By Brendan Harte Gilsenan
Absolutely no brown M&M’s. Van Halen was notorious for making this request during the 1980s. For every concert they performed, there was a laundry list of demands.
From the quirky to the bizarre, unique requests are made all the time by artists performing at shows. Over the years James Madison University has hosted numerous musicians, and the University Program Board has been no stranger to these tendencies.
“The more expensive an artist gets, the pickier they get,” says UPB Coordinator Carrie Martin. She calls it “Carrie’s Theory on Rider Requirements.” A rider is the list of these requests found in the contract.
Although she contractually cannot reveal names, Martin remembers receiving a rider from a performer whose catering was based on what day of the week it was, and what time of year.
“We have to check the menu and make sure we are getting Saturday’s meal versus Tuesday’s meal,” she recalls.
From glass bottles of Diet Coke (“I don’t even know if that’s made,” Martin says) to red-only Skittles or blue-only M&M’s (she says this in fact, does happen), food requests can be extremely detailed.
Angela Marino, director for Center Stage, the UPB committee that books larger artists, recalls a hip-hop show that had one performer requesting a kiddy pool in the dressing room and for Cartoon Network to play on the TVs. Another at the same show asked for a giant stuffed gorilla.
“We did put it in his dressing room, but he never took it,” she says.
Melissa Boyle-Aronson also remembers the gorilla incident. Working for Babco Entertainment, a “middle agency” that helps colleges book concerts, she has helped JMU book and produce shows since 1995.
“Some fun artists put things in their riders like that just to make sure people are paying attention,” she says.
Other times, requests simply go to waste. Boyle-Aronson once dealt with an artist who insisted on chicken wings that had to arrive at a certain time, in specific quantity, and most definitely not hot flavored. The wings were never touched.
The responsibility of fulfilling these requests rests with UPB’s hospitality chair. This year, sophomore Shahana Islam has tackled that position. Although riders are submitted, she is available the day of a show in case of last minute requests. Such as when she suddenly needed to provide candles to create “an ambiance” in an artist’s dressing room.
While attending Ohio University, Martin dealt with a female artist who insisted upon having a specific taco from Taco Bell as soon as her last song ended. The hospitality chair had to time it so that the taco arrived right on time, warm and ready to be eaten.
“She says, ‘Thanks, it’s been great!’ drops the mic, walks off stage, and here’s your Grand Burrito.”
For some, the details are to test how closely the venue examines the contract. For others, it’s to flex their power of stardom. And for a number of artists, it’s simply to fulfill their quirky desires.
“My first condom request happened this year,” says Martin with a chuckle. “We are not fulfilling that request.”