The Big Showdown (continuation from “Soaring with Rise to 5”)

This arena will be full of people in a couple hours.  Approximately 20,000 people will be screaming their heads off for Rise to 5 tonight. Usually I would be one of those screaming heads. Tonight, I get to experience the show in a whole new way.

I was very fortunate to have met Jesse MacManus of Rise to 5.  Everyone has a fear of life post-college graduation.  Since Jesse and I kept in touch, he helped me to get a paid internship with Spot Entertainment Live—one of the big touring companies in the nation.

When Jesse first came to and told me I should be the production manager for their next tour, I told him he was insane. That job takes years upon years of experience. I was just a kid fresh out of college who only knew how to direct a little TV studio production.  He told me that I shouldn’t worry, because they had a team of experts behind and me, and that this was my chance to have my vision come to life.  Not every 21 can pull off putting on a big national tour for a major act, so this was an opportunity that I could not pass up.

Today was a show day, but not just any show day, but the show day in my home state of Oklahoma. It might not seem glamorous to some people, but this place was where I was born and bred. I spent most of the previous year in Cali working with stage designers, lighting directors, graphic artists, dancers- you name it I’ve seen it. I knew coming into it the show that I would be dealing with a lot, but my expectations were completely underestimated. Every minute of my day would be consumed trying to make sure that mistakes, if they did happen, were minimal and not apparent to the audience. The stage had to fit every arena, the timing of each number had to be down to a tee, and everything had to run like clockwork.

From January to March it was conceptualizing the show.  I wanted to incorporate some of my film knowledge and make it fun for the audiences. So, I thought making the show more theatrical. Not Lady GaGa theatrical, but theatrical in the sense that every song told a story.

We spent the month of April solely rehearsing… the stage was built, the graphics were done, and the lighting design had been laid out. It was all a matter of “playing in the actual playground.” Since Rise to 5 is such a big act, we spent that month day in and day out rehearsing in Staples Center. Today, however, wasn’t a rehearsal. This was it. Day 1 of a national tour.

“Jasmine… Jasmine? JASMINE,” my stage manager screamed at me.

“Oh, sorry, Tom. I must’ve spaced out.”

“It’s ok. It’s 5 o’ clock in the morning. You’re allowed to be spaced out. Why don’t you go check on the other tour buses and semis and see if they made it ok.”

“Yeah, sure. I’m on my way.” 6 hours, 80 crewmembers, and 1 enormous stage later, the stage was complete. My duty was to set up camp after that—what we call the production office.

I couldn’t believe it. People were flooding in. I could shrieks upon shrieks of women screaming. They’ve seen Rise to 5 shows, if I didn’t mean their expectations, I’d be screwed. They’ll never see another Rise to 5 show again thanks to me….

15 minutes before the show starts is when I’m usually supposed to be the calm leader in the sea of chaos– telling backstage crew to have all the props, instruments for the band, and wardrobe ready, make sure security details are in check, and everything production wise is up to par. I thought I was fine to direct everybody. A flurry of voices started overlapping on my walkie-talkie. It hit me… the blood was on my hands. This was my ship. If it sunk, I was the captain that was responsible for its demise. My heart rate rapidly increased, my throat closed up, and I began I major coughing fit.

My first thought was it was nothing. I had coughing fits before, but this was worse. I felt like I couldn’t breath, pains were running up and down my arm, and the last thing I could remember was closing my eyes.

A bright light streamed through my eyes as they began to open. I looked around attempting to figure out my surroundings. Judging by the striking resemblance to an examination room, I’m guessing someone took me to the medical room of the arena. A knock on the door startled me out of my half-awake daze.

“Come in!”

All 5 of the Rise to 5 guys started filing in, each one carrying a bouquet of flowers.

“Wait… you had time to go get flowers?”

“Actually… they were in our dressing room… but we thought you deserved them,” said Jamie. He was the charismatic fan-favorite for a reason.

“What happened?”

“Well, after no one heard you over the walkie-talkie, Sandra went to check on you. She saw you on the floor, and you weren’t responding at all. The paramedics had to take you here. They said you lost consciousness, but that some rest should get you back up to speed,” explained Johnny.

“Wow. All I remember was closing my eyes. Guys, I’m obviously not cut out for this… Maybe I should just go home.”

