Tour Life Part 2: MJB Experience

 MJB Experience

I have now experienced two national tours featuring musical megastars- Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, Mary J. Blige and D’Angelo. What started out as a whimsical decision to do something that could allow for professional growth in a foreign environment, ended up being a challenging, formative and exhausting life experience… and a hell of a story!

During the summer alone, I traveled to San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Boston, Holmdel, Philly, DC, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Vegas, Chicago, Detroit, and Charlotte. I have traveled more this year than any other year of my life. I have met more people than I could have imagined and I have endured the quickest and dirtiest crash course in music business, people management, and self-awareness.

(Disclaimer: This will be a two-part post. The first to review what my 2nd tour was like and the second to go over some interesting gems I picked up along both rides.)

JLo vs. MJB
I recently experienced my second tour- this time with the queen of hip-hop soul herself, Mary J. Blige, and the resurrected soul-funk-music genius, D’Angelo. The “Liberation Tour” was definitely a huge shift from JLo and Enrique’s “Dance Again” Tour. The disparate markets were the first thing that stood out: JLo and Enrique tend to attract younger whiter crowds, while Mary and D’s audience tended to be older predominantly black audiences. Unsurprisingly, both tours attracted a large majority of women.While equally exciting, the “feel” behind the two scenes were night and day. JLo’s production felt more grandiose; there was a huge production team, theatrical, elaborate costumes and set designs (including pyrotechnics,) and pep-rally-like excitement around the clock. I mean, we didn’t have team bonfires every night or anything but there was a general sense that we were a part of something huge- people walked with a sense of urgency and everyone always seemed to be busy. Every act had its own crew and life of its own, and while there wasn’t much co-mingling, there was a sense of camaraderie across the board. You didn’t really see J or Enrique around all the time but you know it was all about them; their family and friends, however, were everywhere.

Mary’s tour had a more grounded feel. The most extravagant elements of the stage designs were D’Angelo’s video panels that featured a simple image during each song of his set list. Similarly, Mary hit the stage with nothing but a mic, her own set of background video decor and her awesome band and singers. The Liberation tour felt like a big group of friends on an intense road trip but on most days it felt relaxed. Unlike the Dance Again headliners, Mary was usually at the venue fairly early and while she wouldn’t hang out in hallways or anything, she was generally accessible and welcoming; Same went for D’Angelo. All of the acts (Starshell, Melanie Fiona, D and MJB) and their respective teams got along well and could normally be found hanging out, watching each other’s sets, eating together or just kidding around in dressing rooms.

Overall, despite different feels for obvious reasons, both tours exuded a sense of pride that was exciting to be a part of. I got to know more people on the Liberation Tour since it felt more close-knit but everyone on Dance Again was approachable and warm. There was even one time when we had a costume snafu a few minutes before Starshell’s set and JLo’s team came together quickly to help me sort it out without thinking twice. I realized then that everyone really was a big team.

I enjoyed seeing the vastly different productions side by side. I can’t say that either feel was better or worse. It taught me a great deal in a short amount of time especially about the way people interact in this industry, given the atmosphere.

The Real Side of Celebrities
Many people ask me what were the big stars like. Who did I like more?
The truth is it wouldn’t be fair for me to say that I liked anyone better since my interactions with the headliners were very different. Since the artist I work with is signed to Matriarch Records, Mary J. Blige’s label, I definitely got to interact and know MJB a lot better than the others. We ate meals, hung out in her dressing room and carried on in a more friendly way. She is very down-to-earth, kind of silly at times, fun, and almost a bit sweetly shy in certain environments. I watched every single one of her shows (even though it was the exact same set every night) and I was enthralled each time. She is as grand a performer as she is a woman. When I saw her off set, it never felt like I was talking to or hanging out with the same woman who had just shut down an arena full of thousands with one microphone and some bad ass thigh-high stiletto boots, but it was her and it was awesome.

I actually only met JLo once and I didn’t really get to speak to her much. However, I saw her boyfriend, Casper, at the gym all the time… he seemed ok. Jenny from the block seemed friendly and definitely gave off the around-the-way girl persona she portrays in much of her work. I mean, after all J is from the hood and she takes pride in it. Enrique, as I mentioned in a previous post, was very humble and sweet (and sexy!) His easy-going manner surprised me. D’Angelo was the biggest surprise. I only met him a few times but he was actually a lot more reserved than I would have expected. I suppose I expected a burly vociferous man because I associate him with the famous bare naked “Untitled” (How Does it Feel) music video from yesteryear but he was actually quite timid and sweet. It was kind of endearing.

Moving Forward
Two tours down, still running a business and who knows what’s next. I’ve learned more in a few months that I thought possible. In my next post I will go into the more challenging and sobering moments of this experience but for now, I am thankful and in awe of just how much has happened in such a short period of time. While I’m definitely glad not to be living out of a suitcase anymore, I must admit that it felt a little weird at first to be back home for more than a week. I get how people get addicted to this lifestyle! For now, however, I am enjoying the comforts of my own bed and my city for a little while. I don’t know what 2013 has in store but I am definitely excited.

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