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Chris McElroy: The Party Crasher.

April 15, 2015

ChrisMcElroyOnlline03Interview by Eric Fitzsimmons. Images by Evan Kaucher.

Chris McElroy has been around the Philly music scene since middle school and the whole time he has been bending, breaking, creatively interpreting and ignoring the rules to see his favorite bands in person.

It’s not all slight of hand though. McElroy, 29, of Fishtown, is a talented web and graphic designer at SEDSO Designs. He worked with Trent Reznor as a teen and he has designed websites for many local bands and venues, which means he now gets backstage with an official pass … usually.

ChrisMcElroyOnlline02How did you start going backstage for concerts?

The very, very first time there was a band called KMFDM from Hamburg, Germany. I was a huge fan of theirs. I emailed back and forth with the band and did some website stuff with them. I was either 14 or 15. They were playing at the Trocadero and it was a 21-and-over show only. I really wanted to see the show because I’d never seen them live before so I emailed the band and they said, “Get to the venue early and meet us by the tour bus.” As soon as I met them, they gave me a guitar and they had me carrying the guitar cases and all the gear so that I wouldn’t get IDed. The lead singer told security he was my uncle. So, that’s how I got in. It was just carrying a guitar case.

Why is getting backstage a big deal for you? What draws you to the backstage scene?

It isn’t too much anymore since I’ve done it so many times now. But sometimes, it’s just going back there ’cause you know you can get a free beer and don’t have to pay super high prices at the bar.

I like hanging out with some of my favorite musicians, seeing them in their natural habitat, so to speak. You get to see another side of them. If it’s backstage, before they go onstage, you know they’re nervous. They’re warming up on a drum pad or something like that. Then, if you’re backstage after their set, they’re all cracking beers and having a good time and they’re your best friends for the night.

ChrisMcElroyOnlline01What act had the coolest backstage scene?

I would have to say Nine Inch Nails in Las Vegas for my 21st birthday. I had done work with the band before and they invited me backstage. Trent Reznor, he’s my musical hero. It was really cool just talking with him one-on-one, you know? We ended up getting to trash his dressing room. Most times backstage, it’s not what it looks like in the movies or whatever. But this was one of those nights where it was a lot like the movies.

How do you find working with bands?

I love it. The cool thing, since doing Nine Inch Nails’ website when I was a teenager, is that’s a great selling point to bands. “Hey! I did Nine Inch Nails’ website.” Bands automatically want to work with me. Plus, just being connected in the Philly music scene, I know the industry. I know all the key players, so to speak, and I have good suggestions for bands besides the regular web and graphic design work that I do.

What’s your big secret to getting backstage without a pass?

Rule number one: make friends with the security guards. Ask them their names, make sure they know your name. Tell them a funny joke so they remember you and just don’t piss them off.

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