What happens backstage when Jon Foreman goes all Bono-crazy October 6, 2010Posted by markgeil in Music.
Tags: Jon Foreman, Switchfoot
You could see the mischievous look in Jon Foreman’s eyes as he sized up the stage and plotted his descent into a teeming sea of fans during Atlanta’s Celebrate Freedom festival. What those fans couldn’t see was the people backstage who run the festival, who were given no warning about this escapade, and who resorted to – dare I say it – running with scissors.
Jon Foreman is the lead singer of Switchfoot, a San Diego-based rock band. You might know Switchfoot from songs like Dare You to Move or Meant to Live. If you watch college football, you’ve heard the band’s latest in the bumper videos during ABC and ESPN broadcasts.
In concert, Foreman and the band can scarcely contain their kinetic energy. They are like antsy little boys, and Foreman has developed a penchant for climbing various stage appendages and meandering through the crowd. Of course, festival stages make that a little difficult, since they’re often constructed on-site in a field somewhere (this one was a dirt field in an outdoor equestrian arena) with all the requisite trusses and scaffolding.
Nonetheless, Foreman could stand still. I was backstage at Celebrate Freedom, enjoying both the concert itself and the machinations that were required to make it happen. I was actually standing stage left next to a speaker stack when I saw that look in Foreman’s eye, when he crouched down and prepared to navigate the drop off the stage and the barrier that formed about a 3-foot gap between stage and audience. And right away I thought, “Wow, he looks like Bono during Live Aid.”
You remember Bono’s career-making journey off the stage during Bad, right? The frantic microphone-cord-guy with the black kneepads struggling to keep up? The muddy pit in which the yellow-shirted staff fetched a young lady, and the slow waltz between singer and fan, all while the band repeated measure after measure of the song? There it was, in Foreman’s eyes.
The scale was certainly smaller, but the action backstage was perhaps just as frenetic when Foreman made the leap. He vanished in the crowd – the floor was standing-room-only – but was skillfully tracked by a spotlight. Remarkably, he kept singing, the whole time, scarcely missing a bar, and I didn’t even detect any hiccups with the sound. Imagine if they had wireless mics back in 1985 at Live Aid?
On the other hand, the staff’s immediate concern was, “How do we get him back?” Foreman went on wandering, first halfway out through the tens of thousands of fans, then left toward one set of bleachers. The backstage staff tried to mirror his movements, like linebackers following a receiver in motion before a football snap. Foreman hurdled another barrier (still singing!) and made his way into the bleachers. The fans gave him space, apparently, since he covered so much ground, and the spotlight managed to keep up.
Finally, it became evident that Foreman was on his way back, but there was indeed no easy way back. Eight-feet-tall sections of chain-link fence blocked the way backstage, connected with those surprisingly strong zip-ties. Thus the running with scissors. Above the noise of the crowd and the music, I heard a shout: “CUT THE ZIP TIES!” I laughed. Blessed Be the Tie that Binds, except when your headliner is trapped in the audience. Someone found scissors in a backstage trailer – no easy task – and the race was on.
As the scissors arrived, two of the staff had finally caught up with Foreman in the bleachers and started ushering him back toward the stage. As the ties were being cut, they found a little hole in some fabric covering a picket fence behind a bush even farther off to the left. Since they didn’t see the big fence opening, they led Foreman to the hole. He squeezed through, mic in hand, and fairly sprinted back the stairs behind the stage, climbed said staircase, dodged the sound board, and took his place back with the band.
I believe the zip ties were not replaced.
Later, Foreman climbed around the video screen onto the very stack of speakers from which we watched his prior exploits. The frazzled staff returned, hovering around the speakers, not really sure what he would do. I took a picture:
and then realized I was wearing an orange STAFF T-shirt with an all-access pass around my neck, so I should probably be all official-like. So, I hovered as well, ready to catch Mr. Foreman, should he trip, or dive, or go all Bono-crazy again and want to waltz with me.
In conclusion, if you get a chance to see Switchfoot, make it happen. And in the unlikely event you will be hosting a Switchfoot concert, bring scissors.