

As we arrive at the backstage area, the members of Sea are looking genuinely comfortable as their guitarist/vocalist, Anders Brink, whom we met along the way, guided us into the cozy, little room. As it tends to, the small-talk started flowing at this point – leading us to figure out that Sea are actually quite new to the game as they, at this point in time, had not recorded an album yet. According to them however, this was about to change as this support gig was their last testing ground of the material they were to subsequently record in the following days with producer Jacob Bredahl. As the band indulged us in their plans for the night, they revealed that their setlist would, as such, consist only of new material that was to be on the album – save for an acoustic track or two, apparently, as they wouldn’t fit the energy they were aiming to convey on the night. ”That, and we would blow our scheduled slot of time for tonight if we include those tracks” - remarked drummer Jonas Bangstrup as a last-minute thing before the band had to disperse from their backstage area, as it was their turn to soundcheck.

Rasmus getting ready for Sea’s soundcheck

20:00 – Merchandise, and lots of it!

It puts the lotion in the basket… - synth-man “Pope” uttered in a surprisingly creepy voice as I came down the stairs to check up on the merchandising situation. Walking down the stairs, I was already confronted with a massive amount of merchandise. At this point, most of it was still in sealed boxes, however I had my serious doubts as to how the fuck they would fit it all in that relatively modest-sized room, making enough space for actually displaying some of it. As time went on though, the band’s German liaison and merch-handler, whose name I have sadly forgotten to make a readable note of, showed off an affinity for sorting and setting up various t-shirts, vinyl albums, CD’s and a bunch of other weird objects – all available for what seemed to be fair prices.

T-shirts! So many T-shirts!

Time progressed rather quickly, with “Pope”, the merch-handler and myself taking the piss out of one another whilst I observed the steadily developing merchandise project. Seeing the massive amount of merchandise, I simply had to ask them why they would bring so much along.

We have basically got this guy who is insanely into pressing shirt designs. We develop like three or four alternatives for a single t-shirt then he just goes ahead and has all four pressed. It’s quite insane, but in a good way I suppose. - “Pope” remarks. The German liaison, as he, at this point is now randomly called by others as well, interjects and says ”there’s also the added benefit of having a wide selection with you. In some countries, not Denmark by the way, merch-sales can really go through the roof if you have a wider selection. Fans will inevitably buy more than one t-shirt if they like the designs on several of them.”

Seeing the logic, I still wondered if it was truly worth it, seeing as they had now been underway for almost an hour with a ton of things still to be set up. Almost as if they saw my puzzled face, a reply to my unspoken question came in the form of a ”well, you know, this is also the first leg of this tour. Once we’ve got everything sorted tonight, we’re just gonna pack things down like that again. So even though the setup might take us two hours today, it’ll probably take less than half of that tomorrow.”

21:00 – The doors are open, dinner is served

As the clock ran past nine and the doors were opening, I began to feel a little skittish on behalf of the merchandise booth. Most of the band members were, at this point, sitting down to eat in the backstage area whilst “Pope” and their merch-handler remained determined to have all the merchandise sorted out before showtime in less than an hour.

Dinner is served!

As the setup neared completion after something close to 2 hours of setting up, a member from Sea emerges to discuss the pros and cons of “no-merch vs. wow!-merch”, as they would appropriately name their little conversation. – Discussing that Sea had a magnificent amount of leisure time on this very night, as they didn’t even have a single CD to sell. Intent on leaving the merchandise guys to have some peace and quiet before showtime, I walked around the venue to check out the turnout thus far, as it would initially look to be a slow night.

22:00 – Sea hits the stage

At this point, the doors had been open for just about an hour and things were actually starting to shape up rather nicely. The turn-out had improved greatly, as many people came specifically to watch Sea perform, holding small signs and banners of affection towards certain band members – something I had definitely not seen coming two hours earlier. Sea took the stage in a rather anonymous way, but got a hero’s salute from the fairly large crowd at this point. Without going into a vast description of their gig, Sea’s performance could aptly be described as a revival of 80’s brit-metal like Iron Maiden and such. To read about it in much greater detail, I suggest clicking here.

Beta’s bar-staff hard at work

Beer-lusting as the crowd was at this time, the bar-staff at Beta also seemed to have their hands full from what I could tell, signifying that the turnout of the night wasn’t necessarily going to be so bad after all. Closing their 35-minute support act, we waited for Sea to emerge from behind the stage. Hilariously so, we rushed towards the front of the stage to get a picture as we realized that the band had chosen to actually get directly off the stage in order to talk to their fans whilst changing over for the next band to play. A classy move, I might add, as long as it doesn’t affect the timeframe.

