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Diary of a Drum Tech Pt. 1

Fresh from a triumphant bunch of seminars at Drummer Live, where he surprised many of the know-it-all pro drummers in the room with his knowledge on tuning, tweaking, setting up and generally putting drums to rights; drum-tech Yard Gavrilovich will be keeping us up to date with his activities on the road in the form of a tour diary as he racks up the miles around the globe.

Yard Gavrilovic PortraitFor those who don’t know he’s sat attentively behind the riser to ensure many of our favourite players are able to do their thing. Yard’s CV reads like a who’s who of the world’s very best drummers: Steve Gadd, Zak Starkey, Ian Thomas, Omar Hakim, Chris Bailey, Jerry Brown, Kenney Jones, Harry James, Ginger Baker, Andy Newmark, Mike Sturgis, Steve Barney, Danny Cummings, Carlos Hercules, Pete Jupp and his absolute hero; Simon Kirke.

Keep checking back for ‘Yard’s Miles’, the ultimate on the road diary – for drummers only!

Hi Everyone,

Sitting in the Club Lounge at Heathrow Term 4 hammering the free coffee and biscuits, living the high life, awaiting my flight to New York for Part 2 of the Eric Clapton US Tour with Ian Thomas on the tubs and it is time to reflect as it is my third trip to the US this year.My first being Winwood/Clapton for shows at Madison Square Garden in February. Steve Winwood, I have to mention as with EC, is a UK gem. A very talented multi instrumentalist and a gent.

After a comfortable flight into Newark NJ we arrive at our hotel I try to stay awake to avoid jet lag but to no avail and I pass out only to awake at 3am giving me time to answer emails and learn about my Mac, being a PC man up until now. My sons Nick & Martin are both out with Bryan Ferry trying to convince Paul Thompson to let me have his Bonham kit gifted to him by Bonzo!!

Our first day is a tech day which is a luxury in this day and age where cost cutting is having an effect. The respective crews prep the PA and lights,prepare new looms and the backline crew prepare the band gear, re-head the drums if needed, guitar techs re-string all guitars and keyboards are programmed and loomed.

Chelsea v Man Utd is on ESPN so we take a break to see Chelsea get hammered. As a QPR fan from the early ”60’s in Notting Hill (Rodney Marsh/Stan Bowles days) the outcome was of no great concern.

Show day PNC Bank Arts, Holmdel New Jersey

Our show days are routine but today, as we had prepared yesterday, we begin with lunch before removing the black parachutes which cover the backline gear.After checking the kit once again I decide to change the rack tom head as it sounds too thin and is heavily dented (you do not need to change all of the heads).

EC Production Manager Mick “Doc” Double, former tech to Keith Moon, is rushed to hospital with an aneurism in his head which is usually fatal. He was flown into NYC by helicopter for an emergency operation and is now resting and hopefully in full recovery… he was very lucky.

At 4pm we are about to perform sound check now that backline crew band is now fully operational. As Tim Myer (keys tech) plays bass and as a Michael Jackson/Roger Waters/Madonna crew member we sound check with “Beat It” …what else? Tim is with the Sex Pistols in Las Vegas after this run ends so I am teaching him “Pretty Vacant” for future sound checks. Our previous keys tech knew how to play Layla so that is on the crew set list too.If you have a good sound crew, bands do not need to sound check daily, the crew have the pleasure.

The band arrive at 6pm and Ian takes a quick look at his Yamaha Green Sparkle kit that he has not seen in the two week break to check it out. All is okey dokey so we head for dinner.

My routine for each show day is to leave Ian his new sticks, ear-moulds, a set list and crib sheets in the dressing room after crew soundcheck on the bands behalf. Ian is a journeyman as he has come up through clubs etc and is a prolific sight reader giving him the edge for studio sessions where accuracy is tantamount.

The show begins with the Robert Randolph Family Band who as you may have guessed, are all related. Robert is a prolific steel guitar player and has toured with us a few times previously since 2004. For a first show it goes without a hitch and we leave for Atlantic City NJ.

Tour Bus - "Home" for the duration of the tour. Day 3 Day Off in the Borgata Hotel

Day 4 Borgata Hotel & Casino Show day (Private)

I find casinos about as interesting as reading a tech manual on electronic drums/tv remotes/how to make a paperclip…am I missing something? YES, as one of our guys won $6000 for a 25 cent stake! This is the 1st of two show days here for high rollers in the casino. After the show we leave overnight for Toronto ONT – 600 miles (approx 12hrs).

Due to the hostile world climate at present we have to queue at Immigration for strict passport/visa checks. Canada is difficult to enter if you have any blots on your copybook, no matter how trivial, even as a crazy mixed up kid (your Honour) so if it applies to you, stay on the US side of the border.Immigration officers from Canada are always polite and courteous unlike some that I could mention.

I love Toronto as we stay downtown and I know it very well as my eldest brother has lived here since the early ”70’s. Plenty of great music shops on Yonge Street and lots of Pawnbrokers to take advantage of but unfortunately, due to Ebay, there are no bargains to be had. The shops look run down so, my first task is to track down some drumheads for showday and browse the Mall.

Molson Amphitheatre on Lakeside. Toronto ONT

One of my favourite gigs as it has gorgeous lake views. I was here with The Who previously for Quadrophenia and with Annie Lennox.

Show day, Bell Centre, Montreal QC (350 miles approx. 6hrs travel)

Todays show is an Arena and we arrive in the car park beneath the complex overnight. Whilst on the bus I check my emails as we have satellite and it is 12noon UK time(7am US). I am currently arranging shows for Annie Lennox and have to respond regarding the Nelson Mandela 90th Birthday Show at Hyde Park where Annie is guesting.

