02/25/11 – Oz Blog #1

I thought to myself as we were arriving at the airport in Los Angeles to depart for Australia, I wonder if I’ll have anything to blog about on this trip. I laugh when I think about that thought now because it was only 15 minutes of being at the airport that things became interesting.

The first thing we noticed upon arriving at the airport was that it appeared that every band on the festival was going on the same plane. It was a rendezvous of rock stars. Black clothes, tattoos, chains, piercings, plugs and guitar cases were the average attire of all those checking in. It was a collection of individuals all excited to do what they love but weary of the actual travel. It was a bit surreal to see Slash next in line behind me.

As we got to the desk, it was the beginning of what was to be a stress-filled flight. Taking a few steps back, the night before we left, I was emailed a spreadsheet of the backline equipment. This is the equipment to be rented by local dealers to all the bands playing. This includes amplifiers, drums, keyboards, etc… Usually all we have to do is bring our guitars. In the past, we have rented the exact model keyboard we use here at home. As I scan the spreadsheet, I notice under keyboard, it says Roland RD 700. At first I think, is this just their generic identifying title of the keyboard or is this the actual model? I look it up and sure enough it’s a model of an electric piano. The stress begins to simmer. Someone has made a mistake in giving the backline company the impression we could use this. All this has is basic piano and rhodes sounds and none of the synths, bells, choirs, strings that we normally use. The tedious hours I spend fine tuning the tone, decay and shape of every single sound in every single song would be useless on this. We’d turn into the Dommin jazz quartet. Not bad for a smokey New York City lounge, but perfectly wrong for an outdoor rock/metal festival. I start to do my own research checking the stock of all the backline companies in Australia. There is ONE in Sydney but we don’t even know if it is available. I start to think…do we have to cancel our first Brisbane performance? What are we going to do? We have no keyboards!!! Upon realizing we may have to bring our own, we call the airline to ask if something of this weight and size would be allowed. They assure us that it should be ok and if not, there are cargo companies that will pick it up from the airport and send it separately.

So back to the airport on the night of departure, we put the keyboard on the scale. It comes up at 132 lbs. The airline tells us they can’t take it. They also tell us that the cargo company is not on site and won’t pick it up. And even if we take it there, it’s likely that, because we didn’t make prior arrangements, it will take over a week. The stress went from simmer to boil. Conveniently, the company that said they would come pick up the keyboard were not answering the phone. So here we are with a 132 lb keyboard that no one can take and our plane departs in less than an hour. Fortunately a complete angel really helped us out, came back from dropping us off and took care of the arrangements. However, we didn’t know the outcome until 2 hours after we landed in Brisbane. It made for a uneasy 14 hour flight. There was some light-hearted banter that came from an aussie lady in her late 70’s sitting in the adjacent row with so many questions. “Are you all together? Is this a competition? Why are you all wearing so much black?” It was humorous to hear Billy James come out with the explanations.

So as I sit here in my hotel room in Brisbane, we’ve been told the keyboard will arrive tomorrow morning. And also another keyboard was found locally and made available from the backline companies here. So it seemed only hours ago we had nothing and now we have more than we need. It’s funny and completely annoying when someone on the outside says, “what were you worried about?” As if they had the crystal ball that allowed them to know it was going to turn out ok. All I could think about was arriving at the festival grounds at 6 AM on the day of the show and tinkering around with an electric piano I know nothing about trying to manipulate the piano keys to sound like bells for “My Heart, Your Hands” and splitting the keys into the various sections we need for “Without End.” All I could think of was the horrible first impression we would make here.

Hopefully it arrives without delay and it all works out okay tomorrow morning. I still have a seed of anxiety that won’t go away until the keyboard is in our possession, we plug the keyboard in and it functions just fine. It’s somewhere over the Pacific Ocean as I type and hopefully it’s been handled with care.

It’s pretty interesting so far. All the bands were on the same plane, the same shuttles and most are staying in the same hotels. I just hope tomorrow goes well.

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