Shinybass journal 11-25-13
And the Inuit are laughing…
I once read of Norman Vaughn ,who became a bit of an inspiration to me. If you read the finer points of his life, you will be amazed at the things this man saw and accomplished in his lifetime. Take a moment and skim his bio. What intrigues me is the life that he had after age 68. So not only did he hang out with Admiral Byrd, have a mountain named after him, compete in the Olympics, and serve in WWII, where he reached the rank of Colonel. He packed up and headed way up North, and went on to compete in 13 Iditarod races and then, at the spry age of 88, he climbed Mt. Vaughn, the mountain with his namesake. He passed away at the age of 100, only days after his birthday. It is to be noted that the honorable Mr. Vaughn had his first drink of liquor at his 100th birthday bash. See? Drinking kills!
When one reads a quick bio of such a man, we tend to forget the small details. We see the accomplishments and the bullet points, but it’s the in-between that fascinates me. How many cold, cold days and nights did he train for the 13 Iditarod races? How much training did he do for the Olympics? What was he doing from the end of the war until he decided to move to Alaska? We don’t have an everyday account of this, but I am sure that, after being broke and married 4 times, the adventurer soul that he was had a few rough times. (and again without liquor until age 100!) I suppose all of our lives have a lot of ‘in-betweens’. Your son didn’t become a star second baseman on the little league team over night. There were probably a lot of games of catch in the back yard. And your daughter didn’t just wake up being a whiz at math. You probably scooted her along early on. For those behind the scenes and in between, you are the gas in the tank.
Our job has a little gas for our tank as well. It’s called our crew. It doesn’t matter what band or artist is on the road, without a solid production crew behind you things can go south in a hurry. I have seen our crew make miracles happen, from repairing faulty gear to getting us from trailer to stage ready in 45 minutes. They’ve had to deal with heat, cold, rain, and headlining artists that ‘big time’ us and give up no stage space. It happens more than you know, but all of that is OK. Our crew pushes through and makes it happen for us, so we can make it happen for you.
This past run we had two shows, both in Texas. The first show was in Dallas on the 50th Anniversary of JFK’s assassination. It was the first time Dallas honored Kennedy, and I can understand why it took so long for the city to heal. And honestly, I would be torn as well on the best way to handle something so history-changing. You want to honor and praise – the person, not the act. That’s where it gets tricky. Anyway, to be brief, we were in Dallas. And where it was 75 and sunny the day before, we walked off the bus to 38 and raining. And did I mention the show that night was outdoors?
That’s a little of a stretch. We were outside, make no bones about it, and the temps were low. The stage was covered, and walled in with plastic on 3 sides, but I am not going to pretend it wasn’t ridiculously cold. I wore long underwear. There, I said it. Anti-rock star, I know, but news flash – jeans just don’t cut the mustard when trying to stay warm. So a trip to the store netted me long johns, fingerless gloves, and a beanie. But again, the real stress was on the crew. It was 4:30 before a decision was made to play indoors, and they had us up and rocking like a boss, even with a cold, leaky stage. The show ended up being a really good time for all – like a cold-ass backyard party – and the guys from Fast N’ Loud were great. And if you are ever in Dallas, hit the Gas Monkey Bar n Grill – the brisket is great, and the red chile grits are a nice twist on boring side items. And for those that knew Andy, our former keyboard player – he and other Hunter Hayes band mates came out to say hello as well, which was a nice treat. Good to see old friends.
The next day we were in Austin, at a Christmas tree lighting. Reports had temps at showtime around freezing (thanks Santa), and as we checked out the stage we noticed something strange. You guessed it – no heaters. So 14,000 -plus people on hand and you can’t rent a space heater. OK, fine. We’ve done worse. We were taken over to the show site for soundcheck around 2. We set up and got levels on stage, but then it was so cold that the front of house console didn’t work. (That’s the big ‘mixing board’). So we waited. And waited. In the cold. And waited. Finally we were told to go, and be back for the 6:30 show. Did I mention earlier that we were expecting highs in the 50’s for this run and NONE of us brought any warm weather gear? So after being outside in my little jacket and jeans, my body started to ache. A hot shower thawed me out, only to get right back out in it and play for the tree lighting. Here is where the night got a little tricky. Cold fingers on cold steel strings don’t always work. And, well, gloves, long johns, whatever – it was cold. Whomever comes up with an electric guitar string heater is going to be a wealthy individual. Look into that, as well as heated piano keys for the boss.
For as cold as it was, remember our crew had to set this all up (somehow) get things working for us at showtime, and get us sounding remotely decent. No easy task while wearing mittens. We play the shows, and get the attention, and you see our 30-120 minutes of performance. You take the pictures, and remember them as bullet points. Next time you go to a show, remember the ‘in-between’ time that usually entails a crew member fixing something so the show can go off without a hitch.
So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for a great artist, band, and crew. They really are aces. I hope your in-between time is not so in-between. I hope you have more milestones than set ups, and may your stages (whatever your stage is) always be warm and covered.
See you on the road!