Myles and Selena Kennedy somewhere more formal than a rock concert...
[The rest of the story is mostly conversation... Picture us all in a dusty parking lot in front of the buses, behind a stage where Theory of a Deadman was wrapping up.]
I remember all of us starting the conversation off by telling him how much we enjoyed their set. I told him it really stood out, and I meant it. He interrupted me, “No, no,” he said, slapping his hands together in frustration like Rumpelstiltskin, “I’m a perfectionist. And it. Wasn’t. Perfect.”
Made us all wonder what he’d actually sound like “perfect.” I’m not sure we could handle it!
I told him: “Hey, I thought Come To Life was flawless!”
Sarah hit me. It didn’t click with Myles at first… At their show in Boston in May, Myles started singing the wrong song when Come To Life started, and could not figure out which one he was supposed to be singing. (He was beginning to remember the story now.) Mark and Brian just grinned at him and kept playing until he came in on the second chorus. “And that one was taped!” I added, prompting Sarah to thank me for pointing out to Myles one of his most embarrassing moments.
“I’m sorry, Myles, but you handled it with such humor, it ended up being my favorite part of the night.” At the end of the song he told the audience he had never in his career started singing the wrong song. Forget lyrics? Yes. But not forget a whole song. “Daddy needs a vacation,” he told us, to rousing applause. I was just trying to say, it could have been worse, but as usual, didn’t quite handle it with the best tact… He was nonplussed, especially since he’d forgotten it (until I reminded him.)
Selena Kennedy, standing off to our right, had not stopped smiling since she accompanied Myles out to talk to us. At this point we introduced ourselves to her. She was wearing a fitted black t-shirt with a nice silver necklace, rolled up jeans, sandals, and an adorable straw fedora with a black band. I told her so, embarrassed by my water-warped Aussie fedora. She argued right away that if you had to stand outside all day, you needed a good hat like mine—and that she liked it.
Holy shit, someone nicer than Myles?? Then she realized we HAD been outside all day. “How long have you been here today?” she asked us. Since 9 a.m.—14 hours, we told her.
“Oh no, you must be dying of thirst! Do you want some water? I have to get you some water!” and despite our protests she ran off to get water for all of us. I turned to Myles and told her she was amazing; beautiful. He didn’t even hesitate:
“As beautiful as she appears on the outside, she’s a thousand times more beautiful on the inside. She’s… she’s like an angel that was dropped down to earth just for me. I have no idea where I’d be right now if she hadn’t found me. Ten years I have known her and I am still madly in love with her.”
I wish I had a picture of his face as he said this. I’ve never seen him more sincere. Then he added, in a whisper, “And she has no idea she's that beautiful!” He looked like he was keeping the biggest secret ever. He briefly told us about their first date (they were set up by friends) to prove his point. I don’t think it qualifies as public knowledge, so I won’t share that for their sakes.
As she came back with the water, we all looked at her with new eyes. Sarah and I still have the bottles she gave us—yes, we’re geeks. We thanked her effusively, still humbled by the fact that Myles’ wife ran to get water for us. We tried to regain our composure…
Suddenly I remembered how I had wanted a picture shaking hands with Myles so that both our Red Monkey watches were in the shot, so I could send it to their designer, Torry Pendergrass. I’d promised him one months ago.
“Are you wearing your Red Monkey?” I asked Myles, since his Hellfest jacket sleeves covered his wrists. His face fell. “No, I took it off.” Then his face lit back up and he pulled back his sleeve. “I’m wearing a new one.”
Selena smiled and stepped closer. He was clearly excited about this new toy. I asked him what kind it was. He explained it was a “real” diver’s watch, one you could take deep underwater. “I love that,” he grinned. “I always wanted to be a marine biologist. Instead, I ended up doing this.” And he swept his arm around to indicate the musicians, fans and innumerable buses. He made it sound like he ended up as a clerk at a gas station. We had to laugh.
I told him I had promised Torry a picture with our Red Monkeys so we’d have to try again. I had lifted my wrist a little as I said it, and they all gathered in—can I write that again?—they all gathered in; Myles, Selena, and Brian, who had joined us—to examine my watch. I could care less if they were humoring me—I was in heaven. Brian especially seemed interested in it, asking which one it was, and both Myles and Selena liked it. Selena wanted to see the front and back, and I was embarrassed again for having such clunky hardware around such a feminine figure.
Around this time, Nate, whom I’d completely forgotten in my selfish haze about 20 minutes before, posed a question to Myles. “So you must be LOVIN’ shark week!” Myles lit up—that was a yes. SO that explains the octopus tattoo then, I added. Priceless reaction.
