I am crediting Tim Goodman of the Hollywood Reporter for the following comments:

Roadies is a massively disappointing series in large part to the expectations that Crowe brings to it and much of its failings are directly linked to him since he’s the creator, writer and director of much of the coming season (of the three episodes reviewed, he directed all of them and wrote the pilot and episode three).

The pilot, which Showtime made available to everyone earlier, is a messy clunker that will test the patience of Crowe’s core fans; the second, written by Winnie Holzman, one of the executive producers along with J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk and Len Goldstein, is a more assured and coherent effort that still falls short of digging out of the hole created by the pilot; and the third episode is sadly terrible, the kind of hour filled with bad decisions and triteness that offers little hope for a creative recovery going forward.

The problems start early. Since the show is about roadies — the crew that sets up and takes down the infrastructure for a live tour every night, traveling by buses from city to city — Crowe focuses on them instead of the band that they are so devoted to, the fictional Staton-House Band, which is annoyingly pronounced “stay-ton” and whose presence viewers almost never feel. Crowe told critics that the fictional band is supposed to be about the same level of popularity as the Black Keys, and that its fans are super-devoted, loyal and fanatical about details like song meaning, deviations of the setlist, etc. — all the wonky love-of-music stuff that really exists and which Crowe so identifies with as a music fan.

Yes, the emphasis is on the roadies, but if you can’t figure out why in the hell they would live this grueling and mostly unrewarding life in support of a band they idolize, it’s hard to get emotionally invested. All of that might be less of a problem if the actual roadies in question really popped off the screen. Despite a stellar cast that makes you want to like them, their characters are formless and slow to develop.

Cameron Crowe’s new Showtime series Roadies premiered June 26 revealing what it’s like to be on tour with a rock band. Or does it? The show follows the crew members of a major musical artist, showcasing the behind-the-scenes action and drama as they move from one arena to the next. But like any TV show, Roadies takes some creative liberties in its representation of roadies and the touring music industry.

I am crediting Emily Zemler of esquire magazine for the following:

With that in mind we asked four actual, real-life roadies to fact-check the first episode of the show.

William Pepple
Job: Tour Manager/Front of House Engineer
Years Touring: 14
Toured With: Skrillex, American Authors, Matt and Kim, Murder By Death, Deer Tick, Lucero, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox
What are the most egregious errors in the first episode?
I think within the roadie circles there is a unanimous agreement that nobody should ever skateboard through load in or wear headphones while climbing in the truss. Safety first, people.
How do you feel about the show’s slogan “The Unsung Heroes of Rock”?
Well, if anyone can say “Unsung Heroes of Rock” without laughing out loud, I applaud them. It’s like referring to the characters from The Office as “The Unyielding Knights of Papyrus.”
Is life on the road a good source for storytelling on TV?
Everyday on tour is a small battle against time and lack of resources. Mark Twain said it best: “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.” The foundation of a great story about camaraderie and overcoming obstacles reveals itself every day on tour, and all TV needs to do is add sex, violence, and (apparently) British villains.
What is the main misconception about touring?
Touring is hard on the body and the soul. You eat questionable food and sleep weird, erratic hours. Constantly traveling across time zones by air, land, and sea. Caught between the task at hand and maintaining a stable existence back home. Most don’t last long, and the ones that hold on are slowly worn down over time. However, I’m sure it is better than working an office job.


Ben Young
Job: Guitar Tech
Years Touring: 13
Toured With: Linkin Park, Deftones, Stone Temple Pilots, Zayn
What aspect does Roadies get most right?
The daily activities and schedule seemed pretty accurate.
What aspect do they get most wrong?
Most of us in this biz don’t do it for the passion of the music, but for the passion of the gig. Roadies usually don’t work for their favorite band—that’s not to say they can’t appreciate the music of who they work for—but it’s hard to listen to a band’s records when you hear those same songs every night.
What are the most egregious errors in the first episode?
The morning hand holding circle before load in was a big nope for me. That would have been about 7 a.m., and as a guitar tech on an arena tour, I usually don’t have to be working until 7 p.m. So there’s no way you’re getting me to wake up for team building exercises. Also, management coming in and cutting everyone’s pay in the middle of tour is a good way to completely derail the production. On an arena tour that (seems to be) sold out, budgets would have been worked out long before tour started and it wouldn’t be an issue. And the tour manager and production manager would already be on retainer. Also, the opening band pulling attitude about not getting their sound check is a good way to get kicked off tour. The production is all about the headliner. They’re the ones selling all the tickets. If the day is behind schedule and it’s cutting into support sound check, it’s usually because there is some greater issue that needs to be resolved first.
How do you feel about the show’s slogan “The Unsung Heroes of Rock”?
Is a person that sings well and jumps around a hero? We’re the man behind the man. Everybody does their part to make the show happen. We can have big egos too, so don’t encourage us by calling us heroes. But I like the sentiment.
What do you hope the show will represent in the rest of the season?
I would like to see someone on the crew have some border issues getting into Canada. That would feel real. Or a bunch of dirty roadies sitting in a hotel lobby at 9 a.m. on a day off because their hotel rooms aren’t ready. That’s scary.
Is life on the road a good source for storytelling on TV?
Road life is a great source of storytelling. Almost every roadie could write a compelling book—and most of the stories in that book would probably show more debauchery among the crew than the band.
What is the main misconception about touring?
I think people think that backstage is fun. It’s generally pretty boring. Sometimes on certain tours there is drinking and partying going on every night, but on most tours after the show we just shower and go to bed so we can get a good night’s sleep while the bus is rolling and do it all again the next day.


