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Diary of a Drum Tech Pt. 16

Hello Everyone. The moment I dread has come as my ten year passport and three year US visa ran out within days of each other so it is the usual early morning two hour schlep to Grosvenor Square W1, to the US Embassy with my second passport to apply for another 3 year visa. This is all before I head for the US again for more Van Morrison shows starting in Las Vegas.

My visa arrives just two days before heading off to Gatwick to stop overnight in one of their luxury hotels where I am checked in by a polite young lady from Slovakia who puts others to shame with her polite and efficient manner.

The following morning I take a 5 min stroll into the Terminal. I am flying Virgin Atlantic so no fears on this until I get to the check-in desk where Mrs Totally Unhelpful was sitting and insisting upon weighing my hand baggage. This is another prize con to raise money for the airline who move the rules to suit. They should weigh the passengers. My bag is regulation size according to their rules and I keep everything in it that I cannot afford to have pilfered! My patience is wearing thin these days with the constant barrage of Health & Safety, Terror Alerts and Rude Airport Staff hiding behind ‘their rules’. My suitcase is 1 kilo overweight so a HEAVY sticker goes on it to alert baggage handlers that it can take more effort to throw it than they can cope with. I will always admire Michael Douglas for stealing the coveted role in ‘Falling Down,’ as I would love to play the real life version,so watch out! Finally she concedes that she is being a complete moron and gives up and I am comforted by the fact that other travellers arrive at the boarding gate weighed down with luggage to prove that not all airport staff were put on this planet to satisfy their ego! A few couples on the plane were getting married in Las Vegas and dressing as Elvis (or Elvii?) seemed the norm on this flight.

Upon arrival in Las Vegas we were met and transported to the Hard Rock Hotel using their shuttle service. This is where sadly John Entwistle died the night before The Who were due to play their first show of the tour in June 2002 at The Joint. The following day we have a rehearsal planned in the hotel club. We learn that Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs are playing in The Joint that evening, so we get passes to attend. We were later than planned in rehearsal so the crew missed it.

I love Michael McDonald who has such a rich voice. My EC colleague Simon Climie produced his recent Motown albums. The following day is Show Day so we meet in the lobby for the stroll into The Joint.

Our drummer Robbie Ruggiero lives in Vegas and has a ‘Rogers’ kit with original hardware which belonged to Buddy Rich himself. He was offered a few dollars by a Japanese buyer but refused it. If it was me that kit would be sitting in Tokyo by now, whilst I sun myself in Margate on the proceeds!

After the show we board our bus for the 5hr drive to Los Angeles but jetlag gets me and I retire to bed. Upon arrival at 4am, I get into my hotel bed. It’s raining in LA so the view of the Hollywood Hills are shrouded in mist. We are by the Beverly Centre with Macys across the street, so shopping might be a good idea. I arrange to meet one of the best tour managers in the business, Tony Wigens, who as a fellow QPR fan is one of Gods’ own people!

Tony runs all touring for 19 Entertainment where we were co-horts for Annie Lennox and Will Young tours of which I was production manager. Tony’s career as Tour Manager includes Cat Stevens (pre Yusuf Islam) back in the 70s, McCartney, Dire Straits and Eurythmics. He is one of the nicest and most respected of whom I trust implicitly. His son George is a drummer and Mrs Wigens Sr lives close to my retreat on the Essex Riviera!

Tomorrow is Show Day at The Greek Theater where Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes recorded their great live CD. Steve Gorman is one tasteful drummer. Show Day at The Greek Theater is misleading as it is open air, more of a smaller version of it’s neighbour, the Hollywood Bowl. The first bonus is that our caterers at the venue are Scottish and sisters who might be able to supply egg and chips rather than all that Ramsay inspired nonsense that we are force fed these days.

I change the snare head just prior to the show and all goes without a hitch apart from the rain! After show end our guitar player Jay Berliner, is hanging on our tour bus with his wife Penny. We leave overnight for the San Diego Civic Center. Upon arrival I notice as in most warm cities in the US that there are lots of homeless on the streets but, San Diego has decreed a tent shelter for the homeless which opens in the cooler climate and is home as long as you behave yourself or the climate gets warmer! The homeless issue is another fine example of the American Dream as in ‘I am alright Jack” which I also saw during the debate on Healthcare.

Next stop for us is San Francisco at the Nob Hill Masonic Center that I did with Annie Lennox in 2007. I love San Francisco which is dearer to me after my stay at the luxury ‘W’ hotel. It is a gorgeous city with a vibrant Chinatown and always has a safe feeling to it and is now the home of Ed Bicknell former Dire Straits manager. Upon checking out, film director Spike Lee is sitting in the lobby looking for a film to produce. I have my Steve McQueen moment looking down the hills of the ‘Bullit’ film. Our bus driver Jerry collects us to head for the venue. The architecture and colonial style homes downtown are a must see. If they could flatten the city a bit to get around easier, I’d love to live there, earthquakes and all!

Once at the Masonic Center we have to do the dodgy handshake routine to get in! There was a pre-rig the previous day, so the PA and lights are ready to fly. Today we have Van’s daughter Shana as support with her band. Drummer Dawn Richardson was formerly with Linda Perry for 4 Non Blondes. At show end we were met by three members of the noise police who measure how much racket you make to load the trucks to appease local residents. Once their noise meters go nuts we head overnight to Santa Barbara.

After a 7 hour drive we arrive at Santa Barbara Bowl in time for breakfast. It is a well laid out gig with the bus parked by the stage. The sun is out, the sky is blue, and the local crew are helpful in getting us set up. Santa Barbara has many famous and wealthy residents including Oprah Winfrey who has a holiday home there. It is the last day of the tour so we make plans to split and return the rental equipment and ship our band gear back to the UK for shows in Glasgow and London’s Royal Albert Hall. Once the trucks are loaded we head for LAX to our hotel for the flight home the following evening. Check-in at Virgin was a lot smoother than Gatwick and the 11hr flight home was a lot more pleasant ,but still a drudge.

The rental car for my trip home awaits… See ya Yard

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