He rolled his eyes and said something like, THAT was not thoroughly thought out, as he mimed drinking out of a glass. “I had befriended a tattoo artist and that’s what I got.”
“Actually,” he leaned in to tell us, “He wanted to do an octopus with a naked woman riding it.” We roared. “Thank God you were just sober enough to draw that line!” I told him. No shit, he said.
So here’s this tattoo we all SO identify him with, and he brushes it off as having had too much to drink. “But this other one I like…” and he started to pull his left sleeve up just as we were interrupted. Throughout the evening we were naturally interrupted by fans and musicians stopping to greet him, hug him, shake his hand, and maybe grab a signature. I seemed to be the only one with a Sharpie, which I found odd, so he used it to sign a myriad of items, including a bar stool.
Anyway, we didn’t hear the end of that story… of the tattoo he liked, which is too bad, because I don’t know anything about that one.
Whenever the person who popped in, popped back out: one was Emphatic’s temporary lead singer, whom Sarah was smart and quick enough to grab a hug from as he left; while I think another was BSC’s lead singer, as well as TOAD’s singer (post-concert etiquette, apparently). We soon resumed talking about tattoos, but from another angle.
Awkwardly, I told him that after 45 years of no tattoos, I was actually thinking of breaking down, because of him. He actually looked somewhat alarmed at that remark. I explained that I had considered getting a tattoo of his signature, smallish, on my right inside forearm—until my young friend Stacey in Indiana had a HUGE one done of Myles’ sig just the week before.
“But that’s not artistic enough!” Myles protested. “It will be with you the rest of your life!” Spoken like someone who knows! I told him I had considered that, too… and hesitated just enough for Sarah to ask what I’d been trying to ask. But instead of asking Myles, she turned to Selena and asked her. Took all the awkwardness out of an awkward question.
“Does Myles doodle?” Sarah asked Selena, whose eyebrows raised a bit. “You know, draw things when he’s bored?”
Myles looked at her as if he himself didn’t know the answer. She was thinking, her brow slightly furrowed. He then shook his head and said, “I haven’t really done that since I was a kid…”
“Oh, c’mon.” I said, “Not even pugs? Puppies?”
“Nah,” he shrugged, “Huh-uh.”
“That’s not true,” Selena finally said. “You’re always drawing horses.”
[I’m sorry, but did the evening just get a little more perfect? Why yes, it did!]
“Horses?” said Sarah and I in unison. Sarah continued, “Nancy LOVES horses.” I reminded Myles of Julian, my avatar. He shook his head in a “duh” moment of recognition.
“I just thought I’d ask if there was some signature sketch you always do, and thought maybe I could tattoo that…” Me.
“I don’t know…” he trailed off. “I think I’d have to work on it to make sure it was good enough.” Sarah and I exchanged glances. Then a light bulb flashed over his adorable black fedora. “I should have Slash draw something for you—he’s great at that!”
Sarah and I in unison again, “No!”
“I draw a lot of sharks!” he suddenly remembered. “Big open mouth full of teeth—I LOVED Jaws.”
Sarah said, “You could do that one for me!” And I wasn’t even thinking how perfect it would be for a dental hygienist to have a tattoo of Jaws on her arm.
As he had already done several times, he brought us in for a huddle. His brow wrinkled as he thought something through. “Can I take some time and work on it?” He then looked over at me in all seriousness and asked, “And can it be an Arabian horse?” since he had been reminded I had a Percheron. I threw a glance at Sarah that asked, “Did he just ask me if it would be okay for him to draw me an Arabian horse?” to which she telepathically replied “I’m pretty sure he did.”
“You can draw whichever type of horse you like," I told him. "And I love Arabians, since that’s mostly what I rode when I was living in Cairo.”
“You lived in Cairo?”
Men, never paying attention. So I gave the quick run-down on not getting anywhere with my Zoology degree—“You have a degree in Zoology? Really? What can you do with that?” We were going off track, I told him if you’re really patient you can work at zoos or other cool places, but I was stuck at a boring lab job. So I applied to grad school to learn Arabic just for the opportunity to travel to the Middle East.
“You speak Arabic?” Didn’t look at Sarah but heard her unuttered, “Here we go…”
So in Arabic I said, Yes, I can speak the Arabic language. Didn’t tell him that’s about all I remember. Sarah joked that we had no way of knowing if I was really saying something or just speaking gibberish. Hey, if it’s me, it’s usually gibberish in any language, I thought to myself.
