The perspective of Rihanna's team, her crew and fellow talent on the tour, however, has been kept under wraps. To that end, her opener, Italian electro-house producer Congorock, sent Spinner RPM a detailed journal of his experience, offering a candid, enthusiastic behind-the-scenes recap and photo gallery.
From afterparties with Diddy and Cassie in Paris, to drinking and bonding with the 777 passengers and crew in New York, Congorock's tour diary paints a vastly different portrait of the supposedly disastrous press junket -- although both share a naked Aussie.
The 777 tour with Rihanna has easily been the most intense tour I've ever done since I started DJing. The plan for this world tour looked as exciting as it did terrifying because of the super-tight flight schedules, but the chance to open with my DJ set for such a big act made me feel ready to face anything on this trip.
We all started at the LAX airport, at a gate I've never seen before, probably reserved for VIPs and private jets. I was so scared to miss the first flight that I arrived at the airport way earlier than I was supposed to, only to realize that everyone else was taking it easy on the 10AM meeting time.
I spent a good half an hour watching buses bringing people to the gate, an interesting mix of people from all over the world, I couldn't tell if they were journalists, Rihanna's best friends or something in between. I could read the excitement in everyone's face, I could tell everyone thought they were going to spend the whole trip sitting next to Ri on the plane, and as the group of people in front of the gate became bigger and bigger, these dreams seemed to vanish from their faces.
We were about 200 people -- journalists, bloggers, PRs, fashionistas, and a good amount of fans who were located at the bottom of the aircraft. While we were waiting for Ri to get on board and opening the big gift bag with all sort of gadgets (Unapologetic Scrapbook, Unapologetic socks, Unapologetic t-shirt, a watch, a bracelet and other things) cameras were already all over the airplane warming up. I was sitting in an area between the fans and Rihanna's staff in first class, so I was literally surrounded by all the press people, and I could feel some sort of tension before she arrived. She suddenly came out of nowhere, cheering up everyone and pouring us drinks as a welcome.
All the photographers freaked out and rushed to the aisle. I think that while she was handing me a glass of cognac I had 20 cameras on me. She made sure everyone had their own glass and I'm glad she did so, 'cause it helped everybody to relax and chill down for the rest of the flight to Mexico City. We had an open bar with alcohol and full-service food menu all the time on board, and I think it was a great idea to keep us calm on the plane and improve social interactions amongst the crew of the plane. When she grabbed the airplane microphone to speak to us, we were probably so high on cognac that we couldn't recognize her voice, telling us that the bracelet in our gift bags had a small diamond, so "all of us could say we had a diamond once in our lives. Thanks, Ri.
The first show in Mexico City was one of my favorites. We had delays because of traffic jams in the city and it looked like we weren't gonna make it at some point, so when the show started we all the felt the stress going away, and I think this helped Rihanna in having one of the best performances. Aside from Mexico City, she blew me away every night. Every show of the tour looked and sounded different in a way I can't describe, even if the set list was the same for all gigs of the tour.
On day one I tried to catch conversations with the people of the 777 tour, and I could hear fans that sounded like they were having the times of their lives and some others disappointed for not being invited on stage for a duet with Rihanna. Most of the journalists didn't care about the logistical issues we had at the beginning of the tour, some others were just waiting for something to complain about and seemed like they didn't wanna to be there at all. But I'm glad some of them liked my performance, and said nice words about me. My presence on the tour was unexpected for them, like for most of the crowd, waiting for Ri.
I remember Stockholm as the best gig we had in Europe. The venue looked great -- an old-fashioned theater with crazy lamps and fancy balconies. I thought the crowd was more educated music-wise, and I could tell this because they had to deal with my extended two-hour DJ set before the band was ready to go on stage. Rihanna rocked out the simplest style, short jeans and a white shirt, and still looked like a girl from another world. We afterpartied in the basement of the venue, where I personally poured drinks to our flight assistants (I could barely recognize them without their uniforms) and almost kicked out the resident DJs that couldn't keep up the mood of the party we were having in our booth with their music. I remember Ri having shots with us behind the bar, a lot of minimal techno, and the folks of the 777 crew hugging and dancing like we had known each other for years. The day after we all boarded on the airplane with our shades and hoodies on, with a massive hangover.
The crowd in Paris had love from Rihanna, but I guess we all started feeling some kind of tiredness and jet lag because of the different timezones. The longest applause for Ri were after her new song "Stay," which was pretty surprising since the crowd never heard it before. "We Found Love" was the perfect closing song, leaving everybody ready for another afterparty in a club called VIP Lounge, where P Diddy, Pharrell, Akon and Cassie showed up, making it more VIP than it already was. The club changed up the music style from '80's disco dance (it definitely looked like Paris 30 years ago) to straight hip-hop. If I closed my eyes I could have been right back in L.A.
"I remember the show in Berlin as the one with the most diverse group of people attending. I walked through the crowd after my set and I could see entire families with children, 16-year-old fans and 50 year olds all singing along together. All the press people and journalists were brought to a "behind the scenes" tour in the backstage, probably because they wanted to collect as much content as possible in the last half of the tour, and indeed something weird happened that night. We went straight to the airport after the show, and maybe because most the people were still in party mode from the club, or maybe because they were just trying to get their job done and give a headline back home, they all started calling Rihanna's name. She was probably already sleeping in her first-class seat while there was basically a rave going on in economy, with loud music, chants and still some drinks going around here and there. They all failed in the attempt to gain her attention, but shortly after we took off I remember seeing this guy from Australia with long curly hair running down the aisle completely naked. It was hysterical and everybody couldn't believe that was happening for real, while all the cameras were on. I still don't know if he did it to impress Ri or to get a headline on worldwide news, but it was definitely the nonsense highlight of the tour."
By the time of the last show in New York, the 777 crew team had bonded so well that we were already feeling some kind of pre-ending nostalgia. There were great expectations about the show at Webster Hall -- Jay-Z was supposed to be attending. After I was done with my set, I spent the rest of the night on the balconies partying with the rest of the fans, journalists and PR, and we couldn't tell who was who and who was there for what, it was definitely the funniest ending night we could have had.
I spent the day after reading comments and reports by all the people I share this adventure with. Some of them had a blast like I did, some others have been complaining about everything -- the long waits during transfers and the fact they couldn't sit next to Ri or talk to her, or get into the backstage with her or have a quote from her anytime they wanted -- but in my overall perspective this has been one the craziest things I've done in my life and I would definitely do it again!