Recipe for Disaster: The Twelve Days of Tour Riders
Meredith Graves onstage at Irving Plaza, December 14, 2015
Chona Kasinger for the Village Voice
[Meredith Graves — Perfect Pussy frontwoman, Honor Press founder, Voice festival correspondent, etc. — loves making and eating food just as much as she loves making and listening to music. In Recipe for Disaster, her weekly column, Meredith will listen to a new album and pair it with a recipe that goes nicely with the music. Meredith is currently on tour and listening to whatever's blasting in the Perfect Pussy Mobile, so here's her take on the Twelve Days of Christmas. With snacks.]
On the fifteenth day of Winter Tour —
(Holy shit, I’ve done fifteen shows in a row and I’m honestly starting to crack a little bit. I’d rather go hungry than see another potato chip. I want half an hour alone with a head of steamed broccoli and no consequences. I’ve vowed to eat a salad tonight come hell or high water, but I know I’ll go soft and cave at the first sight of bread and cheese.
Your savior as a touring musician, when things get to this point, is your rider — that is, the list of requests for things you’d like in your dressing room that you send the venue in advance of your arrival. A dark cloud hovers around the very concept of a rider, thanks to mythic tales of requests for only green M&Ms or Jack White’s guacamole recipe. Sometimes you feel weirdly entitled asking for shit, like you deserve special snacks and free alcohol just because you show up and play thirty minutes of illegible noise for which you also get paid.
But lots of venues have budgets for this kind of thing, and at the end of the night, the remains probably get thrown out. Plus, some nights, you’ll get buyouts — money to cover dinner or snacks — instead of the rider, and with that kind of freedom, you’ll probably end up eating greasy dollar empanadas and overtipping the pretty bartender, and that’s cool too. But for these reasons, I feel it’s imperative to handle your rider carefully and request stuff that augments the overall health and well-being of your band.
We’re still finessing the kinks in ours, but if we had our way, here’s the twelve things we’d ask Santa for every single night.)
— the venue gave to me:
12 Local Beers
At the behest of our keyboard player, Shaun, who is mature enough to respect good coffee and good beer without being an irritating douche about it. You’re going to get beer in your greenroom anyway, so you might as well specify, unless you like PBR night after night. This is fun even if the beer isn’t fancy, especially when you’re overseas — I developed a crush on VB in Australia, for instance. Also cool when there’s a brewery near the venue, or if the venue is a bar that makes its own beer.
11 Volume, Non-Negotiable
I had a clause written into our contract after a few bad shows early on that implicitly states we can’t be told how long or how loud to play. We can’t remember who we stole that idea from but I’m pretty sure it was Destruction Unit. Don’t tell me how to do my job. Maybe we want to sound like a choir of manatees gargling mashed potatoes from deep within the Mariana Trench.
10 Guest List Spots
You tour enough, you make friends in every city, and when those friends come to see you three or four times, they deserve to not pay to see you anymore. One spot per band member is generally insufficient and scanty. Those friends are going to spend more on beer than they would on entry anyway, which is the burden of playing 21+ shows. Don’t roll your eyes when we give you seven names. Those are loved ones and relatives. There’s no way Sweet Baby Ray’s parents aren’t coming to every show they choose to attend. Plus, without guest list spots, it’s unlikely that we can continue our favorite practice of sneaking in underage kids who write us nice messages on social media. All-ages shows forever and ever.
We can’t come up with anything for nine, except “69,” a great number. Also 420. If any annoying sound guys get higgledy-piggledy with you, tell them you’ll talk to them at 6:69 or 4:20 p.m. That’s all I’ve got. Sorry, I'm tired.
8 Beverage Options
One of our many schlocky band proverbs is “High and Hydrated.” Water, seltzer, booze, cola, tea, coffee, kombucha, coconut water. We definitely don’t need all eight — usually water and a teakettle are enough to keep us happy — but these are the eight most common drinks you’ll find in a greenroom. To receive them all in one night is truly a blessing, and not a terribly uncommon one.
7 Different Veggies
Cherry tomatoes, broccoli, celery, carrots, cauliflower, red and yellow peppers, and radishes all come standard, usually with some sort of gross but incredible sour-cream-based dip. A grocery-store-brand vegetable party tray can bring me to tears on a bad night. I will hover over it like Nosferatu and punch anyone who comes near me before I gorge myself on tomatoes, which nobody else in the band seems to like anyway. I fucking love vegetables. I love them so much.
6 Champagne Glasses
Once upon a time, we wrote "1 Bottle Cheap Champagne" on our rider as a joke, assuming we’d never get it. I think initially the goal was to get André or some comparable childish toilet swill so we could pop it off and spray each other in some sort of slow-motion beach montage, but then we got to France and a few other countries where cheap Champagne or prosecco is still really good. We almost never get this, but when we do, it’s a treat and we share with whatever other bands are around. It’s fun to toast a successful show, and even more fun to toast a crappy one. Also good for bandmates who don’t drink beer.
5 Kinds of Tea
People keep trying to give me that Zen of Screaming DVD, but until I get some ADHD meds and a few hours to myself, I don’t think I’ll be getting through it. I don’t actually know how to scream safely, which is stupid of me. My throat nearly always hurts. I drink a lot of hot water on tour, plain with lemons, or decaffeinated tea. Turns out it’s actually pretty good for you, even if you aren’t coughing up blood in the mornings. Also nice in the winter when it’s cold and crummy out. I would trade everything else on this list for an electric kettle — which is why my bandmates would trade anything on this list for me.
Pita bread, potato chips, tortilla chips, crackers, baguette, popcorn. Bread bread bread bread. All the bread. I love bread. Anything to scoop up the hummus and soak up the beer. The young boys in the band colloquially refer to all carbs as “chippies” or “snackies,” which I think is kind of endearing in a weird adult-baby kind of way.
3 Booze Options
Our bassist is Linda Belcher when it comes to booze — red wine, and the “Mommy doesn’t get drunk, she just has fun!” attitude of a true champion. I don’t drink a lot of beer either, because I would rather get my empty calories through donuts and pizza. A bottle of cheap red wine, a twelve-pack of local beer, and a couple drink tickets is more than enough for us. That way I can get a shot of well whiskey to make a hot toddy with my beloved kettle, and the boys can party a little.
2 Types of Hummus
This one’s mostly for our drummer and his ethereal fairy princess girlfriend (literally, she has lavender hair and her pockets are always full of crystals). These two, bless their hearts, can basically exist on hummus and carrots alone. Cheap vegan protein, few preservatives, and usually served with crudités for an extra serving or three of fibrous vegetables. Some venues that double as restaurants, like the Middle East in Boston and the Sinclair in Cambridge, make their own hummus. We like those places.
...and a greenroom where we can smoke weed!
OK, that last one was really stupid, but I didn’t want to write "and please give me all the broccolis!" or anything -please, like "and a selection of your finest regional donuts, please!" Plus, if I don’t sneak a weed reference into every single column, my mother won’t have anything to call and yell about.
Honorable Mentions: Hi-Chew (Perfect Pussy will clear your city out of Hi-Chew, double-dare us), seaweed snacks, sandwich-making materials (we got this on Kevin Devine’s tour last week and it was revolutionary), anything regional, especially kombucha or potato chips, or those little clementine oranges.
Back to your regularly scheduled recipes and reviews next week, when I’m back from tour and have access to a kitchen. For now, happy Christmas-music-on-the-radio, the glow and resonance of twinkle lights on night walks through Harvard Square (or wherever you are, I’m on my way to Boston), still-no-snow but we’re almost there, and no-racist-Republican-relatives (yet) pre–holiday week.
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