Roadies series premiere recap: Life Is a Carnival
Oh-oh-ohhhh listen to the music -- and watch out for groupies
The series premiere of Cameron Crowe’s music-centered comedy starts off with wailing. But not the wails of a guitar — these are the wails of a woman. A 22-year-old woman having insanely loud hotel sex, and not a knock on the door or the temptation of room service will quiet her down. But her partner in the act, a tattooed, mop-headed, and much older, Bill (played by Luke Wilson), finds the plates on the other side of the door tempting enough. As he gets up to retrieve the chocolate volcano (whatever that is, I would like one), she says, “You’re probably the oldest person I’ve ever f—ed, and I loved it.” Way to know what to say, as-of-yet-unnamed woman with pierced nipples. We’ll see you again soon.
While receiving the chocolate volcano (sorry to harp, I wrote this while I should’ve been eating lunch), Bill is bombarded by Shelli (Carla Gugino), who walks right into his hotel room, equally tattooed and mop-headed. Not to be distracted by the naked woman strutting around the room, Bill and Shelli start talking business. That’s when we learn that they work with the popular Staton-House Band — Bill is the tour manager and Shelli is the production manager. But don’t get it twisted — she’s married to an “amazing, noble husband,” who happens to be the production manager for Taylor Swift, AND SHE AND BILL ARE NOT A COUPLE, OKAY? (Even though, obviously, they once were.) That’s when we also learn that Kimberly (said naked woman) is the daughter of an uber powerful promoter-rep — whoops!
Cut to New Orleans, where after a seemingly long tour bus ride, we find the crew on a stadium stage in some sort of prayer circle that ends in a big, sleep-away camp-style cheer. That’s when we see Kelly Ann (Imogen Poots), another crew member, in action. For some reason, she finds it necessary to skateboard everywhere she goes while backstage. She skates past columns, stage hands, and dollies, and ducks under light fixtures. The inner grandma in me is very concerned about all of the 5,000 ways Kelly Ann could throw out her back or sprain her ankle… not to mention she’s wearing headphones (headphones!) throughout this self-imposed obstacle course. But no matter — Kelly Ann skateboards wherever she goes. She’s also on the outs — after tonight, Kelly Ann is leaving the crew to go to film school.
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While backstage, we meet Puna, the Staton-House Band’s head of security, who also happens to rock a mean mullet. His big task for the evening? Do not let a woman named Natalie Shin backstage under any circumstance. Also murmuring among the crew is the loom and doom of a new financial adviser who plans to swing by the stadium, causing Shelli to fear for her job. Kelly Ann (or “Kell,” for short, though she hates the nickname) gets a call from Wes (Machine Gun Kelly — yes, that one), her trouble-maker twin brother who was just fired by Pearl Jam and needs a J-O-B. Guess who’s coming to NOLA?
Kelly Ann is particularly emo right now. While piling on the veggies at craft services, she tells Phil (Ron White), a cowboy hat wearing, firearm carrying crew member, that she’s leaving the band to find her own voice. “Maybe I could change the world — ha!” she says, not quite convinced. “I don’t hear the music anymore,” she laments. Kelly Ann feels underappreciated and uninspired — the band hasn’t even changed their set since the last tour! (Sounds like someone could use a Lemonade-style album drop, just sayin’…)
NEXT: The band gets infiltrated
Meanwhile, regardless of the restraining order put out against her, pesky Natalie Shin sneaks into the stadium, disguised by her inconspicuous heart-shaped sunglasses (dammit, Puna!). She seduces another crew member with the sole purpose of stealing his laminate (how good is this band?!) and is officially IN. Cue: The Head and the Heart, who are opening for Staton-House Band, and sound pretty freaking great in sound check.
But the harmonies soon fade. In a world of leather jackets and unwashed hair, we meet suit-wearing financial adviser Reg, who, get this — calls Mumford and Sons “The Mumford Sons.” He proceeds to inform Phil that he’s under investigation and suggests he leave the band. Phil, hot-headed and out-of-control, grabs his gun in protest — but fear not! Puna puts his security skills to good use and saves the day. With the crisis averted, Reg gathers the troops to casually let everyone know that a few of them are going to lose their jobs, and they’re all going to have to work harder. In the middle of his “out with the old, in with the new” speech, Kelly Ann interrupts him and gives us some real talk. “You either love what you do, or you get the f— out,” she snaps at Reg, lover of sports and real estate. “Perhaps I didn’t communicate the fact that I live to destroy everything you stand for,” she exclaims, red-faced. Aaaaand scene.
High on her monologue, Kelly Ann gears up to leave the band for good. Bill throws a small surprise party for her, complete with a raspberry pie to the face — that’s when Reg confesses that he admires her gumption and would like her to stay. Kelly Ann says “adios” (really) and skateboards away (because, obviously). She skates her way into a dressing room and finds good ol’ Natalie, deep throating the band’s microphone before making her quick escape. But alas, the skateboard! Kelly Ann catches up to the mic-queen in no time, and Puna, aka this hour-long episode’s hero, carries Natalie off the premises.
In an emotional final scene, Kelly Ann kisses her band days goodbye, but not before crossing paths with Staton-House Band outside the stadium. They tell her they decided to change up their set list. They’re going to play “Jeanine,” a song Kelly Ann has never heard them play. “You’ll always be family,” the mysterious band member tells her. Right as Kelly Ann is about to get into her car, she has a change of heart and starts running (note: running, not skateboarding) to the stadium. As Kelly Ann sprints, famous running scenes from films flash on our screen — there’s Marilyn Monroe, Bugs Bunny, Ferris Bueller, and yes, even the guys of Superbad — and it’s a moment that reminds us that this is a Cameron Crowe project. Bill and Shelli welcome Kelly Ann back, but she’s definitely lost her bunk on the tour bus. Cut to Bill and Shelli side stage, watching Staton-House play. “Opening with Jeanine,” Bill says, grazing her hand. “Something is in the air.”