May 20, 2006

I'm on one of Boeing's finest, the 747, stretch version. Even on a night flight like this, I still ask for a window seat. It makes it harder to get up past the other people seated in your row, but you can see things that are magic. Ever since the Dixie Dregs days, when we would rent planes, or use one of mine, to go to gigs, I've loved night flights. Jeff, the pilot that literally became my mentor of flying wisdom, used to fly us in his plane for several years, giving me lots of useful copilot time. On a good night, that is, one without much weather problems or traffic, we could turn down all the interior lights of the plane and just gaze up and around at night. It looks incredible, partly because of the fact that the air is less dense, and as a result, clearer. Also, because you're seeing a panorama that just can't be seen on the surface of the earth. Right now, they've deemed it sleep time on this plane, because literally every light has been turned off except the no smoking signs. Everyone is asleep, and they're missing this view out the window. The moonlight, the broken undercast, the stars, the distant hints of dawn on the horizon......nobody sees it because they're all asleep. I imagine a certain percentage of them would hike up a good size hill to see a view, but they just don't seem to be impressed with the view from the window. I always bend my neck muscles to the point of pain on every single flight in daylight, looking at the ground, imagining what it must be like to work that land, wishing I could see it from the much better viewpoint of a small plane.... whenever I have a window seat. I don't know if I will ever get enough time up in the air, where everything is perfect.

On this trip, we just flew a leg, then spent an amazing 5 hours waiting for a connection, are now flying overseas, and then waiting another 5 hours for another connection, then to the hotel, where they are optimistically scheduling interviews!. In a band, you get what you get: some trips are easy, some are different from that.

A very successful musician/businessman, who probably doesn't want to be named, invited my wife and I for a day of flying out in a distant Australian airfield. It was a total blast, and I got to feel what some real acceleration is like with an ex-military attack jet that had an exhilerating thrust to weight ratio. I have owned a much lower powered ex military jet trainer, but nothing like this, it was so much fun to fly a plane like this. Thanks, Dave.

Our trip to New Zealand and Australia, has been a treat. We can watch T.V. if we ever get a little time to rest in our rooms, since everything's in English in the land down under. The people are super easy to get along with, and life is familiar to an American. Calling home and actually reaching your kids requires some forethought, when you've got a busy schedule and a 14 hour time difference, though.

I got to play a little bit with some of the guys from Living Loud, and we worked on some new music, which does sound good. Status Quo is playing with us every night on this Australian tour, and I just found out that one of their songs, "PIctures of Matchstick Men" was a favorite of our high school band. Also, Jimmy Barnes brother was opening those shows with his band, Swanee, and did a great job.

Just before this trip, I had the great pleasure of taking my son to a concert with Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson. Kevin is playing every day, and like his friend, Andy, is making phenomenal progress with his playing. It was wonderful to see them both soaking up the playing with the kind of energy and exuberance that can only come from youth. Dave LaRue has been playing with Joe Satriani lately, so it was nice to sit back and appreciate what a great player he is, too, but then again, I've never had a problem appreciating that. They invited me up to sit in, and I accepted. I was plugged in to an extra amp, and there is a certain amount of luck to ending up with a good sound, monitor mix, and balance within a few seconds......anyway, it was fun, but since I ended up really loud through all the monitors, I decided to show my son that a guitarist sometimes needs to just lay back and play nothing when the others are soloing or singing. A good lesson for both of us. Every time I play with musicians like Joe or Eric, it is a lesson in humility on my part and experiencing their finesse. And a good lesson for my son to see how much easier it is for Dad when he has the familiar setup and sounds of his own band, but that it doesn't stop the music from happening and the smiles to break out when we stand up and wing it.

For me, the most impressive thing, other than the playing, was how carefully and respectfully they treated their backstage guests, including my son and his friend. I just love to see extraordinary people be that way.

P.S. I just had to type this before I sent this letter. We have just played several Japanese shows to crowds that are decidedly more demonstrative. And I mean that they are standing up and rocking out for the entire show! They've always been the most attentive, polite audience ever, but this is a new page turning for the culture of the young people attending concerts. And for the security people that are working there.

Actually, it's often the security in any country that sets the tone for what kind of audience participation or reaction a band gets. If the security is menacing looking, standing up and staring down the crowd, they react quietly and without ever standing. Japanese conduct themselves in a very social way. That is, they don't like to step out of line and be disrespectful to the others around them. Like any civilized people, but more noticeable So, when everybody now, apparently, stands up at the beginning of the show, they all feel free to do it, and they stay that way. Clapping along, smiling, dancing a little, having a good time. Is it the Westernization caused by satellite T.V.? Is it just a different generation feeling more free? More tolerance by security authorities? Caffeine from all the new Starbucks cafes?

Between songs, I heard one of my favorite lead singers say this into my ear. "This is the best Japanese crowd, ever." 2006