Bet and I are raising our 8yr old Grandson and have recently moved Bet’s 91 yr old dementia-havin’ Mom into the house. I work from home, and between Helen’s deaf-as-a-post (I mean Golden Girls and The Waltons delivered at 120db from 9am ’til 9pm - I’m jealous of an al-Qaeda at a black ops site), cantankerous “sundowning” (look it up, it’s a thing) and our grandson’s constant needs, we lead a blessed but busy (insane actually) life. So our time alone…. away…. to re-connect…. to rejuvenate… to rekindle our romance…. that quiet time to just, be a “couple” is greatly cherished….. our solution…… ROCK SHOW ROAD TRIP! So when 3:30 am rolled around and the alarm went off and the waves of anxious uncertainty and worry began to wash over our home, conscience nagged, and responsibility reared it’s ugly head…. it was Praise the Lord and Damn the Torpedoes! Let them burn the place down! We’re outa here!
It was teeming and dark and it wouldn’t let up for the first 5 hours of our trip. I white knuckled it amongst the spray of the piggy-backed 90 footers while wiping the sleep from my eyes. You couldn’t tell it was daytime until about 9am. We stopped for breakfast at a Denny’s in Herkimer, NY. When Bet read the sign, Herkimer she says “Ehrmagehrd it’s Herkimer”…. and of course we did 10 minutes of stupid shit that only she and I get, but this is why we are perfect for each other. Sometimes that’s all you need to set us off… funniest girl I ever knew this Betty of mine.
As always, before these trips there is much anxiety for me on a personal level….. Hanging with the band, meeting new peeps, organizing a get together using Google Street View to be my boots on the ground, so much could go wrong….. I was a nervous wreck. We got to the hotel, crashed for a half hour and pulled ourselves together and headed off to soundcheck for whatever awaited us. I was told that we’d be “taken care of” by the band (well Ian and Brian) but I’ve been in situations with other bands when I was younger and it wasn’t so….. mix-ups, general f-ups and outright neglect…. those old experiences left me gun-shy. Well not so with our buddies in Big Wreck. Jawsh and Big Chris (LOVE this guy!) hooked us up IMMEDIATELY! Guest list! VIP! And much love!
At the front of the VIP line as we walk up, I see our long time Big Wreck buddy Barb Dalton. She was the first familiar Canadian face to welcome us to BIG WRECK WEEKEND! Bet recognized Feargal Daly and says “Hey, I know you!” (What a nice soft spoken young man. It was a real pleasure to get to know him. More on him later.) Barb had just gotten a ticket at the last minute from someone new to the Fan Page; the lovely, shy Lily Voula. I don’t think that they knew each other before the show, but that’s what BW fandom does…. it brings the peeps together. I’m gonna cry now.
Okay I’m back. We trundle in with the VIP’s and approach the stage….. Brian and Ian spot us and it’s “Hey Buk! Hey Bet! all bright smiles and handshakes! Now we’re REALLY here! The VIP experience is AWESOME! I love to hear the music and watch the band stretch their muscle….. lots of room to move (so I did) and little musical snippets of this and that to satisfy. We heard a full version of Control and some Kashmir slices amidst the sound man balancing act. Lots of very serious activity…. as these guys are meticulous! The raw power in that near empty hall had us PUMPED for the evening. Pictures were taken, hugs were given, and we spotted the two steady fixtures of all the band VIP pix, the Gloop and Gleep of fandom, the Bobbsey Twins, Bev and Melanie!!! (More about these lovely ladies later). And of course, there was our own personal Concert Goddess Melanie Lee!!! She’s responsible for all those FANTASTIC videos! She’s a no-nonsense dedicated documenter of shows! She’s got it down to a science and if anyone has ever tried to shoot even one song, you KNOW what a commitment it is…. she gets the WHOLE show! EVERY SONG! Gotta LOVE this kind of dedication! Hats off to you and your “sway” Mels.