Myles then started talking about how sad it was that different cultures were so soundly stereotyped—here and there—that no one realizes how alike we are. He said that was a real gift of being a musician, seeing in person how music transcended all those boundaries and brought people together. It humbled him. I mentioned the Facebook page by Moroccan AB fans and said they’d LOVE to have him over there. He got a look on his face that seemed to say, If only it were that simple.
“You know, I really want to see the pyramids. I’ve never been to Egypt.”
They are incredible, I told him, but he didn’t want to climb down into one. Why not? He asked. I told him how, if you went into the largest one, Cheops, it was a 45 minute descent, at a 45 degree angle, and the shaft was so small you had to bend over the entire time. I doubled over as an example. I noticed my new Converse were already really dirty. “And then you get to the empty tomb and all you smell is urine.”
I straightened back up, looked at his face, which looked as if I had just popped his new balloon. “Okay, I just killed that whole experience for you, didn’t I? It’s still a blast to ride horses or camels around them…” Nice job, Nancy. Sarah tried to save it.
“When you DO get the chance to go, and you need an interpreter—you know who to call!” Good re-direct, I said with a glance.
Then somehow we got to talking about Twitter. Selena had walked away to find other entertainment. I was probably thanking him for using it to find us. He told us that he’d been cutting back on it lately. I HAD noticed that, as have others, but I didn’t say anything. He was clearly still reading them, because on occasion I’d mention something and he’d say, Oh yeah, I saw that on Twitter. But he’s trying not to get drawn into conversations. We waited for his reason.
“It’s affecting my writing!” he said. Tell me about it, I thought. You have something like 400 tweets in the last year and I just passed 15,000—enough words for about ten novels. To myself, I said this.
“Well, that’s not a problem,” I joked. “I won’t have to tweet as much once you give me your cell number.”
He didn’t even pause, though he looked awkward (my fault), as he said, “I don’t think The Wife would go for that. She lets me Twitter, but not give out my phone number.”
As we were chuckling at his polite excuse, he looked at me and added:
“Especially to beautiful women.”
Did not see that coming, and I almost hit the ground. I was so embarrassed, and actually at a complete loss for words for once, so I literally looked down at the ground and kicked the dirt with my dusty Converse. Sweetest. Man. Ever.
About this time Selena came back to our circle—holding a skimpy pair of black underwear with an AB logo. “Look what I found in the truck!” She exclaimed proudly.
“Do you want me to put them on now?” asked Myles, laughing. Yes, I kept my mouth shut. But for the grace of God… Selena looked at them this way and that and said, “I wonder what else I can find in there.” She walked away again.
We all let that one go. Was cute to see her horsing around. She spent a lot of time standing over by the bus talking with Flip, Mark and a couple people I didn’t know.
“So,” I said to Myles, “about this drawing…” Myles and Sarah looked at me. “I have to ask him this one alone,” I told her, turning her to face the other way. Myles looked confused but followed me over a few steps.
“Do you think you might have a sketch ready by, um, Oslo?”
“Norway?!” His eyes grew huge. “You’re coming to Norway?”
I must say, that was exactly the response I had hoped for. I told him how much I had always wanted to see them perform overseas, because I knew their relationship with Europe was different than the one they had with the US. Yes, it sounded as weird as it looks typed.
I told him about my Twitter friend I'd be going with, Jenny, who is an amazing artist that has done work for Slash Band… namely Todd Kerns. (I actually said “Todddammitkerns,” his twitter name and nickname. I sounded like an idiot.) I told him we had many mutual friends on Twitter and she picked perfect timing when he showed him a marker sketch she did of Myles the day after our show. He was blown away.
Jenny Widding's marker sketch of Myles
“Anyway,” I told him, “my family will probably have me committed for flying to Oslo.” At which point he looked concerned, possibly (who knows) remembering that I HAD been hospitalized for depression two years ago. Quick—lighten it up! I thought.
“Well, not really, but they’re not thrilled with the decision.”
This is where I meant to come out and ask if I traveled all the way to Oslo, could I come backstage? And completely chickened out. Staring into those baby blues, without my back-up that I’d moved away from, I was about to melt into a puddle at his feet. Took a deep breath.
“So, that would be a good time to get your sketch,” I ended lamely. I turned back and shot a look that said FAILED! to Sarah and she moved back in to jump-start the conversation.
While she was talking, I suddenly noticed our surroundings. When we had been led in, there were musicians, technicians and fans buzzing everywhere. Now about the only thing buzzing were moths around the parking lot light. It had almost completely cleared out. TOAD had been off the stage for well over an hour and everything was being packed up.
