April 18, 2000
Well, we just finished one of the strangest gigs. It starts by getting on a special type of train in this small Swiss village called Klein Scheidege, which translates to "small fried egg". No it doesn't, I was just kidding, but it rhymes with it.
OK, the train track is so steep that it has a geared middle rail that is constantly engaged in a rack-and-pinion fashion to the drive mechanism on the train. It goes up, an up, and up for over a half hour. On a good day, you can see the mountain where they filmed the Eiger Sanction just on the left near the gig site. How about if it's snowing? Did I mention that it was snowing the whole time? Oh, I must have forgot that it was SNOWING the whole time and we were on our way to an OUTDOOR show.
Now, people travel great distances to get on top of a great Alpine mountain to be in the snow. However, most of them have heavy clothes on and gloves, as well as skis or snowboards. Why gloves? Because one's fingers go numb very quickly without them. I would soon discover that fact.
The train stopped at the top, and we went into the train maintenance building, which was to be the dressing room/backstage area. In typical Swiss fashion, everything was in perfect placement, all the tools and equipment perfectly organized, not a drop of grease on the pavement. There were some immaculate summer train cars that we were allowed to sit in, and everyone was pretty happy with how much the organizers tried to make this area comfortable. Gig time rolled around, and a Snowcat, (a tracked vehicle that can climb almost any grade of snow covered mountain) took us to the stage. The crowd was all just standing in the natural, snow covered amphitheater shaped by the hill. There was a cover over the stage, but you know which way the wind was blowing the snow, don't you?
I was totally convinced that it would be not too cold onstage, but just in case, I wore a thin long sleeved shirt instead of just a cut off T shirt. We walked onstage with the wind blowing the snow in past our pedal boards. It was daylight, and the lights were on, but focused more towards the back end of the stage where I couldn't hang out. Within seconds of starting the first song, I realized that I was losing the sensation of touch in my left hand from the cold. By the second song, I could only tell if I was pushing down the strings by the sound. Same with Roger, and probably the other guys even towards the back of the stage. It was very weird. Every time I had a rhythm part with an open string, I would shove my hand in my left pocket. One of the organizers gave us each a little packet that gave off a bit of warmth chemically, and I stuck it in my left pocket. Seeing the way we were rubbing our hands between tunes, the local crew, Charlie, and Skoots brought out two fuel burning heaters that looked like large lamps. But they were by the side fill monitors, so you couldn't hang out by them. If you were standing right near them and there was no wind, you could feel the heat for sure. But the wind was blowing, so I stuck my hands up to the burning part between songs. A little too close, it turned out. Well, it will heal.
Meanwhile, Ian G. had started the set with a short sleeved Hawaiian shirt on. He thought it would make the audience feel warmer. It did help, because every time I would look at him, with the huge clouds of condensation from singing in the cold, I would start laughing. And, luckily laughing warms you up. By the time we were an hour into the show, for some reason, I could feel in three fingers of my left hand with no problem. Ian had changed his shirt three times by now, probably just to give a laugh to us: one of them said FIRE rescue on it. The crowd was great, and we ended up having a wonderful time. You should have seen Ian, holding the mike in one hand, a video camera in the other, loving the fact that he was getting footage of a blizzard with some inappropriately dressed musicians playing for a bunch of hollering folks.
Just after the show, the snow ended, and within an hour there was sun as we made our way down the mountain. The scenery was unbeleivable. There is never a dull gig.
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