Tales from Backstage
I have a lot of jobs. In addition to interning at Charlotte magazine, I work for Winthrop University’s program board doing PR and event marketing. Basically, we pick and choose the entertainment that comes to our school: bands, comedians, singer/songwriters, illusionists. You name it and we’ve probably booked it—twice. It’s about seventy acts a year, and last night we hosted a show with the very talented singer/songwriter Ari Hest.
Winthrop’s program board has a great reputation for taking care of our performers. We negotiate the contracts, work with their agents, pick them up from the airport, put them up in a hotel, and even feed them. So when Ari flew in from New York to Charlotte yesterday afternoon, I volunteered to get him from the airport and drive him to Rock Hill.
Now, I’m a college student with a typical college student car. It’s old, it breaks a lot, it doesn’t get the greatest gas mileage anymore, and it’s small. Picture a six-foot-five musician and all his equipment stuffed into an ’89 Sentra covered in Winthrop basketball stickers, scootin’ down I-77 South at rush hour. And the poor guy only had me for company.
I broke the ice by telling him I had YouTubed him the night before, then politely explained that sometimes the rear doors on my car don’t work. We talked about the weather and he said it looked like it was going to snow in New York when he left. I told him about my nonsensical dislike for older Floridian drivers (especially the slow ones) and he said that it would make more sense if older people drove faster, since their time was almost up. He told me about his touring schedule and how much he’d like to have a dog, but couldn’t because he had no one to watch it and it might end up eating his furniture. We talked about my car being Japanese and how much Rock Hill has changed since the last time he played at Winthrop. At that point, we arrived at the hotel, extracted his guitar from my Sentra’s fairly inaccessible backseat, and I told him I’d be back in a few hours to take him to campus for his sound check and the show.
Before each show, we introduce the artist and I always like to have them write their own intros. They usually have the most up-to-date info and a lot of times they’ll put in random pieces of trivia to lighten things up. Ari’s intro looked something like this:
-From New York City
-Played at Winthrop a few times before
-Gets stopped by airport security every time he flies because he looks vaguely Middle-Eastern and might be a terrorist, but there’s absolutely no association whatsoever.
The show turned out great. He played some stuff from a new project he just started called 52, one new song a week for a year (www.myspace.com/arihest ). Subscribe for $20 and get a new song every Monday. I’m thinking of signing up. I like new music, but I hate Mondays. So putting the two together will either make Mondays better or new music worse. We’ll see what happens.
Ari flew back to New York this morning and I was fortunate enough to be the one to drive him out to the airport. Since it was 6 a.m., I brought the coffee. As he grabbed his luggage out of my car, he tossed $2 for the coffee on the front seat. Apparently, in New York, it’s standard to pay people for not being rude. I’m a poor college student, but I’m not that poor. So, with that good-natured gesture, I sent him off to catch his plane.
It’s an experience meeting someone new, spending twelve hours with them, then sending them back to wherever they came from, most likely never to see them again. I end up talking about the weather and pro sports, searching for some kind of common ground. But between the awkward hellos and the awkward goodbyes, there are some fun times.
Erika Weed is a senior at Winthrop University and an editorial intern at Charlotte magazine.