Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pale Rider

So this happened a couple of weeks ago...

"Everything you’re about to read is 100% true: On Monday, February 2nd, Jack White played a show at the McCasland Field House on the campus of University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. During the performance, he publicly called out the university’s newspaper The Oklahoma Daily for its printing of his contract with the university as well as his tour rider. The paper defended the publishing of said documents, citing its right under the Freedom of Information Act, but White responded by telling the audience, “Just because you can type it on your computer doesn’t make it right.” In the days that followed, OU was informed that it was being blacklisted from any future Jack White performances as well as all other artists represented by William Morris Entertainment." -

Among the items listed in the rider was a recipe for guacamole. Since then, everybody is having fun with Jack White getting all twisted up over the publication of a super-secret guacamole recipe...

Oh, those temperamental, bitchy little rock stars with their intentionally difficult and quirky demands and their extreme butt-hurt temper tantrums when they don't get their way. Haw haw haw!
Except that isn't exactly why Jack White is annoyed, as illustrated in the open letter he posted on his web site the other day...

For God Sakes!
Posted by Third Man on 15 February 2015
dear journalists and other people looking for drama or a diva,
even in the age of the short attention span internet article, it’s still hard to believe you are STILL writing about this:
wow. classy.
seems like there’s a new rule number one for up and coming journalists: don't let the facts get in the way of click bait. at the risk of incurring even more of this hoo haa (and i’ve definitely turned my cheek more than once lately) and even though our management sent out a letter to clarify this, and since this seems to be all anyone can ask me about lately, here’s the real deal, and hopefully it’ll explain this nonsensical scenario and we can move on with our lives. (or what have you).
first off, this is none of your business, but i have no specific demands in my dressing room. i know i could ask for lots of things but i actually don't ask for ANYTHING. i take with me what i need, and that ain't much. anything on the rider is for the band and the crew. this "guacamole recipe" is my hilarious tour managers inside joke with the local promoters, it’s his recipe, not mine. it’s just something to break up the boredom, seeing who can make it best. though i wouldn’t know because i’ve never had it. i can’t even make kool aid let alone cook any real food enough to have a “recipe.” sorry, i don't have that talent.
bananas: did it occur to anyone someone on the tour might have an allergy to them? no? hmmm. one day some fantasy journalist out there will call someone in the biz and actually have a rider explained to them, maybe none of them have ever been on tour. oh well, let’s move on, first amendment issues: i fully believe in the freedom of the press (though the supposed search for truth from the press requires microscopes and a some morton salt), and i also defend anyone’s right to free speech (just look at my lack of respect for grammar in this letter and tell me i’m not for communicating freely) and i defend the right to free information in regards to public funds, but never in my 20 years of playing shows has my contract and tour rider been published in the paper that i recall.
do you know why we don't do that or want that? a hundred articles about bananas, free speech, and guacamole is why; it’s because people don't understand what a rider is or what the terms of a contract are. they’re out of their element, and you can’t blame them for it. and people who write about that know this. people WANT a rider to be a list of demands that a diva insists occur lest he or she refuse to play a note of music.
but in reality, it’s just some food and drinks backstage for the hundred workers and guests who have to live in a concrete bunker for 15 hours. some people bring their own living rooms on tour, some people ask for a huge spread. who cares? what you’re looking for is someone throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get their brown m and m’s, sorry to disappoint.
someone printed that i’m never going to oklahoma again? not true. i love oklahoma, that’s why i booked this show instead of playing chicago or atlanta for four times as much money. ask around in tulsa. i’ve been there at least three times on these last two albums. i love it there. our booking agent warned the college that other artists might not book shows there? of course they did, it’s bad business what that school paper did and really rude. of course they are going to tell them to wise up.
am i pissed at the students at oklahoma university? absolutely not. am i disappointed in young journalists at their school paper? absolutely. but i forgive them, they’re young and have learned their lesson about truth and ethics hopefully. all they have to do is google this to know that it’s not worth it. look for real problems instead next time. look for the truth, not fake drama. i got pissed during my show and berated the crowd? no. sorry, didn’t happen. i made jokes about the paper publishing that info, so which of us is thin skinned? they have freedom of speech but i don't? at my show? ok. i guess the rules change for different people. the crowd were amazing and we played for 2 and a half hours that night. people were told to delete photos on their camera? i dont know much about that but it must be a miscommunication about what was public property at the college and the contract we had with the university to let us do our work in peace; but i’ll give you an example, if someone working at a theater we played at started taking pictures of all of our workers and our gear they’d probably get fired by their theater or promoter. sorry to the student paper budding press papparazzi on that one, but is this a tmz assignment or can you give us some peace while we try to put on a show for the students? give us a break man.
i know it’s a fun thing for people to try to turn me into a jerk and a diva, but in this case it’s pretty ridiculous and has almost nothing to do with me. my relationship with the fans at that show and how we got to a new place together through music remains intact and i’d love to do it again with them.
i think that’s everything, can i go back to making music now? no? ok. crochet it is.
jack white -
Which was actually a follow-up to notification from his management team put out a week prior that should have clarified things...

