Thursday, September 21. 2006
**** The Old Roadie Lap Story Continues ****
With the van now conveniently parked two feet from where is was before and the battery clearly still dead, time has folded back on itself as we enter a deja vu This time though the air of frustration has boiled and flared in Kira's direction. I do not recall what exactly was said but I remember things not so nice before the amazing Kira once again set out on a journey. The peanut gallery commentary of impending death is now thankfully muted in embarrassment and with the confidence that we will live strong again, the whole ordeal had dropped back into merely misery.
And just as before, Kira disdained upon leaving and heroic upon return, shows up with two the brothers and a pick up truck. Whether it was their desire to do something else that evening besides drive back and forth jump starting my van or sympathy for the stranded punker sardines, this this time they attached a rope and pulled us to their home a quarter mile or so, away.
While the van was towed into their barn for battery charging, a pile of greasy punkers unwrapped and loaded into the cozy Christmas living room of this family's house for some milk and cookies. Warm, finally warm. Magical humans, happiness, trading stories. Pure open human kindness and as a gift of gratuity, they were given a pile of Black Flag tour swag. I still can smile at the awkward moment of decision while pondering whether gifting bright red t-shirts and stickers depicting a nun with her arm around a naked male leg and the words "Slip It In," was going to be properly appreciated by the family that saved us, on Christmas eve day.
**** End Old Roadie Lap Story - The Frozen Van ****
I did not leave my hotel room till noon and that was just to get coffee. The five am lobby call occurred some 2 hours after I finally got to bed after an adventurous and as you may have noticed, fairly rare, night on the town. A night out with friends and hanging and talking. I guess it is kind of like nearly every other night out here except it was not at a rock show and not on a tour bus. Anyway, in a last minute epiphany, I inquired if there was a spare seat on the band's chartered jet. Though I did feel a wave of guilt abandoning my comrade roadies, it was too tempting to resist. Of all the ways to travel, I must say that this is high on the list. On this tour, the band party has mostly traveled by bus/commercial air but with the awkwardness of the fly schedule the crew is currently experiencing, the chartered jet makes sense. Those hopefully these planes are not what we will be flying:
And though very fast, I think the fact that this jet would have to make several trips makes it an unlikely contender, though the missiles I guess could come in handy:
but further on down the road was this baby. As seen in this post flight photo you can check out the modern day flying van that made for a much more pleasant cross Canada trip than the old days:
The enjoying alternate travel methods,
Wednesday, September 20. 2006
I wake up on the bus and it is 10 am and still moving. This is highly unusual and I must admit it has been a few days or maybe a week since I have opened my itinerary and now is as good a time as any. Five hundred and nine miles, and we got rolling somewhere just before 3 am last night, 'bout right I guess. With rigging calls typically in around 8 am and a 10:45 am arrival time according to bus driver roadie Brian, that puts us about 3 hours later today at getting 12 trucks of gear in, up and running.
Turns out it the production humans have it planned out and expected the crunch. I asked if the sound roadies need my help but they have a mind set to power through and make it happen. It becomes clear the my assistance would just dilute the accomplishment, so I set up office and work on my ratty stuff as usual and await the amp racks to to be un layered out of the sound truck.
Status report: All amps function so the search for local spares on hold can be released. The damage report:
The good news is that though not pretty, it is patchable to finish the trip without shipping in costly replacement gear. The bad news is that at some point there is a pile of work to be done and a few thousand dollars in fix it bits to bring them back to the previous state of beauty. As with many things, humans included, it was not the actual fall that caused all the damage. It was the very abrupt landing when contacting the planet earth at a high rate of speed messed things up. I will try and shoot some pics of them at some point.
**** Highlight of the Day ****
I got a pile of Avril Lavigne swag to bring home to my shorties. Thank you Craig and Shawn!
**** End Highlight of the Day ****
Tonight the load out splits up the gear again. Next show is Virgin Festival in Baltimore for one truck and the global crew, all the rest of the hardware and humans have a 1400 miles bus ride to Toronto for multiple days off. Global crew has a 7:45 am plane international plane flight with a long layover and connection, that means like a 5 am lobby call, Super yuck!
