So after a magnificent evening, exhausted to the bone, climbing into that queen sized bed at the hotel was heaven. Visions of breakfast with Brian in the am danced in my head.
I got up at 8:30, right as rain, ready to take on the day, but my Betty was not have’n it. As tough and sharp as she is, a headache can sideline her. I gave her one of my super-Tylenol pills that the doc had given me for my torn rotator cuff and it then made her nauseous. Some time in the bathroom….. and much to our horror we discovered…. she had the Eh-bola a VERY mysterious affliction native to Canada. There was NOT gonna be breakfast with Brian. Like the loving, dutiful, dedicated husband I am, I stayed with…. ahhh, who am I kiddin’…. I left her nursing the Eh-bola and drove to the Danforth for breakfast with Bri!
Our mission on this trip was to bring Brian some authentic NY/NJ style pizza. I bought two pies, individually wrapped the slices, bagged them, and packed them in ice, smuggled them across the border like a heathen terrorist and FINALLY got them into Bri’s hands. My work was done there, mission complete. Now for the fun.
I parked in the alley behind the theater (this will be significant later) and took the walk from backstage to the entrance in the cold empty theater, in the light of day. How they ever get their stuff in that place is a wonder to me! AMAZING crew these guys have!
Back to the bus for some coffee and quiet convo (‘cause the boys were sleeping) in the front lounge. After a few minutes, the door slides open and out strode “Il Bruce”, fully awake, geared up and ready for the day! “G’morning Mr. Bukowiec!” he says. “’Mornin’ Bruce!” Now no one ever calls me Mr. Even my grandson’s friends call me Granpa Jimmy! Never mind attempting to say my last name. I was quite honored and taken aback! (This story IS all about me innit!)
B and I go off to have a wonderful breakfast and catch up at the “New York Cafe” around the corner. Just a couple of Jersey/NY boys catching’ up. After, Brian’s got some stuff to do, so I leave him off at the bus only to see Dave, hanging outside. He and I stand and shoot the shit, me interviewing him about influences (Jaco, JPJ, Brian Beller and the like), his love of R’nB, his P-bass vs the others (I REALLY wish I knew more about it all…. I’m SUCH a musical dufus) and his adventures with Beiber. What a talented musician he is! He’s highly desired for sessions and the like, just soaking it all in, balancing family life and the industry….. great things ahead for Davey for sure. He shared that he stumbled upon the “Another One Bites the Dust” riff and the audience reacted so strongly; he was like “Yes!” But of course the next thought is looking to top it, so keep an eye out for what TidalDave has up his sleeve! Paulo and Chuck had also by this time begin scurrying about and Brian and I figured it would be a good idea to check out Factory Girl in advance of the meet up. They were super nice and took my reservation for 12 for that evening (shoulda planned this well for the previous night).
By this time, I had spent a few hrs with Bri and figured I should check on Bet back in the room with the Eh-bola. The Danforth crew let me walk through since it a like a mile to walk around the block and down the alley to my car. They had also blocked me in and had to find the tech manager to move before I could leave. In the meantime I hung out with the man, the myth the legend, Bruce Nichol. He was stringing Brian’s Deusenberg lap steel. We talked of family heritage, lineage and his bravery for attempting my Polish name. Found out he LOVES Kielbasy (My family used to sell it commercially - Bukowiec Kielbasy baby!) Seems that his best friend’s gramps used to smoke his own! That’ll be our next smuggling operation… or perhaps I can leverage some favors from friends in Pittsburgh! Lotsa Polish peoples there! Anyway, Bruce is a sweet, hard working brother with the full weight of the Big Wreck sound on his shoulders. The more complex the chain of effects the more that can go wrong…. and you KNOW Ian’s rig is complex! I wouldn’t want that responsibility…. EVER! Thank God B’s tough as nails!
By this time I was beginning to worry. I had phoned Betty like 5 times and there was no answer. Maybe this Eh-bola was for real!
I hurried back (after 3-4 hrs) thinking the worst! I parked the car and ran into Frick and Frack (Melanie and Bev) unloading a case of beer from the car into their room. Go figure! Being the chivalrous gentleman I am, I carried it in for them and proceeded to get lost in conversation in their room for half an hour. These two art the BEST! They clued me to the levels of fandom ranging from casual to stalker class. We all assured ourselves that we were in the “safe, reasonable” range… HA! They regaled me with Rush stories and I laid some old Zep/Floyd/Rush gems on them…. we were all getting along wonderfully…. and I realized OMG! BETTY! I FORGOT ABOUT BETTY with the Eh-bola! I made a hasty exit upstairs, expecting the worst!
