Photos by Conal Thomas

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In the run-up to each gig at the Sugar Club on Leeson Street, Alice Jacquier gets a list of the performers’ requests.

As part of her job there looking after the visiting artists, she gets them the equipment they need, ensures there’s the right number of towels on stage, and handles the “buy-out” for food.

They’re likely to go out for lunch after rehearsals, but pre- and post-gig, Jacquier provides for them, to the tune of perhaps €20 per performer.

What kinds of munchies do they want in their dressing rooms? “Sandwiches, cheese, hummus – they always want a fruit platter,” says Jacquier.

“All of them love hummus. It’s the one thing they can’t get enough of. It’s on nearly every single rider. Nearly every single one of them wants hummus,” she says.

KFC and Radishes 

Crisps, chocolate, and beer are snacks performers frequently seek, too.

Some riders – an industry term for performer requests – are a bit more unusual. “One person asked for a bucket of KFC chicken,” says Jacquier.

By now, she has got pretty accurate with fulfilling riders, but if there are leftovers, it’s usually the staff who reap the reward.

A single slice of cheese’ll be chucked. “But if it’s half a carton of juice? The odd time I’ll take home half a carton of juice,” says Jacquier. “Or … no, the hummus is always eaten.”

Very little goes in the bin these days, though, she adds. Post-gig, staff might tuck in to leftover crisps. Leftover fruit? In the pocket for the morning.

“I worked on a gig in Paris once, and there were 4,000 people in the crowd,” says Jacquier. “But the rider was weird. In the band’s dressing room were two baguettes and a handful of radishes.”

It’s one of the small benefits of working in music venues: the odd leftover saved for later.

Riders were not always so formalised, though, as promoter Pat Egan found out quick enough when he’d to fetch some rare whiskey for Lou Reed from the Shelbourne Hotel one night.

Raiding Dressing Rooms

“It was Chivas Regal,” says Egan, a poison hard to come by in 1980s Dublin. “I paid about £50 for it.”

English comedian Freddie Starr once requested a tray of 40 to 50 slices of toast, and Meatloaf spent nearly £2,000 on room service when he played Dublin for two nights, recalls Egan, who’s worked in music promotion for over 40 years.

When members of a prominent inner-city gang rocked up to Dalymount Park in Phibsboro in July 1980, Egan had little choice but let them in to meet Bob Marley, who was playing there.

They’d brought a nice, squidgy chunk of hash for the reggae star, he says. “We’d to let them in, otherwise we’d be in trouble,” says Egan.

The music industry was in its infancy in Ireland then, he says.

“In the earlier days, the food was supplied locally. We used to get a note that said, ‘Here’s what we want in the dressing rooms.’ Could be sandwiches, could be a curry,” says Egan.

Nowadays, the bigger stars tour with caterers, he says. And often the food is taken away, little left for the staff.

“But in the older days the crew and the roadies would raid the dressing room after the act had left, grab whatever they could,” he says.

Leftovers aren’t often an issue these days, says Noelle Fox, of the Olympia Theatre on Dame Street.

It’s up to the big production companies and concert promoters to look after that side of things nowadays and, says Fox, “margins are tight in the touring production game”.

But for some, riders have led to windfalls, while, for others, food has become a reflection of genre.

Food for the Week

When DJ Dave Clarke played a secret gig in the Bernard Shaw on Richmond Street, it was the first time John Mahon, who now runs, tried saké (rice wine).

“I went to great lengths to get whatever saké he wanted, and he only took one sip of it,” says Mahon. “So I kept it for myself, and it was great.”

Generally, says Mahon, leftover food for performers gets pilfered post-gig.

That kept Eoin Cregan, who used to manage the Twisted Pepper on Abbey Street and who worked at festivals throughout Ireland, fully stocked back home.

When Cregan started out in the industry, he went a bit overboard with the riders. But anticipating performers’ whims, he says, isn’t always easy.

“The very first time I got a very big food rider, I went out and bought everything on it and at the end of the night there was a fridge full of stuff,” he says. “I ended up just taking it back [home] and that was my weekly shopping done.”

That was a one-off, though. “I became a bit more prudent about it,” says Cregan.

Over the years, food requests have become healthier, he adds. And anything remaining that’s fit to eat, chances are staff will take it home, says Cregan. “That’s standard enough.”

Like Cregan, the Sugar Club’s Jacquier says fulfilling performers’ food requests is an inexact science.

But trends emerge over time, particularly where booze is concerned. “Jazz musicians usually go for whiskey … or a fancy cheeseboard,” says Jacquier. “For rappers it’s generally tequila.”

She hasn’t run into anything quite like Van Halen’s request for a large bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones removed, or Mariah Carey’s 100 white doves and 20 white kittens.

But acts do sometimes test promoters and staff. Beware requests for turkey jerky, for instance, says Jacquier. “That’s often a way of a band knowing if a promoter has read through things properly,” she says.

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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