You’ve probably enjoyed a lot of shows at the Touchstone Energy Stage at the Missouri State Fair over the years, but you probably haven’t thought much of the man in the tie-dye shirt and the long blonde hair running the sound. The men on the stage work hard, but Steven Tankersley, 60, of Alexander, Illinois, aka Rage ReVolta, makes sure they sound good.
“I never had a dream that I would do this for a living,” Tankersley said. “It’s been an exciting journey.”
There’s a different kind of show that goes on before the real show at the Touchstone Energy Stage – it’s a show where an experienced sound man and the band on stage talk back and forth in an attempt to dial in the perfect sound mix. It’s just a little call and response and Tankersley turns those knobs and dials that I could never hope to understand like some sort of mad scientist.
“I’ve finally mastered this board,” admitted Tankersley. “Brian took the time to show me some things.” Brian Boggs of Boggs Audio is Tankersley’s boss at the Fair and he oversees a number of stages on the grounds.
The Busted String band goes on in a few minutes and they like where they are, at least as far as the sound is concerned.
When he’s needed on the Touchstone Energy Stage he’s there, but when he’s not he likes to go out and explore. He frequently finds himself making the short trip over to the Hacienda to participate in its daily Karaoke sessions. Yes, even the sound guy loves performing, no matter the size or seriousness of the stage.
“I have always been a supporter of live entertainment,” Tankersley said.
I’ve been over to the Hacineda to watch him do Karaoke a couple of times. Two of his favorite songs to do are “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” and “Six Days on the Road.” But I get the feeling that he would try just about any song if someone asked him real nice.
“I love singing karaoke down here,” Tankersley admitted.
Tankersley has been literally supporting live entertainment for 31 years and working the Fair for eight years. He’s the kind of guy who just shrugged when I asked him if he was going to the Def Leppard concert. He’s worked with Steppenwolf, Cheap Trick, Los Lobos, Jake Owens, Arlo Guthrie, Eddie Money and The Beach Boys, just to name a few. He’s seen all sorts of high quality entertainment from all sorts of angles so another concert isn’t essentially a big deal. He casually showed up after Def Leppard had already preformed a couple of songs.
“I feel like I’m at the bottom of the big time,” he joked.
Tankersley definitely isn’t the sort of guy who does the bare minimum and calls it good. He’s got a box of earplugs for those who might not be pleased with the volume of the show. He’s got cool pops for kids who might be a little cranky on a humid August day. He’s been fighting hard to get more trash cans around the tent and he will proudly tell you he’s secured seven this year.
Tankersley’s childhood experiences with tinkering influenced his modern status as a professional who solves mechanical and electrical problems. He credits his childhood erector set as a major influence.
He doesn’t do it for the glory — he’s one of the most humble people I have ever met and he even began to question whether or not he was worth a story. All Tankersley wants is to make new friends, meet new people and talk with anyone who will listen: “It’s great when people come up and are generally warm and affectionate.”
Ask just about anyone who has worked on the grounds for a couple of years and they’ll probably know Rage. If there was a local union of people who work at the Missouri State Fair, they might just make him president.
“One time I was told that I was part of the Fair culture,” Tankersley said. “I don’t know if that was a sincere statement.”
Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.