Our Backstage Pass Takes Us To Knuckleheads Saloon In Kansas City
STEVE INSKEEP: We have an inside glimpse now at the life of a rock star.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Well, let's not say a rock star. Let's say a musician who doesn't exactly fill stadiums and makes a living with scores, even hundreds of appearances on the road.
INSKEEP: For that musician, the center of daily life is the green room - a place to wait before going on stage - sometimes to wait for hours.
GREENE: And just so you know, there is no rule that the green room is green.
INSKEEP: Thank you, Mr. Greene. There is a necessity that it be comfortable. And for some musicians, the green room is where they do many of the things that we would describe as normal life.
GREENE: Yeah. For our summer series Backstage Pass, Laura Spencer of KCUR takes us to Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City, Mo.
LAURA SPENCER, BYLINE: To get backstage at Knuckleheads, you need to know the door code or have a guide, like owner Frank Hicks.
FRANK HICKS: Where do you want to start? Here?
SPENCER: Sure, yeah.
HICKS: All right. Let's go.
SPENCER: The green rooms aren't fancy, just comfortable - album covers and beer signs on the walls, leather couches, a bowl of chips and a TV. But unlike most clubs, there's a shower, a washer and dryer and a workout area.
HICKS: It's kind of like being in a hotel, but we wanted it to feel more at home.
SPENCER: Touring musicians need their own space, a place to sleep or hang out in between performances. Alejandro Escovedo has stopped in Kansas City for four decades in venues like Knuckleheads.
ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO: We get to the gig, we unload. We find out how they want us to go about our sound check.
(SOUNDBITE OF GUITAR)
SPENCER: It's mostly one-night stands for his latest album, "Burn Something Beautiful" - a blend of punk, roots and rock. Backstage, Escovedo says, it used to be about beer and booze, but he's no longer a drinker. He's 66, and he's had a few health scares. So it's more about spring water and fruit juices.
ESCOVEDO: It's always healthier for me to kind of tag along with people who are eating really well. You know, we always try to have something that's healthy and fresh. I think that's the most important thing.
SPENCER: The rest of the band? Not so much.
ESCOVEDO: What'd you get, fried okra?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Laughter) Fried pickles, fried cheese, fried okra.
ESCOVEDO: Just fried stuff.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's the carnival platter.
ESCOVEDO: The fried plate special.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Laughter).
SPENCER: Escovedo warms up his voice and gets comfortable with his guitar. And he and his band talk through the set.
ESCOVEDO: You know, you always start a set list like you do a book or record with a beginning and an ending. You make those strong. Now, it's just a matter of filling in the story in between.
SPENCER: Escovedo likes everyone to get loose and livened up thinking about the music when they're ready to take the stage.
ESCOVEDO: Are you ready to go?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ready to roll? We're ready.
ESCOVEDO: All right, let's go do it.
SPENCER: And they walk on together.
ESCOVEDO: Here again in Knuckleheads. I love this place. And it's good to be back in Kansas City always.
SPENCER: Night after night, this backstage ritual gets the band in sync for what happens on stage. For NPR News, I'm Laura Spencer in Kansas City.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HORIZONTAL")
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