Tuesday, September 19. 2006
**** The Old Roadie Lap Story Continues ****
It was one of the most awkward moments in memory. Amazing how the ponderment of freezing to death can turn a normally fairly cheery group into grumps. Bits of blame get tossed around ranging from questioning the wisdom of turning off the van, the chosen parking region and whether the van battery was charged or old and even mentioned was wonderment of whether it was a great idea to tour Canada in the winter. Finally, like no tough punker male in the van would do, Kira announces that she can see a dim light in the distance and is going to try and hike over there. The feeling of relief that a solution could be at hand mixed with thoughts that someone other than the tiniest human we have to offer to the elements should be making the trek. The logic that turning off the van was not the best idea seemed to solidify her task at hand and none volunteered to join or replace her on the journey.
SomeÂ watched the little Kira in the moonlit darkness getting smaller and smaller as she hiked in knee deep snow across the field until she vanished. I laid there rebundledÂ regretting not having a proper sleeping bag. The next thing I remember is headlights coming. Two brothers hop out of pickup truck with jumper cables. And after some charging time, the van sparks back to life. Heroic Kira has saved us all. And off goes the truck into the icy night. After a short while of letting the van run for a bit, I feel the van move forward and off we go. About two feet that is before the engine dies. Clickity clickity clickity is the sound of absurdity.
**** Stay tuned for the heart warming final segment of this Old Roadie Lap Story coming soon! ****
The shows of late have been consistently smooth and in the upper range of rock shows to see and each with its own nuances that make it special. I avoid rating specific shows as to do so would impose my skewed perspective. I also avoid judging the sound of the show and try and stick to focusing on whether one one venue is more challenging than the next and leave the opinion of the success or failure of my task up to others to determine. All that said, I have been enjoying the shows and again tonight I feel pretty darn good about the rock show. Lights, video, sound, and the comfort and energy from the band have all been very cool.
I was happy that was until I heard that two amp racks fell off of a fork lift while getting loaded into the sound truck. Ouch! One had four Crown amps at 80 pounds each and the other was loaded with eight Lab Gruppen amps at 22 pounds each. Four hundred pounds dropping from a fork lift generally means a whole lot of not good. With twelve amps buried in a truck for an overnight drive existing in a questionable state of function, my concern is only match by my compassion for the poor little amp racks with big ouch's. I wish I had gotten some time to console them before they were loaded but that will have to wait till the next show.
All I have for you picture wise is a quick pic snapped of the after show walk out. The "T" you see sticking out of the mixing board is two SM98's that we use for recording audience mics to the Pro Tools rig.
And finally, if there is any curiosities or roadie stories that you would like me to share or cover, fire away with requests and I will see what I can do!
The worried about the poor amp racks,
Monday, September 18. 2006
I new city, hurray! At this point in my touring career, actually doing a show in a new city is few and far between. Actually having a day off in one is rare indeed. Though Saskatoon is not renown as an epicenter of excitement, no city is without it's share of surprises. Finding them, now that is the challenge. Furthermore, the fact that people in Edmonton were making fun of the Saskatoonians was not a good sign. One local actually told roadie Scott a joke that went something like "Saskatoon is flat, in fact it is so flat the if your dog runs away in Saskatoon you can still see running for ten miles." Not sure why or if that is funny other than the smiling at how being less flat seems somehow to be an advantage Edmontonians are proud to posses.
After a quick glance around at the available things to do, nothing really pops out. Let's see, movie theater across the street, a few restaurants, plenty of bars, a pawn shop, a 200 foot long three story high water slide inside the hotel and a walking park at the river nearby. Hmmmm, nothing out of the ordinary here. Nothing to see folks, keep moving on. Wait, did you say water slide? Well of course, why wouldn't there be a water slide inside the hotel?
Like dogs running away from Saskatoon, Nick the Fly and I make a beeline for the merriment.
And check this out:
Here you can see NTF bored to death as he is propelled by gravity and warm water at breathtaking speeds:
And I, of course was helpless to resist the fun:
After about fifteen trips up the three flights of stairs like a couple of ten year olds, Nick the fly and I were worn out and had a wonderful day off in Saskatoon!
The always serious
Ithought this was a cool shot of the busses:
**** Roadie Research ****
Roadies are quite adept in the art of camouflage. Born with the instinctual ability and desire to seamlessly blend in with their surroundings, roadies are practically invisible when residing in their natural habitat, the rock show. In the photo below, roadie roadie Leif demonstrates his incredible chameleon like skills.
**** End Roadie Research ****
**** Old Punker Lap Story Continues ... ****
Laying there rolled up like a taquito, any movement just created mini drafts that chilled my frozen body further so I just spent the time clinging to the involuntary shivers running through me. At some point we must be getting closer and I bet the punker house we crash at next will have a big heater, they must. The illusion that things were still ok, though insanely miserable, was still holding strong, at least it was until I heard the sound of the van engine stopping as it meant that what little heat it pretended to make was now gone. The silence was eerie and without the glow of the dashboard lights, it was now pitch black as well and all that could be heard was the coughs and moans of our sick crew member.
