What have I gotten myself into? Tonight I was going on stage for the first time in a decade, with zero full rehearsals and in front of 1,500 dedicated fans expecting to see someone else playing guitar. My finger calluses had long disappeared and my fingers we aching from the frantic playing I did last night trying to memorize the songs.
The crew knew this wasn’t going to be easy and they were being supportive to the point of being annoying. Sound check was bumped up to 2pm in order to allow us to run through the entire set once. By the end of a tour the band is usually sick of playing so I knew this was not something the looked forward to. It was my job to go in prepared and make it as easy on them as possible. I spent the remaining hours going over the songs. By noon I felt I was ready and decided to grab something to eat and tend to my day job.
I got to the venue by 1:30pm and headed to the stage so I could go over a few things we Mike. The rest of the band showed up a few minutes later and seemed to be in good spirits. Most of the time the band will sound check without the singer in order to allow him to save his voice for the show, today was different. Mike handed me the guitar and I ran into the first problem – the strap was way too short. The guitar player was 5’7 and I am 6’3. The guitar was way up on my chest, not very rock’n’roll. The singer laughed and the mood seemed to lighten instantly. Thankfully Mike had a longer strap in his bag and we were ready to go. I could not believe how comfortable it felt being up there again. B the third song the nerves had left me and I was finding my stage legs again. This was a high energy band and I needed to hold my own.
I headed back to the hotel after sound check to finish off some business and take a nap. I was in my room for less than 5 minutes when there was a light knock at the door. It was the singer, once again asking if I had a minute to talk. I invited him into the room and he told me the band had a meeting and that they wanted to cut me in for a full share for the shows I played. Half of the cut was coming from the injured guitarist while the rest was coming from the other members. The road manager in me wanted to tell him to forget about it but the business man in me shut out that thought quickly. These 2 shows would mean about 18 grand in found money, not too bad at all.
Showtime usually is the time of the day that I finally get to take a breath. My job is done, the band is hitting the stage and I get to relax. Tonight I am dreading showtime. I am on stage waiting for the curtain to drop and see 3,000 eyes looking at me in disappointment. The sound system goes quiet halfway through The Real Me by The Who and a voice makes the announcement that, due to a medical emergency, there will be a replacement guitarist tonight. I was expecting loud booing, or the dread European whistling, but was somewhat relieved to hear more of a collective gasp followed by polite applause. My nerves seems to release and I started laughing the laugh of someone who just escaped death. Tonight was going to be fun!
I forgot how good the rush of a live crowd was. I had played a few outdoor festivals before but never felt the energy of 1,500 people there to sing every word of every song you were playing. I was on a high and wanted more. Thankfully were were playing in Paris the following night. Most of my usually duties were being handled by the rest of the crew so I got to bask in the glory of a show saved a little more than usual that night. The crew took care of load out and we were on the bus starting the 5 hour drive to The Bataclan.
(End Part 2)