The Roadie

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While the photo isn’t from this time around, it might has well have been.  Baltimore-based Victoria Vox (www.victoriavox.com) with Berkeley-based Peter Hurney (ukulele craftsman extraordinaire – check him out at www.pohakuukulele.com).  As you probably know, Victoria’s a wonderfully talented songwriter, vocalist, ukulele player and performer.  I first met her in 2009 at what was then the “Tahoe Area Uke Festival,” in Minden NV (it’s now the super Reno Uke Fest, held each spring at the Nugget Casino & Hotel in Sparks NV), and have previously had the privilege of being a driver/host/roadie/tour manager for her when she’s been out West.

This time around I met Victoria at San Francisco International Airport, as she flew in from Los Angeles for shows in San Francisco, Turlock and Roseville, CA.  This is the life of the touring ukulele performer:  One large suitcase full of “merch,” i.e., CDs, decals, and Victoria’s signature Voxer-briefs and panties.  (Check ’em out on her website.)  Another with clothes and everything else she needs for living on the road.  Then three ukuleles (two in a custom double-case), a pedalboard bag, plus microphone, preamp-DI, cables and other gear, and a personal bag large enough for a laptop, books, and lots of other stuff.  We’re not talking carry-on style here.  (It could be worse.  E.g., she could have been a drummer or Hammond B-3 organ player.)

Being a roadie is a fun change from my usual role as the performer or workshop teacher.  It was great to spend a few days focus entirely on someone else instead of worrying about my own gig.  Doing things as needed, from making sure that her hosts were set up for her (Peter hosted her for two nights in his Bay Area home), checking with venues on their preferred load-in and sound-check times, to generally making sure that travel and set-up and take-down at each venue went as smoothly as possible.  (And, of course, keeping a close eye on the gear while Victoria was busy meeting and greeting.  She has a “gear” link on her website with photos of her great uke collection.)

The best part was the learning experience.  It’s not often that an amateur like me has the opportunity to so closely watch, listen and learn, and along the way I picked up a ton of information about performing.  Watching Victoria adjust to each venue, and the personality of each audience, was a tremendous experience.

If you ever get an opportunity to help a visiting musician, jump at the chance.  In the meantime, wherever you go to hear music, make sure those touring musicians know how much they’re appreciated.  There are a lot of easier ways to make a living that don’t involve sleeping in a different home each night, lugging gear on trains, planes and automobiles, and constantly working to set up the next gig.  So tip generously, and buy lots of merch.

And in the meantime, Victoria’s getting ready to do a house concert this coming Monday, May 26th … from her own house!  You can attend on your computer.  Go to https://www.concertwindow.com/shows/5886-victoria-vox

‘Til next time …