This was my first tour, everyone else here has done this before, so it must be ok. It is my vehicle I am laying inside of and it is relatively reliable for the most part, usually. Painted flat black with a roller and with its primer gray bumpers, the windowless cargo van had been trustworthy enough to haul the Rat PA around town but but like me, this tour was the biggest adventure it had ever experienced. The day before this tour started I was laying drenched in tranny fluid underneath this same van trying to get the transmission attached back to the motor. Who would have knew that changing a leaky freeze plug would be such a pain in the ass? Not to mention the phenomenal greasy mess it left in my girlfriends parents driveway.
A sleeping bag was one of the recommended tour items, not owning one, I opted for carrying a queen sized comforter blanket. By spreading every piece of clothing I am not wearing below my van spot, I was able to add an extra inch of thermal insulation between my body and the carpeted sheet of plywood laying on the metal van floor. By rolling into the blanket I was able to become a mummy. Ka-chunk, the van door slams and I cannot believe that Kira just left the van. I can imagine no quantity of piss that would inspire me to leave this van right now.
And moments later the sound of the door slams again, followed by a struggled 'gajuuu gajuuu gajuuu' of the starter motor attempting to spin the engine. Slower, slower and even though I pushed every ounce of mental energy in to helping it out, the dreaded sound of rapid clicks sends prickles through my bones. Dismay. Click click click click click, over and over as if somehow it will change it's mind and actually start. Laying there in frozen denial dredging around for hopeful thoughts of someway to make the engine spin again. Earlier when we were actually moving the van engine was getting so cold that is was stalling at highway speeds, Kira had to keep slowing down to stop the stalls.
That is when I succumbed to the reality that I am going to have to leave the van. Bundled and gloved and as cold as if I was wearing clothes made of snow, I popped the hood and tried to illuminated the battery terminals with a frozen flashlight and it's barely visible dim yellow beam. And my mind grabs onto the realization that in my hand are batteries so frozen they are unable perform their task. Frozen batteries. Or perhaps just a bad connection, loose terminal? Thirty seconds out of the glove with a wrench in my hand and I can no longer usefully move my fingers out of the claw position. And "try it now" was just as useless as before.
Time for a pow-wow with all the humans that would acknowledge being awake. The one human that had been coughing has now decided to announce "we are all going to die" and has taken to repeating it in a heart felt panicked tone. This does not help the situation.
To be continued ....
**** End (for now) Old Punker Lap Story ****
The cold just think about it,
Saturday, September 16. 2006
During the west coast part of the tour, Roadie Shaun, the monitor engineer for The Mars Volta had come to me with an interesting request. Cedric, (Mars Volta's' singer) was wanting to sing into a Sennheiser 421 as he likes the way those mics look and feel. Roadie Shaun wants to continue to use the Audix om6's that are working perfectly for his vocals. So the question is, "How can we get the sound of an om6 and the look of a 421?" Now this is the kind of project I love!
While I was at home on break I had grabbed a pile of old 421 parts that I still have from the old days when I used to fix amps and mics to supplement the not so profitable Rat PA income.
Check out the third revision of the Audix om6 inside of a Sennheiser 421 shell. And to start with we have a nice assortment of both old and new 421 parts:
And by cutting the threaded ring off of the om6 grill and screwing it to the back of a 421 grill we get:
and the om6 can now be screwed into the 421 grill
And after boring out the 421 shell with a Dremel tool so the Audix shaft slides inside:
And we end up with what looks like a beat up old 421 but is actually a perfect condition Audix om6!
Now that was an adventure I really and truly enjoyed! Thank you roadie Shaun!
**** Gratuitous Monitor Gear Photo ****
While we were in monitor world I grabbed a photo of Peppers monitor setup:
**** Gratuitous Guitar Pedal Photo ****
For those guitar gear fans out there here is a picture of John Fruciante's guitar pedal world.
Roadie Dave Lee has his job cut out for him keeping all those running flawless everyday.
The loving to fix and create things that make sound,
Friday, September 15. 2006
Look! All I can say is wow! It is stunning out there!
The drive is amazing. Our driver, roadie Brian rules! Really moves the bus from city to city fast, safe and smooth.What also rules is the fine bus food cuisine that we were so fortunate to have bestowed upon us.
