Alice Cooper's posse doing a (sold-out) pre-show at Moondog's
When most high-profile rock bands arrive in a city, they often sequester themselves in a hotel or on the band bus until show time.
Not guitarist Ryan Roxie and the rest of the members of Alice Cooper's backing band, who prefer to mingle with fans before concerts. On Aug. 31, the band will play a show at Moondog's in Blawnox prior to its appearance at KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown the next day.
“It's a great way to spend your time before the show,” says Roxie, who also will participate in an International Rock and Roll Parking Lot meet-and-greet before the KeyBank show on Sept. 1. “A lot of people think it's so crazy backstage, but to be honest, it's quiet and tame before a show. … I like the opportunity of the Rock and Roll Parking Lots to go out and shake some hands, feel people's energy, sign some things, take some pictures and really get pumped up for the show.”
The pre-concert events are the brainchild of Paul Unger, a fan from Martinsburg, Blair County. Roxie had been in the habit of greeting fans before shows, but Unger took it to another level, with the first true International Rock and Roll Parking Lot in 2013 before Cooper's show at Stage AE on Pittsburgh's North Shore, drawing a few hundred fans.
“Ryan would usually go to a club across the street and sometimes there were only two or three people there,” Unger says.
For the Stage AE event, Unger used a large umbrella as a marker for fellow fans. Now there are stage-sized props, including a 14-foot-tall guillotine and an electric chair, that serve as rallying points. Roxie and his band have gone from greeting a handful of fans to hundreds.
“I know how special and dedicated our fans are,” Roxie says. “I would say Paul Unger is the Navy SEAL of those guys. He's like Special Forces when it comes to being a supportive force for us. Paul and I have known each other for years and he's always carried the torch for rock ‘n' roll and supported my music.”
Roxie's main gig since 1996 — save for a six-year period between 2006 and 2012 — has been with Cooper, although he also finds time to front his own bands, including Roxie 77. He's aware that he's in a fortunate position.
“I get to ride the coattails of success with a living legend,” Roxie says. “I will say there's not a day that goes by that I don't pinch myself and say, how did you get in this position and how can we keep it going one more year, one more year, one more year.”
Roxie's experience with Cooper during the tours is 24/7. They not only ride the tour bus together, but also indulge in one of Cooper's passions outside of rock ‘n' roll.
“We golf together every morning,” he says. “So many times during our drives to and from golf courses we're listening to Little Steven's Underground Garage and singing old Beatles and Rolling Stones songs at the top of our lungs. If I actually stopped for a second, I would think how surreal it is, but it's just another day in the life of playing guitar for Alice Cooper, which I'm thankful for.”
Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.