A bigger bang: This is not Spinal Tap

Tres Thomas has toured with Madonna, U-2, and Sting. The difference in going on the road with the Rolling Stones?

"It's the biggest band in the world," says Thomas, who traveled along on three previous tours with the bad boys of rock 'n roll and is director of touring for this year's A Bigger Bang tour. "They've been at this for over 40 years. It's the greatest show to be part of. They're professionally involved with every aspect."

Big is the operative word for the Stones. The stage going up in Scott Stadium is 72 feet high and its width is the wingspan of a Boeing 747. "It's the largest stadium stage on tour," says Thomas.

When the Stones roll into Charlottesville for the October 6 show, they bring a small army: 265 people, 77 trucks, and 32 buses.

Mick, Keith, Charlie, and Ron travel with about 60 friends and family by private aircraft– a Boeing 767. Their whole entourage consists of 120 people– including the other musicians touring with the Stones, managers, staff, and security. Some people come along just to move the luggage.

The caterers feed 500 people a day and even provide chewing gum. "We order four cases of Juicy Fruit a week, and go through it all," says Thomas. "When we order water, it comes by the pallet, not in six-packs."

One burning question in Charlottesville is where the Stones will be staying. "Their plans are always fluid," hedges Thomas. "You never know where they'll stay."

His only hint: the Stones will be coming from Washington's October 3 show. After Charlottesville, they'll continue south to Durham for the October 8 concert at Duke, narrowing the possible places where they'll lay their heads to somewhere in that 200-mile triangle.

Another factor in lodging the Stones is that band members travel with their families and need a lot of rooms. "When you're talking hotels," says Thomas, "there can't just be one presidential suite."

One contender for hosting the Stones was sumptuous Keswick Hall. "We were full," says a disappointed Keswick spokeswoman, Anne Hooff, who adds that the Stones reps got the bad news when they called for reservations. "That's one of our busiest weekends. We've been sold out for months."

If the Rolling Stones stay in the area, what are the chances for running into them on the Downtown Mall?

"They do go out and visit when they're on tour," advises Tres. "They don't stay in their rooms."

Where will they be? Not at Keswick Hall, which had no room at the inn when the Stones called for October 6 reservations.