Local Promoters Share Their Craziest Backstage Stories

Erykah Badu's crew turned The Bomb Factory's green room into a re-creation of her childhood bedroom, so she could host her famous friends.
Erykah Badu's crew turned The Bomb Factory's green room into a re-creation of her childhood bedroom, so she could host her famous friends. Gavin Mulloy
When artists check into a venue and finish their soundcheck, personnel will walk into the green room to either chill or get some work done. At this point, they will typically see a modest assortment of beverages, snacks and towels.

This, of course, doesn’t happen by accident. Their talent agent and/or tour manager arranges these catering accommodations in advance by sending the promoter a list of requested items for when they arrive. People in the music industry call these lists “hospitality riders,” and they are especially necessary for artists who bring a crew with them.

Misconceptions about Van Halen’s infamous brown M&M’s clause aside, these riders have notoriously had their excesses and have become the center of intrigue and backstage horror stories. We reached out to a handful of Dallas’ finest promoters and asked for unusual accounts.

Some requests are relatively modest.

Chris “Guch” Sakaguchi, Margin Walker Presents: “(The unnamed artist) was pretty chill on our show. Thirty minutes late, maybe. Just a $1,000 rider shop that filled a van … nothing special, just cases of (non-alcoholic) drinks for a 35-person touring party.”

Some are not.

Scott Beggs, Three Links/ex-Gypsy Ballroom, Trees, Live Nation: “Billy Goat had a quart of human blood on their rider. Late one evening, a promoter from Longview called the booking agency where I was working, frantically trying to figure out where he was going to get a quart of blood at this time of day. I told him I didn’t know but he should pay attention to the rider before day-of-show to prevent this kind of panic.”

Matt Battaglia, Ruins/Armoury D.E./Andy’s Bar, ex-Oaktopia: “One time Rae Sremmurd asked for us to take them on an authentic cowboy horseback ride.”

Savannah Sherer, Margin Walker Presents: “There was one rider that had $50 buyouts for each band and crew member plus a $500 buyout for the solo artist. It said that salmon and lobster were ‘acceptable meals.'"

Some artists request puppies.

John Iskander, Parade of Flesh: “Over the past few years, on riders for bands I tour with, we have requested a dog or puppy for the bands to play with. This has happened a few times, and it yields smiles all around.”

Mike Ziemer, Third String Productions/So What Festival: “We once had a pop punk band ask for ‘puppies to play with.’ … We thought it would be funny to make sure that we actually did this one, and we were the first promoter to ever do it. It was awesome; we’ve never seen a band so happy.”

And some artists find other ways to alleviate their boredom.

Alan Brown, Spune/Main at South Side: “If I remember everything correctly, Cat Power was basically pretending to hit on the transport runner we had assigned to her, but somehow we later deduced that it wasn’t genuine, but she was instead basically just amusing herself … Needless to say, it was a roller coaster of emotion for the runner.”

Beggs: “D12 asked for a photo of Serena Williams’ butt. They were stoked we got it for them because no other promoter had done that for them.”

Some artists make meager requests for souvenirs to give their kids upon arriving home.

Ryan Henry, AT&T Performing Arts Center, ex-Margin Walker Presents: “(The artist) asked for a toy with a specific age range for his kid back home.”

And some artists try to remember what it’s like to be a kid again.

Gavin Mulloy, Legacy Hall, ex-Trees/Bomb Factory/Granada Theater: “(Erykah Badu’s management) came to me and said, ‘Hey man, we want to decorate (The Bomb Factory) green room for Erykah’s birthday.’ Halfway through the conversation, I was like, ‘Man, I think we have a show the next day, so all of the decor has to be out today.’ … I didn’t even recognize the room that I walked into. … They re-created (Badu’s) childhood bedroom.”

(Sharing the pop-up bedroom with Ms. Badu? Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jaden Smith, Mos Def, Anderson .Paak and Dave Chapelle.)

Mulloy: “It was so cool, I didn’t even try to go in there when the show was going on. I was like, ‘Dude, I’m not cool enough to be in that room.’”

But the most bizarre account of them all?

Jeff Liles, Kessler Theater, ex-The Roxy/Trees/Theatre Gallery: “Back in the late ‘80s I was booking (at) the Longhorn Ballroom in South Dallas. The owner was a guy named Ira Zack, who at the time was mostly known for owning the Belle Starr, which was a very popular Urban Cowboy yuppie type of bar. He purchased the Longhorn almost on a lark, and after hiring me full time, never attended one of my shows during the first few months that I was on board. To his credit, he trusted me to make it work. One of the shows I put together featured Motorhead, Wendy O. Williams, Cro-Mags and Scratch Acid. Unfortunately, that was the first show that Ira decided to actually attend.

“That afternoon, Lemmy and Wendy O. Williams got into a heated argument over who was getting the one large dressing room. (The small dressing rooms were super tiny.) Names were called, large objects were thrown, furniture rearranged and it finally took a large bouncer from the Belle Starr (handgun in his belt) to explain to Wendy that Motorhead was the headliner and they would get the larger dressing room. Ira wandered into the main room during Motorhead’s soundcheck, which was not a good thing.

“They were loud. It sounded like a 747 was inside the building. I tried to hide in the sound booth, but Ira found me, of course, and I could tell that he wasn’t pleased. He had that ‘This is the kind of shit you’re putting in my building?’ look on his face. Turned out to be a great show, but that was neither here nor there. Ira Zack didn’t like it at all. Later that night he went home and took his own life.”
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Garrett Gravley was born and grew up in Dallas. He mostly writes about music, but veers into arts and culture, local news and politics. He is a graduate of the University of North Texas and has written for the Dallas Observer since October 2018.