April 1, 2007
Here I am, on the last flight in our chartered turboprop plane. It's from Malta, and the crew is from Germany, Spain, and Italy. The only common language is English, so it works out fine. Flying is one of the best things about traveling on the road, especially when it's not a commercial flight. I"ll never forget one flight attendant on a chartered plane telling us to put away the computers for the descent, then after talking to the pilots, she came back saying, "I'm sorry, I didn't know you're a pilot. So you know it's not going to matter to the plane if you're computer's on, never mind". I guess the announcement was to convince normal loads of passengers that they're getting the same amount of 'safety' as on a commercial flight, I don't know. These guys flying us are great, and I will sure wish I was with them tomorrow as I begin the multiple indignities of trying to get home with a near impossible 43 minute layover between international flights........oh well, that's why they pay us............we'll play for free!
Our trip began in Italy with some fantastic gigs, and the last one with a band called "Volver" was very memorable. The young guitarist, who was very good, presented me with a guitar. Through an interpreter, I suggested that we get everyone to sign it, and auction it off at one of the charities events that band members are usually asked to contribute to. He reiterated that he wanted me to have it, and even though it was not an expensive guitar, he had it made for him to play during this tour, and it would have special meaning for him if I would take it. Touched by the thought, I took it. It turns out that taking something that you can't ever give away or sell, is a lot like adopting a pet....you're going to have it forever, even if it gets in the way. I have always made a habit of giving away extra equipment to young players rather than trying to sell it, partly because most of it was given to me anyway. But this one will be part of an interesting, but small collection I have, of gift guitars to keep.
France has been surprising in all good ways. We will have played 40 cities by the end of our France run! Amazing, considering that most bands play a couple shows then move on to the next country. We did, for years. Anyway, I really have never been treated nicer. Except for the huge metropolitan cities, like Paris, where a few people can be rude, just like in our big cities back home, the folks have been totally without attitude, and always friendly. My theory has always been that if you visit people that are not able to be anonymous due to size of their community, they will always be neighborly. Every country we've visited bears this out, when we've been there long enough to see the real culture of the place. And I've been able to confirm that there is a remarkable consistency in French pastry, from the north to the south, all of it good. Can't wait to get home to get some real exercise, though, after all those samples done in the name of science!
Our promoter is a very nice man, and invited us out to a gourmet restaurant for a night off. My wife, Janine, was there, most of the band, as well. The first course was pigeon. It sounds like I'm joking, but I'm not. There were tiny little drumsticks from pigeons on a small plate, with some sauce that really did taste good. I tried to eat the bird's leg, but couldn't do it, despite the savory sauce on it. I asked for some salad for both of us after I found out the next two appetizers: Goose liver and frog legs. Geese are like the true touring commandos of our feathered friends, so that was out of the question for me, having admired their aerial formations from my airplane many times in flight. And as a child, the main pets I had were frogs and turtles, so I couldn't psychologically do that, either. I know it's hypocritical to love animals and still eat chicken and steaks, but I can't help it. The salad was fine, the main course of chicken (Yea!) was superb. Lots of sample of local wine, all excellent, and all chilled, which was fine with me. An owner of a local vineyard was there, and performed some really good magic tricks all night with sleight of hand, cards, paper money, and a few other props. It was excellent, then he gave us each a bottle of wine from his vineyard. I was thinking at the end of the night that this must be what everyone thinks it's like on the road, with lavish dinners, lots of leisure, entertainment, etc. Most of the time it seems that you're packing, unpacking, waiting to travel, or traveling. But it was a great night, and we all appreciated it.
All the bands opening up for us have been good, and have worked hard. Every time I see them standing away from the stage watching the show, I tell somebody to let them know that they are welcome on the side of the stage if they're careful where they step, remembering how cold it felt to be an opening act when the roadies of the main act tell you that you're never allowed on stage during their show. The only difference between most bands opening and headlining is the circumstances, not musical ability, that put them in the hierarchy they are at the moment. And that can change quickly enough. The Doobie Brothers, Allmans, Marshall Tucker, Rush, Sea Level, Santana, are a few of the big names that I remember for being kind to the Dregs or SMB as openers.
All the crowds have been a treat for me. They have all heard Smoke on the Water, but not so many of the other tunes, so it works to our advantage with the new stuff. They enjoy it because they don't know or care if it's new or old, they just listen and enjoy. The quiet improv parts are especially fun, since there's zero chance of getting the one guy who yells out.....they just don't do it. They listen, and if they're moved by it, spontaneously applaud. Everyone knows the tried and true devices for forcing an audience to applaud, but I really enjoy that unplanned kind of spontaneity when the crowd decides in the middle of a phrase that it's a good time to clap. Anyway, the music will always be the highlight of touring, for me.
Thanks for all the condolences, by the way, and I'll see you on the road very soon.
© stevemorse.com 2007