US TOUR: WEEK FIVE

If it’s Wednesday, it must be Virginia Beach. The two days off were much needed – real days off, doing nothing. I felt a little under the weather, so I threw back the Advil Cold And Sinus like they were smarties and watched a bunch of crap movies, thanks to the wonderful technology known as Instant Netflix. And now it’s time to shake it off and get back to business. Feeling slightly worse for wear, I stumble downstairs with my bags and get on the bus. I love what I do more than anything, but I also revert to the age of about 6 when I get sick. I’ve never been any good at it. All that manly ‘its just a cold’ shit doesn’t cut it with me. I want a team of nurses, some 24 hour attention and loads of drugs. I get none of that and I’m forced to simply let it take its course. So off to the venue we go, everyone in good spirits. I have to say it was pretty hard getting through the show – it was hot on stage, I felt spacey because of the cold, and I kinda wandered through the set on autopilot. Good job I now feel 100% comfortable with this set, having played it a lot…..I got through the show, collapsed in my bunk on the bus, and slept 9 hours on the overnight drive to Ohio.

Dayton, Ohio. Well, the gig is in Kettering, down the street a way, but the hotel was in Dayton. An interesting place. As usual, a few of us went to dinner, so I asked the concierge about restaurants in the downtown area. “Oh yes”, he replied. “Everyone hangs out in the Oregon district – plenty of choices down there.” So off we go to search out a place for dinner. Now granted, there were a bunch of places, and we did eat well (Italian, and it was good!), but after dinner, we took a walk. Expensive looking restaurants full of young, suited gentlemen and their dates, next door to sex shops, a Head shop selling more glass pipes than I have ever seen…..but it also had a selection of studded cod-pieces hanging on the wall (Blackie Lawless, anyone??), peep show booths, an Irish pub, a theater and a musical instrument store. All on one block! Bohemian, to say the least. Now I’m not saying that I can’t see the use for any or all of these stores – in fact, every town should have them. What I’m saying is that its odd to see such a wide selection of goods for sale in one block. Normally the sex is sold in one area, the Yuppies are eating in another area….and Stairway To Heaven is being played perfectly by some 11 year old in the music shops in yet another area (usually while his Dad is doing some really bad two handed tapping on an Ibanez at a ridiculous volume). Either way, Dayton fed us, entertained us, and we moved on to the gig.

The show was at the Fraze Pavillion. A great outdoor venue, and big enough for the stage set. Love that. But I have to be honest, it really is all starting to merge into one big show for me. I am not 100% sure where we are a lot of the time, and the stages, the venues and the shows have all been so great that it’s become one extremely long gig in my head! Outdoors or indoors is a good marker – I can at least differentiate between that. Also, if something goes wrong onstage, I remember that (because its such a rarity that when it does, it sticks in my mind). But for me, the tour is now so much easier if I don’t know what day it is, or where we are. The lifestyle is not for everyone. I called my Dad a few days ago and in passing, he asked me how long I would be touring for – and I told him that basically we started in May, and will finish towards the end of September. He honestly couldn’t fathom WHY anyone would do that! Haha! It was beyond his comprehension that people CHOOSE to lose themselves for months at a time in a whirlwind of travel, hotels, airports and be away from home for such long periods of time. My answer was that it affords me the privilege of playing a guitar for a living. Of being able to create and express. He didn’t understand. I guess music moves different people in different ways.

The show at Mt. Pleasant, MI was our first show with Slash. I popped down to watch them soundcheck and sure enough, they sounded killer. Plus, it’s always nice to meet with friends while you’re on a tour. So I got ready early and watched the majority of Slash’s set from the side of the stage. They were great, and pulled out a lot of GnR and VR amongst the solo album tracks. I guess I’m still not feeling 100% and running around while your stomach feels like its making an exit through your throat is not the greatest vibe while onstage. But nothing actually comes out (thank God – throwing up onstage would be a first for me…) and the place erupts for Rebel Yell and White Wedding. All too soon, we’re done and back in the dressing room. Pounding Pellegrino, I get changed and roll onto the bus and overnight into Illinois Now we get to hub out of one hotel for the next four days. This is a slice of luxury for me. The big suitcase comes out, my hotel room looks like a second world war battle ground (clothes, technology and miscellaneous clutter strewn everywhere) as I finally get to sort through what I need, what I don’t need, and realize just how over-packed I am!!

The first day in Chicago and its still a gig day – maybe two hours out of town at the Rockford ‘On The Waterfront’ festival. I played this back in 01 with The Cult and it looks the same as it did back then. Tens of thousands of people roaming the streets, stalls and booths everywhere, and a nice size stage overlooking the Great Lawn for the bands. The first two songs go without a hitch, and then….I change guitars for ‘Love Is Strange’. This particular song has a very special tuning involved – I only use it for this one track – and I throw the guitar over my shoulder as the intro rolls, and…..nothing! I check the wireless pack, the volume pot, the pick up selector….everything tells me I’m on. But I’m not! The band slide into the first verse, but I spend it huddled behind the stage, frantically screaming at Jimbo! Not his fault it turns out – the dreaded ‘wireless virus’ is striking again. My solution is to just use the one pack that worked in the first two songs for the whole set. This makes my guitar changes a little clunky but I make it through the gig with no more problems.

Back in Chicago, and with a couple of days off, I take the opportunity of some down time in a decent city to go catch a couple of movies. ‘The Expendables’ – completely my type of film. A plot that a seven year old could write, but with amazing action sequences, clever dialogue and shit blowing up in every direction. And the star of the movie is the cast in general. Every action star in one movie, including a nice cameo from ‘Guv’ner’ Schwarzenegger. Not sure there are any awards for best acting in this film, but the Oscar for the biggest and loudest gun is a given. ‘The Last Exorcism’ is the second day’s choice. Slow does not begin to describe this movie. Shot in the annoying ‘Blair Witch docu-cam’ style, it plodded along at a snails pace. And despite a few nice scenes (or at least a few nice frames) I come to the realization that it is impossible to make a decent Exorcism movie. Why? Because how do you match the impression that ‘The Exorcist’ made on the world? I mean, that movie was punk rock in the extreme. For a movie to be about that subject matter, and to contain the immortal line…”Your mother #@%$*@ in Hell” (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, a) shame on you, and b) Google it!) in 1973!!! The film had the same effect on society that Black Sabbath had in 1968, or the Pistols in 1977. Uproar. You can’t top that.