Moving big music
The trucks leave the show once they’re loaded and usually roll in twos or threes. And when trucks leave one concert for another, drivers live by Freuck’s advice: “The quickest way to get there is to keep the left door shut.”
The first trucks arrive at the new show venue somewhere about 8 a.m. within half an hour of each other.
“If we start at 8:30, we can usually be fully unloaded by 11:30,” says Freuck. “We have a basic formula, which we might have to vary a little depending on how big the arena is, what sort of access we have and how many docks there are. Some you like, some you hate to go to.”
Law says drivers go back to the same venues so often they get to know their quirks and find the best ways to get in and out of them in the best time.
Loading and unloading, drivers help each other. Some may help direct trucks back into the docks once they are finished; others will be swinging open the rear doors even as a truck backs toward its dock. Each driver is responsible for supervising the loading and unloading of his trailer.
Once the trucks are unloaded, they have to find a place to park. For Freuck this is a time where the drivers’ creativity is important.
“They have to park so they can come into the docks after the show is in order. But you can’t park in the car park – that’s for the show audience,” he says. “So they have to find somewhere. It may be against a fence or a wall, sharing a space with the police car, driveways, sharing space with fire marshals or even police cars.
In rare cases, it means sending the trucks miles away. Madison Square Garden in New York City, says Freuck, may find a space for one or two trucks, but they have no space and a lot of security concerns, so I have to send the trucks off to find their own places.”
Once they park, the drivers will eat lunch, then sleep. “For me that’s from 2 p.m. to about 10 p.m.,” says Freuck. “The cell phone is off, the truck is locked and I’m not to be disturbed.”
On Law’s Keith tour drivers would also eat and sleep, but they had the choice of a motel room instead of the sleeper. “We have sleepers, but they’re not usually used,” says Law. “I have a full sleeper with everything, but sometimes a motel room suits me better. It’s nice to have the choice.”
Drivers do face cross country hauls – Law made two cross-country trips in two weeks during the Keith tour – but the tour route is designed to give drivers plenty of time to handle long trips solo (while the star gets some needed rest and vocal chord rehabilitation). On the occasions when trucks must haul long distances in a hurry and a solo driver would not have enough log book time, teams are created by flying in drivers, who are later flown home when the show resumes it short hop routes.
That happens rarely because of the way the tour is arranged in advance and the fact that singers usually need two or three days to recuperate after a four-shows-in-four nights set. “Only once last year, I think,” says Law.
Tour drivers aren’t paid by the mile. It wouldn’t work, says Law. “There are a lot of urgent short hauls and then a break. You get paid for doing the job right.”