I recently sat down with a comical friend of mine (pistured to the left) who has a unique job in entertainment working closely with many performers like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, the Gorillas and many more. Sam Jackson works for the Frank Erwin Center, a huge venue here in Austin that holds special events and concerts. We as audiences usually tend to ignore all that goes into these extravagant shows and the people who put in their hard labor to make them possible. Well Sam is actually one of those people we owe our appreciation to. His job is to put up and take down the stage/set of each show he works for. He has some interesting stories to share. Here is my interview with Sam Jackson:
What exactly do you do for Frank Erwin Center?
Well, there is a big group of us who have to put together the stage of each show. On the morning of every show the performers’ crew arrives to the venue with many trucks (around 18 of them) which holds the set. It is our job to unload these trucks and build the stage by the early afternoon. We are to come back to FEC 30 mins before the show is to end and begin taking down the stage as soon as it is over. There are three different job positions, the pushers, the carps (carpenters), and the loaders. I have done all of these jobs, but I’m now just a loader which means I load and unload the trucks.
So you help set up the stage for many big artists. That’s pretty exciting! Whose shows have you worked for?
I’ve helped set up concerts for Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Rush, The Gorillas, George Strait, and have also worked for events like UFC fights and WWE.
Wow! Have you gotten to meet any of them? Any encounters?
Well after her show Taylor Swift was nice enough come back out and thank us for the hard work we do. She seemed very genuine and friendly compared to other performers. There was also this one time after a UFC fight when I was moving a crate backstage and this man was in my way and I asked him if he could move out of the way. He enthusiastically jumped out of the way and said “Yeah I’ll move out of the way! If it wasn’t for you none of this would be possible!” Afterwards a friend of mine asked me what he said and obliviously I told him and let me know that that man was actually MC Hammer!
You mentioned that Taylor Swift was more friendly than other performers, who have you worked with who was not?
Rush (the band)! After their concert before they were leaving to their limo they made us stop working, exit the building, and stand 100 feet away from the building. It really pissed us off. Some celebrities just do not want any workers close to them thinking they will get bothered or asked for an autograph.
How long do you usually work for, does this get in the way of school at all since some shows are during the week?
It doesn’t get the way of school because they call us first to see if we can work. So I basically choose which shows I want to work. If I was to have a test the next day, I wouldn’t work the show. Sometimes I tell them that I won’t be able to work the mornings because of class, but am able to work at night. It’s flexible. Taking down the stage at night usually takes around 5 hours and if I work the morning then I would put in 10 hours for the day.
How did you get this job!?
A: A friend of mine who works there took me to apply and it just so happened that the lady in charge graduated from St Edward’s, the school that I am attending so she was able to help me out with a job.
That sounds great! So finally are there any artists’ show that you would like to work for?
Yeah I would like to work for Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, The Stones, Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Snoop Dogg!