“NO,” all 5 shouted in unison.

“Look, we need you out there. These folks have experience, but they don’t have your enthusiasm and heart to guide them through this,” said Damian.

“Yeah, Jasmine! C’mon… You and I are gym buddies. When you work out you’re a warrior.”

“Thanks, Dax, but working out and directing a large crew are two different things.”

“Guys, could you give me and Jasmine a minute,” asked Jesse.

They took the hint and all went back to wardrobe since the opening act was about to finish their set.

“Jasmine, I don’t know a lot of 21 year olds who can put together a full fledged concert. You should be proud of what you’ve done.”

“You don’t get it, do you Jesse? I used to be one of those screaming girls. Whenever I would go to shows, my heart would leap out of my chest and I wouldn’t be able to stop smiling for days. I know what these girls are hoping for. I know what it’s like to want to look up at that stage hoping you guys look at them in the eye. If l let them down, I could never forgive myself, because they’re the reason I got into this business.”

“You’re not going to let them down, because unlike a lot of people in this business you have heart. The real battle is between you and yourself. You let people like Angela effect your self-esteem. You’re this awesome person, but you hold so much of it back, because you’re so mentally and emotionally focused on pleasing others. This is your dream. Allow yourself to live it.”

“Thanks, Dr. Phil. I’ll leave my check at the door for today’s session.”

“Listen, Jas, I gotta go, but think about what I said.”

I hate to admit it, but Jesse was right. I never do things for myself. I was always concerned about serving people, making me a human doormat. Things needed to change, and this concert would be the place to do it. I spent months working hard on something I loved. If it tanked, it tanked. If it did well, that just means my passion and hard work paid off.

I stepped of the examination table, and put my head seat back.

“T minus ten minutes,” said Sandra the stage manager.

“Ok, everyone this is it. I need everyone to meet backstage real quick for the prayer circle, and then it’s go time.”

We all gather round, and hand in hand we asked the Lord to guide us through this night of craziness. It feel so amazing to see the smiles on everyone’s faces and their hands all joining together in the show circle. It was like a team of angels were going create a night of miracles. This was it. There was no looking back.

“OK, I’m heading back to the production booth, everyone let’s get into positions.”

The production team followed me out, and the rest of the crew hurriedly rushed into place.

I gave the sound guy the cue to fade the music, and let the lighting director know to cut the house lights.

Suddenly hosts of ear drum busting screams filled the arena from wall to wall.

That moment of your heart dropping whenever the lights were cut off sank in. This time,

I wasn’t in the crowd.

“OK, Sandra I need the band in position ready to go. Backstage get wardrobe ready for “Spotlight.” Standby… Ready to roll montage. Ready pyro, ready mics, & ready to lower scissor lift platform. In 10…9…8..7…6..5…4…3…2..Roll montage.”

Just when the girls saw the photos and video, they lost it. I knew bringing back those old memories would do the trick. My adrenaline was pumping.

“Ok, get ready for the pyro… on my cue.”

The video finished, and now images of each individual member flashed on the screen. I loved how the volumes varied depending on the image they saw. It was something every boy-band lover knew. No matter what group you liked, there were always “Jesse girls” or “Damian girls” it was just part of the packaged deal when liking a boy band.

I loved how each beat of music matched the images on the screen. I learned in my film classes that it was called “Mickey Mousing” and loved making that effect pump up the crowd.

“Pyro blast in 3, 2, 1…”

BOOM! The shot of pyro lit up the stage, dropping the curtain to reveal Rise to 5. I swear, my hearing was shot from all the screaming. I could barely hear my crew over the headset.

“Wardrobes in place. Ready for the next number in the set spotlight,” said Sandra over the walkie-talkies.

“Beautiful work, you guys. I’ll be watching, and I’ll give the countdown after the opener. That was awesome everyone! Thank you, crew!”

Everything was going smoothly! The band was giving it 110%, sound was amazing, and it was just phenomenal. I know we gave everyone a great show. The biggest lesson I learned that night was not to doubt myself. Mistakes are inevitable, but I had to enjoy seeing how my hard work panned out. If we all hold ourselves, we could be missing on the most rewarding moments of our lives. Moments like seeing your favorite band taking their final bow, and knowing that your heart and your hand helped take them there.

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