Thursday
May112006

« An I-Sore »

First off, many of us who do gigs there as band or crew refer to it as "The Hotel HELL." To wit:

The Hotel Del Coronado is about 125 years old or so. When it was built, my industry (live sound and lights, amplified events, and other complex staging-related things) didn't exist. Back then, if there was a band playing, it was the poor standup bassist who had to struggle the most, maybe the drummer. The rest of the guys came in toting horns and strings and case of sheet music. That was great. I'm sure they didn't complain much about how to get to the ball room or the lawn events. They weren't loading in trucks of gear that weighs primarily in the "several hundred pounds" category.

I've done too many gigs at the Hotel Hell. After last night it was "one too many gigs at the Hotel Hell." The whole place is just horrid for this sort of work. I can't blame the building, but sometimes I want to shoot poison arrows into the people who can take it up a notch and make it so that this line of work carries with it an extra few reasons to keep hatred alive and well in the world. For my part, I travel light. All I show up with is my piano dolly carts and some tools and my personal effects. But whoever I work for has the gear, the truck, and ultimately the burden of maneuvering it to the best place for the load in. Occasionally, I have to do that myself, but by and large, I just get what I get. Yesterday was one of the shittiest load paths ever, shittier than the rest of the Hotel Hell experiences. Let that say something.

The stage was on the lawn that sits closest to the ocean side of the hotel. Before I knew it was cut off from the most logical path due to a lot of new construction, I was thinking it would be easier than usual. No such luck. So Mitch and I went to work looking first for the lawn, then for the shortest and flattest path that would connect it to the closest place we thought we could leave the truck—a 24' truck, 13' 6" high with a massive lift gate—great stuff to use for transport, but usually a liability in a place like this with no real plan for accommodating such trucks, except in the back where the loading area is. (Notice I didn't call it a "dock" because there is no dock per se—just a deep driveway, and this route would have been pathetically complex to navigate today.) So, in accordance to an ethic of convenience we've adhered to for years, Mitch pulled the truck up to the place that made the most sense—it just happened to be right close to the entry way of the hotel where all the taxis and buses drop off the slick tourists and conventioneers at the front. We all know what to expect, but the ethic of convenience we take in this line of work is "better to ask forgiveness than permission!" Usually, once we would situate ourselves in the place of our choosing, it's only a matter of saying "oh, we'll be done in just a few!" or something like that. Sometimes we would be chased off, sometimes not. Today was maddening because it was one of those times when the valet goons swooped in on us before the truck was even turned off. They came out and told us that we had to move it because, frankly, this truck is an "eye sore" and that there was some boss of his who had a window overlooking this space. Mitch wasn't even restrained in saying "this is the last fucking gig I ever want to do at this place" which, in an effort to find the humor in the situation, leads to talk about at least charging a 'hassle tax' which is equivalent to a doubling of the night's rate for the sound and lights he offers. We'll see. Might be real. He says he does it for shows on the USS Midway museum, and having done just part of a load in there, I can believe it. Never mind that this particular place was at the top of a slope that rose out of the parking lot below, and that is where he wanted us to go, and where we had to go. Never mind that it gets to be longer and harder (mind out of the gutter please) to push a multitude of roadcases up a hill that is nothing for cars, but a back- and calf- buster for the poor sods who get stuck behind said cases, which also typically will be the wheels for the things that don't have their own—all the loose stuff—mic and lighting stands, other cases or bags, all ready to fall off at a dip or bump, and always that the least opportune time. So this valet robot goon, acting only out of fear for his own job/ass, told us to take the truck down the hill, about 150' or so because he could not venture to let us offload quickly then move the truck. As it was, if we had gotten to use that space, we still had to look forward to cutting through hotel guests along the public paths in front of the shops and restaurant, down a short hill with erratic pavement, and then down a wheelchair ramp, and finally to the stage below. All of this was under the "May Gray" sun which can give a person a sneaky sunburn even on what looks like an overcast day! Our push started just before four pm—the worst time of day for this shit.

With our push extended by about 40% and with that part of it being the worst part of it—up a slope, pushing a few 400 pound cases with untied stuff on top, it just gets hairy. All that you need for it to be a disaster is a small stone, or to hit the cracks in the sidewalk head on, or to have to dodge some idiot hotel guest who can't even bother to notice or care that there is some dude pushing twice his weight along beside them. The sidewalks, even when they appear flat to walk on take on a whole new meaning as they either provide good geometry or bad geometry that helps the load or doesn't.

I'll just skip the news of the gig, except to say it was with a band that I had worked with repeatedly in the past, and the drummer was the first guy who ever invited me to do this sort of work. It was sort of nice to see some faces that I had not seen in years, and some that have not been seen in months anyway, and to trade stories, but overall, it was the same scene: hellish load in, quick set up and sound check, then a break before the show, some time in the green room with a meal (today was some tasty and tender pork, a pasta of some sort, and a nice salad). Then, it's time to sleep while the band plays, but I did that and read some in my truck while I had to go back to it and take back other items. Then, later on, it was load out time.

The only good thing I can muster to say about the Hotel Hell gigs is that they almost categorically shut down loud stuff at 10 pm, ensuring a relatively early night compared to other gigs that go till 12 or 1 or later. But then it's time for the dreaded load out, and this was no easier. It was actually more nerve racking, not less because it was down that same driveway, and shit goes just as crazy in the down direction as it does going up. Sometimes, by the end of the night at certain venues, there is a chance that we can take advantage of the driveways or alternate routes not afforded us earlier. Tonight, not so. Even though the sun is gone, by that point in the evening, it becomes a sweat fest as the night gets a little more damp.

By the end of the night, I was fucking sore. The whole piece of work was not a lot compared to a day at AV Concepts, but it has been over a month since I pushed a roadcase, and far longer since anything as ridiculous as this. In my role as driver at AVC, I barely had to do load ins—there were stagehands and loaders just for that, so I have been a little out of shape for this. Add to that my newly aching right arm that is rebelling due to carpal tunnel, and it was starting to burn by the time I got to my truck. But the certain losers were my calfs, which had not been subjected to this shit for who knows how long. Another thing that separates AVC from what happens in most of the other work I do is that AVC is always in a position to overstaff for gigs—a load like this would have been about 1/3 the effort under their model. But then again, Mitch and others like him are not corporations who can redundantly staff their events. Both ways have their merits. I like the wild west approach of what Mitch does, but the army of labor hands that appears at AVC and other corporate gigs is nice. I prefer the band work to listening to doctors and capitalists tell how they will mold the world to their liking. But when it comes down to it, a roadcase is a roadcase, and a truck is a truck, and frankly, at the end of the night, I hurt from all the pushing and lifting. Consider it an I-sore that I can't abide. I wish that maybe I could get some valet to understand. He could walk a mile in my shoes, pushing a roadcase with shit perched perilously on top, while spinning plates, and dodging republican tourists. Maybe then there could be a little understanding of what a true I-sore is, and not worry that their precious image is being marred by the temporary arrival of an eyesore of a truck.

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