That’s when I realized how long we had been talking to Myles, and started to feel guilty for monopolizing him. (Better late than never, right?) Selena, Flip and Mark were still waiting patiently over by the bus, chatting. Sarah or Nate was talking to him now so I wandered over to Mark, brandishing Flip's drum stick (which he had signed as soon as we got backstage).
“So did everyone get their cards?”
“Yes,” Mark said, “the [hand] lotion for Brian’s deck was funny—and Myles’ hand sanitizer. But I wasn’t sure which ones were for me?”
I don’t know Mark as well as Myles, so I don’t know if he has a really dry sense of humor or if he was serious. I’m assuming the former. I tapped his chest with the stick (lightly!) and said, “The Fender ones! Your Fret12 company doesn’t sell any!”
I turned and asked Flip if he had his.
He blushed, “I put them right up on the shelf in the bus!” I shook my head. “Flip,” I said, directing my/his stick in his direction, “yours are the Zildjian ones, though to be honest I couldn’t remember what you play.”
“Zildjians! Thanks!” Whew. Should have bluffed my way through that one, in retrospect.
I thanked them all again for spending time with us, and hugged Mark and Flip. I cannot remember if I hugged Selena—I was so scared of getting her dirty. I may have just shaken her hand again. She was still smiling.
Our main group was breaking up and Myles was walking over to join his wife. As he stepped up to her, he kissed her briefly on the lips. Both smiled at each other. If Norman Rockwell were still alive and painted rock stars, he could have painted them.
Now we had to tear ourselves away. It was not easy. Sarah and I each hugged Myles one more time and thanked him for the umpteenth time. Katie, Nate, Sarah and then I, very slowly, walked away from the group. My last look was at Myles, of course, and he had his head cocked slightly to the right and had this expression… of warmth. We were both still smiling as I tore my eyes away and followed my group towards the parking lot.
We were all silent, all still digesting what had just happened. So we were caught off-guard when an older man in a security shirt stopped us about 20 feet from the exit and asked where our passes were. Sarah and I just laughed. “You’re a little late,” I said.
“You don’t have passes?”
Sarah: “No, we don’t, and we’re on our way out.”
Guard: “Well you can’t be back here without passes! You have to leave!”
We were leaving until you stopped us, I almost said, but we just resumed walking in the direction of the parking lot, now laughing to ourselves.
“That was perfect,” Sarah joked.
Yes, yes it was.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Alter Bridge put on an inspiring show, to say the very least, and Myles was in a great mood, possibly fueled by the presence of his wife, Selena, at the side of the stage. Sarah and I saw her at the same time and both had the same thought—We could be finally meeting The Wife tonight. This just kept getting better. It was an hour set, so we were able to enjoy the backbone of the set along with Blackbird, and the dueling guitars before Rise Today.
Mark shredding it, as usual
Love it when Brian, Myles and Mark come together and tear it up!
That, and the love he showers on his “regulars.” He smiled broadly at each of us together and separately many times during the show and it always made my knees buckle. We sang/screamed every lyric—as did he this time, LOL—and had our fists in the air for so long my arms were sore for days. At the end of their set he came out on the towers and attempted to toss us a few picks. They all blew back under the stage. We laughed and held up our hands, telling him not to worry about it, and he shook his head laughing.
Then Flip the drummer came out on the towers with a drumstick, looking at me. (If my fist wasn’t in the air, I was air-drumming the entire time.) He aimed carefully and low, and the stick fell right at the feet of the young guard in front of us. We were relieved until the kid picked it up, smiled, and put it in his back pocket.
Oh, HELL no. You do not work a show to take souvenirs from the fans. The whole front row erupted in anger at the guy, who wasn’t quite expecting that. His smug look quickly faded as it became clear that we were NOT moving until he surrendered that prize to the one he was handing it to. I think this is another case where being 45 to his 20 gives you a leg up. We explained to him that he was breaking every working man’s protocol by stealing that, and that it was NOT going to fly. He soon succumbed, and handed it to me. I thanked him, grateful I didn’t actually have to jump the rail and pummel his ass for it. (Boy, that water REALLY gave me a renewed sense of energy!)
Following the episode, we took about 5 seconds to catch our breaths and let our collective blood pressures lower. Then we looked at each other and Nate and both said, “Let’s go.” As we did, my neighbor David and I made sure to get a young girl into my spot on the rail, as she’d been having hell the whole time. Yes, it occurred to me I could have done that much sooner and just leaned on the rail from behind her, but I’m not sure I could have taken the lack of air. We’d been there for 11.5 hours when AB took the stage, and I’m sure as hell not as young as I used to be.
