This is it. The end of the tour. I am embarrassed by how sorry I am to see Roadies load out of this mortal coil. I had already resigned myself to the fact that I would bralessly smoke indoors while watching tonight’s presumed series finale with the curtains drawn because I, like the roadies themselves, am in mourning.
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Not for Phil, who died in last week’s episode but cannot be mourned as he, like all characters, is none-dimensional and therefore sub-human, but for a show that quickly became such a powerful weekly anchor in my flagrantly adrift existence. I, an otherwise unbetrothed woman, have found myself in a passionate love-hate relationship with Cameron Crowe. I watched Aloha the other day. Not to write about it. Just to watch it. I am very ill. Let's get this show on the road.
“God, I love this world that makes no sense,” Reg, the show’s now-enlightened former corporate cog, said in last week’s teaser for this week’s episode. I love it too, Reg. I love it too. In spite of myself.
The episode opens with a Dylan song, "Ring Them Bells." One can only assume they’ve been saving their pennies all season for this, and are now ready to blow their licensing wad in one ball-draining climax. It is not the only Dylan song that is played. Not a moment of airtime goes by without some variation of nostalgia rock mumbling away in the background as the characters mumble away in the foreground.
The roadies have gathered at the "fabulous" Forum in LA for the wake of Phil, their gun-toting leader who was probably a Libertarian. Being a roadie isn’t about politics, though. It’s about the music. And God, is there music. There is a drumkit onstage at said wake, but it is never used, presumably because the roadies are so deep in grief that they could not be bothered to sound check.
Robyn Hitchcock pays his subdued aural respects, as does Jackson Browne, Greg Leisz, Lucius, Nicole Atkins, Gary Clark Jr., Jim James, and Eddie Vedder. As Vedder passionately sings "Man of the Hour," a late-era Pearl Jam song only Cameron Crowe knows or cares about, Rick, the Staton-House Band’s troubled guitarist, is shown shaving his beard; the scene “artfully” cuts quickly between him bearded and clean-shaven. The moment is presented as symbolic, yet no one explicitly states that it is. If a scene in a Cameron Crowe project is symbolic and no one explicitly states as such, is it still heavy handed? The answer is yes.
“I married her,” Rick cryptically says into the mirror/camera, referring to the groupie the band used to have a restraining order against. ("This is Cameron Crowe’s The Royal Tenenbaums “Needle in the Hay” scene, except he’s actually shaving,” quips my friend.)
There are many story lines. Like every episode thus far, number 10 is dedicated to following the tendrils of multiple narratives—it is, in more ways than one, exhausting to be a viewer of Roadies. Shelli’s husband arrives unannounced and declares that he is finally prepared to knock her up. “I’m gonna boink her,” he tells Bill, a horrifically awkward declaration because Bill has already boinked her with extreme prejudice.
Donna, the sound tech’s, wife births their baby; it’s premature, but it’s fine. It’s name is “Buzz,” she states, because “we wanted it to be a sound.” Reg’s brown Fendi suitcase, the MacGuffin of the entire series, is finally delivered to the Forum. Kelly Ann puts it directly to his sweaty palms; in response, he tells her he wants her to come back with him to England, but she cannot. Did their snogging (English for kissing) last episode mean nothing? No; it meant the world to them both. But star-crossed love is a convenient plot point.
New characters we have not seen all series (and Christ, the IMDB is already stacked; the center cannot hold) show up to pay their respects to Phil. His son gives a speech, in which he says that, while his father was MIA the majority of his childhood, he did bring the Doobie Brothers with him when he graduated from Vanderbilt. This apparently made up for decades of neglect because the Doobies signed his diploma. (“Now it’s worthless,” my friend Ivy sighs.)
Phil’s final word, whispered to Kelly Ann, was Pistachio. His long-suffering son explains that it was the name of his favorite race horse and, therefore, another injection of meaning. Phil’s final wish was for the roadies to call Mitch from New Orleans; Mitch, post-call, taxidermied Phil in a Jesus Christ pose. The roadies are lead to a room where they gaze upon his majesty. He doesn’t look deceased—which makes sense, because he isn’t. “He’s not dead,” Kelly Ann declares. “His spirit is alive.” Her brother, Wes, agrees. “Phil’s a fuckin’ state of mind, dude,” he says. “That’s just the body that held him.”
The bass tech, Milo, speaks another triteism while looking at Phil’s bloated yet perfectly preserved corpse. “All these people,” he marvels. “These beautiful lights, and these musicians, these roadies, kids and adults. We may never see these people again.” May, however, is an unduly hopeful word. We shall never see these people again. I have seen the ratings for Roadies.
The episode ends with a highlight reel of what I’ve watched all season (I’d say what we’ve watched, but let’s not get ridiculous), viewed by Reg on his laptop while sitting on a plane. It, a movie made by Kelly Ann, was his parting gift. The reel is thematically similar to every other closing montage that has existed in a recent Cameron Crowe production—Aloha, Vanilla Sky, etc. The same mixtape is reused, over and over, just taped over with new songs for its newest lover. It has become warped and warbly over time, but is still listenable. Upon watching it, Reg deplanes, running back to the roadies he now considers family. This is a callback to the first episode. He pounds on the door to the Forum, an additional callback to Kelly Ann’s pounding. But will anyone answer the door?
The Song of the Day is “The Load Out,” by Jackson Browne. One of the shittiest, schmaltziest songs of all time, it is tailor-made for dads to listen to around the BBQ, reminiscing about the good old days before AIDS and KIDS. It is a fitting send-off.
“Now the seats are all empty
Let the roadies take the stage
Pack it up and tear it down
They're the first to come and last to leave
Working for that minimum wage
They'll set it up in another town
Tonight the people were so fine
They waited there in line
And when they got up on their feet they made the show
And that was sweet...
But I can hear the sound
Of slamming doors and folding chairs
And that's a sound they'll never know”
-Jackson Browne, “The Load-Out”