Bet and I headed out friday morn and decided to go up the NY State Throughway. It was a beautiful drive through the mountains and we sooo enjoy the alone time with a road trip. Gorgeous country.
As we kept getting closer the temp kept going up! It was 54 degrees (I don't do centigrade) when we rolled in. Dinner downtown and a good night's sleep at the B&B Shirley Samantha. We awoke to a blizzard and 21 degrees! NOW we were in Canada!
Sitting around, trying to plan the day, Betty lobbying for some sight seeing, me all nervous and jerky about contacting the band and Missy and Eric. It was an hour of waiting to hear from the peeps so I finally email Ian. "Come down to soundcheck at 2:00!" The plate was set.
I look cautiously at Bet, considering her sight seeing plans, Bet immediately says "To heck with sightseeing! Lets go!" A quick lunch to go and we hit the CE Center. It is a gigantic convention center, in the middle of nowhere. The wind was like 50mph and it was is the 20's. I know we're babies, that's short sleeve weather for you Canadians (as we witnessed that evening).
Big Chris welcomes us like old buds (well we are old). Ian and Brad are doing an interview in the lobby. Chris ushers us into the hall where the crew are setting up. The hall is gibungus. Cement floor, tall exposed girders on the ceiling; airplane hanger comes to mind. Bruce and the techs are buzzing about, lighting, sound, british Mike etc. We stood out by the sound board so as to not be in the way. We see Paulo, wave hello, and he walks out to talk to us. He looks great and is super pumped for the show. There's talk of the US release and some live bonus tracks that are KILLER. Brian and Ian are plugging in and Paulo was off to the stage.
As they warm up, numerous Zep snippets float out and they each engage each other in play. It's very organic and kinda wanders in and out; Ten Years Gone among others. It was so appropriate and natural to hear Brian and Ian jam some Zep. You KNOW Bet and I were diggin' THAT!
Next up Ian concentrated on finding the"sweet spot". That's where Ian can stand on the stage to maximize the feedback to facilitate those long sustained notes. They then did a full version of Control. Just magnificent. Not stiff at all. To an empty house.
Full bore blues groove, Caught My Eye, warmed the place up as Ian went back and forth with the lighting and sound crew. Ian breaks into his best Nigel Tufnel when barking direction to the techs. It's very loose and upbeat. During this time I am calling Missy and Eric, while Betty is phoning her son Dane. We're freaking out at how cool this is. Then I hear something that sounds so familiar… is that "Defined?" No wait, it's…. OVEREMPHASIZING!!!! Holy shit, they're doing O! My camera is in the car 100 yards away! I'll never make it, and they probably don't want me recording anyway…. It was jaw dropping. As good or better than the RTH version, which is a CLASSIC!
Bet and I are grinning ear to ear. There's more individual back and forth with Brain, Paulo, Brad and Dave. All the fine tuning dealing with delays and tone, attack and hall reverb are amazing. There is an overwhelming amount of detail that goes into creating all the nuances in the BW sound.
Then came the best part for me. Ian starts staccato strumming this complex riffage. He engages Brad and they start and stop as Ian teaches Brad the essence of the song. It's difficult, but sooo cool to hear it in it's inception. I'm not allowed to describe it. More on this later.
Not that I haven't thought about it before, but seeing it in front of me, I am struck by what an undertaking a tour of this magnitude entails. There is soo much logistic work that is done, and such attention to detail and nuance to get the sound to be perfect. It's amazing that it appears to be off the cuff and spontaneous at showtime. Lots of hard working dedicated people.
They wind the soundcheck down and Ian spots us. He climbs down from the stage and walks out to meet us. Hugs and hellos and we walk to the busses. parked inside the hall, behind the stage where they have a table and chairs setup outside. They really appreciate the indoor camping.
I run to the car to get the portraits of Brad and Dave to complete the set. I'm a bundle of nervous energy and Big Chris wants to shoot me with a tranquilizer dart. "Relax, Buk!". I'm worried so much about being a pest and in the way, I become a pest and in the way. After the guys sign my copy of the big prints, wrap them back up in the big flattened packing box and I run them out to the car. That is to say I run AFTER them out to the car. As soon as I opened the doors a frosty gust of wind rips them out of my hand and I end up chasing them across the parking lot. Lost glasses and 20 yards later I wrestle the package to the ground and get a good grip. I'm a frigid' mess. I load it into the car and grab my camera. I have one more task to accomplish and then I can enjoy myself.
Betty is cool, calm and collected, hanging with Ian congratulating him on his wife's new TV chef gig. Betty's son Dane is a chef so she and Ian talk food. Betty is all cool hanging with the guys back at the bus. I take a deep breath and sit down to talk some rock and roll with the crew and the band. So many funny stories from tours past and legendary rock stars the crew has worked with. Rock star mania, accompanied with full accents and visuals that left us rolling. They are a funny bunch.
I ask Ian about the riff that he was working on with Brad. He looks at me with a knowing grin and says, "Yea man, it's KILLER!" He's got the whole thing in his head and he starts mouthing the rhythm showing me how he was trying to explain it to Brad. Brian cuts in "Guitarist and Drummers speak two different languages" Ian, "Guitarists are like,'it goes chugga, chugga, chugga, hiccup, womp, womp, womp." And Brian interrupts "and then that thing where I go Wannnggg comes in" and then Ian says, "Brad is all numbers, so he's like 'Wait, wait… so that's a 4 count, into a 2 count…???" Their interaction is classic.