There’s always time for a handshake

23:00 – YotG hits the stage while things get complicated

Now, the time was rapidly approaching for Year of the Goat to get on stage and harvest the fruit of a long day’s labor. At this point the venue was brimming with people, most of which had made use of an offer to receive free entry, if they had already been at the Satyricon show next door. As such, the modest opening hour of the venue had been laid to shame as the venue was now so packed that it was honestly a pain to move around at times, specifically in front of the stage. The minute Year of the Goat struck the first chords of their semi-progressive, occult retro-rock the crowd seemed quite into it – suggesting a successful night for the band thus far. Once more, a review going into greater detail can be read here.

Year of the Goat rocking out at Beta

After having enjoyed a large portion of their set, I made my way towards the backstage area to catch up with Sea post-show to see what was up. As I got there, there seemed to be a dispute between a band member, Kenny, and a drunk concert-goer that had snuck into Year of the Goat’s dressing room, snatched a couple of drinks and then, when he was caught, claimed to be with the band. As his story was told to us, then to a member of Sea and then on to a member of Beta's staff it only seemed to become more intricate, as he was supposedly a friend of the band that wasn’t Sea, but apparently the band wasn’t Year of the Goat either, prompting him to aggressively answer; ”not those bands! The other band…” Some time went by and subsequently it turned out that he was indeed the friend of a band. Just not a band in this venue, as he was looking for Chthonic, the support act of Satyricon, and their backstage room – which was one building over, in the neighboring venue called Amager Bio.

Wait, how naked is that guy?

Leaving us with few minutes to catch up with Sea before Year of the Goat would eventually leave the stage, we settled for a quick chat about the random events of the night, the fact that the photo Kenny had just taken of front-man Anders made him look like he was completely nude, and just about anything else completely random that could be thought of within that small, 10-minute timeframe.

00:00 – Commence the packing!

Posing, sort of.

As the clock struck midnight, Year of the Goat left the stage to rampant applause as Kenny and I waited for them, prompting them to strike various poses when confronted with Kenny’s camera. Not a long time went by before Year of the Goat decided to head out on stage to play an encore for the small, yet dedicated remaining crowd members that seemingly couldn’t get enough of these guys. Realizing time was short before the packing had to commence, we rushed into their backstage area to have quick chat with the band as they were cooling down post-show.

Post-show chilling…

We asked them how this tour came to be, what it involved and so on. Vocalist/guitarist, Thomas Sabbathi, had this to say:

”Well, basically we’ve been planning this tour since the early spring. I think we have 15 shows scheduled for the coming 17 days and to be honest, most of those shows weren’t even confirmed until recently. It’s actually quite a maneuver to book a tour – even a short one like this, unless you’ve been in the game for a terribly long time”. “Pope” interjected; ”it does keep things interesting though. I mean, we’re doing this many shows with little to no crew. I mean, it’s just us and our merch-guy cruising from place to place. It doesn’t get simpler than that.”.

And the packing is on!

When the band proceeded to pack down the gear so the van could be loaded up again, the mood still seemed quite cheerful. It seemed evident that it is a lot of work to go through to play a 1½ hour show, so you’ve basically got to love what you’re doing to make it work. Letting the band pack their gear in peace for a few moments, we caught up with the band’s merch-guy again leaving him to humorously state; ”Do you guys realize you make up 50 percent of my merchandise sales for tonight? I mean, we had a lot of folks looking at stuff, spilling drinks on it etc. But you guys still make up half our sales. It would probably have been more if we were able to accept credit cards though, so we’re working on it. Still, I have to say that it’s fascinating to see how many drunk people would come down to me to do business that had very little to do with merchandise. This one guy kept telling me about his band… I can’t even remember their name or why it was even a topic.”

01:00 – Loading the van

Returning for the final stages of gear packing, Kenny and I indulged ourselves in a lengthy gear chat with one of the band’s three guitarists. I’ll spare the details but say that any band member that can say the following about his own gear, has earned an immense amount of respect in my book; ”If an amp catches fire, it can’t really be any more rock n’ roll. I mean, it’s happened once in the rehearsal room and I’m quite sure the crowd would love it as well!.

Year of the Goat are skillfully packing the van.

Nearing the end of the night for both Year of the Goat, Kenny and myself, the van packing was in progress. Much to my surprise, these guys must have played their fair share of Tetris because even as I write this, a few weeks later, it is still beyond me how they got all their gear, their vast amount of merchandise and themselves into that single, tiny van. It must, in all truthfulness, have been the greatest game of Tetris ever to be played.

02:30 – Final reflections

At this late point of the evening, Year of the Goat had taken off – leaving Kenny and I to reflect on what we had seen, done and heard. Our conclusion was that if we were so knackered out just from watching all this work, then the band must be down-right exhausted. At that moment of clarity, it dawned on us that rock n’ roll truly is a lifestyle, one that requires dedication and it’s not necessarily easy to live like that. Beer in hand, we opted to call it a night.

All photos by Kenny Swan

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