Michelle Sarrat
Job: Lighting Designer/Director
Years Touring: 11
Toured With: Elton John, Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon, Depeche Mode, Snow Patrol, The Killers, OK Go, Silversun Pickups, Death Cab for Cutie, Tegan and Sara, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Postal Service, Bassnectar, St Vincent, Grimes
How well does Roadies represent your job?
I didn’t actually see anyone doing my job in the show at all. It seemed they had a one lady lighting crew (Kelly Ann) for all that gear—and when she left, somehow the show still went on.
What aspect does Roadies get most right?
The environment and the road cases, lights, and staging were all very familiar to me, but I’ve never been on any kind of tour where those characters were represented, or where most of the storyline would be plausible.
What aspect do they get most wrong?
First of all, there is no way that security would be that lax, especially if they were on the lookout for a stalker. Even just at a normal show, there would be security people posted at practically every doorway asking to see a pass. And no way would the star’s dressing room be unattended, especially if there were valuables inside. The whole environment was way too laid back and uncrowded for a production of that size. Load ins are typically loud, clanking, very fast-moving affairs with a lot of shouting over chain motor noises and radio static. The management guy would never call a group meeting of the whole crew, especially before the show, to announce to everyone that they would be getting pay cuts and would have to suck it up or get out. Absolutely ridiculous. He would tell the tour manager and then the information would be dispersed quietly through email or face-to-face in smaller, hushed and secretive groups. Or the next day half the crew would just be gone, having been given their plane tickets home and then whisked away during the night. And the diatribe about all the crew folks being there because they love the music, the allegiance to that one band, and the spite towards anyone who leaves to work for another? Not realistic. It’s a job, we’re professionals, we all work for many artists, and everybody is replaceable.
What are the most egregious errors in the first episode?
I certainly can’t speak for every kind of tour—I have never been on a Christian rock type of gig, so I don’t know what they do—but I personally have never ever seen a group of roadies hold hands in a circle before a load in and tell nice stories to one another to start the day. It usually begins with grumpiness and a lot of coffee. Also, in my experience, the majority of touring folks these days really don’t even like the moniker “roadie.” These days most people prefer to be called “techs.”
How do you feel about the show’s slogan “The Unsung Heroes of Rock”? Well, I’m glad somebody finally appreciates us. Thanks, Showtime!
What do you hope the show will represent in the rest of the season?
The biggest issue I see touring people struggle with is being away from their homes and loved ones for extended periods of time. It’s especially hard on people who have kids. People get depressed. It would be cool to see that addressed.
What is the main misconception about touring?
I think the main misconception that people have about what being on tour is like is based on the old cliché: “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.” I think that may have been true in the ’70s and ’80s, but nowadays the technology involved in pulling off these shows is so advanced and complicated that it really takes a battalion of nerds to pull it off. People have fun, but first and foremost we are there to do a job. If your playtime impacts your ability to perform your job too often, you are not going to last long.


Christopher Lee
Job: Front of House/Monitor Engineer
Years Touring: 16
Toured With: Pharrell Williams, N.E.R.D., Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, BANKS, Zayn, Brandy, Tamar Braxton, Mary Mary, Musiq Soulchild
What aspect do they get most wrong?
The constant interaction between the production manager and the tour manager, as well as the tour manager walking around the venue throughout the day. Most production managers or tour managers are either in their office throughout the day or on the bus handling business.
What are the most egregious errors in the first episode?
Kelly Ann’s rigging harness and answering the phone while she was up there. Also, the size of the crew for a tour playing arenas. The opening act traveling on an MCI bus. The incorrect windscreen that was on the prized microphone in the dressing room. The ability for the stalker to sneak into the venue so easily and go unnoticed for that amount of time.
How do you feel about the show’s slogan “The Unsung Heroes of Rock”?
I like the slogan. Very few times are crews acknowledged.
Is life on the road a good source for storytelling on TV?
I believe it’s definitely a good source for storytelling if it remains honest and transparent. There are plenty of very smart and intelligent people who work on the road, but are portrayed as less than that in most forms.
What is the main misconception about touring?
That it’s glamorous! All the traveling and long hours take a toll over the years physically and emotionally.

On a side note, I have been touring since the late sixties, I think I have seen it all. Someday I will write a book with some of my comrades in the business, it will at least give another peak into this rather strange career choice and how it has changed over the years.

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