You certainly haven’t heard much from me concerning the tour as the finale of the Spring tour rolled to the east coast. The completion of a leg or a tour carries many elements that consume time and energy for silly things like keeping your blog up to date. As a tour winds down, you’d think that the workload would begin to lighten; it’s pretty much the opposite. Here’s the why…

Tour’s End

As a tour finishes, plans to put everything where it belongs (where someone wants it to go) start to formulate. At least you hope they do. The band gear should either return to storage, the musician’s home or to repair. The tech’s workboxes have to be returned to their home or next tour. The vendor’s equipment (lights,sound,video,catering) needs to return to the company warehouse. You always send back more than what left in the beginning and it usually never ends up in the same truck with the same driver. Time can sometimes be an issue as well (as I am finding out this time…)

That’s just the logistical aspect; a tour often ends in an act’s home area or either of the major markets on the East or West coasts. These are usually the most crowded and chaotic shows for guests and industry people. The people on the tour begin to change in mood slightly as the tour rolls into the home stretch; I’m gonna share a few theories with you on that and remember that these are just my opinions and/or personal experiences.

Touring people are often at a burnout level by this point and either are exhausted by the schedule and the workload or the difficulty of the relationships in their daily work lives. Many a well adjusted professional becomes depressed, short (that includes grouchy, pissy, cranky, mean and irritable) and different from their regular demeanor. I suspect that the ending of a tour means the end of a comfort zone; the known is soon to become the unknown. When the last page of the itinerary is flipped that may mean unemployment, returning to an empty home or a difficult situation with family or room mates.

It’s not always negative; the excitement of finally being able to see your loved ones, your kids, pets, tools, lawn furniture and personally laundered linens can really make focusing on the job at hand more difficult. You might be going to another job with old friends or into a fresh challenge. You might be going on a well deserved vacation!

East Coast

In my case the dash to the east coast seemed both unbelievably synchronistic and almost idiotic. I had the chance to see my Dad at my old concert stomping grounds in Saratoga Springs, NY. I kept having flashbacks of seeing the late great guitarist Freddie Greene of the Count Basie Orchestra getting rousted by security backstage for not having a pass there in the mid-70’s; seeing Genesis in 1979 before they were popular with a bunch of guys who would probably be put on a terrorist watch list now-a-days; cheering like a lunatic for the Dixie Dregs in 1980 when they were opening for the Doobie Brothers and probably being one of 7 people in a sold out venue who knew who they were and seeing David Torn there when we came through with the “Born At The Right Time” in 1990.

We ended up next in the Great State of New Jersey and the beginning of the home stretch with the home base fans. After a few less than full lawns it was neat to see no grass during the show. We took a deep breath and headed to New York City and Madison Square Garden, a building with many challenges and rewards. We have many old friends there on the crew (Hello Beef!) and had the added surprise of the Tim McGraw/Faith Hill tour sneaking their 19 semis of stuff up the ramp after we had emptied our puny 4 trucks of folk-a-licious gear for a show the following day. Their crew was there to oversee that and I was happy to see a lot of old touring friends on the street and on the mezzanine. So hi to Ally, Andy, Courtney, Leon, Ron, Scott, Skip, Kate and probably a half dozen more road friends; what a nice surprise!

We also had to call in some reinforcements for our own team to handle the high volume of guests so we got to see Holly , Tom and AC from the Rising tour. We lost Zep to Billy Joel the day before and muddled through somehow. Zep, thanks for everything this time; you are a gentleman, a true asset and a friend. I hope we see you later in the year; be safe out there!

The Garden show was pretty great as most of the new band is based there. Once they shrugged off the initial mind freak of playing at the Garden in front of their families, they burned the house down. Our guy goes into hyper-overdrive when we get to these places and takes everyone with him. It was really nice to see Steven and Maureen again; hopefully we’ll see you both again soon!

Getting out of the Garden is often harder than getting in, even with the gravity of a five floor drop helping you. We had to split out some gear for the Conan gear for the next day with some going to the hotel and some to another location to help make things “easier” the next day. Yeah right. Once we found the place and figured out whose room was whose, there was a few hours sleep before load in at Rockafeller Center. I should have figured out the empty bag of pretzels…

We got into the Conan studio and began the set up; except the delivery service only brought the rental gear and not our own personal stuff we gave them to bring. That held things up a little. In the end, our entire gang was wedged into the performance set, the entire MW7, Jimmy Fallon, Thomas Hayden Church and the host himself who is actually a pretty good guitar player! That equals 28 performers onstage. Yeeee ha! It was a performance that brought great pride to me for some reason. TV shows are so often a lousy venue for seeing a song; bands don’t always do well when the red light goes on. These guys came to play!

