Essay Pepsi Coliseum, Dec. 2: An American Idol straddles a barstool, and, in a very un-lady-like manner, bares her butt. Brusque record reps scarf down the food intended for people far more important than them (like Chingy … and me), a roadie’s bored girlfriend files her nails atop a large speaker and some anonymous, grungy band member draws naked women on a napkin.

Welcome to backstage at a festival show, where an eccentric montage of musical artists, covering an entire spectrum of genres, are suddenly thrown together. Those precious few quiet moments before the real action begins always find me pondering the potential results of such a situation. When the animals are let out of their cages, they’ll either play nice, they’ll maim and kill or — at worst — they’ll mate in plain view.

Backstage is oft portrayed as a high hat affair, where only the classiest and most influential of musicians indulge in unpronounceable gourmet snacks while sipping pastel concoctions from expensive martini glasses. The flip side belief is that it’s a wild, uncontrollable, highly illegal series of events where Jack Daniels is guzzled straight from a shared bottle, narcotics are dealt freely and women dance topless on beer-drenched sofas, pausing only to provide the raunchiest of sexual favors for malodorous rock royalty.

And radio people? Well, we would have you believe that it’s a place where mortals and musicians tap the same keg, serve themselves from the same acceptably stocked buffet and idle at dining tables where the chit-chat is that of the normal variety (sports, music, reality television, Paris Hilton, etc.). We spin the situation as a gathering of close friends, because we want you to believe that we’re just that cool — rock stars by association, so to speak.

But in reality, this is what happens.

A desperate radio staff uses every distraction to keep Chingy away from his makeshift dressing room where multiple bottles of Hennessy await him. It’s been suggested by his people that should he see those “thurr” bottles, he could very well become too intoxicated to perform, thus leaving us with a riotous audience.

Ryan Cabrera arrives in Indy a full day after his entourage because it’s rumored that Ryan Jr. required an emergency libido visit to California before he could fulfill his performance duties. That’s unconfirmed, of course, but if it is true, lucky Ashlee.

The cold tile is simply too harsh for Kelly Clarkson’s delicate skin. She wants a space heater, and when her demand isn’t immediately met with enthusiasm, she retreats into the dining area to purse her pretty lips and lament to her band about the lack of accommodations. It seems that the original American Idol does not grasp why these small, sweaty peasants who have been furiously preparing her room for hours would not have anticipated her need.

Simple Plan needs four vehicles more than were anticipated, due to the excess “necessary” pieces of overnight luggage that came with them.

Bowling for Soup get comfortable, and remove their shoes, an offense far more fierce than anything anyone should be forced to face. This is all very mild, given past experiences. There have been times when goings-on have teetered dangerously on that line between backstage myth and backstage reality. A couple of years back, a well-known rock band cut a meet-and-greet short because they were antsy to return to the strippers they’d imported from Vegas. A particularly testy rap artist once threatened physical harm to a fellow staff member over something as insignificant as a rolled-down car window. And just last year, Clay Aiken spent his evening dry heaving, his gags echoing loudly through the hollow hallways of the venue. (The latter was not a consequence of indulgence, mind you, but simply a nasty case of the winter crud.)

This year, thankfully, there were no strippers, no violence and, to my knowledge, no vomit. Once our artists scattered off to their respective after-show good times, the stereotypical remnants were the only reminders of their presence — the beer cans (touched by none other then Pierre Bouvier), the nearly empty bottle of Hypnotic (complete with Chingy backwash) and Jaret Reddick himself (Bowling for Soup), possibly despondent over being snubbed by Miss Clarkson, furiously working on a keg that he was determined to finish.

And I was happy to help, because I am that cool, and we’re tight like that.

Mysti is middays/entertainment director, WNOU, Radio Now 93.1.


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