Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Meat Me in St. Louis

We had the day off in St. Louis, so the band decided to take the crew to dinner. We went to a highly-regarded steak house called "Mike Shannon's". Shannon was a former St. Louis Cardinal baseball player.

The steaks were excellent, I had the 24 oz. Porterhouse, which was, according to the knowledgeable waitress, "17 ounces of meat and 7 ounces of bone". Indeed it was. Started out with a caesar salad, with Billy Burnette giving us the story of the origin of a caesar salad..if he is correct, it's not what you might think.

The food was great, the wine was great - especially a Mondavi cabernet - and after dinner, Bob, Billy, George and I had a night cap at the Roberts Mayfair Hotel bar. Macallan for Billy and me, which was quite nice. My favorite scotch is a 12 year old Balvennie double cask, but it is difficult to find it in most taverns.

The older I get, the more I appreciate scotch, sharp cheese, hot sauces and the more pungent/bold flavors in general. Am I more open to them or gradually losing taste buds...?

Guitar World St.Louis

This is my modified Guitar World on the Mellencamp dates. I can fit two UltraCase guitar racks and two single stands on top of two "coffins". That leaves one rack and one coffin that stay out of the way, but are still available for casing and packing away these valuable guitars, thereby lessening their exposure to backstage traffic and chaos.

From left to right, we are using: National Resophonic, Fender Jerry Donahue Telecaster, Fender Hendrix Reissue Stratocaster, Martin D-28, Gibson J-45, Dobro Tut Taylor Model, Fender 1952 Reissue Telecaster, Fender Relic Stratocaster, Gretsch Brian Setzer, Gibson ES-345, Gretsch Brian Setzer Hot Rod, and two Gibson J-200 Jumbos. A Gibson A style mandolin is at the far left as well.

The fine folks at St. Louis music opened their "Amp Shack" before the show and offered discounts to band and crew guys on their latest items. I read their catalog cover to cover while doing a load of laundry - apparently the dryer had a "warm breath' setting that I did not notice, since it took an hour to dry one load of socks, underwear and t-shirts.

I saw the new Crate Power Block in the catalog and thought it perfect for the gig. I sometimes have difficulty tuning the acoustic guitars and Dobros during the show since the band is so loud. The piezo pickups cannot distinguish between the vibration of the guitar string and the vibration of the P.A. I was looking for an amp or pedal to boost the guitar signal to the tuner, and the Power Block does that and tons more. It's a 150 watt stereo guitar amp, with an effects loop, line out, CD input and a headphone jack. Perfect for listening to guitars as you tune them, and for practicing along with my Dell DJ on the bus. Thanks to St. Louis Music's Ted Kornblum for the demonstration and attention.

The Crowd Shuffles In

Pretty good-sized crowd on a scorching hot day. This shot was taken about a half hour before show time.

Today we have a day off in Milwaukee, not too far from the town of my birth. I went book shopping at Borders in the Grand Avenue Mall and bought two Edward Rutherfurd novels: "London" and "The Forest". I am nearly finished with his "Sarum", which is a Michener-style historical novel of Salisbury, England. I've been interested in that stuff since I read Ivanhoe in grade school. Rutherfurd is good at juggling a cast of characters and giving historical facts of the age. Great bus reads.

Wholly Toledo

We jumped off the tour for a day to do a theater gig in Toledo, Ohio. I had played there before with Wynonna, I am pretty looked familiar. John and the band put on a great show. Bob played Dobro on a song, "I Will Walk With You", and lap steel on two songs "It Came Out of the Sky" and "Jambalaya". We don't do those songs in the Mellencamp set too often because we try to keep it simple as far as guitar changes go.

Chooglin' John Molo

George Redefines "headstock"

Monday, June 27, 2005

Cincy Been Gone

The first show on the John Mellencamp/John Fogerty tour was in Cincinnatti at the Riverbend amphitheater. The day we returned from Bermuda, my computer crashed and would not reboot. I had to take it to a local repair shop - Dr. Micro - which was a $60.00 round-trip cab ride from the Millenium Hotel in downtown Cincinnatti.