As soon as she was planted, we worked our way out. Kids were looking at us like we had lost our minds. Who leaves before Theory of a Deadman?? Fucking Alter Bridge fans who have gotten a DM from the lead singer—that’s who. I handed my drum stick to Nate and furiously typed off a message to Myles that we were headed for the (now empty) signing booth and off the rail, so he could find us. We planted ourselves and waited.
By this time Nate’s girlfriend, Katie, had found us, so to kill some very nervous time, we chatted about grad school and other topics, waiting… just waiting. Sarah was watching every angle looking for him or the show owner—and we spotted tha latter at the same time.
He wasn’t close—but he was within yelling distance. It took both our voices to arrest him for a second, then we waved like idiots as he took a second to decide if he had the time to humor us. Thank God, he decided he did. I pulled out my phone and pulled up Myles’ message, showing it to the owner as proof that Myles really did want to see us—we just couldn’t get back there. At that moment, Myles sent another that simply said, “Hey where are you guys?” which clinched it for our new guardian angel.
“Alright,” he said, “C’mon.”
As we quickly mentioned that the kids were with us, he led the four of us through the gates and back behind the RVs. A small group of people stood under a light post chatting, Mark among them. As soon as he saw us he broke away and trotted over. Myles DM’d me again, saying, “I’ll be right out!!!!” So I looked at Sarah, phone in hand, and nodded from Nate to Mark, and she introduced them as I tweeted back that we had moved and were now backstage with Mark. The owner no longer had any doubts that he’d done the right thing, and we both took the time to give him a big hug (he’s a big guy!!) and thank him for taking us back, and letting him get back to work.
As soon as I looked up from my phone, Mark looked at me and said, “Has Myles seen you yet?” I told him no—but that we’d gotten messages he was looking for us. “Wait here, he really wants to talk to you guys. I’ll go get him.” And he trotted off towards the bus.
With barely enough time for Sarah and I to exchange glances that screamed, “Is this really happening?” Mark came back out, followed by a grinning Myles and his gorgeous wife. Put that feeling in a bottle and I would be a fucking billionaire.
I did not hesitate. I grabbed our cheap, disposable phone, hit the flash set button, and asked Katie if she’d take the picture. Sarah was already hugging Myles. I took my turn and said, “It’s been too long,” which is ridiculous considering we had seen them two weeks ago, and I had gotten to hug and talk to him back in May. But he took us each under an arm and I think between the three of us we emitted enough light that the flash probably wasn’t even necessary.
I think this was when the night finally turned surreal. Details aren’t fuzzy—just the order in which they occurred, so try and follow best as you can.
To be continued...
A few minutes later, my phone rang with a private message. I assumed it was Andree or another friend congratulating me on making my delivery, but it turned out to be from Myles himself. Sarah saw the look on my face and leaned over to read it with me. “Hopefully we will connect after the show:)”
Good God, we started smiling like WE had just seen the most adorable pug on earth. I tried to be subtle about sending a private message to Andree that he had contacted us, but my shit-eating grin could not be concealed. I also sent a tweet back to Myles (mine are public, his are private, so our friends quickly caught on) thanking him and assuring him that we would not leave before we found him or he found us.
It was a promise we fully intended to keep.
Standing behind us there was a young man with an Alter Bridge shirt. Sarah also had an AB fan to her right, Angie. It was SO hard not to spill the beans about that unexpected DM. So we chatted with Nate and found out it was his first AB concert, having discovered them last year. He had fallen HARD for their music and was already studying Tremonti’s instructional DVDs for playing guitar. He told us he was just hoping he might get a pick—nothing more—just a pick. Sarah and I exchanged glances, knowing there was a Tremonti pick in my pocket. I waited a bit, and we told him a few stories of meeting the guys. He was easily impressed, bless his heart, and vowed right then he was not going to leave our sides the rest of the night in case we got lucky again.
There was no question anymore—this was a deserving fan. I reached into my left pocket and fished out the Tremonti pick. “Ernie tossed this to me earlier as he prepped the stage. It’s one of Mark’s.” His eyes grew the size of saucers. I gave it to him.
He resisted, unable to believe anyone would willingly give away a pick from AB. What he didn’t realize was how many picks we each had at home in our collections. I could already see this was going to be a tough set to get picks from, with the wind blowing towards the stage and the security guards not very good at giving the goods to the person they were originally aimed at. He took it like a piece of gold (or a communion wafer!) and just stared at it.
