Paul Rogers American and Canadian Club Tour
Notes From The Road
- Chapter Two-
Lets see...September 27th, we were on our way to Denver, Colorado with our "new" trailer. The Trip over the Rockies was really beautiful. The leaves were just starting to turn Autumn colors. No snow, not even cold. Denver greeted us with temperatures in the 80's, clear air and a day off. The next day Doug picked us up and took us about 35 miles to the gig, The Ogden Theater. As I would soon learn, would become a regular occurrence, where we were told to park the bus was not going to work. Most clubs are used to small busses not a 45 foot Prevost tour bus with a 20 foot trailer. Of course, or should I say as usual, Doug was steaming. We parked on the street right in front of the gig, without the club owner's blessings, went inside and PHEW, what a smell. Two nights before we got there some rap band had squirted 165 liters of orange soda all over everything and the club staff had poured pine-sol and ammonia all over the place to cover the now rotten smell of soda and beer and everything else that had been spilled in the carpet over the last 10 years instead of cleaning the carpet. You see it would cost some money to actually clean something. The mixing console was sticky to the touch, the faders barely moved and the 40 input console had only 24 working faders, not necessarily in sequence. The dressing rooms were about 5 feet by 8 feet with a 7 foot ceiling and had an even "better" smell, if you can imagine that. The theater was designed in the late 20's or early 30's (and hasn't been cleaned since) and was meant to project speech without amplification to the back of the room. Now what do you suppose happens on that kind of stage when a rock-and-roll band plays. You guessed it...it's LOUD even without the PA. A crowded house helped somewhat but not enough. You win some, you loose some.
As the tour continued, Paul's manager wasn't able to do all the things that were needed to get and keep this show moving in a forward direction so I was elected to pick up the slack, and was now officially the Tour Production Manager. My job now wasn't just to mix the sound but I was generally in charge of making sure the gigs would be pulled off. Contacting every club and promoter, going over Paul's contract, and our technical needs with them so they understood everything they had to do to make the show happen for us. No pressure. Little did we know things we're going to change very rapidly regarding the transportation of our band gear and I would, of course, have to sort it out.
We loaded up the trailer after the show and set off on the longest drive of the tour. From Denver, Colorado to Plymouth, Minnesota, a total of 932 miles, about 18 hours, best case. After enjoying some funny stories, beer, beer and more beer, we all in turn went to bed - it's now about 2:30 am. At about 5am Doug woke me up from a dead sleep and told me that we were broke down. WHAT!!! JUST EXACTLY WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY "BROKE DOWN"? (I'm pretty cranky when I'm woken up after 2 1/2 hours sleep). Doug told me to go back to sleep and he would wake me later when some garages in town opened up. In town??
"Just where the hell are we" I asked.
"Well, we're in Ogallala, Nebraska (there's a web site for everything) was Doug's reply. OH NO... OGALLALA, NEBRASKA!! Where in the hell is Ogallala, Nebraska?? (Ogallala is located in McConaughy County, of which it is the county seat, 50 miles West of North Platte between Brule and Paxton along Highway 30 on the banks of the Platte River near Lakes McConaughy and Platte. Ogallala is the southern terminus of the state's first scenic byway Hwy26/92...for those who care). Doug woke me at about 9:30am. Everybody else was still asleep. You remember the "new" trailer don't you? Well one of the wheel bearings seized, bent the axle and almost caught the trailer on fire. No problem, we'll just get a new axle, bearing and be on our way. NOT!! Alas, we were in Ogallala, Nebraska. The best garage in town said "Sure we can fix it. The axle will be here in a couple of days and the rest is no problem". No problem. The only problem is that it's 9:30am, we're about 200 miles outside of Denver and we still have to drive 700 miles or so, which puts us at our next town at about 11pm, if we left right now. But that was not going to happen. Not being able to fix the trailer, we had to rent a truck big enough to carry all the band gear. As it turned out a truck was available in North Platt, Nebraska. Round trip about 100 miles. No problem. So Steve Croxford, Paul's manager, and I got a ride to beautiful North Platt from one of the guys that worked at the trailer shop. We had reserved the truck in advance by phone so we thought it would be a simple drop us off, pick-up the truck, travel back to the ever popular Ogallala, empty the trailer, load the truck and we'd be on our way. NOT!! It took us almost 6 hours to get the truck. The Ryder truck rental place would not release the truck to us until they received confirmation on their computer screen even though the promoter had approved it, Ryder Inc. had faxed the approval, the money had been exchanged, etc., etc., etc...they had to see it on their computer screen before anybody would go anywhere!! The confirmation was lost in that great e-mail vortex and everyone at the sending end was gone for the day. Making a long story even longer...We finally made it out of there and traveled back to where the bus was, moved all the band gear from the trailer to the truck, figured out how to pack it so it wouldn't move around and then we we're off, waving a tearful good buy to our trailer experiences for the duration of the tour. Since I had the only valid drivers license, I was elected to drive the truck. It took us about 13 hours. We didn't arrive at our next destination until 5:30am. I was burnt. Croxford had contacted and hired a driver for the truck who would hopefully be meeting us at the next gig. I wasn't about to drive any more. I had had enough!! After all, I was hired to MIX the sound not deliver it!! After a few hours sleep, Doug picked us up and took us to the gig...The Medina Entertainment Center in Medina, Minnesota - just outside of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, the Twin Cities. Just a big room about 100 feet square with an 8 foot ceiling but enough acoustic treatments to make it a pretty tight sounding room. After a long sound check, Paul and the band played an amazing extended set - his voice was coming back! After packing the truck, we had a few beers on the bus (how unusual!) and got out of Medina and headed straight for The House of Blues in Chicago, Illinois.