It turns out that the hard drive failed and luckily the tech was able to save all of my info except for a couple of drivers. I had a stock 10gig drive in this Vaio, now I have a 40 gig. Even after getting this one fixed, I ordered a new Dell Inspiron 600m (using Jerry's computer), and with the 35% off deal, I will have a pretty up-to-date machine for less than $1000. My fiancee will bring it with her to Detroit, if it arrives at the house in time.

The gig itself was a test of endurance for all invoved. It was hot and sticky all day. Mellencamp has a large set and a ton of lights and P.A., which takes time to set up and properly test. As the opening act, we get the stage when the Mellencamp gang is finished with their soundcheck. We then have to push their set to the back of the stage and roll our risers in front, wire everything and do our abbreviated check. JF likes to run most of his tunes in soundcheck, so we are in a hurry to make that happen before "doors", the time when the public is allowed in. Can't really soundcheck in front of an audience...though all of us have had to at one time or another.

A half-dozen or so songs into Mellencamp's set, they break down into the "cocktail" set, so named because of the "cocktail" drum kit, a compact and portable version of a full kit that was popular with lounge drummers due to its smaller size. JM introduces JF and they do a couple of songs together, trading vocal verses. On this night they did "Green River" and "Blood on the Scarecrow". JF plays electric on Green River and acoustic on Scarecrow.

Love the choice of lyric in Green River where Fogerty says "...Wonder if my rope's still hangin to the tree...". Happy accident or carefully crafted, that is a much better line than "hangin' from the tree" which is what most people would say in normal conversation. "Hangin' to..." implies clinging and embracing, which is what the singer is writing about - his fond memories of Green River. That's why Fogerty is a great songwriter.

Cocktail Set

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Bermuda Redux

After last night's success, several of us decided to charter a fishing boat this morning and try our luck. Captain Stephen and his son Steve took eight of the band and crew our on a four-hour fishing trip. The weather was so perfect the fish took the day off and we didn't catch anything. We did take a few naps and basked in the sun and enjoyed the gorgeous water off Bermuda.

Of course, sharks and bad weather came up as conversation topics, and native Bermudian Cap'n Steve told about sailing from Newport to Bermuda in 45-foot swells, a year before the Perfect Storm made history. He said it was very scary and they dealt with the panic by drinking rum, gin, bourbon and beer. Seems like sound advice, given the circumstances.

Speaking of island libations, I have had a few excellent gins and tonic, Sapphire-saturated, this being a former colony of the Masters of Gin. They bring the tonic in a small glass pitcher separate from the gin. Nice. I don't drink all that often, but New Orleans and Bermuda make nice backdrops to sip cocktails in front of.

Anyway, after a buffet breakfast, all $27.60 worth, we jumped aboard the shuttle to meet the boat.

The Dock

It's a five minute shuttle from the top of the hill where the hotel is located to the waterfront. Lots of scooter traffic and all left-handed.

Heading Out

Optimism reigns supreme as we head towards open water...

Me and Matt

Plenty of sunscreen, a new hat, and yet another pair of shades and I am ready. Matt has his coffee, since he skipped breakfast, I think.

I have no pictures of us not catching anything, since they look a lot like us heading out towards a day of not catching anything. Had we actually caught anything, I would have taken pictures of anything we had caught. But we didn't.

For Donna, a Dockside Hibiscus Flower

I miss my fiancee. She likes pink flowers.

Back on Dry Land

Fish of Bermuda can sleep safe in their beds, the mighty sea hunters have returned to the beach.

Upon reaching the hotel, it so happens that the power is sort-of out...I have AC, but no outlet power and no running water. No shower, no toilet. It seems to be a regular thing here, so I am told not to worry, it will be taken care of after 2:00, just ten minutes from now.

Bermuda Short Stories

Bob and George at the Airport in Bermuda

Nice flight from Miami. No problems except a cell phone was left on the bus...not mine, thankfully, but I did leave my sunglasses.

Setting Up the Stage at the Fairmont Southampton

It's a tiny little theater with a circular stage, using rental backline. A challenge, but no problem for the fellers with that Fogerty outfit.