So then I told him about Myles’ message—and that it could lead to something, or nothing. But when we left after the set… He immediately said, “Don’t worry; I am not leaving your sides.” We had definitely made a friend.
Black Stone Cherry put on a KILLER set, as usual
The crowd, by this time, had grown to resemble a large can of sardines opened and left in the sun for too long. It smelled, there was NO room to breathe, and skin pressed on you from every direction. Without the rail in front of us and a glimpse of open space in front of it, I’m not sure I could have withstood it for as long as we had to to get to AB. Though the day was waning, the heat was only rising, and it was long past possible to leave for more water. One ass-clown security dude, when we asked for water, started piercing holes in the caps with his pocket knife and squirting water into peoples’ faces—usually their eyes. I’m no expert, but I do not think that it is possible to rehydrate sufficiently by having water squirted in your eyes. He wasted more than a dozen bottles that way.
During the final break before AB, well after I’d taken my last hit on my inhaler, things started looking a little fuzzy. My knees didn’t seem to be working normally. Sarah asked if I was okay and I told her that even if I fainted, the crowd pressure should be more than adequate to keep me on my feet. I don’t think that reassured her. We HAD scored one warm bottle of water from a younger security kid before Black Stone Cherry but it was long gone. I needed air. No fucking way I was going to go unconscious just as my boys took the stage.
I took off my fedora, no longer caring what my matted hair looked like underneath it, and leaned over the rail to fan myself. It did help, but I could tell my body temp was well over the norm, and things just kept getting fuzzier around the edges. A different security guard caught my eye and asked if I was okay. Not time to be proud. I shook my head. Without hesitation, he handed me a full, ICE-COLD bottle of water. I was ready to have his children. That water was like a liter of fluids going right into my veins, and brought me back to life. I split it with Sarah, who was just as hot and dehydrated. Now, we were ready.
To be continued...
Sarah planted in our #1 spot at Waterloo
Get to a festival early enough and you meet some very interesting people. It started with young Mikey, who was struggling to get a printer working in his little ticket booth, and ended with the owner I had talked to via email a day or two before. Sarah and I both stared longingly at the yellow lanyards and laminated all-access passes the staff wore, but managed to tear our eyes away long enough to make eye contact with the owner and shake his hand with determination. He said he guessed we weren’t kidding about being devoted, being there well ahead of anyone else. Nope, we weren’t kidding.
Just one of the many interesting people we saw working the show
Turn the clocks forward 3 sun-filled hours to noon, and there was a nice, long line behind us and, at the very last minute, a few red-shirted security guards who would decide if my gifts for the guys would make it into the show. We smiled, and smiled some more, and convinced them that they might as well search our bags while we were all just standing around. We’d both been in too many security lines where a delay at the beginning meant a real struggle for a center rail spot. We intended to cover all our bases that day.
By 12:15, we were planted center rail, next to a young kid named David, who was there with his friends to see Theory of a Deadman, who would take the stage later that night right after Alter Bridge, who went on around 8:30 p.m. We made friends and assured them that those not on the rail could have our spots when we left after AB. They couldn’t believe we would leave for TOAD. We couldn’t believe they would stay—but certainly didn’t argue the point. We weren’t looking for competition while trying to find a way backstage.
I must be honest: those first several hours dragged. The sun was directly overhead and on full blast, and though I had my fedora (still warped from the downpour at Twin Lakes two weeks prior), Sarah had lent her visor to a ticket lady we were trying to befriend, thinking that the size of the stage was going to keep us shaded. It did look that way from where we were positioned, but sadly, that was not the case.
As with Twin Lakes, and most of the other festivals, there were more bands playing than were advertised by the Carnival of Madness (which included Emphatic, Adelita’s Way, Black Stone Cherry, Alter Bridge, and Theory of a Deadman.) The other bands, mostly local, were playing on stage two, the Jagermeister stage, set up on an angle adjacent to the main stage, from which several die-hard fans of varying bands refused to budge, ourselves included.
As the other bands played and the teenagers danced, we watched the AB crew continue to set up for their performance hours later. When one of Myles’ guitar techs, Brian, a.k.a. Wookie, brought an electric blues guitar out to test it, we got pretty excited. That was the kind of guitar Myles used to play juicy nuggets like Robert Johnson’s Travelling Riverside Blues. We yelled our hellos at Wookie, and I even tried to get him to take my bag of presents to the guys, but he shook his head and indicated he wasn’t going to be leaving the stage area. Hey, we tried.
