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Henry Bordeaux

Nook Schoenfeld • NextGenSeptember 2019 • September 9, 2019

Henry Bordeaux

In PLSN’s continuing NextGen series, where we introduce you to people who seem destined to be Parnelli nominated players in the future of the live event industry, please meet Henry Bordeaux.

Henry is certainly a jack-of-all-trades, but has become a reputable tour manager over an 18-year career. His latest gig is managing Tyler the Creator and working alongside a legendary man. “You’re not gonna believe this, but we just got Arthur Kemish to be our production manager,” he says, of the veteran PM for top tours for artists including Taylor Swift, Shania Twain, and Tim McGraw/Faith Hill, among others. “This is huge. I’m lucky to be in a position to work with PM’s I grew up reading about in PLSN!”

Henry has been around a while, but with his youthful appearance and calm demeanor, for many of the old guard in our business, he has flown under your radar. But to those of us in the biz who have utilized his talents, there are many to be recognized.

“I started reading PLSN when I was about 14. I was in awe of it all and dreamed of working backstage on Broadway or something. I went to a performing arts high school in my hometown of Jacksonville, FL where I learned technical theater. But instead, at 18, I dropped out of college to go on tour with a punk band.”

Henry leads the troops into the next gig

‡‡         Helping with the Load-Out

As the story goes, a young Henry showed up at a bar to see some friends in a local band (who later became Yellowcard) but couldn’t get in to the sold-out show. “So I waited at the front door until the show was over. Then I snuck in and immediately went on stage and started loading out the band gear.” Eventually the band asked what he was doing. He informed them that he was simply acting as their roadie and wanted a job. He gave them his number at the end of the night. Three days later he got a call. He was hired as a guitar tech. “I knew nothing about guitars.”

That call from Yellowcard sent him out on the Van’s Warped Tour. “It was like Punk Rock Summer Camp for me. If I didn’t know something, there were 100 other roadies who would help me. I never came back after that, just kept touring.”

Henry went from backline tech to monitor engineer to LD for the band. By 2004 they hired pros for all those positions, and Henry became their production manager. “ That’s when I learned from Judd White, our TM at the time, what it meant to be a leader and make a career in this business”.

From there he moved on up to production-manage rising stars Fall Out Boy, while being schooled by David “51” Norman on how to be a pro. By the next year, their tour manager was leaving the industry, so the band turned to their manager, saying, “Why can’t Henry just do it?” and Bordeaux saw himself wearing a new hat. “I reluctantly took the job as tour manager, but figured I’ve taken advantage of every opportunity that’s come my way and gotten better because of it. I had fun and I decided I was going to be a tour manager from then on. In a way, my career has been so nonstop because I can switch hats and be versatile. I can cover both TM or PM positions at an arena level — but prefer to do just one at a time,” he laughs.

After Fall Out Boy, he went on to work with Jessica Simpson and Sheryl Crow, which led to working with pop and mainstream bands. Networking and learning from his mentors and colleagues was always key in Henry’s world, and he was always sure to utilize any tool he could to get his foot in new doors. “I am a firm believer in good reputation, keeping your resume up-to-date and connecting with other crew on social media. The six degrees of separation in this industry are strong and can do a lot to your career. From a resume or social media site, people can tell what cloth you’re cut from. Who you met along the way, and who can vouch for you.”

Over the years, he’s worked for many genres. He did TM/PM jobs for Sum 41, Korn and Moby before a string of boy bands entered his life. “In 2011, Nickelodeon started a touring division; acts you may not be familiar with — Big Time Rush, Victoria Justice, Fresh Beat Band. All of them became sell-out tours for kids, from toddlers to teens. We built them up from high schools to sold-out arenas.”

By 2012, Bordeaux started hooking up with larger name acts — Jennifer Lopez, Miley Cyrus and Avicii — to drop a few names. “I was ready to start taking on larger shows but learned quickly production management wasn’t the same for every act. J-Lo was huge — shows with lots of dancers and a big crew. But with Avicii, we had even bigger shows, yet we only traveled with USB sticks, four crew and a jet.”

He also took a gig with Jason Derulo. “This was a different kind of gig — more like tour director, as I was managing everything for them. This artist could either be a one-man show with nothing onstage or have a six-piece band with 10 dancers. It kept me on my toes and burnt me out. After three years, I learned to take better care of myself on the road.”

In 2014 and 2015, Bordeaux TM or PM’d for Miguel, Big Sean, Nick Jonas, Lauryn Hill and Natasha Bedingfield. Then, in 2016, he served as the creative designer for Fifth Harmony’s 7/27 World Tour. “We went to Rock Lititz for a week. It was a last-minute tour. We asked each vendor in Lititz to send over a truck of gear and set it up just like a pit crew puts four tires on car and sent it out the door in a week. It was a great show and toured around the world for a year.”

When asked if he ever found a particular client difficult to work for, he replied, “Puff Daddy is the one who really tested me. Artist expectations were high, I didn’t know where to draw the line. At one point we almost hired a private jet just to go pick up a very particular gold drum set he wanted immediately. Then six hours later he wanted all the gear painted black. The amount of money this artist threw around is immeasurable, but when money isn’t an object, it’s amazing what we’re able to pull off!” Though finding it challenging at times, Bordeaux has continued down the hip hop route. He tour-managed Travis Scott for a year or so before moving into his current gig with Tyler the Creator, who has been credited as the first hip hop artist to produce his own album [Igor, released in May] and have it debut at #1.

‡‡         Giving Back by Mentoring Others

Bordeaux is a huge advocate of mentoring young people in this industry. Besides being a two-time winner of the Young Gun Tour Manager of the year Award, he’s passionate about creating opportunities for the next generation. Henry makes the time, by combining real life skills at the workplace with his students.

“Right now I have eight or nine students I am mentoring consistently all in different stages of their careers.” Via phone or in-person sessions covering their experience and resume, Henry helps guide them to their next goal.

“The vetted students get to do what I call the Shadow program,” Bordeaux adds. “They meet me in their town when the tour rolls through and shadow me all day long, from load in through load-out. I show them build and explain the operation that is happening around them and explain how the different departments work and intertwine. I test them and give them homework assignments based on what they learned that day. It’s exhilarating for them, and rewarding for me.”

When asked if he ever hires the people he mentors, Henry replies, “Yes and no. My production coordinator, Alex Prince, started as a student and has been touring with me for two years. More often, I get a call from a new young act looking for someone affordable that may want to grow with the band, and I help fill that position, getting them out on smaller tours. But not everyone can make their own break, so yeah, it’s a good feeling when I can pay it forward and watch them make their own mark in this business.”

While Bordeaux may not be a household name just yet, he’s certainly rocketed in that direction the last few years. When asked what legacy he’d like to be known by, “Tour managing and mentoring would be fine with me.”

Henry can be found on the road or in L.A. with his wife Lisa, who is expecting their first child. (He may need some mentoring in that field himself.) He can be reached at www.henrybordeaux.com.

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