She was STILL shot out.. falling in and out of sleep… with a major migraine….. would I have to go it alone? Would I have to play nursemaid to typhoid Mary? Could I be NEXT with the Eh-Bola? A trip to Tim Horton’s and a bit of aspirin was in order. I first went downstairs to check with the Power Twins to see if they had any mom-strength Tylenol and sure enough Bev had nuclear strength Advil (she’s the besets!). Back, armed with a Tim’s french vanilla and the migraine stun gun I urged Betty to get her shit together….. within’ minutes she rallied! Jersey Strong, this girl is! She had beaten the Eh-Bola and we were off to soundcheck with the Rush Sisters!
We guest listed inside before the VIP’s again and had the place all to ourselves for about half an hour. They noodled around with How Would You Know and an instrumental version of All By Design before the VIPs came in. Got a chance to meed Andrew Auld’s Dad and a few other peeps before the meat of the soundcheck kicked in.
Well, this one is for you Kaitlyn Skaley (wink wink); they then proceeded to play an near note perfect version of Zep’s Kashmir… I mean jaw droppingly massive! I’m dancing around with my eyes closed, air guitarrin’ away, and JUST as it gets to the soaring Plant vocal part, Ian loses it in laughter…. “I can’t… I just can’t!” All the guys are cracking up!!! They are REALLY having fun on this tour!
The pictures were being taken and Bet and I FINALLY relented and got our pic taken along with our old buddy Paul Merryweather!
As we were shaking hands, Chuck nearly lost his pinky “ring”. It was made from that cymbal he had destroyed a bit back. It seems Bruce had hammered him out a ring in remembrance. It was then that I noticed his pinky, permanently at a right angle. I’m like WTF??? He say’s it’s the “Claw”…. he put his hands through a plate glass window a while back and severed the tendons in BOTH hands. He says it’s awkward shaking hands, but it doesn’t affect his drumming! I should say NOT! “By the way Buk, it’s Newfinlnd not New-Found-Land… agh, I’m just fukin’ with ya.” I LOVE this guy!
It was time once again for the fan meet-up. Factory Girl was VERY accommodating and had us set up in a back room like a Chuck-E-Cheese party! Frick and Frack were there, Kris Masters, Kaitlyn Staley, Melanie Lee, Paul Merryweather, Feargal and his girl Grainne (I can’t pronounce her name) and the completely sweet Cerina Chiovatti! She had prepared little gift bags with Big Wreck logo pendants that she had made by hand for each of us! It was a VERY endearing gesture and our gift will be a cherished keepsake!
Factory Girl was a MUCH better set-up! Brian came by and we chatted and kibitzed like old friends! Alas, the rest of the band was short on time and he was soon off to rest up before the show.
Feargal, the “Irish” guy (evidently there is only one allowed in TO at a time) and Grainne (the “Irish” girl… well you know) sat and talked with us for a good bit. Fascinating young couple who have come to Canada to make their lives. Feargal, a really good writer, wants to get into radio! So wonderful to see the young fans (he’s only 23) tell of their Big Wreck connection…. he was introduced to Ladylike at 10!!!! The same was true for the plucky Kaitlyn, who flew out to TO from Alberta and she’s only 22!!! There IS hope for the BW future!!!
The twins were wonderfully inviting and friendly and everybody seemed to have a good time! We hung for as long as we could, but it was SHOWTIME!
This time we went in to actually SEE the opening band. Royal Tusk was pretty engaging in an indie band sort of way. All loosey goosey and fun. I forgot to mention that the night before I saw our own Podcaster John Mallon! We spotted each other in the crowd “I know you!” Love meeting our gang!
While we waited for the band to come on, the crowd was filling in and our area was getting tight. Melanie and Bev had foregone the rail for this show and hung back with us with the promise of some dancing real-estate! I had to bounce around a bit to scare away any of the crowders, but it worked like a charm! It always does (stay away from that sweaty unpredictable guy….)
Working the perimeter, I had Mel and Bev to my right and Bet to my left! All of a sudden, from over the top comes a brown shopping bag! And handing the bag to me was none other than Mr. Scott Thornley! I told him I had not read his books yet the night before and he brought me two of the four he has written! IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DARK CROWDED FLOOR! He introduces his wife Shirley and I offer my heartfelt thanks. Bet says “How did you find us?!” Scott says, matter of factly, “I just scanned the crowd (he’s rather tall) and looked for the one thing that was different from the rest; the head that was bobbing all over the place. After all I AM a detective novel writer!” How cool is THAT!
