SO WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE SHOW?
THE UNCOMFORTABLE BACKSTAGE AFTERSHOW MEET & GREET
There comes a time in the life of everyone in the music business when one must suffer through the dreaded aftershow meet and greet with the artist. To Fred and Marge from Iowa, it probably sounds like a dream come true – meeting the artist they’ve always loved and admired where they can gush over about how wonderful the show was and how the artist is their favorite all-time performer and how much they enjoyed hearing the song that was played at their wedding, ad nauseum. But we know it’s not like that, is it?
Now that all of the fan/winner/VIP hoopla has been relegated to the before show meet and greet, the aftershow is strictly the domain of the industry (agent/label/promo person), being coerced by management and tradition to meet with the artist on the artist’s turf and try and have a painless conversation, not unlike the photo above of the late Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records with Crosby, Stills & Nash circa 1974. How uncomfortable do they look? Actually, Ahmet seems fine.
Regardless, here’s how it works: Initially, you gather near a backstage entrance, like cattle being led to slaughter, if only to listen to a diatribe from a security or road person about having your stick-on pass visible. Then, like sheep, you’re led down a dimly-lit hallway or two (should you drop breadcrumbs?) to a large room, which is conversely lit up well enough for open-heart surgery. There you will congregate with the bass player’s distant cousins from Peoria and end up in a conversation with them over warm beer and vegetable/cheese trays left over from the before show function. After some interminable amount of time, the artist’s personal assistant will gather you and the other unfortunate industry dweebs for yet another journey down a few more hallways until you are shown into the inner sanctum – the artist’s dressing room.
First, there will be some embarrassing re-introductions because no matter how many times management has told the artist who’s coming backstage, it’s all forgotten. Then you’ll try and help the artist put together who you are, when you last met them, and what you mean to his or her career, oftentimes inflating it more than it really is just to get some kind of positive reaction. Then you’ll talk about what efforts you’ve been making on the artist’s behalf recently and what the results are so far. You can only hope that the artist isn’t more well informed than you are on the subject, otherwise a cross examination could begin that will turn ugly.
But in the end, since there’s really nothing else to talk about, the artist is going to ask you what you thought of the show. Now you have to make a choice. If it were a good show, you’re safe. You can go ahead and say complimentary things and the artist will bask in your intelligent opinions. But what if it were a bad show? What would you say then? If you want to get out with your pride and your pants still intact, read on for some tips.
So what do you say about a bad show? Your initial thought would be to say something complimentary, even if you think it sucked. But then, no matter what you say, the artist will disagree.
You: “What a great show!” Artist: “No, it was horrible!”
You: “What a great audience!” Artist: “Nah, they were putrid!”
This is not a path you want to go down. You will have to re-state your original positive opinion, then the artist will re-state something to the contrary, and you’re stuck in an argumentative spiral. The only thing you can do is to spill your drink on your pants, then excuse yourself to go clean it off and not come back.
However, that awkward (and messy) situation can easily be prevented, avoiding, among other things, an unnecessary dry cleaning bill. If you were to rehearse a few well-placed lines to head off the backlash, you may have a shot of getting out of there unscathed. And if you’re REALLY good at it, you even might be able to get away with a left-handed compliment or an off-hand remark that could fly right by unnoticed. Of course, I’ve come prepared with some examples, culled from maybe 4,000 meet and greets I’ve done over the years. Don’t do the math.
First of all, you might try avoiding the subject of the artist’s performance altogether and compliment something less subjective:
“Nice lights – who’s your production designer?”
“Great kick and snare sounds – I need to tell your drummer – where is he?”
“This is the best venue for sight lines/dancing/restrooms.” Or whatever.
Or you might be better off saying something that can’t be verified:
“There was a whole crowd of fans in the back who drove in from last night’s show!”
“Everyone around me was singing along with every song.”
“You could hear your vocals all the way in the back, clear as a bell.”
“Security said it was the nicest / ugliest / weirdest / loudest / tallest / rowdiest crowd they’ve ever had in here.”
If you have the chutzpah to take a chance with an off-hand remark that sounds good but has nothing to do with the actual performance, you might try one of these. If the artist has a sense of humor, he or she might smile. If not, then don’t try it – could backfire, branding you as a smartass.
“Not a bad crowd for the size of the people.”
“Great walk-up in spite of the weather.”
“Big beer sales but the men’s rooms were noticeably empty – weird, huh?”
However, if you get trapped into responding to the “What did you think of the show?” inquiry, try one of these to deflect the question and take the edge off, all at the same time:
“What can I say?”
“Well, you’ve done it again!”
“It all came together in the encore!”
“You had them eating right out of your hand!”
“You played like you’ve never played before!” (Note: Careful with this one. It could be taken literally if the artist is paying attention, which would lead to a conversation stopper.)
Finally, there’s going to be a point at which everything has been said and you have to leave. No one’s going to necessarily throw you out, so here are some time-tested exit lines:
“Hey, look at the time! And the parking garage closes at midnight. We’d better get going.”
“I think the union wants everybody out of here or they go into golden time and we don’t want that!”
“I’ve got to make a call to Australia before they close up shop for the day down there.” (Note: the beauty of this one is that no one ever knows what time it is in Australia. Even the Australians who have moved here aren’t too sure, other than it’s sometime tomorrow.)
There you go! You get in and you get out without saying anything you could be held accountable for. If you get busted for cheekiness, tell them you heard it from me. I can take it. Keep that stick-on pass out where they can see it and good luck!