On Monday afternoon, the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre (AESC) was buzzing in preparation for the Maroon 5 and Train show that evening.
The seats were empty, as the hoards of screaming girls hadn’t yet arrived.
Yet the atmosphere was alive – like controlled chaos.
A large group of people were busily building the set, lifting speakers, climbing ladders and wheeling around pianos.
As a man checked the sound, smoke filled the stage as the props were tested. A general noisiness filled the arena.
This part of the show – the load-in and set up – is the busiest and most stressful, said Jason Blumenfeld, general manager of the AESC.
But the work to book an act of this calibre dates back months.
Staff at the AESC are always making calls to see who’s hot and who’s touring.
Once it’s determined an act is touring, the question is if they’d like to perform on the West Coast.
Staff will check with other venues to see if they want to join the bid for a side tour in Canada.
The financial risk is also assessed.
However, booking an act like KISS and then leading into Maroon 5 and Train has helped put the AESC on the map, said Blumenfeld.
After finalizing the specific requests of the touring act, such as catering and backstage preferences, staff at the arena have to prepare for the specifics of set up.
On the day of the show, the buses and trucks arrive early in the morning.
For Maroon 5 and Train, there were six trucks and eight buses – a “decent” size, said Blumenfeld.
He’s worked on shows with 30 trucks, like the Rolling Stones and Madonna.
While the scheduled load-in time is 8 a.m., crews often arrive much earlier.
The AESC strives to be accommodating, even the morning after a hockey game. Staff at the AESC work through the night to transition the arena from a rink to a concert hall.
On Monday afternoon, a 50-person crew worked quickly to suspend 40,000 pounds of equipment from the beams running across the top of the AESC.
They set up chairs and performed a sound check before opening the doors to the fans waiting outside at the pre-show block party.
Following the final touches, it’s time to relax for many of the staff.
But not Matt McDowall, the event manager or Michaella Petrick, the director of marketing. They’re still working to ensure the show runs smoothly, or dealing with media, and organizing the meet and greet for contest winners.
Throughout the show there are numerous stage hands working to ensure the lights, sound and video are functioning correctly.
And at the show’s end, staff stream in to clear the floor so they can take down the chairs and stage, which averages between two to four hours.
For the act, it’s off to the next venue. For the arena, it’s time to prepare for another show.
Meeting the band
A hoard of women loitering around the back entrance to the AESC, where the buses and trucks of the touring act are parked begs the question, where’s the band?
Before the show, they could be anywhere from the bowling alley to the gym, said Blumenfeld.
“It varies for every show – sometimes they will arrive the night before the show and hang out in town, other times they will arrive right before the show starts.”
The acts that perform at the AESC always have their own room to relax in, while some will request an extra room for a gym or yoga.
In the case of this tour, featuring Matt Nathanason, Train and Maroon 5, they requested to remain as green as possible, including the catering, which featured healthy foods, sugar cane and special water.
A handful of the fans attending Monday night’s show were lucky enough to either win the chance to meet the bands, or bought VIP packages.
The queue to the “special entrance” for the contest winner and VIPs was packed with over 80 people, mainly excitable women, both young and mature, and sprinkled with a few men.
The first batch of contest winners were let through the doors, manned by numerous security.
After a few minutes of waiting anxiously, a man announced “…and here’s Maroon 5!”
Cheers went up as the band walked in, waved, said hello, and lined up.
The fans were corralled into pairs, each given their chance to say hello, hug and take a quick picture with the group.
The members of Maroon 5, all of whom were casually dressed in jeans and t-shirts, were gracious.
They hugged each fan, including the teenage girls, the moms and even the youngster who brought a stuffed teddy bear.
On the way out, each fan was handed a signed photo of the band.
The same routine was given to the next group.
Then it was time for the VIPs. This group paid extra to meet the band.
The band sat down at a long table to greet each pair, to whom they allocated more time.
They chatted, shook hands, had their VIP tags signed, and posed for a quick snapshot before being filed out.
No matter who it was, Adam Levine, the lead singer of Maroon 5, welcomed each with a warm, “Hey guys, what’s up?” or “How’s it going?”
The whole process – from the contest winners to the VIPs – took about 30 minutes.
Then it was time for Maroon 5 to go backstage, relax and eat their healthy foods before taking to the stage, to excite the fans of the Fraser Valley all over again.