backstage requests

love this series of musicians backstage requests (or ‘riders’, ‘addendums’) for food items that the photographer, henry hargreaves,  has shot in a style of the flemish masters. Each of the requests that accompany Hargreaves’ photographs are taken directly from the contracts, and the spelling is verbatim from the riders. the artist says what attracted him to the series was “the way their requests manage to say something about the performers personality that words struggle to,” and the way they “were able identify with them through what they chose to eat and drink.”


highlights of the slideshow below include:

Frank Sinatra: “One bottle each: Absolute, Jack Daniel’s, Chivas Regal, Courvoisier, Beefeater Gin, white wine, red wine. Twenty-four chilled jumbo shrimp, Life Savers, cough drops.”
Foo Fighters: “Big-a** kielbasas that make men feel self-conscious.”
Billy Idol: “One tub ‘I can’t believe it’s not Butter!’, Pepperidge Farms Soft Baked Nantucket Chocolate Chip Cookies.”
Axl Rose: “Fresh Wonder Bread (white), Dom Perignon”
Prince: “Coffee and tea setup, including honey, lemon, sugar, cream, fresh ginger root. Physician will be used to administer a B-12 injection.”
Rihanna: “Hard-boiled eggs, turkey bacon, turkey sausage, at any time throughout the day. Please be prepared!”
Britney Spears: “Fish and chips, McDonald’s cheeseburgers without the buns, 100 prunes and figs, a framed photo of Princess Diana.”
Van Halen: “Herring in sour cream, large tube of KY jelly, M&M’s (Warning: absolutely no brown ones).”
Marilyn Manson: “Gummi bears.”
Busta Rhymes: “Twenty-four pieces of fried chicken, Rough Rider condoms, Guinness.”
Beyoncé: “Juicy baked chicken, heavily seasoned: garlic, sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Beyoncé can only have Pepsi products.”

in an interview with vice, hargreaves notes, “I initially thought I would try and shoot all of the items listed on the catering riders but quickly realized that this would become an exercise in wasting money. So I decided to focus on the quirkiest requests and shoot them in a Flemish Baroque still-life style because I felt that there was a direct connection between the themes in these types of paintings and the riders: the idea of time passing and the ultimate mortality of a musician’s career as the limelight inevitably fades—they only have a short time in which they are able to make these demands and have them fulfilled.”

This American Life had an episode about the fineprint of riders:

Ira Glass – The way I always heard the story was that Van Halen had something in the contract that they used when they toured that said that everywhere that they went, in every city, in every dressing room on their tour, there had to be a bowl of M&Ms, and that the brown M&Ms had to be removed. It’s kind of a well-known story, I think. And the way that I understood it is that it showed what divas rock stars could be, that any whim that they had would have to be met, no matter how petty. You hate brown M&Ms? Poof! They will cease to exist in your world.
And then a couple of years ago, we had this band, They Might Be Giants, on our radio show….And I remember John Flansburgh saying to me, no, no, no, no, no. I had the meaning of the story totally wrong.

John Flansburgh – The thing that the average rock fan doesn’t realize is that, in the itinerant life of somebody in a rock band, they’re relying on a promoter– probably a different promoter every day– to give them everything. And a contract rider is basically the entire show from beginning to end. I mean, you’re talking about personnel. You’re talking about the PA. So a lot of it’s very prosaic stuff. People really focus on the dressing room stuff, but actually most of it is just making sure that there’s literally enough electricity in the venue so that the show doesn’t end after 10 minutes.

Ira Glass – And this, Flansburgh says, was what was so ingenious about the brown M&Ms. Van Halen had this huge setup with lots of gear, and if the local promoter didn’t carefully read the contract rider, stuff could collapse. It could be dangerous. So the brown M&Ms were like the canary in the coal mine. The contract rider said the brown M&Ms were not supposed to be there. If they were there, look out.

Ira Glass – “We’d pull up with nine 18-wheeler trucks full of gear in places where the standard was three trucks max. And there were many, many technical errors, whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through. The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages, because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in article number 126, in the middle of nowhere was, quote, ‘There will be no brown M&Ms in the backstage area upon pain of forfeiture of the show with full compensation,’ end quote.”

So, David Lee Roth writes, “When I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl, well, line check the entire production, guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed, you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to destroy the whole show. Sometimes literally life threatening.”

listen the entire episode here




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