And I know I'm not saying this right, but suffice it to say, that the language of the guitar player is sooo much less quantifiable than that of the drummer. Maybe that's why Brad in his personality is such an unstructured free spirit. All the confines of holding the band together rhythmically, necessitates his offstage license to roam. Waiting for spontaneous combustion. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
One more thing to accomplish. Betty and I had this idea to record a message from Ian to Jaiden my grandson. Jaiden is six years old, and was indoctrinated with Albatross since last year. He knows all the words and I catch him singing along and bobbing his head all the time. Well recently he has discovered, let us say, a more mainstream act as his favorite. He loves to "give me the business". "Grandpa, (Unnamed Popular Act) is better than Big Wreck!" To which I reply, "No way! Big Wreck is way better!" Well. Betty and I got this idea and we asked Ian if he would do it. I know it's nervy, but… he said he would. So we recorded he and Brian and then Brad, telling Jaiden that, "Big Wreck, was WAY better than Unnamed Popular Act. That it's just the way it is." Then they elaborated. They are all such funny, comfortable guys. It was a riot! Needless to say, my grandson was floored when we showed him the vid. Wants to grow old so he can get the unnamed act to slag big Wreck. He'll grow out of it…. or be scarred for life.
So we were off to rest up and eat some dinner. Got back just in time to see all the Theory peeps coming out for a beer and a smoke. Those crazy Canadian kids in their shirtsleeves and hoodies. The wind was whipping and it was 21 FREAKIN' DEGREES!!! We coat check and amble into the hall. It's nearly filled with fans, but the place was so big you could walk around comfortably in back. As we perused the crowd Missy spots me and runs up for a big hug! We've known each other through message boards and email since '98 or so when I discovered her Big Wreck site. It was the first/best fansite with links to all the articles and band info. We'd corresponded but never met face to face, having missed each other at the RTH show in 2001. She's a doll, such a nice girl. I forgot the camera, so I ran to the car as she and Betty chatted. When I got back in, I went to get some setup shots and realized that I had forgotten to put the battery back in the camera. It was back at the B&B CHARGING! NO FRIGGIN CAMERA! I was so bummed.
Missy introduced me to her gal pals, who had been at their first Big Wreck show in '97 in Rochester! Leslie and Amy were excited to have the team reunite! Molly Canuck sauntered over and greeted us. FB is great 'cause people recognize you. Missy was saying that she was getting glances from people all night like they may know her and attributed that to FB. I told her I get them all the time 'cause I look too OLD to be at a rock show! Ha!
We all hung out together braving the drunks and overenthusiastic to position ourselves stage left! The crowd was a real mix of older/younger, hyped/zombified, drunk/sober, yet all diggin' the Wreck in their own way. It's a really broad spectrum of fans. As the show progressed we moved closer to the front. The sound was great and the guys killed it of course! During one of his solos in Caught My Eye, Ian stepped down off the stage onto another riser in front of the rail. He starts wailing away, eyes closed. 4-5 young guys, start the "I'm not worthy" bow down. It was funny, yet appropriate. Mid solo Ian opens his eyes, smiles and hops back up on the stage. He's so uncomfortable with the praise. I think that's commendable.
The show ended and we talked about hooking up at the Royal Oak about a mile up the road. I finally caught up with Eric Landry and his buddy Zach. Either everyone is much taller than I expect or I'm much shorter than I think. Anyway, the meet up was arranged and it was off to the bus with our all access passes to say our thank yous and goodbyes to the guys.
Well it turned into a half hour. They were all pumped up, talking about the song timing and flow. All the guys (mostly Brian) busting Ian's chops about the length and loudness of the solos. (We want more AND louder!) There was talk of the US tour and what big name would be a good fit for BW. Ian and I agreed that BW is a bit of an odd bird. It's in parts pop, bluesy, proggy, very musical yet muscular. We're gonna have to poll the fans to get some feedback. Bet and I said our goodbyes and profuse thank yous for them letting us share so much of their time. Ian was like "No problem". How insanely great is my life!
Off to the Royal Oak, where Grandma and Grandpa, the ladies who are Ian's age, and the young turks Eric and Zach all sat and traded BW stories. We had a great time with BW as our common ground. When Missy and the girls saw BW for the first time, Eric was only 7 years old! I asked E, what drew him to BW since he plays in a band that's considerably harder than BW called the Ompalunatics. Both he and Zach had discovered BW off of a Big Shiny Tunes disc. Zach plays guitar and geeks out on Ian's mastery. I guess it's a tribute to the breadth of a band's appeal that there are so many facets on which to grasp their music. We love being up where BW is appreciated and hanging with enthusiastic fans. Nothing better than talking music!
Our stay at the B&B was cordial, comfy and cozy. Can't wait to do it again. The ride home was cool, and Sunday ended with my NY Giants (it's a genetic thing) kicked the stuffing out of the Green Bay Packers. It took days for us to come down from this trip. I love my real life but our time in Canadian Fantasy Band Fan camp is pretty darn fine!