Wookie testing our a guitar at Rockstock IV
Ernie, grey-haired, ponytailed guitar tech for Mark Tremonti, also took some stage time to test some guitars and fill a microphone stand with picks for Mark. During a quiet moment I yelled out, “Great job, Ernie!” and was rewarded with a laugh, head shake, and a pick toss. It landed short (they all did that day, due to unfavorable prevailing winds) but a security dude retrieved it for me. Into my pocket it went.
As the day wore on, I kept checking Twitter. I noticed my friends had started tweeting the band to remind them we were here and had gifts for them. Our friend Andree from New Brunswick was clever enough to tell Brian Marshall that I had 52 naked tattooed women with me and they were all his if he went out to the rail. Though he did not come down, I am quite certain she piqued his interest.
Sometime mid-afternoon, Sarah started elbowing me, shooting a look at the far end of the rail. It was Mark. He had come out to meet some fans. I looked back at her and she just said, “Go!” I assured my neighbor David that I would be right back and I weaved my way through the growing crowd to get clear, then ran to the side where Mark was signing a few items and shaking hands. The fans seemed understandably star-struck and were giving him an unusually wide berth. I was past that and just saw my goal being realized, so I walked right up to him. Before I could say anything more than “Hi!” he had opened his arms and given me a hug. Now THIS was how a concert was supposed to work. I quickly handed him the bag of goodies and made him promise to tell Myles how much we wanted to see him as well. He was sweet as peach pie, as usual, and I knew I could count on him. Hard to imagine a nicer guy than Mark Tremonti.
To be continued...
Myles at Rock the Ranch, Twin Lakes, WI, August 13, 2010
I have been a fan of Myles Kennedy and Alter Bridge since their first single, “Open Your Eyes,” came out in 2004. It was the voice. I listened to the chorus over and over, reveling in the clarity and depth of his tone, and wondered to myself, Can he be for real? Can he do this live? Not since Chris Cornell had I been so moved by a voice.
So in 2004 I went to my first AB concert in a small bar in Scottsdale, AZ. That’s when I discovered that Myles’ voice was very real indeed. I vowed to follow every musical move he made from that night on, and have been doing so ever since.
Last Saturday night I got the chance to tell him that in person; not in 30 seconds while battling for his attention with 20-30 (or more) other fans standing outside their bus in the rain, but rather during a long conversation shared with him, my sister Sarah, Myles’ wife Selena, and our two new AB friends, Nate and Katie. Fellow band members Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall and Scott “Flip” Phillips also moved in and out of our conversation circle over the course of an hour or so—as did numerous fans looking for autographs (there’s now a bar stool with Myles’ signature on it somewhere in Iowa) and fellow festival musicians seeking a chance to compliment his performance and shake his hand. But through it all, we were the ones he focused on, told stories to, and asked questions to learn more about.
How did this happen?
I’m still shaking my head trying to work that out. In short, Myles invited us backstage to talk to us. This was a result, and I’m guessing here, of our numerous but brief meet-ups with him after shows over the years, plentiful short-but-sweet Twitter exchanges, gifts we’ve given him over at shows, and most importantly, our constant presence at center rail, singing along with every word and smiling as if our faces would crack. Sarah and I have been to almost every show as a team, though a few we did separately. Over the last 7 years, we’ve each seen AB about 12 times, and we saw Myles and Slash together in 2010. Seems like more, and given time, it will be.
Sarah and I at center rail in Waterloo for Rockstock IV.
Last Saturday was another Carnival of Madness tour stop—this time at Rockstock IV in Waterloo, IA. Only a 3.5 hour drive from Madison, it seemed a good choice in that it was a small town, which meant a smaller crowd and a greater chance of seeing one or more members of the band. We had tried this two weeks earlier in Twin Lakes, WI, at Rock the Ranch (the first Carnival of Madness stop) but had little success other than a wave back from Flip off-stage, and Myles’ laugh and wide smile when he saw the deflated pug balloon that had survived the day’s intense thunderstorms with us.
Myles' reaction to our sad little Pug on the rail at Rock The Ranch
I was checking Twitter as usual all day during that show, and saw numerous tweets from friends reminding the guys we were there, and had brought gifts for them. We also saw that Myles was having trouble getting to the venue, also due to the storms. He later told us he almost missed it entirely. Coming in late meant chaos and rushing, and we were not able to get to him after the show. That was a long, hot, wet, then cold day filled with more challenges than we could have imagined before-hand (thankfully) and we were soaked, exhausted and not a little disappointed by the time we limped through the mud back to the car late that night.