I quick ran and checked my books with the rest of the swag that we bought and made it back just as BW kicked into the change-up opening number….. I Digress, RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX! Bam! It just JACKED the crowd! A COMPLETE muscular sprint to kick it off!
Y’all should watch all the vids that Melanie shot. She’s got front row sound and visuals from Friday night and front row balcony from Thursday….. focused sound and full sound….. do BOTH! I won’t go into all the specifics of each song because there are so many vids that blow away my descriptions! Suffice it to say that we all sang, hugged, danced, stomped and jumped our way through that POWERFUL set.
I often scan the crowd when the light shines our way for familiar faces. I saw Darryl Melo and a few others, I think. But in the process of making eye contact I spot this one dude in a cap staring my way about 20 people away. I smile back and sing some of the lyrics and continue dancing…. Middle of the next song this dude is over my shoulder with a drink! He says “You look like the only one having fun here, so I figured I would buy you a drink and join your party!” I don’t drink and told him so, but I was flattered…. He was bumping and pushing and singing all the guitar licks….. trying a touch too hard….. Bet’s looking at me with that “WTH, are you some kind of drunk magnet!?” He was a kinda big dude but was harmless enough…. I rolled over and played dead and eventually he left. I have a soft heart for the affectionate drunk…. you just never know…. it can change on a dime (it did with me anyway).
Another moment of note happened in the midst of the music that I will never forget. One of the fans that shall remain nameless came up to me and told me how much something I had written regarding BW’s Albatross had affected their life. I was told through tears, that the wonderful lyrics as the genesis and the spiritual interpretation reflecting had changed a life. I know that this is one of the ways God works and I KNOW that music is a miracle channel from the Divine… I could barely hold it together myself! Being a part of the conduit that touches a heart is overwhelming!
The crowd and the show on the 17th in general was just knock down KILLER! After it was over we basked in the afterglow for a few moments and then hit the street! There was a drunken near brawl with a couple of irate ner’ do wells and an UNBELIEVABLY patient security guard. Lots of huffing and puffing that went on for too long….. in Jersey there would be blood.
Big Chris waved us onto the bus at the appropriate moment and Bet and I FINALLY got a chance to talk to Ian. The front lounge was full of good vibes! As always Ian was concerned about his and the band’s performance. I assured him it was stellar and that the show is bigger and tighter than ever! If ever they were ready for prime time it is now! While I am gushing, with my back to the front door, I hear someone yell “Buk!” I turn to see Eric Ratz all smiles coming our way. He gives me a big hug (He’s a big dude - nearly as tall as Ian). I was SO surprised! It was REALLY surreal to meet him. Ian, he and I then proceeded to talk about the show, the sound in the hall, the performance, which songs are killin’ from Ghosts, who knew what would become big etc and what should be on the next album! Inside I’m like, “Is this for REAL!!?? What the hell am I doin’ in this convo. Like my opinion matters!!!” Then again… I AM the customer! But really, surreal would be an understatement!
The lounge was bustling and we said our goodbyes… spent and ready for that nice queen sized bed at the Clarion. Bet and I meandered across the street to flag a cab and from the open window of a bar we hear “Buk! Betty!” We look up and see Missy Ross Brown and her husband Shawn. Missy is the first serious contact regarding Big Wreck that I ever met. She started the first Big Wreck fan site back in ’99 or so. We’ve been inter web friends since. We looked at each other like “Look how big our boys have grown!” She and her husband are wonderful people and exemplary of nearly all the fans we’ve had the pleasure of meeting!
We FINALLY made it back to crash, but had to set the alarm for 7:30 ‘cause we had a breakfast date with Bri before the bus moved on to the next gig at 9:00AM. Bet FINALLY had a chance to connect with B who has quickly become a close friend. We LOVE him like family! A run to the bus, hugs and kisses and it was all over!
We didn’t want it to end… so we didn’t let it. Before we went up to pack, against Bet’s protestations I went down to the twins room and roused them (it was cruel but necessary!). I gave them minutes to pull their act together, cause we were comin’ down to say goodbye! Packed and ready, we hung out with them for about an hour! You Canadians are so nice! Down home they would have told us to F-off it’s only 9:30! Bev and Melanie are the salt of the earth, natural, warm, engaging and always up for a laugh! We LOVE these gals! Friendships forged… and I think, lasting ones! We HATED leaving! WHAT A WEEKEND!!!
Thank you Big Wreck! Thank you Big Wreck fans! Thank you God for giving us second chances! It’s all to your Glory, Lord! We couldn’t IMAGINE a better time!!!