Welcome Insurance Adjusters

Who knew?

Small Room, Big Show

We were the "suprise guests" for the crowd, and it was a pretty well-kept secret. When they announced John, the crowd cheered and they loved the show.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Orlando Blue 'Em....Away

Rob Rankin and David Davidian

Two of the hardest working guys on tour, Rob is the systems tech for the P.A. and monitors, David is the Lighting Director. They have specialized in squeezing us into smaller than normal venues and have pulled it off every time. I am honored to have them as crewmates.

Office Space

Portrait of a Not-So-Young Man as Poser. Offstage and down the steps at the HoB.

George Hawkins

The Fabulous One gets down with Billy. George Hawkins is the master of Rock and Roll bass playing. Every night, every song. Amazing to hear, fun to watch.

John Molo

Great shot by Rob Rankin of Molo in full-flight.

Molo and Britt

Another packed house, another great Rock and Roll show. I think the band is starting to hit their stride and crowd response has been fantastic. Anyone reading this who has not bought tickets yet needs to do so. I doubt there is a better set of songs and musicians playing American Rock and Roll.

Creedence Clearwater, Florida

Another great show, this time in Ruth Ekerd Hall in Clearwater, FL. Plenty of space on a big stage and a nice room. Except for the gig I saw at the Ryman in Nashville, this tour is the first I have seen of JF in front of a U.S. audience. There are the usual long-time fans in their 50's, maybe younger siblings of those fans (like me) in their 40's and 30's, and a lot of twenty-somethings. They know all of the words and sing along to all of the songs. I guess the '70's revival in fashion and music plays a part in this and I am glad to see it.

Guitar World in Clearwater

This is my typical setup on stage left. The rack is for Billy's wireless rig. My workbox sits next to it and the racks of guitars sit on the guitar trunks. I have a catch-all box in the foreground for miscellaneous stuff aka "cack".

Big Tree

One block from the Safety Harbor Spa, where we stayed in Clearwater, was this big tree. A tree so big, I took a picture of it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

New Orleans House of Blues (and Buzz)

Wow. What a great set John and the band played last night. After a wincingly slow load-in into a scale model elevator onto a tiny stage, with a furious buzz through every guitar amp, I was curious as to how it would turn out.

In my experience, every time you put a theater/arena sized act into a club, they tear the roof off. Maybe it's because they play with theater/arena exuberance, maybe it's due to the close proximity of everyone physically and sonically, maybe both. The set list consisted of the usual classics, and he added "Blue Boy" and "Jambalaya", the latter featuring washboard wizard Rockin' Dopsie, Jr. The SRO crowd erupted during "Born On The Bayou'" after the line about "chooglin' on down to New Orleans".

No gear problems other than a blown-up overdrive pedal of Billy's (I discovered at line check) and a bad power cable. Swapped out spares and moved on.

The out was as slow as the in, but the local crew was great and we were treated fine by the HoB folks.

Two old friends stopped by and we went to Cafe Maspero for a pre-show dinner. They split a muffaleta, I tried the hamburger. Funky little place with excellent food.

We drove all night and morning to Clearwater, Fl. We have a show here tomorrow at Ruth Eckard Hall.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Walkin' Thru New Orleans

Da Du Monde Monde

An after-lunch walk to the waterfront led to the Cafe Du Monde. My fiancee says it's famous, so I had my picture made there. I am holding the Diet Coke I had to buy in order to use the restroom. I later used the same hand to hoist gins and tonic at Pat O'Brien's, as noted below.

Down By The River

Nice photo, taken by the ubiquitous Jerry Sabatino, who is guest photog for the entire post, since I left my camera in my room at the Hotel Monteleone.

Truth In Advertising

Finally, a camera that takes pictures exactly the same as your eyes actually view...blurry and fuzzy at this point in the day...

Bourbon Street Corner

Nice shot. I like all of the different blues in this photo.

Ginny Hendrick's Experience

Ah, yes. A day and night off in New Orleans is just the ticket to make up for the rain-soaked festival in Atlanta. We played in Jacksonville, FL last night at the Florida Theater. Nice room, nice crowd, nice local crew. Other than a few broken strings, no incidents to report.