Barb, Lily Voula, Melanie, Feargal, Betty and I are then off to “the Old Nick”…. we grab a spot and await the fan meet up. We squeeze into a booth and begin enjoying the company. Betty decides to rearrange the tables, and catches some shit from the staff and I quickly realize this place is gonna be a nightmare. Too late to change venues, we must forge ahead. More pile in, and stories of BW adventures fill the conversation. Our own young BW writer, Andrew Auld swings by and we get a chance to meet face to face having emailed and skyped for years. He’s from Halifax and has begun to stake out his career in advertising in TO (Are you reading, Scott Thornley? The kid’s bright AND talented!)
It’s starting to cook, when in comes Barbara Brown from Calgary. She flew in to Ontario to visit family (she’s originally from Oshawa) and collared her sister-in-law to stop by the fan meet on the way home from the airport! Just to get together. She’s a doll! She’s very gregarious and deftly spun her tale of adventures out in the west coast leg of the tour enjoying the hospitality of our own Dean Beardmore and his family. And there’s pix to prove it! So funny and upbeat, it was really nice to finally meet these peeps in person! You feel like you kinda know people from Facebook, but it can always go another way in person…. but not so far! Everybody that we’ve met through Big Wreck have been such warm and inviting people; Bet and I are overwhelmed.
I was nervous-talking too much (Melanie Lee leans in and tells Betty “He talks ALOT!), anticipating the surprise I had for the gang as I try to be diplomatic with a very hostile wait staff. Between making it clear that they did not like us clogging up their place, the “don’t eat rare meat” lecture the waitress gave my wife, the separate checks debacle, the over-all nerve of the wait staff, made for some tense moments.
In walks Brian! Surprise! Everybody is shocked! I actually kept it a secret! It was his idea! He sits with us all for a while and then the rest of the guys come by! I looked over at Lily Voula and she was eyes-wide shocked! Unfortunately for us, the Old Nick was so un-accomodating, there was no place to hang. Ian and the boys were in and out with not much fanfare….. poor planning on my part, but the experience was made worth it by our band’s gracious attitude! I can’t thank the guys enough for it all. It began to POUR after the guys left so we painfully paid the bill and were off to the show.
We did the lobby hang for most of the opening bands, catching up on people watching. Met up with the unforgettable Dixie Ann Dalton who was so much taller than I remembered! What a firecracker! Forget the NJ Pizza we smuggled across the border for Brian, DAD commandeered an easy bake oven or something’ and cooked some sweet potato pie for the boys! Had a chance to say hello to Ian’s wife Christine and Ian’s brother Marsh! Looked for Ian’s Dad, but did not see him… yet. It was so nice to catch up about the concerts we had seen and just people watch. I was CONSTANTLY looking for faces from FB. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to connect. People are shy sometimes, and I get that, but I’ve made it a point to get out of my comfort zone and connect, however stupid I feel.
We went into the show, feeling a bit exhausted but ready to rally….. once inside half of our crew hit the stage, Bet and I scoped out the sonic sweet spot midway back. Talking with some peeps, grooving to the pre-show tunes (Black Crowes and Dire Straights) I look up and see Ian’s Dad, Scott! So nice to formally meet face to face! Had an awesome conversation with him about his writing and the creative process in general. A truly class act….. He is so proud of Ian and how all the fans respond to his music!
The show starts and despite having experienced soundcheck, the MASSIVE show that BW is putting on now left me flabbergasted and simply tore the roof off the joint! I recorded a bit of Friends and got flagged by a bouncer (my arms were tired anyway - I’ll leave the recording to the pros (Melanie).
War Baby is massively magnificent! Head in the Girl is a TOTAL chest punch hoedown! The Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Zep intro/outros are PERFECT seasoning for the Big Wreck stew. EACH song swung from delicate to hammer with grace and fury as needed. SUCH a tight outfit BW is!
I boogied through most of the show and was almost spent. My feet were stomped flat and and we were running on vapors… until Hey Mama! INCOMPARABLE! We burnt the last bit of energy in a day that began at 3:30am after only 3 hrs sleep. We were done….. there was talk of an post show party, but we had to sleep…. REGROUP…. and do it all again tomorrow!
Stay tuned for Day 2…. it gets even better! WOW!