The first thing we saw when we got to the House of blues was a copy (?) of the car The Blues Brothers drove in the movie. The one with the big loudspeaker on the roof. Anyway, the club is more like the House of Blues in L. A. on the inside than it is on the outside, no moving bar. It's a big stucco hat, like a derby, on the second floor of this building with a spiral parking lot about 20 floors high and a metal and concrete driveway leading to the entrance and no House of Blues signs anywhere. Inside the club, there are 3 levels of balconies all around the dance floor with private rooms and curtains. A really amazing looking place when all the lights come on. During sound check I was able to actually get the band to turn down a little. A major accomplishment!! It was to be short lived however. As soon as they came on stage to do the show, up went the volume and all my grand ideas of having a relatively quiet show went right out the window. Loud, very powerful, and painless, was how the in house guy described it...I still think it was too F______ loud, but I'll accept the complement. It did sound good...and loud. After the show we all had a couple of beers (again, how unusual), loaded out and headed down the road to beautiful Toronto, Canada.
Has anybody out there ever gotten to sleep on a moving bus at about 2:00am, having a wonderful dream, and be suddenly awoken at 5:00am by a loud member of the Canadian Border Police yelling "Get up and get off the bus RIGHT NOW". If you haven't, you're in for a real treat!! After lining up in a single file line outside the bus in 30 degree temperatures, we were ushered into the Immigration Office. You should have seen us. I was personally suffering from a condition called "Bus Hair". However my condition had advanced to a form of Bus Hair that could be considered fatal. You've suffered from it of course, many times, you just might not have recognized the symptoms. What a time to give up wearing caps! We we're quite a sight. Or major concern was if the Canadian's would let such a group of people into their beautiful country. Fortunately for us, all our paperwork was in place and they had no choice. After having gone through that experience going back to sleep was not going to happen for most of us, so I made a pot of coffee and joined Doug in the front of the bus to enjoy the drive. You know, before I left on this "trip", I was looking forward to seeing the trees turn and the country side while driving across country. I forgot that most of the driving would be done in the middle of the night. No "Hardwood Forest" in Wisconsin, no "Appalachian Mountains", nothing what so ever!! So this drive from the border crossing to Toronto, which took about 4 hours was really great. What a beautiful place, green, really green, with lots of colorful flowers growing everywhere and of course, the trees turning autumn colors was amazing.
While Doug and I were sittin' and talkin', Doug said "Hey, Ricky...get in here". And stands up. I said WHAT???
He said, "Slide in here and let me know when you're sittin' down".
Who was I to argue; I've always wanted to drive a big bus like this, so in I went.
"I'm in Doug".
"Let me know when you've got her".
"I got her".
"OK Ricky...she's all yours". Cool. Way cool. Really Way Cool. So 25 minutes
or so go by and Doug has been been stretching over on the other side in front,
and the door opens between the front of the bus and the front lounge. It's Paul.
He just woke up after a nap. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What Tha....^*(&%$&*()*," he yelled. Of course the first thing he saw
was Doug standing in the stair well on the other side of the bus. Paul then
sees me driving shakes his head takes a deep breath and asks me to stop at the
next off so he could go inspect the plumbing. "You can stop this thing can't
He seemed to take it well, but I don't thing he was really comfortable with it.
We arrived at the hotel safely, with Doug at the wheel, and checked into the hotel for a nice day off.
Toronto is a great city. Beautiful buildings, great public transportation, excellent restaurants and wonderful bars. We just happened to find a great British Pub with just about every British beer, ale and stout on tap, right around the corner from the hotel. Well you can imagine where we all hung-out that night. Even Jerry, our monitor mixer from Texas was enjoying a good night of British bitters. After more Guinesses than I care to talk about we stumbled back to the hotel for a good nights sleep and thoughts of tomorrow's show at The Guverment (no I didn't miss-spell it). A back street club near the docks on Lake Ontario. The owner was bragging about the 1 million dollars (Canadian) he had just invested in the club. We we're wondering where all the money went. An ugly, square building with painted walls, floors and ceilings. The stage was in the corner of the club with the PA pointing in all directions, none of which would allow for any kind of an image. The mixing console was on the floor right in front of the left PA stack of speakers which on its own wouldn't be too bad if it weren't for the fills pointing at the center of the room from the back of the building. And of course nothing was delayed to sync them up so the sound was really a cluster of delays rather than a point source of sound. Put that all in a very live room and what do we have? A mess. The band arrived, we sound checked (help me!!), did the show, which by now was getting really polished, except for the "cluster delay PA" as we would later called it. The crowd screamed, whistled, and yelled (ouch - cheering is louder than any rock show), and we got out of town. Another border crossing, this time I slept through it. U. S. Customs didn't even know I was on the bus (I wonder if this will come back to haunt me?), and off we go to lovely Cincinnati, Ohio..........
To Be Continued...
To All, My Best,