Sometimes when you are given a list of dates and there are certain ones which spike your attention. Sometimes the list of dates can appear difficult to comprehend for logistical reasons. Sometimes both of these things happen together.
This last week has been one of those times. However I must start by addressing the absence of my ‘May’ installment to this blog. The scheduling of the current tour and other stand-`alone shows coupled with fitting in family life meant that I missed the deadline. My apologies to you the reader, and the whole team at MD.com. My ‘May’ blog documents the recent 29-day stint across the USA and Canada with George Ezra – I will work with the editors to ensure this is available later in the year.
Back to the week in question, this current week in fact. When I took on the role of working for GE there was one show which seemed an oddity – Brazil, for a little over 48hrs, one show. ‘Why would it be on its own and not as part of a run?’ my non-industry based friends would ask, and in some respects I was inclined to side with them. I have been doing this long enough to know that nothing in this industry is impossible if it is at all possible!
The week would see us depart from LHR on Friday and land in Sao Paulo on Saturday morning. Setup, and sound check on the Saturday evening in preparation for a show on Sunday evening live on Brazilian TV. We would then leave Brazil on Monday and arrive back into LHR on Tuesday morning. We would then be taken to Gatwick where we would stay in a hotel and then fly to Norway on Wednesday morning for a show in Bergen on Thursday. Friday we would be flying back to London before heading off again on Saturday evening to Westonbirt Arboretum (for a Sunday show) as part of the Forestry Commission summer shows. We would then be home Monday morning/afternoon. Across the equator a couple of times, S. America to Scandinavia – a regular week!
These would be my first ‘fly shows’ with the GE camp. A ‘fly show’ is a term used to describe a gig where a hired backline is used and the touring party take on the essentials to do the show – these can happen for a number of reasons; logistics, weight limits, time between shows etc. For these fly shows (both Brazil and Bergen) we would be carrying 23 pieces of band luggage between the touring party of 17 people. We also had to factor in personal luggage weather it be checked or hand carry. With the system we created we managed to do it all within permitted allowances.
Arriving in Brazil a little jet lagged we successfully cleared customs with the gear and headed to the hotel for the afternoon before the early evening build. The hired kit was slightly worse for wear 1970’s Ludwig 22/12/14/16 with a mid 90’s 402, 400 and Black Beauty. The kit wasn’t great. There were numerous problems – mis matched heads, old used heads, split reso heads, non working floor tom leg brackets etc. After some TLC the kit was in better shape and sounded in the ballpark of where it needed to be. We flew our own cymbals, kick pedal and electronics but that was all – everything else drum wise was hired in. I then turned my attention to the keyboard world (in my temporary dual role) to make sure everything was set ready for line check. The band arrived later and had a long sound check to re-familiarise themselves with the songs after a week off. It was then we noticed a problem in the keyboard world to do with the midi playback system. After working on it for an hour or so it couldn’t be solved without help so we opted to take the computers back to the hotel to work on them overnight.
Showday. Myself, James the keyboard player and Oli the monitor tech headed to site early to continue working on the midi issue. We had thought of one possible solution which would hopefully solve the problem. Within minutes of arriving the problem was fixed – cue sighs of relief all round. I then used the time in between to change some heads the backline company had provided. Approaching showtime and during the linecheck all was not well in audio world – the desks were failing. This could be show critical; we were moments away from pulling the show. With extra time pressure as the show (outside gig with 20,000+ people) was going live on Brazilian TV at a set time we worked hard to fix the problems. Unfortunately we couldn’t fix the front of house desk. The solution was for Oli to run the front of house mix from monitors while also dealing with the bands monitor requests – not an easy gig! But, it happened and the gig was a success with the highlight being a great moment when Fabio’s father joined him on stage to play percussion – a true ‘full circle’ moment for father and son. Back at the hotel and digesting what had just happened we enjoyed some relaxation time before the early lobby call.
Operation luggage was again in full swing and this time we were much quicker with allocations etc. Landing back into Heathrow we met our transport which would take us to Gatwick where we could rest for the day before the 5.30am alarm call. Again we would be taking the luggage but this time on a smaller airline where the excess baggage fees could be eye watering. Somehow – luck or charm – we managed to only spend £86 in excess baggage fees. Arriving into Bergen, we were met with a sunny but cold day, pleasant enough that some of the party went for a hike in the hills overlooking the town. The festival site was only a few minutes walk from the hotel and with all the gear already loaded we were looking forward to a good show on Friday.
Friday, today, as I’m writing this. I wake up to a torrential storm outside the window. Meeting the rest of the guys in the lobby we run through the old jokes about bring canoes to work etc. Making our way to site we are already drenched by the time we get to the stage. When we arrive at the main stage the first 20-25 feet of the stage is covered in water from the downstage edge. The wind is howling and blowing the video screens in all directions, extra bracing is being put on the stage while we assess the situation. We fear that the gig will be pulled. However we are told to carry on as normal. Load in is delayed while they unblock a drain which is flooded and blocking access to the stage. When we do begin the weather has got worse. Internally we are all thinking it’s just a matter of time but we must press on with the load in and build. This time I opt to build the keys world first incase there is any work to be done on this. After this I turn my attention to the kit and shortly after putting the last stand on the riser the call comes through. Gig off, well, sort of. There has been an agreement to do a smaller stripped back gig in an indoor venue close to the site. We are then told to quickly pack away, load a van with the essentials for the smaller gig and wait for instructions. This is a relief for us as we were fearing the worst for the equipment if the gig had gone ahead.
With the gear in the smaller van (now at the venue) we headed for lunch while we waited for news. With time moving on and the original stage time becoming closer the news we were waiting for arrived – the gig was off. From here we headed directly to the van to reload the truck so it could make its way back to the UK to meet us in Westonbirt. We walked back to the hotel in the rain discussing the last few days.
Surely nothing can go wrong on Sunday??
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