Clearly we are loved and appreciated and the desire to have a bus full of happy healthy well fed roadies is of very high importance. I opt for the potato and as my breakfast veggie of choice to go along with my coffee:
While roadie Daniel clearly prefers a crisp corn treat to start his day:
Home is stupid, I love the road! And that chilly snow covered Canadian tundra brings back yet another Black Flag story, booooriiing! Gather round for:
**** Begin Old Punker Lap Story ****
Lets slide back in time 22 years to the Orwellian year of 1984, December 23rd we are in Winnipeg, Canada. A band of grubby punkers are wrapped in every piece of clothing that is stench free enough to bundle in. As Southern Californians we are experiencing a new definition of the word cold and the wind chime sounds of my long and formally wet hair has turned to icicles. Per diems are $ 80 a week and that means I have just over 11.00 US dollars a day to buy food toothpaste and socks. Hmmmm, why are there power plugs hanging from the front of cars? Yesterday was what we called a day off and all we did was drive 750 miles through snow straight after the gig.
Last night was a good night. I actually slept in something other than a moving van with 7 people cocooned on the floor. Though I can't recall where exactly that was, typically on most non-driving nights found us piling onto the floor of some beer drenched party house where the local punk rockers and friends were all excited to have a Black Flag slumber party. Their local punker excitement was not quite matched by the drained, sweaty and exhausted touring party of 13 or so. They cranked up the tunes and drank exuberantly, we passed out immediately. Upon arrival at each new sleep house, some of us sprinted to share available beds, some relegated to open floor space. Me? well, I figured out a plan early on that having my own room was best so I would seek out bedroom closets and slept right on top of what ever was in there, shoes, boxes and all. Though always lumpy, it reduced the odds of a dog licking of my face all night, it was generally quieter, darker and I usually got fewer flea bites.
Christmas Eve day and we are on 900 mile mid-winter cross Canada trek to Edmonton. Tour planning at it's all time best. I had heard someone was saying 60 below wind chill factor, most likely an exaggeration and it was only 30 or 40 below plus I don't know whether there was a C or F after the temperature it but does it really matter at that point anyway? What did matter was that the large truck stop cup of coffee had frozen solid wile sitting on the engine cover inside the van with the heater cranked to full. What also mattered was that Kira, Black Flag's bass player and the current van driver, really needed to go to the bathroom and there had not been a sign of life on the frozen pitch black icy night road forever in either direction. It was when she pulled off the highway at farm road off ramp as we all lay in various states of frozen delirium and that things began to look less cheery.
To be continued...
**** End (for now) Old Punker Lap Story ****
And you know what? It aint so bad eating chips for breakfast with actually hot coffee on a cozy tour bus!
The past I would not trade away while appreciating the present,
Thursday, September 14. 2006
Here we go again. A fairly uneventful meet up and roadie gathering in Vancouver. We done all this enough times and little has changed during the break. The trucks dump, the show goes up and at least from my perspective, it all seems to be running smooth.
Have you ever noticed that behind almost every rock stage there is a huge black drape hanging? Often referred to as a "rag" these giant cloth curtains are not only monstrous but crazy expensive. Rumor has is that the one we carry at 80 feet wide and 40 feet high costs upwards of $20,000. Furthermore, with these things being so big and fairly thin cloth, much caution is taken to avoid tearing or damaging it. So I am walking to get lunch and imagine my surprise at seeing three roadies standing on a road case safety pinning a some cloth over a hole that looks like it was hacked out by a three year old. Not my department but overwhelmed by curiosity, I find out that a fire marshall needed a "test swath" of the curtain to do a flammability test. Unfortunately I missed the observing the test or whole episode but somewhere in the back of my mind I get the inkling that there is a slight chance that there could be an improvement in the protocol.
Does every band leave this city with a hole in a $20,000 rag? Is it a Canadian thing? Was it purely a wayward fire marshal reading a chapter on fire retardency testing methods and we were the guinea pigs? Could there possibly be a better way or is this the barbaric peak of brilliance available? Hey, maybe we can set up crash durability tests for cars getting on the freeway and have a freeway marshal on the on ramp and bash in your car fender with a sledge hammer. "OK, fender bashes just fine, carry on, have a nice trip!" Unbelievable, perplexing and I will leave this mystery to be pondered and unresolved.
As far as the big rock show, well I had tons of fun, hung out with and met some great humans and it finished up with Omar from The Mars Volta jamming with John Fruciante for a memorable finally!
The 'can't find my little camera' again, darn it,
Links to Things of Curiousness
Subscribe in a reader