SAG Awards Saga

Nine years ago I had a cover band gig to perform at the after party of the annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, right there at the Shrine Auditorium in LA. We’re a large group and went in separate cars. Nobody in mine actually knew where to load in, and we found ourselves (and all our gear) dropped off literally 100 feet from the red carpet as all the celebrities were arriving. We just stood there in our street clothes next to a pile of instrument cases beholding the hoopla as limos pulled up, famous people got out, and camera crews descended upon them. Hey there’s Julia Louis Dreyfus, for example! This was all very weird as we were clearly not where we were supposed to be. Eventually some policeman told us where to go. We hauled our stuff around the entire block toward the non-celebrity entrance.

Anyway.. as musicians we were treated like at we would be any other lower budget gig – we were confined to an unheated tent and had gigwiches for dinner. We weren’t allowed to mingle, but I wasn’t given the memo on that yet as I wandered off to use a restroom. I found one on some production trailer and upon leaving some high level event coordinator ran her hands through my (long) hair saying, “who belongs to these outrageous curls?” I turned around, she looked surprised at my obviously unimportant face, and I awkwardly smiled and left. Later somebody came by our tent to remind us to NOT use the bathrooms other than the porta potties around back reserved for the low-tier workers.

There was another band on the bill with a Brazilian lilt, and neither of us had much time for a proper sound check. Instead we were forced to practice switching off as quickly as possible so that there was zero dead space between acts. A-list celebrity parties must never miss a beat! When this other band finally checked their levels they played “Look of Love” and “Mas Que Nada” – two songs we planned to play in our set. Dammit.

During the ceremony some celebrities hid by or escaped early via our musicians-only area. Yeah that’s right – this is where all the cool kids hang out. Among others Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, and Julie Andrews were spotted from a safe distance. Kate Winslet and Jason Bateman were hanging right outside our tent. On his way out Johnny Depp walked right by us and said, “hey” with a polite nod. He was the only star to directly acknowledge us musicians all night.

The ceremony ended and it was party time. The Brazilian band was on first, and then I lurked behind the keyboardist until I got the cue. Within seconds I was in position and hammering out the riff to “Spanish Grease” until the other musicians kicked in. We only played a total of 40 minutes, tops, with us bands and a solo DJs switching off depending on the whims of a micro-managing party coordinator. At one point our singer Danny announced, “Hello, everybody! We’re…” and that coordinator rushed to the stage and snapped, “No addressing the audience!”

As the evening wore down security was more lax, and we got to sneak in and get some precious morsels from the main buffet line. While snooping around I stumbled into the smoking tent, where there was a huge table of artfully piled cigarettes that any party goer could snag at any time and puff away. What a party.

About Matt Lebofsky

Musician wearing many hats. Played in a bunch of bands, toured in hundreds of cities around the planet. Also a general geek who works on several of the world's biggest scientific projects searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. Grew up in suburban NYC. Now lives in Oakland, CA.
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