I have been to New Orleans a few times, but never with a day off. Jerry and I had lunch at Ralph and Kacoo's restaurant. A decent steak and ceasar salad, Jerry had seafood of some kind. Then we went to Pat O'Brien's and had a few afternoon cocktails, what with the wilting humidity and all.

He opted for the famous Hurricanes, I decided on a cool Sapphire and Tonic, my favorite summertime drink. Jeremy the bartender was excellent and after a couple of Bombay rounds he encouraged me to try out Hendrick's gin. I had never heard of it. It was smooth, creamy and delicious - not typical gin traits - and I had a few of those as well. After quenching my thirst, it seemed like a good idea to rest a little, so I crashed for about an hour and then went out for dinner. We ate at the Embers/Bourbon House - more steak, more salad, then more P. O'B's until 10:00.

Tomorrow is the House of Blues. Small stage, no problems....I hope.

Friday, June 10, 2005

A Rainy Day in Georgia

We had most of yesterday and all of today off in Atlanta. Tomorrow we do a 75 minute show on a multi-bill stage headlined by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I know Benmont Tench a little from my days as product manager for Oberheim keyboards. He has been known to sit in with JF on local L.A. shows. I hope I have the time and opportunity to say hello.

Boredom is the enemy on days off. I'm at the Hyatt Regency, in a very nice room, next to a small mall. Sadly, it only took a couple of hours to exhaust the walking-distance diversions before I came back to the room to catch up on reading and e-mail.

I received a nice package from D'Addario today with strings and Planet Waves cables and accessories. Excellent stuff. I needed spares for the two corporate shows in Bermuda later this month. Nothing that we use at those shows will likely clear Customs by the time we need it again, so I packed up a bunch of my personal guitars and both pedalboards for Billy and Bob to use. The trunks will be shipped back to Nashville where I can get at them at the beginning of our three-week break before the second leg of the tour.

Had a steak and salad dinner at the Max Lager brew pub with Jerry Sabatino. Les, Jake, Albert and Rob were already there and the whole group (sans me) went to tomorrow's venue to see Keith Urban. People still talk about the CMT Crossroads that Urban and JF was a particularly good one, I agree.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Paramount Pictures

Too Hip For The Room

A computer glitch kicked us out of our original rooms, so four of us ended up at The Paramount Hotel in NYC. Pretty cool and funky place with very hip folks in the lobby. The rooms are small and chic. The sink looked great until you needed a place to set your shaving kit, and the mirror does not move, so all of the stuff is hidden behind it...form over function. The shower head had Seinfeldian water pressure and practically hydro-loofa'd your skin off...which is just what I needed after the sweaty club gig.

Beds at the Paramount NYC

All white linens and accessories with a huge picture frame as a headboard, and padded material as a "canvass". I liked it. Dean and Deluca (right off the lobby) had good lattes, so at 11:00 a.m. this morning we jumped in an SUV and headed to LaGuardia for two days off in Atlanta...which is where I am right now, typing this at midnight.

Irving Plaza - New York City 6/8/2005

Billy and Bob Rigs

For those with a technical interest, Billy plays through a Matchless John Jourgenson Combo into a Marshall 1960 4x12 cabinet. The Matchless' speaker is not connected. His pedalboard is a Klon Centaur and a Line 6 DM-4 Delay modeler with an Ernie Ball volume pedal and a Peterson Strobostomp tuner, powered by a VooDoo Labs Pedal Power 2.

Bob Britt is using a vintage Fender Super Reverb and a re-issue Tweed Twin Reverb. Pedals include a Line 6 DM-4, a Line 6 MM-4, a Keely modified Boss Blues Driver, an MXR Dynacomp, a Boss GE-7 Equalizer, a Peterson Strobostomp and an Ernie Ball volume pedal.

The Band In Motion

I Will Walk With You

A Tim Holder (Monitor Engineer) view of Bob playing the Dobro solo on "I Will Walk With You"

Pre-show Stage @ Irving Plaza

The Irving Plaza is a small club upstairs in the Polish War Veterans building. We did not load in until noon and could not "make any noise" i.e. "test any amps or P.A." until 5:00 p.m. The stage was tiny, but we fit most of our gear onto it. The Leslie and Matt's Marshall 1/2 stack were in a balcony above the stage.

