Meet the Roadies | Duval Crew Unites Music-Tour-Support Professionals Based in Jax

A multifarious skillset is required of any tour-support professional. Tour Manager and Duval Crew founder John Shannon seen here performing a literal manifestation of the job of stage hand, coming to the aid of a member of the band COIN during a show | Courtesy of John Shannon

Calling all local roadies: Duval Crew wants to meet you and support you. The networking group, founded by Jacksonville-based tour manager John Shannon, seeks to connect tour managers as well as front-of-house technicians, engineers, merch managers, music photographers and videographers, and anyone else who supports bands on the road. 

Shannon got his start managing acts on the road with Jacksonville-born synth pop duo LANNDS. From there, he’s supported bands like Perfume Genius, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Delta Spirit and COIN, among others. This spring, he’s going on the road with local indie rock outfit Flipturn.

Duval Crew’s formation happened organically, according to Shannon. “I originally just wanted to meet up with some of the people I know in Jacksonville who tour,” he said. “Then I felt like I might be leaving someone out.” That was when he opened the floor: come one, come all.

“When you’re gone six months in a row, and then you forget what your life is back at home, and you’re kind of still connected to the one you just had on the road — it’s nice to be able to meet up with people who understand that.” Duval Crew founder John Shannon living the tour life, backstage at Hangout Fest | Tyler Krippaehne, courtesy of John Shannon

A flood of touring crew appeared at the first Duval Crew event at Murray Hill’s Flamingo Coffee back in December, and that was when Shannon knew he was working with something special. “I met so many people that I didn’t know even existed,” he said. “They live in my neighborhood. We go to the same coffee shop. We’ve run into each other, but didn’t even know that they did the same job as me.” 

Contacts were exchanged. Stories from the road were swapped. Community was formed: something Shannon desperately needed himself. “It feels really strange to come home from tour sometimes,” he said. “When you’re gone six months in a row, and then you forget what your life is back at home, and you’re kind of still connected to the one you just had on the road — it’s nice to be able to meet up with people who understand that.”

As the connective tissue of Duval Crew, Shannon hopes to use the group to help folks just getting started in the industry find work and gain resources. “When I first started,” he said, “it kind of felt like I didn’t have anyone I could talk to who would help me out. There were seemingly so many industry secrets that I couldn’t find the answers to via Google, and I just wanted someone to help me. Eventually, I met some people from far away who I could text occasionally and things like that, but I really like being able to help people who are getting started.” Information on supporting bands on tour is easy to share, he said, but difficult to find if you’re looking.

Let’s get to know our local roadies.

We talked with some Duval Crew members about their time on the road. 

Taylor Neal, Tour Manager and Front of House for Flipturn and Puma Blue 

My experience on tour has always come down to me wearing many hats and being as available as possible to help make the show run smoothly. I absolutely love it. There are always challenges, like the stagehands moving and packing up the stuff you just set up because they think you’re the other band, or the entire PA system cutting out in front of 6,000 people because a single cable was unplugged, or the lights malfunctioning and going crazy and strobing rainbow colors for the whole set, or having to find an oxygen tank for the drummer because the altitude is so high, or just doing anything at all in Baltimore. One time we drove a whole mile before realizing the trailer wheel fell off. Things like this happen, and no matter how stressful it gets in the moment, these are the experiences that make the touring party grow closer and make the successes and accomplishments of the tour feel that much more amazing.

Chadwick Morris, Tour Manager and Photographer for Sacha Robotti, Walker & Royce, Vnssa, Kasbo, Pls&ty, Niles Shepard

Duval-based tour photographer Chadwick Morris captures an epic moment in EDM history | Photo courtesy of Morris

A few years back, I was asked by a long time friend DallasK to shoot photos for his EDC Orlando show. EDCO is a huge deal in the EDM genre, so of course I agreed. After DallasK performed in front of thousands, we were in the green room, and a manager approached him and asked us to go hang out with his artist—though I was oblivious to who his artist was. We walked into an elevator and came to the private floor, reserved for headliners. The door said Tiësto. At that time, Dallas had a song with him, and they decided we would walk up on stage during his set and play it. At that moment, Tiësto turned to me and said, “And you’ll photograph it.” I was starstruck. Beyond excited. It was one of the best memories I’ll ever have.

Gayle Alquizar, Tour Manager for State Champs, Between You and Me, COIN

Enter Groundhog Day. It’s three o’clock in the morning after show twelve of tour. Maybe thirteen. I’m laying in my bunk, my day echoing in sounds. Squeaking wheels followed by thuds of heavy road cases. The constant pounding of a snare. A guitar riff I’ve heard three thousand times. The slamming of the trailer door. The click of the locks securing our gear. It’s the last few sounds of a Prevost engine purring and the occasional rumble strip that begin to lull me to sleep. The last bit of consciousness hanging on plays Tinder while every task floats through my mind. Do we need bananas back on the hospitality rider? Yes. Did I respond to that email today? No. Did Hunter make it back for bus call? Who knows? Do I even remember what city we’re in tomorrow?

It’s not long until stillness and silence jolts me awake and Groundhog Day begins again. The engine’s not running. The bus isn’t moving. I frantically reach for my phone, and I’m blinded by 7:00 AM. My first thought is trying to convince myself that we’re at a Pilot getting fuel. But, when I check my maps app, I see that we’re on the side of the interstate. I disturb the peace in Bunk Alley with a deep sigh and the brief screech of my curtain sliding open. 

My first task has begun.

The bus is not working and, no matter how many times Paul has explained what’s going on, I do not understand why. Not like it would help, anyway; I can’t fix an engine. I can’t beg AAA to come out and help us, and I definitely can’t let the band miss the show tonight. 

I start a mental timer counting down the hours, minutes, seconds I have to come up with a plan. I have to reassure and feed the eleven people on the bus. Call rental car companies. Loop in management. 

Doors are at 6:00 PM and we are seven hours away from the venue. Cue panic.

This has all happened before. But not here. Not with these people. Between every failed ignition turn, every Hertz or Enterprise who turned us away, a sputtering engine, is a sound, and a memory I cherish: Third Eye Blind’s self-titled record. After screaming and crying in the torrential Louisiana downpour, we cross-load our entire show into a minivan, and blast that album the entire way to Houston.

By 8:00 PM, we’re running past a line of fans cheering for our arrival. The venue’s staff makes a beeline to our rented minivan, and our gear is ushered inside the venue before the band even steps out of the vehicle. Following the staff’s lead, our crew hits the ground running, and we set up our show in record time. Squeaks and thuds and snare and guitar. I’m checking my watch with heavy eyelids and a sugar-free Red Bull. Everyone who followed my lead today is now waiting on my word to start the show. I open the door to the stage, shine a light at the pathway, and now it’s three thousand and one times that I’ve heard this riff.

Tomorrow might be the same thing, might even be the same the day after that. But Jon and Ricky and Salma get to do what they love. I get to hear my friends laugh and sing and play. Again, we enter Groundhog Day, together.

For updates on touring crew meet-ups and more, follow Duval Crew on Instagram: @duvalcrew 

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