Remembering Lori Tierney: The Heart Of The Production Industry

Shelby Cude
– Lori Tierney
Lori Tierney at a Just A Bunch Of Roadies service project in Palm Springs, Calif.

Lori Tierney was a beloved figure in the tour production world who left a lasting impact on the way business is conducted and the charitable aspects of the live industry. Her friends and family remember her most of all for her depth of character.

Tierney, 58, died after a long battle with cancer on July 24 at her home in Denver.  

She was raised in Englewood, Colo., and received her B.A. in communications from Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., according to her obituary in the Denver Post

Soon after college she started working in the touring industry with Denver promoter Feyline and started learning the business by working with the company’s regional shows.

When John Campion started the company Showpower in the ’80s, Lori helped build that company into the premier provider for portable generators for large shows throughout the ’80s. Production industry veteran Charlie Hernandez told Pollstar that during the ’80s concerts became more and more elaborate, and it increasingly became most efficient to bring generators throughout the whole tour, as buildings frequently didn’t have enough power for the show.

After her time at Showpower Lori worked as an independent production coordinator, sharing many tours with Hernandez and production manager Jake Berry. Over the years, she worked for The Rolling Stones, Guns N’ Roses, The Police, Stone Temple Pilots, Diana Ross, and Velvet Revolver.

She did the “Use Your Illusion” Guns N’ Roses tour in the early ’90s with Dale “Opie” Skjerseth and after that she, Opie, Berry and Hernandez formed Production Alliance, a touring company that brought together all of their specialized skills.

According to those Pollstar spoke with, Lori was highly skilled in her work of production coordination, but those things didn’t capture what made her special. It was her incredible qualities of character – being a great mother, woman, workmate and friend, according to Mark “Springo” Spring – that distinguished her as a leader in the industry.

“I would be selfish to say that Lori was my best friend. She was everyone’s best friend. She always had time to listen to people that needed the ear of a friend,” Dale “Opie” Skjerseth told Pollstar. “What she did for the tour industry, from being a great Coordinator & Business Partner to being the best human being is something that we all know.  The saddest thing is that we will never see what great things Lori was going to do next. 

“One thing she would say to all of us is to get out there and do something, do not sit around and whine about it. Life is too short. So get out and help others.

“What we can do for Lori is to take a small piece of what she meant to each one of us and what she taught us and try to use it for good. To look at things and situations and say ‘What would Lori do?’ I will miss her for the rest of my life but I will take what she meant to me and use it until I see her again.”

Production manager extraordinaire Jake Berry had similar remembrances of Lori.

“She was honest all of the time. She told it as it was, good or bad,” Berry told Pollstar. “Lori was the glue who kept us all together and by all of us I mostly mean Charlie, Dale and myself. If we had a problem or a question we could always turn to Lori for an answer and some of the time it was an answer we didn’t like, but we respected her for that. I will miss picking up the phone and saying, “Lori, what do you think about this?’”

Charity and generosity are two common themes that come up when remember Lori, who retired from the road and returned to school later in her career, getting an MBA in Nonprofit Management from Regis University. Lori married Mike Tierney in 1995 and they had two children: Josephine (JoJo) and Andy, and although she was no longer on the road, she continued to provide logistical support for tours with her company Satellite Office Services that she founded with Wendy Overs- Stephenson  and Charles Zimmer and founded the nonprofit organization Just A Bunch Of Roadies with Hernandez.

According to Hernandez, the idea for forming JABOR came about when he and Lori were working on a benefit concert for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The fundraiser was good, but they both felt there had to be ways production people could use their skills to provide more aid directly to people in need, rather than just setting up these shows to raise money. Since forming Just A Bunch Of Roadies, the organization has provided boots-on-the-ground help in Haiti after an earthquake devasted the country; organized massive industry support for equine therapy; activated a food bank program; repurposed beds for a children’s hospital in Tunis; sent medical supplies to the Congo and the Philippines; and distributed meals to Pakistan.

Shelby Cude
– Lori Tierney
Lori Tierney surrounded by roadies

This year Tierney worked with Musically Fed to provide food for Entertainment Professionals in need,  an initiative initially designed to distribute unused catering to the needy now addressing food insecurity in the Music Industry. 

Berry shared his experience with Charlie and Lori at JABOR, Lori was as always, there to support her friends.  

With the help of JABOR’S partners Loaves and Fishes MN, 27,000 meals were shipped to Nashville from Minnesota, Colorado, Nebraska to help families of entertainment professionals in need. 

“Like most who live by love and decency, Lori excelled,” Jack Healey of the Human Rights Action Center wrote in a tribute to Lori. “When she started in the music touring industry, it was a rough and tumble and maybe even amoral business. Lori changed the culture by introducing something she called the ‘Love Bit.’ She wanted to bring out the best in every one of the roadies. She encouraged them to rise to the challenge, and she set the standard herself, so they could see by example a life well lived with humility and kindness.”

Tierney was a member of the Production Live! programming committee and was a regular staple at the annual Pollstar Live! conference.

“Lori was a vital component of our committee programming the annual Production Live! conference, and I found her to be smart, insightful, creative, and pragmatic,” Oak View Group President of Media & Conferences Ray Waddell said. “Beyond that, she impacted the overall live entertainment business as a highly respected pioneer for women in the concert production field. She possessed a warm soul and deep love for this business, and great empathy for all. This industry is diminished by her passing.”

 “Lori’s compassion and empathy were at the forefront of all of her actions,” her husband Michael recently mused to Josephine and Andy, as documented on the Just A Bunch Of Roadies Facebook Page. “The best way to remember and honor their mother is to ask ‘What Would Lori Do?’ when they have to make difficult decisions.”

The guiding principle of “What would Lori Do?” will guide the work of Just A Bunch Of Roadies for years to come, and the humanity she infused into the touring businesses will live on for generations, Hernandez told Pollstar.

“The greatest lessons I learned from Lori: ‘Better to lose a gig than to lose a friend’ and ‘Do something every day against the bastards, but never forget the love bit…’” Hernandez wrote in a remembrance on the Just A Bunch Of Roadies Facebook page. “The work continues … She was the best of us all.”

In lieu of flowers the Tierney family encourage donations in her name to Urban Peak, Laradon Hall Society For Exceptional Children and Adults and Food Bank of the Rockies