Woo! Today was a really incredible day, yes probably even more so than yesterday. Writing at 11 PM it feels like two or three days went by over the span of today (that’s code for ‘get ready for a long blog post’). Woke up from my hotel in Vienna, Virginia ten minutes before my already early alarm, but used the time to shave, shower, and eat some decent hotel breakfast after I meditated. At 945 AM the bus took off and I worked on uploading the vlogs that I had taken the last week- that’s right.. it’s been a week since we left LA!! We arrived shortly at the Wolff Trap Performing Arts Center, this gazebo-style arena in the middle of a National Park. The center is actually RUN by the National Parks Service, and it’s an incredible facility. We parked in a parking lot surrounded entirely by nature- thick groves of trees, a few hiking trails, a big meadow, and the backstage entrance. Nathan and Steven took off early to go for a little walk and eat, while I just about finished editing the vlogs. After not too long (in line with my productive nature) I left to find the production office and ask for a room to warmup in. It always surprises me how Gina (production manager) and the team can take any ramshackle dressing room and make it a bustling office in a matter of an hour or less. She was in between phone calls and post-its when I asked for a room- got a spare dressing room to swipe. For today’s warmup, since I didn’t play trumpet yesterday whatsoever, I wanted to keep things light. I think that paid off really well throughout the day- after maybe twenty minutes of playing I felt good.. fresh, powerful.. that’s the point where I usually keep going and working on technique, but today there was no need. I checked out some Blood, Sweat & Tears on a whim, did some push-ups (the lack of structured exercise had been killing me, glad I made something work today). Played just a tad more, by that point it was really hot in that dressing room… came back to the bus and had a protein smoothie.. Steven was watching Edward Scissorhands on the bus TV. I hadn’t seen it before… yikes it’s a lot goofier than I thought it’d be. Finally got the vlogs rendered and chopped up, and we went to lunch right at 1. When we finished that, I decided that I would spend my afternoon composing, since we didn’t have soundcheck until 4. I was in such a beautiful place and had a lot of energy, and decided it’d be a good day to channel it into some creating. Spaced out my time by going on walks down the trails while listening to Esperanza Spalding (“Radio Song” off her album “Radio Music Society” is EXQUISITELY written and produced). I brought a big MIDI keyboard that I borrowed from a friend with me on the trip, and hooked it up to my laptop today to experiment looping some sounds and coming up with melodies. My goal is to write three or four tunes for a solo show, and to pick my favorite one for music video that I’ve already began planning. I’m trying to utilize a lot more of GarageBand’s patches and make some hipper stuff. At long last, it was soundcheck time!
By the entrance to backstage were these intricately balanced stones that looked incredible, like something out of a Zen Garden- apparently a roadie did it on his break… !?… backstage had some really interesting architecture, and downstairs by the green rooms was a full blown game room (ping pong, pool, video games, etc.) Ten or so dressing rooms… we were thinking we’d just have to find a random spot to chill until soundcheck started, but, to our surprise Gina came to us and said “GUYS! I have a room for you.. follow me.” It was like Christmas! We had our very own dressing room with a little sign on it and everything- we made a big deal out of it to say the least. Right next to the rest of the band. Gina’s really awesome- has the rocker attitude but very sweet and down-to-Earth. Soundcheck today was shorter- John was in a good mood after apparently last Sunday’s show being a bit of a mess. I think some monitors weren’t working, and we went over our time limit- so when John ran offstage before the last two songs everyone thought he was done, instead he was just planning to turn them into a surprise encore.
John gave us nothing but compliments- made a point to tell Nathan that his solo on Rock ’n Roll Girls last show was terrific. He’s a guy who isn’t afraid to say something when something’s wrong. He spends the first ten to twenty minutes of soundcheck every day walking around the empty arena with Wayne, the tour manager, just listening to Kenny hit the snare drum five million times. He wants to get the PERFECT sound… so he has Kenny swap out snares, move the mic, adjust where he hits it, until it’s right. Such a genius. Today he told Kenny, “you’re not hitting the snare in the same place every time- sometimes it has a little more meat than others”. It’s crazy to be able to hear that. So when he tells us we sound fantastic it makes us all giddy. On the other hand these parts are ultimately super duper easy hehe.
For the New Orleans bit today we have very little room- we had to walk in front of the first row of chairs right by the stage since there’s no divide anywhere else. In between we played a round of pool in the game room (yours truly was the grand champion, both games by technicality of their failure to call the 8-ball in the right pocket). Trying to think of more conversations I had throughout the day- I’ll add more as they come back.
Dinner tonight was definitely killing- quinoa cakes with butternut squash on top. Learned a bit about Nathan and Steven’s families. Nathan’s dad is an engineer, his older brother was a founding member of this music tech company called Steam.. biggest client right now is Billie Ocean… curious as to what they do. Steven’s sister is an opera singer, we were talking about the lack of work for young opera singers nowadays, almost more so than jazz. Left back to the bus so we could get ready for a lil bit. (oh my god I’ve already been blogging for half an hour jeesh). Did a little more writing and added tags and everything to the YouTube vlogs. Played at 730 today… getting ready in our own dressing room was pretty chill. Ryan Kinder, this young country artist, opened for us, and we could hear him through the room PA… we were back there dancing and singing and being so goofy. The routine of going stage left, hooking up our in-ears, plugging in our mics, and then standing around, has become second nature, but we’re still on eggshells around everyone. John wore this really awesome space jacket today at the show!!! I think the horns sounded tighter today than we ever have (except for this ONE part, but that’s not important).
Point of note during show- there’s a couple songs where little bursts of fire shoot out behind the drums- the drum tech who sits back there and does his monitor levels always stands up and leaves because it gets too hot. Kenny flipped him off mid-show cuz HIS back was getting the blunt force of the fire (haha). New Orleans bit felt good, the guy behind me with the bass drum bumped me and caught me off guard. The crowd ATE IT UP, and, as Wayne (stage manager) told us afterward rather bluntly- “it’s ok to be showboat-y if you nail the part!” Wayne’s an awesome guy- after the show he also told us some cool John stories. When they were last in Hawaii, John told Wayne he hadn’t been to Hawaii since 1972 to play. After his show he chugged a beer and loaded all his own gear and equipment himself…. No roadies or anything then. He’s a legend. He does a bit every show where he brings out the guitar and amp he played at Woodstock and gets a big rise from the crowd.
I’ve been deemed Harry Potter by the crew.. Alex asked me “does Gryffindor know you’re here?”, and “yo, some Snape guy was looking for you.” Watched a little ZZ Top (went out into the audience and got some hi-fives), and chatted with Nate (drum tech) a bit about how lucky we are that the people on this tour aren’t coke heads (like some tours he’s done in the past.. that’s really too bad). Pizza in the production office around 1030, played some more pool… and then it’s back in the back lounge to journal and hang some more. Man, everyone’s loosening up, we’re being honest about everything. Bob Fogerty (younger brother of John and tour manager) is on the bus with us now. I’ll see how this plays out! Hoping to go for a run tomorrow round some trails, I asked a guy where they might be. Still not sure, might do some more research as the night goes on. I’m pretty exhausted by now, definitely want to go to sleep.. think I might do that! Tomorrow will be our second show here in Vienna, nobody has to be anywhere until well after noon (and no load-in). GOODNIGHT!