The Levitt Pavilion kicks off its ninth year of free summer concerts Friday — a feat accomplished with the staff and thin budget of a nonprofit organization.
But institutional thrift is a concept apparently lost on some of the musical acts the Levitt has hired over the years, if contract riders are an indication.
Take one band’s request for a goldfish bowl filled with Swedish Fish candies and exactly two gummy bears to be hidden among the fish.
Another band demanded fine china and silver cutlery for snacking. Only problem? Most dining takes place on a patio with a concrete floor.
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“We’re a not-for-profit organization,” Levitt spokeswoman Cathy O’Neal said. “We’re not doing fine china over a concrete patio.”
Do performance acts really expect — or even want — their oddest requests granted? O’Neal has asked that of some booking agents, who have told her they believe it’s more of a test.
“They put those — what we call outrageous — things in their rider to make sure you’re reading through the contract,” O’Neal said, adding that she thinks it draws attention to more modest requests.
The fish bowl band, which is on the upcoming summer schedule, also asked for fresh fruit.
O’Neal declined to name any of the acts with odd contract riders because it would “embarrass them and make them very angry.” But she hasn’t ruled out granting the fish bowl of candy.
“That one is so funny,” she said. “I would like to be one of the places that does that one. It would surprise them, make them laugh.”
Here are some other weird ones, worthy of the mythical, legendarily persnickety rock band Spinal Tap, and the Levitt staff’s contortions to comply:
▪ A band with a germaphobic member requested 72 bath towels, which ended up being draped over every surface in the green room, including the floor. The staff never questioned the request. “It was a big band,” O’Neal said. “We just thought they sweat a lot.”
▪ A singer requested that the Levitt hire a person to steam wrinkles out of eight stage outfits — and someone was hired to do it. But it turned out the singer changed just once during the concert.
▪ An act requested a specific brand of electric tea kettle to be provided in the dressing room. The Levitt staff found and bought one.
▪ One band requested “a poem about a dog written by somebody’s sister,” O’Neal said. “We nixed that one.”
▪ Bands have asked the Levitt for cartons of specific-brand cigarettes and bottles of liquor, but those requests are flat-out rejected. “We don’t do that,” O’Neal said. “We pretty much feel like they need to support their own bad habits.”
But the Levitt staff tries to accommodate, since they want visiting acts to have a great experience in Arlington.
So, for the many requests for organic foods, staffers go running to Central Market, Whole Foods and sometimes even Amazon.com to get specific brands.
Some bands are more self-sufficient. One of the zydeco bands cooked jambalaya in a slow cooker. “The green room smelled awesome,” O’Neal said.
“We provide food and drinks and water to everybody who performs here. It’s part of the hospitality of hosting a band,” she said. “We want them to feel at home, and where they have requests, we try to do them as much as we can.”
And, she added sheepishly, “We want them to like us.”