Really, the Bite Club simply had no idea there were so many kinds of bottled water, we realized as we stared at the West Burnside Fred Meyer's expansive H2O selection.
"They want 'sparkling water,'" said Ben Murin, a production crew member for the Crystal Ballroom. "What's the difference between soda water and club soda?"
Damn you, Franz Ferdinand. Damn you and your outlandish grocery requests.
Besides getting to be rich and famous, rock stars receive the ultimate luxury: unlimited food. When a band plays a concert, they often present the concert hall a "rider," a list of what the musicians want stocked in their dressing rooms. So, before Glasgow hipsters Franz Ferdinand destroyed the Crystal Ballroom with a sweaty, swaggering art-rock inferno last Friday night, Bite Club dragged ourself out of bed at 9 o'clock that morning to play personal grocery shopper for the band.
After loading up an entire cart with water, soda, fruit juice and Heineken, Bite Club managed to score one for the Willamette Valley when we chose a 2001 Eyrie Vineyards pinot noir as one of the "four bottles of red wine" the Franz gents requested.
Drunk with power, list in hand, we wheeled our way into the produce section. Murin said Sonic Youth was so picky about organic products, he ended up spending more than $500 at Whole Foods on soy milk, imported dark chocolate, Zone bars and locally brewed pale ale. The noise pioneers also requested "clean ice cubes."
Suddenly Murin realized he had to be back at the Crystal in 15 minutes to make the sandwiches Franz had requested. Horrified that singer Alex Kapranos might go sammyless on arrival, we sprang into Supermarket Sweep mode. Hummus: Check! Fruit smoothies: Check!
With Murin's wallet $297 lighter, we headed out of Fred Meyer. Still, what gives? Aside from Franz's obsessive hydration complex, these rock stars eat like, uh, Oregonians. Where are the ego-driven demands for fried peanut-butter banana sandwiches, dammit? "I'd ask for a six-pack, smokes and a hot meal," Murin said to cheer us up. Bite Club countered with an order for homemade mashed potatoes, Nerds and Goldschläger.
Back at the Crystal, Bite Club cornered production manager Travis Labbe to ask about the worst requesters. "Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds," he said. "We spent more than a thousand dollars on their stuff. We had to buy them a blender and a juicer. And out of a multiple-page rider, they still noticed that we forgot to buy kiwis."
While the Crystal generally spends anywhere from 150 to 800 bucks per band rider, most requests are modest. Busta Rhymes wanted Trojan Magnum condoms, while homespun crooner Iris DeMent just asked for water and a towel. Modest Mouse requested T-shirts and socks, and Labbe was curious enough to ask singer Isaac Brock why. "He says they don't do laundry," Labbe explained. "They just throw their socks away."
The Bite Club, heartened to know there are still screwed-up weirdoes making beautiful music, turned our attention to obtaining a copy of Franz's band rider. The next time the band visits Portland, the Bite Club will be stocked and ready to take them out. And we'll bring along a bottle of Schweppes and six cans of Red Bull, just in case they really wanna party.
Beardgate update! The James Beard Foundation received another blow last week, when several respected James Beard Foundation Awards judges, including Gourmet magazine's Ruth Reichl, resigned from their posts.
Bite checked in with a local Beard Award winner, Heathman chef Philippe Boulot, who says that the Beard will always be controversial. He points to the foundation's tradition of inviting chefs to cook at the New York house--and expecting them to foot the bill for the honor.
"The Foundation is elitist--it puts chefs on a pedestal," Boulot says. "But the James Beard House is the best venue for chefs in the States to express themselves. Nobody is forcing these chefs to go to New York and spend money."
He shrugs off the magnitude of the financial allegations, saying the Beard Foundation wasn't properly managed. "It just got a good spanking to realize that," Boulot says.
Out in cyberspace, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain is leading the charge to reform the Beard Foundation (he claims the house should be turned into a "methadone clinic.") Bourdain and Boulot will have time to discuss the whole mess next month, when the Heathman hosts the trash-talkin' chef's Les Halles Cookbook reading and a special prix-fixe dinner with the pair on Tuesday, Nov. 9.
These grocery lists and dressing room requests were culled from actual band riders received by Crystal Ballroom staff in the past few months. Bon appétit!
72 small bottles of water
24 assorted cans of soft drinks (including Coke/Diet Coke)
6 cans of Red Bull
3 liters of Schweppes Tonic Water
6 liters assorted freshly pressed fruit juice
48 bottles of quality (5 percent) lager (e.g. Heineken)
4 bottles of red wine
1 bottle Stolichnaya vodka
1 half bottle of Gordon's Gin
1 bottle opener
A selection of dips, including hummus
4 AA batteries
1 local newspaper
*Please note that one of our party has a serious allergy to nuts.
1 fifth of single-malt scotch
2 bottles of quality red wine (Rioja Reserva or Cote du Rhone Hermitage), no Merlot
1 bottle of quality dry white wine (Chardonnay, Vino Verde, Pinot Grigio, Sancerre)
1 bucket of clean ice cubes
6 bottles assorted "healthy" drinks and/or smoothies, i.e., Fresh Samantha/Odwalla
1 liter organic unflavored soy milk or unflavored Silk
1 large bag of potato chips (organic, not baked)
1 large bag of tortilla chips (blue, organic) and salsa (organic, medium-hot)
Raw unsalted almonds, cashews, and salted pistachios
1 jar organic peanut butter (creamy)
1 bag organic granola (hemp granola is best)
2 bars of imported dark chocolate
2 bars of imported milk chocolate (no fillings)
10 assorted bread rolls with fixings: tuna, Swiss, cheddar, goat cheese, hummus, mustard, mayonnaise, organic spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. (all of this in modest quantities)
Space and power outlet to set up a juicer/blender
Note: We prefer QUALITY over Quantity, please do some of your grocery shopping at your local Health Food Store.
An appetizer: specialty salad, soup, etc. (including vegetarian options)
Full hot dinner entrée: choices of 1 meat or fowl, 1 fish and 1 vegetarian entrée. 1 serving of plain pasta with butter. Served with 3 vegetables plus assorted fresh green salad items.
Dessert: A quality dessert selection. Seasonal and local specialties are preferred.
Aftershow: Tour or Prod. Manager will advise the need of some aftershow snacks (Pizza/sandwiches, etc.)
Built to Spill
One 12-pack of imported beer (Heineken), one 24-pack of domestic beer (Rolling Rock or Budweiser) and one 6-pack of non-alcoholic beer
Chips and salsa (medium)
3 packs of American Spirit or Winston cigarettes
1 bottle of single-malt scotch (Glenlivet)
20 1-liter bottles of noncarbonated mineral water
1 12-pack of Coke
Bread, cheese, and granola bars
Hot vegetarian (non-vegan) meals for 11 people
24 bottles or cans of assorted soft drinks including Diet Coke
12 assorted bottles of Gatorade
24 cans of domestic beer (Budweiser, Coors, etc.)
1 26-oz. bottle of Jack Daniel's
1 26-oz. bottle of Silent Sam Vodka
30 large plastic beer cups
6 large bags of ice
Assortment of sandwiches, including vegetarian
2 local newspapers
asks for three packs of American Spirits; ABBA-fakers
request Silent Sam vodka and local newspapers.