30 January 2006
The music industry has spawned many extraordinary byproducts - political movements, global awareness of social issues, advances in technology, etc. One of the least known however (and rightly so) must be the range of industry magazines that document the technical side of touring and entertainment. There are exceptions but generally these rank as possibly the dullest publications in the history of the written word. One of these 'Total Production' was hosting its annual awards ceremony this evening at the fabulous Novotel West in Hammersmith. Its a long time since Id been to one of these events but the publisher had invited me to come and Id agreed. Come the day I wasnt sure if this was a good call, but colour me surprised having sat on the tube wondering what the hell I was doing showing up to some wretched evening with the usual shower of losers, I walk into said Novotel and the first two people I see are Michael Tait (builder of U2s stages since 1983) and Roy Bennett (international show design deity), both of whom had flown in from the U.S. Clearly the fleet was in and there were rakes of people there whom I know and love dearly. Smasher, the Vertigo tours video director, had Eurostarred in from Belgium, but the surprise of the night was running into Pete, a sound engineer with whom I did two Stiff Little Fingers tours around 1981. We became quite pally on the tour (when youre doing 35 club dates in France in 36 days its sink-or-swim) and I havent seen him since, though remarkably, with the exception perhaps of marginally fewer teeth, he was entirely unchanged. It all turned out to be shockingly A-list, which frankly is a little depressing as I would hate people to start taking these events seriously, but I could see that this had potential to be a very enjoyable night. It was a sit down dinner for over 500 roadies and I found myself seated next to Harvey Goldsmith and Bob Geldof, neither of whom Id properly met before but they were both very engaging. Geldof is every bit as entertaining dinner party company as youd imagine and I particularly enjoyed hearing his take on some of the political jaunts, as I only ever hear Bonos side of the stories. Bobs a little more...direct, perhaps.
The giving of awards began at midnight or so by which time all present were howling drunk. Geldof and Goldsmith received an award for Live 8 being the event of the year and responded with the required speeches. Bobs speech was both hilarious and uplifting as he slagged off the 'Novotel fucking West', ('was there a problem with the Dorchester?') but went on to thank everyone in the room whom he maintained, however indirectly, was part of the success of Live 8. No other industry, he reminded us, can do this, let alone pull off something of this scale and significance in six weeks. The movie industry couldnt, the banking community couldnt and the political fraternity wouldnt know where to start. Theres something about the live music industry which inspires those within it to just get on and do whatever needs doing. And so say all of us.
I was named Lighting Designer of the Year which was gratifying though I have reservations about the whole concept. The last thing we want in this industry is people being pitched against each other. As Bono always says, its only when they numbered the charts from 1 to 10 that music turned into a competition. Better surely to celebrate all of the good stuff and leave it at that.
Inevitably found myself pissed and freezing on a deserted Hammersmith Broadway at 4am clutching a large perspex award with not even the smell of a taxi for miles. Eventually found a night bus to take me back to the West End in the company of kebab wielding inebriates, an experience which I actually quite enjoyed in a perverse kind of a way. Very possibly the managing to not get mugged aspect helped me see it as an interesting societal experiment for a Monday night rather than merely running the gauntlet. I bet Gwyneth Paltrow always gets the night bus home from the Oscars for the same reason.