ROCKTOBER – WEEK ONE
The ‘Rocktober’ shows are now well under way – we’re two shows in and the mood is good. It’s great to be back with everyone and even better to have new songs to perform (along with a couple of rarities that we pulled out for your delectation and delight!). The band met at the airport on the morning of the Saratoga show – and this is always an amusing way to start a tour. Most of us are bleary-eyed and shuffling through the lounge in search of a caffeine infusion. Jeremy and I hang out outside as long as possible smoking ourselves silly (yes I know I quit…… and now I’m not quit anymore – whatever) and eventually we’re all waiting for the plane, laughing loudly and ready to get things moving.
The flight is a short one and our home away from home….the bus….is waiting curbside for us when we land. It’s amazing how comfortable I feel on a bus. Almost more comfortable than in my own home. I think it’s something about having less possessions with me, and life becoming simpler, but I roll into my bunk (bottom front right – the same one as I always like to take), throw my Thor DVD into the player and relax with some preposterous Hollywood magic. I can hear Derek shouting something about the UFC on the TV and I feel right at home! The gig is a short ride away, in the mountains just south of Silicon Valley. It’s a beautiful setting and I remember the venue from last year. The sound check is easy and the rehearsals have paid off – everything sounds exactly as it should – and we begin the countdown to onstage time.
For me, the gig is a strange one. I play ok, but suffer a couple of really intrusive technical problems. The first thing that happens is that during the drum into to King Rocker (a song that I start with feedback) I change guitars as usual, open the volume pot wide, hit the note and…….nothing. Dead. I struggle with what to do for a second and make the decision to count the song off as I normally do. The band kick in and I immediately disappear off the stage to scream at Jimbo that it doesn’t work!! He grabs me another guitar and I make it back onto the stage for the first chorus. This time it works. So I calm down and feel my way through the next two songs until suddenly my right ear goes silent. I use in-ear monitors which give me a beautiful stereo mix of the band, but right now, I got just the left ear working and my right ear is silent. The wire that attaches to the moulded in-ear piece has come out. But that also means that getting the ear piece OUT of my ear is tough without the wire attached. I spend a whole song looking like I have some strange affliction – picking at my ear sporadically between strums of the guitar!!! Eventually I get it out, get Jimbo to fix it (let’s hear it for Jimbo!) and the gig ends without further incident. Saratoga is a noisy bunch and we move on to Fresno.
Ah, the wonderfully intoxicating scent of fried everything mixed with barnyard animals greets us as the busses pull in to the backstage area of the Big Fresno Fair. If you have never attended one of these affairs, you’re missing out on a whole slice of Americana. Cotton candy and hot dogs are right next to stalls selling…..well, pretty much everything! From faux punk Mohican wigs to blow up dolls to phone cases to undisclosed foodstuffs……throw in some chickens and cows and some dog racing and you’re still nowhere close. But these fairs also have nice outdoor venues, with a few thousand capacity seating, and that’s what we’re doing today. I venture out into the masses attending the fair, not realizing I’ve got last nights eyeliner smeared across my eyes and I’m wearing the Vivienne Westwood ‘Tits’ tee shirt. Basically a realistic photo of a fine pair plastered across the front of the shirt. I just about reach the Chicken And Waffles stand before it dawns on me that I’m getting a few looks. The gang bangers, head to foot in Raiders gear, are paying more than a little attention and the many six foot three, 250lb ‘MEN’ – (you know the ones ……”hey baby, looky over there….that boy’s wearin’ make up….. what are you, son?…..one o’ them there homo’s???) seem to be getting upset that their County Fair has let someone like me in. Wisely, I turn around and hightail it back to the safety of the backstage area….. and proceed to put even more make up on for tonight’s show. HAHAHA!!!
Fresno are a noisy bunch and from the opening song, it feels good. No technical problems for me tonight and Billy’s having a blast. Steve Stevens rips a ridiculously good solo during one of the new tunes (Too Far To Fall) and everything seems to go up a notch. The Gen X section of the set is on fire tonight and Boss Sound feels amazing to me. As a rhythm guitar player, my job is to provide a bed for Steve so he can be the amazing lead player that he is – but in Boss Sound, I get to play the lead stuff. Not something I’m used to as a rule, but that particular song is engrained deep within me and I’m comfortable doing it – and tonight it sounds perfect. Blue Highway, Rebel Yell, and then the encore songs of White Wedding and Mony Mony. And it’s over. We do a runner (off the stage and STRAIGHT onto the bus) and leave the dubious foodstuffs, the testosterone-filled males and the wonderful Fresno audience behind. After what seems like a very quick day off, we find ourselves back in action – indoors this time, in Indio, CA.
The venue is a really nice size indoor arena although again its all seated – that kinda sucks a bit of the vibe out of a rock n roll show sometimes – but the stage is huge, the lighting rig is a good one, and the whole of our stage set fits nicely. The sound check is a bit boomy because of the size of the room but eventually I get my ears sounding good, everyone seems happy with what they’re hearing and it’s time to start getting ready. I decide to go a little ….um….. bigger with the make up (I’ve always been a fan of the onstage ‘glamor’ thing) and Josie Stevens agrees to do my eye make up. She does an amazing job and I end up with some gold eye shadow blended in with the black liner etc and it’s very ‘David Bowie circa 1972. Thanks Josie!! There’s nothing to see or do around here so I hang in the dressing room with Steve and Billy until it’s time to do this. The new intro music plays in my ear…..all dramatic synths and tribal drums – very cool) and then it’s show time. It’s a hot one tonight but the audience make a hell of a noise and the show goes well. Guitars stay in tune, make up doesn’t run…… success!!!
Phoenix, AZ. It’s the Arizona State Fair, and when I walk into the indoor arena, I’m taken aback at how huge it is. I mean, it’s a BIG venue!! Outside, the usual State Fair goodness is occurring – Ferris Wheels, Hot Dogs, Fried Carbs and lots of beer. Inside, the venue is filling up nicely and by the time we hit the stage, I am shocked at how full the place has become. It looks amazing and I have to say that the crowd tonight are by FAR the noisiest on this run. The place is thunderous and Billy feeds off the vibe – he’s killing it tonight. I’ve written before about what goes on in my head when I’m playing a show…..everything from ‘oh my God what chord comes next’, to ‘hmmm….I think I’ll have the bbq chicken after the show’ – but when the audience and the rest of the band are firing on all cylinders, I am 110% focused and in the moment. That happens tonight and it’s really special. I play a near perfect show and the energy between us all onstage clicks. Not every gig can be like this – if it was, then it would be a perfect sounding Britney Spears gig, not a rock n roll show. Rock n roll is controlled chaos, sometimes noisy, unpredictable, sometimes dangerous, exciting, but never bland. And on occasions like tonight, when everything works, and the energy levels are high, when the band are feeling each other and in touch and connected – well, all I can say is it’s better than any high I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a few!! Thank you Phoenix.
Next week I’ll be back with the second half of the October shows. Thank you all who have made the first week a memorable, exciting and rocking one. And thanks to all of you who read this diary – it’s a cathartic process for me, but if anyone else reads it and enjoys it, then that’s all bonus for me. Have a great week and I’ll be back soon.