Author: Campbell, Bruce

Green Rooms
I wrote a column a while back called ?The Little Things?. It was about the things that can make certain venues more fun to play than others, if a whole lot of other factors are equal. I spoke of free meals and drinks for the band, a subject on which (as anyone who knows me will attest) I can pontificate at length. At the end of the article, I mentioned the Green Room.

The Green Room, of course, is a room where the performers hang out, warm up and ?get their minds right? prior to performing onstage. The expression Green Room apparently dates back to the Elizabethan era. As a kid, I heard it came from the waiting room for guests on some variety show (maybe the Tonight Show?) being green, but according to Wikipedia, it?s a much older expression than that.

Folks in Big Time Show Biz know all about Green Rooms ? they?re a given for them. Most venues we play at are small, and a separate backstage room is simply not in the cards. How many times have I warmed up in the alley beside the building? It?s like second nature. Dressing rooms? It?s usually the bathroom, a broom closet, or in one memorable instance this summer, the parking lot just behind the stage.

But once in a while, we play a venue with a real Green Room. Sometimes, it?s becausewe?re fortunate to play a Big Time Venue. Sometimes, it?s just due to some quirkiness of the venue?s architecture that provided an extra room that the proprietor has made available for the band. For us Bluegrass pickers, Green Rooms are a really cool benefit.

The best green room I ever saw was at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. It was the size of a very large living room, with couches and TVs and dressing rooms off of the main area with those classic ?lightbulbs around the mirror? vanity things you see in the movies. I suppose if you?ve been on the road for 300 days, and were expected to earn $100,000 in a 90-minute performance, you need that type of accommodations to get ready.

In some storied local venues, the green rooms have seen incredible talent over the years, and the rooms positively resonate from the history. The green rooms at the Freight & Salvage and the Sweetwater Saloon are like this ? they pulse with the ghosts of all the great musicians that have dressed, warmed up or relaxed in these little oases.

Sometimes, even smaller venues have really cool green rooms. McGrath?s Irish Pub has a very large back room and it?s easy to have so much fun warming up in there that the owner has to remind us there?s an audience waiting. Blake?s on Telegraph has a ?groovy? green room for their basement performance venue. Ashkenaz in Berkeley has a terrific green room ? if I recall correctly, it?s actually green.

For me, performance is the whole experience ? the practice that leads to the gig, the planning of the setlists, the travel to the gig, the load-in, the sound check, the warm-ups, the performance and the afterglow (if things go well). Throw in a good Green Room, and I?m in hog heaven!
Posted:  10/29/2008

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