Tales From The Road – Filling In (Part 1)

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It’s May and we have a day off in Amsterdam. Contrary to popular belief, nothing good ever happens in Amsterdam, at least in my experiences. There are 2 dates left on this leg of the tour and then I will be enjoying a week off in Lanzarote before the summer festival season starts.

A few of the guys are unwinding by taking in everything Amsterdam has to offer. Unwinding, in rock’n’roll speak, means causing as much havoc as possible. I don’t know all the details as I was back at the hotel sleeping off 3 months of touring.

The pounding at my door started out as part of my dream but, as it grew louder and more intense, became all too real. The pounding usually meant one of two things – someone was drunk or there was trouble. There was no screaming or singing accompanying the knock so I knew this was trouble. I opened the door to see Mike, our guitar tech, standing there looking like he just witnessed a horrible crime. Mike started off by apologizing for interrupting my one chance at sleep this week and told me our lead guitarist just broke his arm. By the third telling of the story I found out one of the window prostitutes had him thrown down a flight of stairs. It seems he said he would take her the way the Nazis took Anne Frank. Not a great thing to say anywhere, especially insensitive when you are about a half mile from the actual location where Anne Frank was taken.

Mike was a pretty good guitarist himself so I asked him if he wanted to fill in for the 2 remaining shows. The look on his face when I asked him rivalled the look he had when I opened the door minutes earlier. It turns out Mike has extreme stage freight and was intent on remaining in the shadows. I then asked Mike to round up the band and crew for a quick meeting in the hotel conference room.

I filled everyone in on why we were meeting. Cancelling was not an option, we were already loaded in at the Paradiso and the local promoter was known to be someone you did not want to mess with. We were about 18 hours away from hitting the stage and we needed to find a guitarist. I instructed a few of my crew to hit the local clubs and see if there was a hot shot that could do it. I also called an old friend in Munich who was known to come through in times like this. As the meeting came to an end and everyone was filing out the singer asked me if we could have a little talk.

“We both know you can do it, what gives?”

He was known for not wasting words and getting right to the point. He was right, I could do it. What was the issue? Besides the fact that I had not touched a guitar in probably 2 years I also didn’t see myself as a guitarist anymore. I spent my youth playing bars but I never looked back once I made the switch to the business side. I was the one always preaching that the show must go on and here I was dropping the ball.

I instructed Mike to go grab a guitar from the venue and bring it to my room. The crew was told I would be doing the last 2 shows and the band agreed to an extended sound check in the afternoon. Thankfully I didn’t have time to let the nerves take over and was running on pure adrenaline. The first thing to go is the muscle memory. Holding the pick seemed almost foreign and hitting the right string seemed an impossibility. What have I gotten myself into?

I managed 4 hours of sleep that night and woke up with the weight of the world on my shoulders. A bit dramatic, yes, but you weren’t there to feel it.

(End Part 1)

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