JF was on fire all night and really put out. "Hey Tonight", perhaps my favorite CCR song, made an appearance, and it sounded great. I think my love for jangly guitar parts stems from that song and the George Harrison/Roger McGuinn stuff from the same period...filtered down from my brother's collection of vinyl. There's defintely an unbroken line from "Mr. Tambourine Man" to "And Your Bird Can Sing" to "Hey Tonight" to "Kid" by The Pretenders to "Starry Eyes"by The Records to The Gin Blossoms' "Hey Jealousy" to Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl". Crunchy jangle pop, another sub-genre of Rock that JF played a part in.

These shows are a guitar fan's dream. Not only does JF play extended solos on a music store's worth of instruments, but the backing band has top-caliber pickers doing their thing on guitar, dobro, mandolin, slide guitar and acoustic guitar.

Load out was slow due to a pretty small elevator, but the stagehands at IP were great to work with and we rolled out at about 1:00 a.m. I went back to the Paramount (see above) for a shower and some sleep.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Academy Of Achievement - The First Show

Billy Burnette playing my ES-350T

John Molo at The Waldorf

Dinner Is Served

Jerry Sabatino

JF was honored with Denzel Washington, Sally Fields, B.B. King, and many more luminaries by the Academy of Achievement in New York City. The event was at the Waldorf Astoria. Presenters included Lech Walensa, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, George Lucas, etc. Tiny stage in tiny room, but we managed and the band sounded great.

Rehearsal In Nashville

Les Banks Wiring a Rack

We had three days of rehearsal at Soundcheck in Nashville. While the crew probably could have used an extra day, we got enough done to allow us to get out on the road in preparation for the Mellencamp tour which begins on the 21st. I had to put together a new rack for recently added member Matt Nolan. Matt plays keys, guitar and mandolin and needed a new wireless system. I decided on a Sennheiser e100 series. It sounds great and is affordable and reliable.

John got a new rig with two Cornford amps and a Mesa Boogie. He is playing through a 4x12 Roccaforte cab and a 2x15 Ampeg. It sounds killer and gives three distinct tones: clean, dirt and lead. Jerry Sabatino has returned from Aerosmith to be John's and George Hawkins' tech this Summer, so I have moved over to handle Bob Britt and Billy Burnette, as well as Matt.

Jeff Senn (who teched Billy and Bob in Europe) stopped by rehearsals with a great Tele-style guitar that JF saw and ended up weighs a paltry 6 pounds and plays, sounds and looks great. I'll get a photo of it up eventually.

The Summer Tour

It's time to head back out on the road for what should be an interesting summer tour, with John Fogerty opening for headliner John Mellencamp. Similar rootsy music, but Fogerty clearly has the edge in singing, songwriting and musicianship - the three things I value in a performer - though Mellencamp has some pretty great tunes, too. JF likes to have a guitar hook begin most of his classic songs, a technique that Mellencamp incorporates on many of his hits as well.

But those hooks! A CCR or solo tune from Fogerty is instantly recognizable. He seems to come by naturally what all guitarists strive for - the quality that guitar legend Les Paul quizzically described as "can your mother recognize you on the radio?". A distinct and complete style of playing that blends Bakersfield twang with tremulous Duane Eddy licks, rapid-fire Chuck Berry riffing and Freddie King phrasing all dipped into swampy reverb.

The very sound of those singles somehow reminds me of a kid looking out a car window on a family camping trip and seeing a strange and slightly scary hoodoo shack. Sure, it's probably just a shack, but maybe there's something deeper and weirder going on inside. You can smell the decaying vegetation. You can taste the humidity. You hear mournful music filtered through crumpled tin and rough-hewn wood.

I remember staring at the album covers of CCR from my older brother's collection. Long hair and beards and plaid flannel shirts and perfect sub-three minute singles that remain timeless. What a treat to hear them live from the source every night.