OK, how do you top that? How about 2 shows at the Garden State Art Center in wet weather? OK! As close as it is to home base for this bunch, I think it was his first time there with his own band. We were fine in the rain on Saturday night (and it looked like the people on the lawn came prepared too). We came a little early Sunday to move the whole show 12 feet downstage onto the thrust to get the band closer to the audience; load out was full of goodbyes and the afore mentioned going in every direction at once routine. I had a car waiting for me to bring me straight to my next assignment as it was starting in about 6 hours from the completion of this one. Here was the rub; we had to take 1.25 semis worth of gear back to the warehouse and unload it without a crew. The exit for the trucks from the venue to the warehouse was complicated by legal restrictions on the highway. We finished putting things away around 3:15 am, a mere two hours and forty five minutes before my next job was to begin! That’s cutting it close!

Thanks to all…

As the car zipped me up the coast to NYC again, I thanked God for this tour and all the great people I got to work with. So Marty, Jeremy, Mark and Patti, thank you for being patient and really nice people to work for. To the rest of the band, you guys and gals are a blast; I sure hope we get to do this again soon!

To Kelly, thanks for looking out for all of us and making sure we got from point A to point Z. You are a jaunty Splendiferous gal!

Jerry, Jerry Jr., Fred, Gil, thanks for keeping us safe and sound.

Did I say sound? To the wranglers of everything wired and wireless I tip my hat; Monty (is an acoustic guitar supposed to sound like that?), TJ(Go Avs, go Steelers… my favorite part of the day is seeing your feet pedal the pump organ!), Boo, Bob, Matt and Coop.

Thanks to the lighting guys for keeping them on at the right times: Todd,Triple B, Ohio John and the mighty Boar Hunter.

Video scares me on days off but they sure make this band look good… Hippy, Paul, Phil and Legs, have a great summer!

Then there are the special people; the carps. I had to actually handle the carpet and the chandeliers the other morning and am glad you do it. John Hye, Mike the steel box stander and… well, even Dan Lee. Remember to order some more foam for my guy next time or I’ll make your life even less interesting!

To Mary Ann and Ro-ro, the world is yours; we’re just visiting! Let’s do this again!

Our drivers of both bus and truck just kicked ass, especially Layne for helping me with the truck pack, Wild Bill for being there for me on the attic ceiling and Em for being the best darn one there was… there’s a chicken sandwich in it for you!

To Michael and John for keeping track and being nice about it…

To Mateo and Kelly for making sure that part of my job was covered…

To Thom and his crew for keeping me out of the shot.

Thank you to Jon and Barbara from JLM for being the only managers I’ve ever been glad to see in 21 years…

and GT for taking a chance on me and letting me stick around.

A big thanks to Terry for being Terry…

…and to Bruce for being Bruce.

Last but not least…

I’ve left the backline for last because of

1)my part in it
2)the fact that only through a team effort could I not look like a complete yutz
3) knowing that my back was covered every step of the way.

Bob Weber, thanks for coming in late and taking care of so much with a smile on your face, even when you got to the horn riser. I’d never know of Rex’s Erection without you.

Fitz, you make stage left the place to be. Thanks for being a friend, a coworker and someone who understands me far too well.

KB, you are one of a kind. Your attention to detail and drive to keep things right is a goal I fear I’ll never reach but it does inspire me to stay focused and work hard. Your friendship and trust is of great value to me and we’ll never be 100% unless you’re there, ever. Have a great summer with the family and we’ll suit up again soon enough!

Next up…

I wrote this on a bus (with wireless no less!) rolling from NYC to Columbus,OH where I start my month with Paul Simon. We did Letterman last night ( it airs Friday june 30…) where it was cold in the building and the crew was warm. It’s great to see some of the faces I’ve spent the last 17 years (on and off) working with again. The name on the check changes but not the job. Bitterman comes home to the circle yet again.

I’ll keep you posted.