Roadies, Cameron Crowe’s new Showtime drama, rolled into Downtown Los Angeles on Monday night (June 6) for a special friends and family screening and grand unveiling at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel.
The premiere episode, which debuts June 26, unspooled before an audience that was peppered with entertainment industry executives — among them Irving and Shelli Azoff with son Jeffrey Azoff, Showtime president and CEO David Nevins and former MTV head Van Toffler — and most of the show’s cast, including leads Luke Wilson and Carla Gugino, as well as Imogen Poots, Colson “Machine Gun Kelly” Baker, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Ron White, and Rafe Spall, plus Crowe, and his fellow executive producers Winnie Holzman and J.J. Abrams. Also on hand to support: My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James and actresses Mira Sorvino, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Alia Shawkat.
As the title suggests, Roadies follows the crew for The Staton-House Band while they criscross America on an arena tour. The show chronicles the professional and personal exploits of the hidden heroes, who get none of the glory of the headlining act but without whom, it would be impossible to stage a concert.
Roadies comes with a first class pedigree of music biz heavyweights like Pearl Jam manager Kelly Curtis and Eagles manager Irving Azoff serving as consultants and producers for the show — and it can’t be coincidence that Gugino’s character, a sort of superwoman of the road, is also named Shelli (spelled the same way as Mrs. Azoff).
Indeed, it was Azoff who helped Wilson prep to play The Staton-House Band’s tour manager, the level-headed captain of the ship. “He put me in touch with Fleetwood Mac’s tour manager and The Eagles tour manager,” Wilson told Billboard on the red carpet. “They really are the calm in the storm and really unflappable and nothing really shocks them. Irving was in the thick of it in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so those guys really have seen it all. It seems it’s calmed down some since then. It was the Wild West back then.”
Though The Staton-House Band is fictional, Roadies is peppered with cameos by real acts, including The Head and The Heart, who appear in the premiere and contribute to the music throughout the season, and former Civil Wars singer Joy Williams, who shows up in a future episode.
Colson Baker, better known as rapper Machine Gun Kelly, plays Wes, a roadie who finds favor with the crew for his ability to brew a mean espresso. His was one of the first roles cast by Crowe. “It’s a very collaborative effort with Cameron,” said Baker. “I’ve not once had to stick to a script how it is. I got to incorporate a lot of myself.”
Halsey, who accompanied Baker, but declined to reveal if she shows up in a future episode, said the show is so realistic, it helped her work up enthusiasm to return to the road. “I’m going back out on tour for three months, and I’ve been out for 14 months and I’m so exhausted,” she explained. Watching Roadies, she added, reminded her of “just how hard everyone works for me and just how much everyone cares. It changed everything about this perspective for me,” she said. “I can’t wait to go back out again and be with my crew. If [the show] can touch the heart of someone who’s been doing this a lot this year, I think that’s a pretty successful venture.”
For Crowe, 58, the series is a culmination of stories he’s gathered ever since he did his first article for Rolling Stone when he was 14. He relied on tales he heard decades ago, as well as ones freshly relayed, but his guiding principal was to represent the backstage world as authentically and entertainingly as possible. “Ask a musical artist about their road crew and they’re so relieved that they don’t have have to talk about themselves, they don’t have to answer personal questions,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Please let me tell you about my drum tech. A lot of [the crews] I knew. A lot of them I met since we started doing the show. I really, really, really want to do well by the roadies.”