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Behind the Curtain: The Strange Rituals of Backstage Pre-Show Prep


Aramis Johnson

April 16, 2024

Image by Grendel Grin
Image by Grendel Grin

Sex, Drugs, And Rock & Roll. A tale as old as time. Everyone's heard the phrase. Do you know what it means to live it though? Most people don’t get to grow up and be rock stars. That's probably for the best. This doesn’t mean the average music fan isn’t curious about the day-to-day inner workings of being a rockstar. Until the introduction of social media, most people never got a glimpse into what was happening behind the scenes. Well lucky for you I’m here to give you what you’ve been waiting for. A look at what is happening behind the curtain. Come with me as I take you through a tell-all on some of the wildest backstage attics in my time in the rock & roll business. 

Since the beginning of Rock & Roll, there has been the "Rock Show”. Starting in sweating high school gyms in the late 50s and eventually making their way to baseball stadiums with the help of the Beatles by the mid-60s. The “Rock Show” has always been accompanied by the dressing room or backstage, or as it's known today the green room. It might surprise people to know that the green room got its name from London's Blackfriars Theatre whose dressing room happened to be painted green.

For most, the Green Room serves as a space to relax and enjoy snacks and maybe a few drinks. However that's not always the case. Sometimes the green room can be transformed into a spa, a makeshift arcade, or even a boxing ring if you're the Gallagher brothers circa 09. Just like their homes, people use the green room for a variety of things but mostly to get ready for the “Rock Show”. 

Pre-show rituals. Some do vocal warm-ups. Some people have more OCD-like rituals that they have to complete before they can walk out to the sea of their screaming fans.

From the beginning, people have heard rumors of these backstage antics, some of which are on record. The Rolling Stones staying true to their British roots requires a shepherd's pie for Keith Richards. Going even as far as to refuse to play until a brand new one arrived backstage after a crew member cut into one before the band got their hands on it. This is one of the cutest and mildest rituals I’ve heard of. 

Another one of my favorite backstage rituals comes from another famous 60’s British band. The Beatles’s own Paul McCartney has a pre-show ritual that feels like it's more set for the likes of Olivia Rodrigo than a 60’s star. Paul says that before every show he has to feel a kettle with molly water and steam on his face before he can address the crowd. At the same time, part of this seems a bit odd. I read somewhere that Steam is great for the voice and I’m sure Molly makes the shows a bit more exciting. 

As Rock music progressed over the years the need for cheap thrills increased as up-and-coming rockers waited their turn in the queue backstage. It is rumored that 80’s pop duo Hall & Oats had some of the most bizarre rituals. John Oats of the group most known for his beautiful and luscious mustache started to up the anti backstage. while on tour for their 1982 hit record, H2O. John began spreading peanut butter on his mustache and having dogs lick it off. Even went as far as refusing to play a show in Cleveland Ohio after he was asked to stop this very sick and twisted pre-show ritual. 

Today’s rock stars and even rappers aren’t innocent of strange and laude backstage rituals. Famed indie rocker Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest made the news last year when it was revealed that he was a member of the furry community. Before the news broke there had been rumblings behind the scenes for years. A friend of mine once told me that he required everyone on tour to be in full furry suit literally until the moment they walked on stage. It honestly was only a matter of time until the world knew. 

I know we like to think of Rock Stars as crazy explosive people who happen to soundtrack our lives. It's easy to believe the stories of the tv’s flying out of windows and trash hotels. We all love the story of how a certain rocker can only eat the green M&M’s. I wish that's where the stories end but as you know they get so much wilder than you could even imagine. If you were ever wondering what it's like backstage at the "Rock Show” now you know!