EC is at Hyde Park the following night so I will be floating about for 2 days at the gig seeing lots of old friends and drummers (JJ & Jeremy Stacey as John Mayer & Sheryl Crow are on the bill too) before we depart overnight to Nottingham Hallam Arena. Upon my return to the UK June 12th I have another fundraiser/awareness show with Annie for the Red Cross too.

By midday the lights and PA are up in the air and the stage is ready for me to begin. The old hands here are all experienced and set up is easy.

The crew here are bilingual as Quebec Provence is French speaking so I use my best French to thank them…Merci! Initial set up of band gear is about a 15 minutes work before tuning and maintenance. It is a huge arena possibly 18000 capacity(?). This is Corey Hart territory for whom my brother in law, Andy Barnett played guitar and received a Platinum album for the ‘First Offence’ album (check YouTube) which provided the “Sunglasses at Night” hit.

EC also played on the track “Jenny Fey” back in 1982.

On The Road - BridgeDay Off/Travel to Indianapolis IN

We arrive at The Westin hotel at 6pm after a gruelling 16 hour drive from Montreal for Ed Toney our driver, which included an Immigration check at the US border where we all have to traipse into the hall again and the bus is searched with dogs. Luckily my stash of American Hard Gums goes undetected! We had a truck stop where we all search in vain for that must have gadget or bearskin jacket.

This is a 3 bus, 6 truck tour… relatively small compared to a Stones tour. George Michael had 6 busses and 19 trucks but still small compared to some rap acts where the 1st four trucks are just for the gold chains, hats, Kentucky Fried and trainers.

Ian had kindly invited myself to a meal in Indy with Pino Palladino (EC bass) & Lee Dickson, EC’s guitar tech as a thank you, but I was so exhausted that I had to reluctantly decline the offer but with a new date in the offing. I head for bed early with exhaustion as I only sleep a little on buses only to awake at 1am. Time to check emails and any shop business and home news due to the 5hr time difference. Nick is now with Sigur Ros taking care of guitars in Reykjavik for rehearsals. I shall be in Iceland for the next leg of our tour in Europe during August.

Show day, Deer Creek Amphitheatre, Indianapolis IN

Another shed. I was here with Sting & Annie Lennox in 2004 as the photos on the wall remind me. Gig names constantly change these days depending who the sponsor is, so its not until you get there that you realise you have been before. Local TV warns of a thunderstorm heading our way this evening. Luckily the storm does not arrive until late into EC’s set so with a swift adjustment to the songs the band leave the stage for their own safety before it hammers down.

I look into the crowd out on the lawn area at the back thinking ”rather them than me” although it quickly clears of punters. The stage and seated areas are covered but rain tends to find its way in through the sides and soaks the flooring and cabling making it slippery. During the load out the venue lights blow and once on again we clear the equipment from stage, back into the trucks and head for the bus once the deluge subsides. Our busses have satellite TV, after show pizza and internet so its home from home.

Blossom Centre AudienceShow day, Blossom Center, Cleveland Ohio.

We arrive overnight and park up. I awake early at 6am and put the coffee pot on. Email is checked, answered and all is well.

The venue stage area is conically shaped like an oast house and is clad in slate externally. It was built for concert orchestras so it is going to be loud as the acoustically designed roof is lined with cedar internally to project the sound.

During the 1st song the metronome decides to play up so I give it a few whacks on my workbox as my claw hammer (Claude) is not to hand. I am astounded that this does not fix the problem so I inspect further and find that the 9v battery terminals are smaller than usual causing an intermittent fault where the metronome resets itself to 120 bpm. Our spare is put into place prior to the inspection and the show is saved from oblivion thus, dispelling the rumour that a techs life is stress free.

Travel overnight to Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville CT (580 miles approx 10hrs)

The casino is run by descendants of the Mohegan Indian Tribe and observing the cars on the way in, not doing too badly out of it! As we stay at the casino hotel, work is just a short stroll through the shopping area.

Day Off. Spent in the Mall and re-packing my bags for the trip home in 3 days

The Tweeter Center, Mansfield MA

This is the old Great Woods as it was known and is a favourite of mine as it is local to Zildjian, Vic Firth and Fishman Transducers, so we get to see old friends of ours although I have not been invited to a Vic Firth Stick factory visit as yet … have I Vic!?

Being a carpenter & joiner by trade, I love the smell of timber and wood mills are always fascinating sights as I still have my own fully fitted wood shop for building & joinery, drum repairs and custom work.

Our bus call is 11am for the drive to the gig and hopefully breakfast will still be on the go when we arrive? This is our penultimate gig in the US before returning to the UK.

Stage RearFinal US Show day. Nikon @ Jones Beach, Wantaugh,NY

Formerly the Tommy Hilfiger @ Jones Beach until Nikon stepped in. Another huge venue on Long Island NY.

We seem to finish tours here. It is a large open air venue with stadium style seating. We set up fairly quickly and hope that it doesn’t rain as we are open to the elements on. Today is a chance to catch up with Steve Nigohosian from Latin Percussion & Steve Lobmeir from Evans Heads as they are close by.

Ian has his old friend Adam Nussbaum and family as guests and as with all NY drummers he has a warmth and is very entertaining.

The show goes without a hitch and the crowd jump to their feet as soon as Layla begins. At show end we split all the equipment ready for shipping back to the UK and to various locations in the US.

We say our goodbyes to the US crews and head for our hotel as we have a 5.30am depart for JFK for the flight to London.

Well,it is 6.15am and I am back in the BA lounge at JFK Airport … coffee and biscuits again, but after a week at home… ready for the next leg in Ireland and at Hyde Park.

If you are going to DrummerLive… I’ll see you there but don’t expect too much eh?

See ya,

Yard.

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