We know what you’re thinking – this was the only way DRUM! Magazine could get into a Bruce Springsteen show for free, right? Well, this article is not technically about Bruce. It’s not even about Bruce’s longtime drummer Max Weinberg. It goes one step further down the food chain to the technicians who make sure every Springsteen show comes off without a hitch, night after night, in city after city, for a year and a half. In particular, we focused on Harry McCarthy, who not only sets up the gear Weinberg will beat and stomp during the show, but also provides everything Weinberg could possibly need during the show. To quote Weinberg: “Without Harry McCarthy supporting me and the E Street Band, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.”
So what is his day like? For one thing, it’s highly regimented. Simply because of the sheer number of musicians, technicians, engineers, and support personnel, scheduling is one of the trickiest issues to deal with. This tour packs the entire E-Street Band on a total of five tour busses in varying degrees of extravagance, plus a whopping seven tractor-trailer loads full of staging, equipment, lighting, and sound systems. Just walking around without getting in the way or run over by a forklift was a challenge.
We met up with McCarthy in the parking lot of the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas last November. This was the second leg of the tour and the first show after a short break. Most of the entourage had flown into Dallas the night before to join the busses and equipment that had rolled in that day. We skipped the wake-up call and met McCarthy at the venue.
9:30 a.m. Start the day at the hotel. Everyone meets the bus outside the lobby to ride down to the venue. On this particular day, McCarthy rolled up in a top-of-the-line tour bus packed with assorted techs and crewmembers at the lordly hour of …
10:00 a.m. Found the entrance to the venue and made it through security. In this instance the security regimen includes a wand check and bag search for everyone entering the building for whatever reason. McCarthy good-naturedly opens his bag and talks with the guards, who share with him the fact that there are bomb dogs going through the venue, and that they’ll be there all day. Nothing like a mid-morning bomb awareness check to get your blood pumping. We wound our way down the stairs, through the bowels of the venue and finally arrived on the floor of the arena.
10:15 a.m. McCarthy locates all his road cases, electronics, and all the other boxes that need to be handy for when the actual work begins. After rounding up all the cases into a staging area and determining that all the stuff he’ll need has arrived and made it to Dallas, it’s off to catering for a lovely bowl of cereal, some fruit, and a cup of coffee.
10:20 a.m. As we munch through the buffet, various members of the crew make their way into catering to the accompaniment of numerous greetings and hugs. The band has been on a break for three weeks and this is the first show on this leg of the tour, so it’s time to get acquainted again. McCarthy is also the subject of a little razzing over his status as a celebrity du jour, but he takes it in stride, urging us to keep as low a profile as possible and to not make him look overly geeky to the other guys in the crew. We swear (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) that we won’t do anything to make him look funny. Nope, count on us to be the epitome of discretion. Hey Harry, can you pout for us a bit while you’re munching on those cornflakes?
10:30 a.m. We walk out to the floor to check on the progress of the light rigging and stage construction. The lighting riggers have been here since 6 a.m. this morning and their spider-webbed cable-work masterpiece will support the massive lighting framework as well as the state-of-the-art sound system. They’re still rigging one of the 40-foot long strands of speaker cabinets, so the stage, which is completely assembled in the middle of the floor, can’t be rolled into position yet. Since it appears that this is going to take a while, McCarthy decides to pull out the snare for a quick head change and tuning.