Tour director: It's more than rock 'n roll

Tres Thomas can't talk. He's sitting in a trailer at Giant Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and has a Stones show to oversee that night. He won't have time to chat with a reporter until the next afternoon when he's in a car on the way to the September 17 concert in Albany.

Thomas will be on hand at every one of the 59 shows– with more being added– during the 2005-06 "A Bigger Bang" tour. It's his job as director of touring to make sure everything goes smoothly for the huge machine that is a Rolling Stones road show.

Managing the tours of the world's biggest rock bands is something the Illinois native grew into.

He cut his teeth on Yes, the Who, and the Marshall Tucker Band back in 1978 when he was in college at Arizona State University.

"I was always the one on the student activities board," he says. "I was the one on the concert committee, and I ended up understanding the financial end of the entertainment business."

Summers were spent working for the city of Chicago on its music and outdoor festivals and gaining more experience in the nuts and bolts of the performance business.

After getting a law degree from the University of San Diego, Thomas took a job with a business management firm in Richmond that handled the contracts for performers and the road support they needed: sound, lights, and trucks.

"At that point, it was a young industry to have a company focus on the business end of touring," he explains. "In the '80s, people realized that touring was a business with legal principles, accounting, taxes... Most entertainment attorneys at that time were in publishing or recording or merchandising. Now touring is administered more thoroughly by business attorneys."

Every tour is a new adventure for Thomas, who works for a company named The Next Adventure. A subsidiary of Clear Channel, it handles clients like U-2, Sting, and Marc Anthony.

"When we meet face to face with a new client or group for the first time and talk about how to make their tour experience better," says Thomas, "that's always exciting."

Thomas hasn't had a "no brown M&Ms" clause like the once infamously stipulated in Van Halen's contract rider, but he can't think of an artist's special need that fazed him. "I just get 'em done and move on," he says.

The usually discreet Thomas doesn't hesitate when asked about the worst tour he's been on: 1996 with Ministry, a metal group that emerged from the punk scene of the late '80s.

"They were everything Spinal Tap was about," he chuckles. "Waking up musicians with water in their faces, paying hotel managers for damages... I'm friends with [Ministry lead singer]Al Jourgensen, and he'd agree."

Particularly difficult was being on tour with Madonna in L.A. on September 11, 2001. The show that night at Staples Center was canceled because of terrorist fears.

"The great moment was the next night when we pulled off a show," he says. "She wanted to perform, being the defiant artist she is, and it was one small piece for America getting back on the right track."

The downside to traveling with rock stars is the time away from home in Charlottesville. "My family has adapted," he says. When school schedules allow, they travel with him.

Even with a full-time staff, there's little time for Thomas to sit in a chair and watch an entire concert. "I do watch the beginning and end to make sure everything's okay," he says.

Still, there's that thrill of working on a large project and seeing it come together. "Watching 60,000 people at Giant Stadium is pretty cool," he concedes.

And when the Stones come to Charlottesville, for once he'll be sleeping under his own roof– while on tour.

Age: 47

Why here? Charlottesville is a great place to come home to.

What's worst about living here? My career takes me away too often.

Favorite hangout? Vivace

Most overrated virtue? Honesty. Why is it a "virtue" at all? When someone says " I have to be honest with you," I immediately question their creditability.

People would be surprised to know: I'm a pretty good handyman. There is not much I can't fix or build.

What would you change about yourself? My first name . People always pronounce it wrong. [It's TRESS, not TRAY– editor]

 Proudest accomplishment? Having a secure and happy marriage

People find most annoying about you: My linear approach to any task or challenge. The term multitasking is so overrated.

Whom do you admire? Single parents.

Favorite book? The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

Subject that causes you to rant? Arguing with my 14-year-old daughter Brea over her weekend plans

Biggest 21st-century thrill? Being able to communicate worldwide, 24/7 wherever I am.

Biggest 21st-century creep out? The pure hatred and racism cultivated under the protective cloak of religious freedom

What do you drive? Chevy Silverado Pickup

In your car CD player right now: I listen to talk radio.

Next journey? Anywhere but Cleveland

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? I'm invoking my Fifth Amendment privilege against self incrimination.

Regret: I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention.

Favorite comfort food: Ben and Jerry's at midnight

Always in your refrigerator: Fresh carrot juice

Must-see TV: 24– even in reruns

Favorite cartoon: "Odd Parents"– recommended by my daughter Brogan... hmmm.

Describe a perfect day: Crisp autumn day in the George Washington National Forest with my wife and daughters

Walter Mitty fantasy: Solving serial murders with Agent Pendergast as my partner

Who'd play you in the movie? Robert De Niro

Most embarrassing moment? I have to live in this town.

Best advice you ever got? Every step is forever.

Favorite bumper sticker? "If you can read this, thank a teacher.

Tres Thomas