This time we met an amazing woman, Lisa Clements. She enjoys a reputation of successfully massaging legendary musicians, and their crew, since 2004, running a unique practice in the relatively unseen areas of backstage dressing rooms and tour buses, known as the back of the house in staging terminology, or BOH, at live music performance venues up and down the West coast of the United States.
Lisa also practices those same techniques on festival attendees in Earthlite massage chairs, generating thousands of dollars for charities, in what is termed the front-of-house, or FOH. Anyone who’s ever received massage while listening to live music can attest to what a transcendental experience it can be. Located out of San Francisco, California, Lisa is a touring massage therapist, traveling both in buses with the crew, or in her SUV full of massage equipment, seemingly an entire day spa, awaiting the next “load in”. Recently, Lisa reached out to Earthlite to share her experiences, give a glimpse into what gear works for her and lessons learned from life on the road as a touring therapist.
What is your inspiration to want to work exclusively with musicians?
After high school, I was questioned about my career goals, I remember saying I wanted to be a roadie. As a teenager, I couldn’t articulate that I wanted to work within the entertainment business because I really didn’t know much about it. So I opted for my other choice, which was massage therapy, and overall was a much better use of my skills. I enrolled in Brenneke School of Massage in Seattle, where I learned the clinical aspects of a providing an exceptional massage, focusing specifically on identifying common pathologies seen in musicians.
As I finished school, I heard tales about bands “taking therapists on tour,” and so began the research the music industry, what a stagehand does, how concert promoters, band managers, and tours operate, collecting information to merge my love for music and massage together. I still volunteer my time to local venues, meeting the crew and security employees that run the shows. I wanted to deconstruct the façade of “working on rock stars” and start focusing more on the therapy aspect for the entire crew. Part of my success has come from recognizing an underserved population and dedicating myself to being more than a nicety on tour, but in fact contributing to the musician’s bottom line, by providing client-oriented experiences.
I worked in every conceivable work environment along the way, including tons of on-site massage, work in spas, chiropractic and physical therapy offices, including management of unionized massage therapists at the airport. Each experience taught me valuable lessons in customer service and hospitality. I simply am obsessed with raising industry standards for massage in the live music and touring arena, upholding the finer points of service, and improving the public’s perception about massage.
What does your typical session consist of?
After celebrating ten years in the massage industry, I currently utilize a version of the routine developed for athletes by the legendary therapist, Pat Archer, including LOTS of Petrissage, Myo-Fascial Release, Neuromuscular Re-Education and Trigger Point techniques. For manual therapy, I prefer jojoba, Young Living essential oils, and Arnica, in combination with hydrotherapy, hot towels, and aromatherapy, even gloved intraoral work. Using this combination, I get results when I tour with musicians presenting chronic conditions. Sometimes vocalists utilize the chair, pre-performance, to minimize any face cradle congestion, as I learned to work with the band Styx. Musicians are usually looking for specific, wellness-oriented sessions on the table, and concert goers want a more general, invigorating, fun chair massage treatment. The focus to provide client-oriented work is the same for both types of clients, that the one common theme between sessions.
No session is typical, each presenting its own mix of challenges, mainly maintaining the quality of touch while discerning requests from people who are deeply creative, with some time management mixed in. By providing therapeutic massage, the artist can give more to their performance, contribute to their daily wellness, and if applied correctly for a duration of a tour, massage can yield measurable changes in tissue, flexibility and pain relief from repetitive stress disorders and general fatigue.
What was the process after your first “gig” to continue to build on your experience?
My first massage was with the band Journey. That gig was transformative, an opportunity to finally be in the working environment I knew was part of my future, even if I wasn’t sure how. That was the beginning of learning what it takes to create successful, highly customized massage experiences, in a variety of settings, in the presence of very talented musicians.
I continued to work a variety of clubs, arenas, concerts and festivals, mainly table massage backstage, and chair massage to the public. I worked every show I could, quickly learning the basics; get there early, be efficient, don’t abuse catering, establish boundaries, be nice to everyone, know your audience and be prepared to network. I invested in high-quality gear, products, and linens, in order to withstand the rigors of touring. I still use my original Earthlite 32” table from massage school, with the 10” arm extenders. Those arm extenders quickly became crucial in my work, they increase the width of the massage table to 42”, allowing even broad shouldered clients to completely relax the shoulders when prone, and provide a stable working surface when supine for more delicate forearm and hand work. So many gifted artists have relaxed on that table!
I also purchased an Earthlite® Avilla II massage chair, which has held its value tremendously. Using Earthlite’s manufactured disposable face cradles lend even the most casual festival, an air of professionalism when performing chair massage, and folks really like the aromatherapy well. For me, the adjustability of the face cradles is essential, as is the deluxe table warmer in combination with the sheepskin cover, so important in drafty rooms inside venues. It is critical that the gear I use is not only durable, reliable and comfortable but also professional in appearance, as lots of clients watch me setting up. I quickly adopted a high-quality handcart to carry everything, which makes for convenient movement within the venue.
What are the rewarding aspects of your work?
Seeing measurable changes in clients, I live to hear the feedback. Kanye West’s record producer and keyboardist, recently told me he might not seek surgery for his hands, because of the results he noticed after only three sessions. The vocalist from the band Godsmack told me (after a dry MFR was applied to his arm) that “whatever you did to my arm, worked. Thank You.” These are amazing moments in my career, I think any therapist who can develop their specific techniques and manage the pressure to get results quickly, deserve to have those moments. Seeing the live show is pretty great too, which happens occasionally, although usually the time of day when the production crew can utilize the massage offerings for themselves.
Of course, working with the general public to raise charity can also be a ton of fun, promoting awareness around music and wellness is just another face to the ever changing massage industry. I recently got the rare chance to pitch an idea to Live Nation CEO; suggestions included starting their own in-house wellness program, including better vetting of therapists, more full-time employment nationwide, and attract top therapist talent; which are some of the challenges the industry faces.
There is a lot of satisfaction for me, in being able to get those kinds of ideas to people on a corporate level and have them consider the experience their artists are receiving. I think of Bill Graham, a San Francisco music industry legend. He used to distribute apples to concert goers outside the Fillmore Auditorium in the 1960’s. That intention, to care for concert goers and the artists, is really the humble beginnings of the merging of wellness and live music together. For me, that original intention was pretty visionary. It’s exciting to help develop the standards used in care in these settings, and create amazing experiences using Earthlite’s innovative, durable and professional line of portable tables, chairs, and accessories; what I have always depended on to realize my vision to serve legendary musicians.
To learn more about Lisa’s practice visit her website