The Life of a Backstage Rockstar

Monmouth Alum Works Behind the Scenes for Billy Joel

The lights dim, the crowd roars, the band walks out on stage. The speakers erupt with the sounds of guitar and drums, and the show finally begins. Mesmerized by the performance in front of them, concertgoers in the audience think nothing of the people behind the scenes who are working the lights, the sound, and the special effects being played on the screen behind the band; people like Kaitlyn Baklarz, who could easily be considered artists themselves.

Baklarz is an employee of Live Nation Entertainment, an American entertainment company that owns, leases, and operates a number of entertainment venues around the country. She works as a stagehand at PNC Bank Arts Center during the summer, and occasionally as an Assistant Dressing Room Coordinator for concerts at the Prudential Center, Barclays, Izod, and Madison Square Garden, where she is currently working on the Billy Joel Tour.

“I’ve grown up in the industry since birth as my uncles and dad are in it as well,” Baklarz said. Her uncle works as the lead rigger at PNC Bank Arts Center, her grandfather started working at the venue when it first opened, and her dad is the Steward of Local 536, a union within The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States. “That’s three generations,” Baklarz said.

As a stagehand, Baklarz is one of the many people responsible for setting up the stage for whichever artist is performing; just about everything necessary to put on a show except the artist themselves is handled and put into place by Baklarz.

Her workdays begin around eight in the morning and do not end until almost 20 hours later, which would explain why she thinks that having great strength and the ability to work long hours are two skills that are necessary for this particular job.

Baklarz’s day starts at the loading dock, where all of the trucks for each artist arrive. The equipment from each vehicle needs to be transported to the stage area, where it all will be set up later. After all of the trucks have been emptied, all stagehands are then assigned to work in certain departments for the rest of the day. “I typically work in video, building the large video walls,” said Baklarz.

After a quick break for lunch, Baklarz and the rest of the stagehands work up until sound check, making sure that the roadies and artists themselves are ready for the show. The opening act then goes on stage, and immediately after their set is finished, final preparations for the main performer need to quickly be completed.

When the main artist finally goes on, Baklarz isn’t enjoying the show, but instead still working behind the scenes, breaking down equipment from the opening artist and putting it back in the trucks that first arrived earlier that morning.

Concerts usually end around midnight, but Baklarz’s night doesn’t end until about three hours later, after the stage has been completely cleared and all of the equipment has been put away. “Every day is different,” Baklarz said. “You work with completely different people and in different environments.”

Throughout the nine years that she’s worked in the industry, Baklarz has met and worked with many artists from just about every genre, “some in passing, some in catering, working in the dressing rooms, and with them directly.”

Patrick Stump, lead singer of Chicago-based rock band Fall Out Boy, was the nicest performer Baklarz has ever worked with. As for the worst, she opted not to name drop because “sometimes they could have been having a bad day.”

When it comes to the man whose tour she is currently working for, however, Baklarz explained that she is a big fan of Billy Joel, both as an artist and a person. “It’s a wonderful tour to work for,” she commented.

As a world traveler herself – she’s studied abroad in London and spent a lot of time traveling around both Europe and the United States – what Baklarz loves most about her job is being able to meet and talk to the people who have been touring with artists for years. “I get to hear of all of their world travels and how the industry has shaped them.”

With almost a decade in the business under her belt, it’s no surprise that Baklarz has some crazy stories in her repertoire. “I had a roadie drop a video wall panel on my hand at the Kesha show and I had to go to the ER,” she explained, just before exclaiming, “Oh wait!” after realizing that something even crazier had once happened to her.

“It was my first week at work as a stagehand so I didn’t really know what I was doing. It was for Mayhem Fest and Korn was headlining,” she began. “The band takes the stage, the curtain is still hanging, so the audience can hear them but can’t see them.”

The curtain was supposed to drop and pull away, but it got stuck at the center point and was just hanging in the way of the band. “Of course I was the center point,” Baklarz explained. “Roadies come running on stage to pull the curtain that is stuck on the truss in the air, but as this is happening, the lead singer of Korn is licking my face and playing to 18,000 people.”

She added jokingly, “It’s on YouTube somewhere.”

Despite the long hours and crazy experiences, Baklarz is passionate about what she does and hopes to work her way up the ladder in the entertainment industry as the years go on.

Having graduated with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Monmouth University in 2015, Baklarz hopes to pair her studies with her experience in the music business to one day work as a production manager.

“My goal is to end up in artist management managing an up and coming talent.” But regardless of what position she may find herself in within the industry, Baklarz will be happy as long as she still gets to work with music.

Billy Joel and other artists like him might be the reason that people buy tickets and attend concerts, but Baklarz is the real rock star; without her, there would be no show.

PHOTO COURTESY of Kaitlyn Baklarz