To the students and staff of the University of Oklahoma:
Jack White would love to thank all the concert attendees at his performance at the University of Oklahoma. The crowd was incredible and Mr. White played an extensive two and a half hour show for them. The students who helped organize the event were wonderful. Playing in, and for, the people of Oklahoma is one of Jack White’s favorite tour stops. At no time did Jack White or White’s management say that we would never play there again, that is untrue.
The incidents with the OU Daily student newspaper reporting the financial terms of the show, the private tour rider information, along with unsolicited photographers from their staff were unfortunate, unprofessional, and very unwelcoming. The show was one of many on this tour directed at playing for university students in their own environment. And the band were all completely thrilled with the performance and the crowd.
Incidentally, the most important function of a rider is that it lays out optimal technical specifications to ensure the audience has the best experience possible. For that, Jack hires a team of very qualified touring professionals who write the rider and attempt to execute a professional and pleasant experience for all involved. Part of that is making sure that the tour personnel of about 30 people plus the local venue staff are fed. Contrary to what some believe, Jack doesn’t write the rider nor make demands about his favorite snacks that must be in his dressing room. We’re not even sure he likes guacamole but we do know that the folks who work hard to put on the show do enjoy it.
(By the way, now that’s it out there, we recommend you try Lalo’s guacamole recipe. It’s delicious.)
We hope those present for Mr. White’s performance are able to maintain their good memories from the experience and he looks forward to seeing them again soon.
Monotone Inc.
(Jack White’s management)

Of course his basic point is valid: The institution of journalism is in pretty sad shape, as illustrated by the fact that this isn't news and barely qualifies as interesting. 'Jack White is such a weirdo! He likes guacamole and refuses to perform in venues who don't prepare it by following a certain specific recipe! Except not really, but that's our story and we're stickin' to it'. "Well, no goddamn wonder concert tickets cost $400" and other illogical and irrelevant conclusions drawn by people who really don't understand the concept of cause-and-effect. 
Look, everybody knows that concert tour riders have eccentric clauses and idiosyncratic "demands". The roots of which come from the famous "no brown M&Ms" clause in Van Halen's rider.

Not that Van Halen cared about M&Ms as much as they cared that people actually took the time to read the contract thoroughly...

"Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We'd pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors — whether it was the girders couldn't support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren't big enough to move the gear through.
The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say "Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes ..." This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: "There will be no brown M&M's in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation."
So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl ... well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you're going to arrive at a technical error. They didn't read the contract. Guaranteed you'd run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening." - David Lee Roth, "Crazy From The Heat"

So yeah, tour riders can be lots of fun to read. TheSmokingGun has an entire section dedicated to them (don't miss the one for Iggy Pop; all 18 pages of it are intentionally hilarious). And in the meantime, let's try to encourage our local mainstream news outlets to use their resources more effectively.

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