Guest column: Grammys Insider
by R.A.R. (who may or may not be a family member of the Tuned Up founder)
Editor’s Note: We were contacted by an early follower of Tuned Up a couple weeks ago who was given the rare chance to attend the Grammys while entertaining a business client. Below are her thoughts on the experience. We are jealous!
I was fortunate to attend the 2020 Grammy Awards last Sunday. Here are some impressions of the event.
I arrived in L.A. on Saturday, and the pre-Grammy buzz was in full swing all around town. Nominated music was playing in restaurants, bars, hotel lobbies, and so on. There was plenty of great people watching and plenty of people waiting to be watched. My travelling companions and I took a quick trip to the Santa Monica Pier for lunch, as well as a stop at a Wilshire Boulevard 7-11 on the way back to our hotel for lottery tickets for the big Powerball drawing later that night. Since you are reading this, we unfortunately did not win!
Starting mid-morning on Sunday, you would see Grammy-goers in full awards wear—lots of sequins, glitter, lace, tuxes, outrageous footwear, and quite a few cowboy hats, too. A lot of people were out and about hoping to make a connection for a spare ticket to the show, pre-event or post-show party.
By noon the news of Kobe Bryant’s passing had reached the people of L.A., and crowds dressed in Lakers’ colors formed in the plaza at the Staples Center, as well as up and down the sidewalks. Electronic billboards on all the buildings displayed Kobe’s picture. The crowds still remained by the time I left L.A. on Monday.
As we entered the theater lobby Sunday afternoon, I had my one brush with fame—David Crosby. One of our group was Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal, a renowned rock-and-roll photographer. His most recognizable work is the cover photo for Déjà Vu, by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He has remained friends with the band members over the years, so it was pretty cool when David came over for a casual chat.
We made our way into the arena 20 minutes before the 5pm start of the telecast. Most people were taking photos and chatting as the show’s producer implored people to get seated. It was not an easy job, and the artists were the worst at complying with his directions! The announcer kept counting down the minutes to showtime in hopes of more successfully herding the crowd.
It was fascinating to see the work that goes into producing a live television show. The coordination of cameras, equipment, instruments, lighting, sound, videos, dancers, presenters, and artists is an amazing undertaking. L.A. Fire Department was well represented all throughout the venue.
The action alternated between the main stage and the center circular stage. Crews were constantly changing sets, equipment, and people: I’ve never seen so many pianos moved around so quickly. You could see who was getting ready to come on stage as they waited for their cues. Our seats were close enough to see some performers head to the dressing rooms after performing. Demi Lovato had a “dress handler” to help her exit the arena!
Since returning home we’ve been watching the TV version that we had taped. The biggest difference is the sound quality of a live concert performance vs. the audio from the tv broadcast. Everyone sounded much better in person, as one would expect.
It’s been interesting to see what makes it to your TV screen. I was surprised at how the cameramen are right up close on stage to the performers. They worked in pairs, one person working the camera (which apparently is equipped with a gyroscope to keep the image steady) and a “guide” who would move them around the stage. There were multiple pairs like this either on stage or out in the audience. I also learned that the artists in the first few rows of floor seats are moved around so that nominees are up front during their categories or for other PR opportunities.
During the commercial breaks videos of Grammy performances (U2, Whitney Houston, Beach Boys, Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, etc.) from previous years were shown. As the break came to an end, you’d get a 30-second warning to get back to your seat, a ten-second countdown, and an applause reminder two seconds before air.
The night started with Lizzo in the spotlight, and ended with Billie Eilish dominating. I enjoyed Lizzo’s energy, voice, and music. It’s enjoyable to watch someone having so much fun on stage, as well as when she was a member of the audience. Thanks to my daughters for getting me on board with Lizzo prior to the show. “And best of all, she plays the flute!”
Billie Eilish…it seems like most people were huge fans or not fans at all—either standing to cheer, or rolling their eyes. I think she could have chosen a better suited song to perform. It was such a quiet, spare, emotional number that you could hear a lot of audience noise, moving around, and the like. You could even hear people on the concourse outside of the arena talking. I’m not sure that raising the volume would have solved the issue, either. I will certainly give a listen to more of her work, but for now I am pretty much in the “not a fan” category.
For me the most surprising performance was Jonas Brothers I had no expectations of liking them, but I thought their song was upbeat, catchy and a throwback to my “era.” Just the right number of dancers, backup singers, and musicians rounded out their performance. Plus, they just looked like they were having fun!
Tyler the Creator was by far the craziest and funniest number of the evening. I had no idea what it was about—it was non-stop noise, lights, colors, motion, vocalizing, and music. The broadcast didn’t do justice to all the pink and red suited wig wearers who were parading up and down the aisles. And what a fantastic exit from the stage! Regarding his acceptance speech, how could you not like anyone who brings their mom up on stage to say “Thank you.”
Monday morning was spent at the Grammy Museum, similar to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland but on a much smaller scale. Current special exhibits showcased Amy Winehouse and the Ventures (original Hawaii Five-O theme). It’s always interesting to see music memorabilia and history. My weekend at the Grammys will certainly go down as a highlight in my personal history.