Ten inches of flood water that eventually forced us off the rail at Rock The Ranch.
Rockstock IV offered another chance, and we didn’t like the idea of failing, so we planned for every scenario we could imagine. We drove down the night before to be well-rested for another very long day on the rail, and packed ponchos and sunscreen—and the gifts I was still determined to get to the men.
Later added hand lotion for Brian and hand sanitizer for Myles...
We had some extra ammunition packed this time as well. Of course, my friends on Twitter were all in position to rain tweets on the band once the flag was dropped, and those have proven invaluable in the past, but we had another ace in the hole.
A few days before the gig, I received an email from FM Entertainment offering me two free tickets to the show. How’s that for timing, I thought. I sent back an email letting them know we already had tickets but would be willing to settle for, say, a Meet & Greet. We got to chatting, and I mentioned what it had been like attending (surviving) the first Carnival of Madness, and how we hoped to avoid a repeat scenario in Waterloo.
“Yeah,” the return email read, “a lot of people were unhappy with me when I had to make that call [to suspend the concert during and after the storm].”
It suddenly occurred to me that I wasn’t talking to someone at a ticket counter. I asked to whom I was speaking.
Now this was getting interesting. I learned I was exchanging emails with the man in charge of putting on both Rock the Ranch in Twin Falls and Rockstock IV in Waterloo. As much as I wanted to hit the all-caps button and start begging for backstage access, I managed to remain relatively calm. As I was “staying calm” he friended me on Facebook. So much for calm. Luckily we weren’t chatting on Skype.
I thanked him again for the free tickets, promising to try and scare up some friends willing to spend 14 hours at an outdoor heavy metal festival. Chances seemed slim. All our friends that WOULD have been up for that lived half-way across the country, or across the Atlantic.
So Sarah and I made the trip alone, getting lost a few times just for good measure. Unlike the first festival, we didn’t stop (except for directions) on our way to the hotel in Waterloo.
Two weeks prior in Burlington (outside of Twin Lakes, site of Rock the Ranch), we did stop, pulling into a local Sentry just minutes before 9 p.m., with the very distinct goal of obtaining some chilled wine to start our pre-party. On our way to the liquor department Sarah stopped and let out a scream of delight. I turned around to see her gazing into a large box filled with inflated dog balloons. Seemed to me that the older she got, the easier it was getting to entertain her. She in turn looked at me like she’d found the Holy Grail. Then she lifted a perfect Pug balloon out of the balloon kennel. Cue a second squeal of delight, this time from me.
Sarah and Pugsly in Burlington before Rock the Ranch (and wine ;)
Every man has his weakness, be it women, alcohol… or Pugs. Myles Kennedy is known for his inability to resist puppies of any breed, but most of all, Pugs. Just recently someone posted a new picture of Myles at a signing table where he wore one of the widest grins we’d ever seen. In fact, we were all so curious as to who it was that caused such a reaction that I finally sent him a tweet asking just WHO could elicit such a reaction from him. Not minutes later he tweeted back, “…a pug :)”
Myles' best smile--for a Pug :)
The Twitterverse roared in laughter over this bit of information. So that night, when we found the Pug, all we could see was that brilliant smile aimed in our direction. We took Pugsly and ran to find our wine just before they closed the store.
At our hotel, we proceeded to tailgate from the comfort of our Hampton Inn room. And of course, we included Pugsly in the festivities. There may have been a bit of tipsy tweeting that night, as we woke up to find we had sent poor Myles several pictures of Pugsly with headphones listening to ABIII on my iPod, and at least one of Pugsly laid out sideways next to some hotel glasses and an empty bottle of wine.
Sarah, Pugsly and I all slept soundly that night, and moved quickly in the early hours to get ourselves over to the festival grounds in time to be thoroughly soaked, physically threatened, and bruised all to hell by young and old moshers over the course of a very long, 14-hour day. But that was Twin Lakes. This was Waterloo.
Eventually we found our luxurious Super 8 and settled in—but not after checking the room thoroughly for bugs. Hey, you can never be too sure, and we’d been living high on the hog for the Cornell and Eddie Vedder shows recently. Our last two hotels for Alter Bridge had been two of the nicest we’d ever seen which, looking back, was pointless given that we spent so little time in them.
At exactly 9 a.m. Saturday morning, we pulled into the first parking spot at the National Cattle Congress, site of Rockstock IV. As AB bassist Brian Marshall would point out in a general tweet the next day, it was a bit of a dustbowl. And busy. There was already a horse show going on at the other end of the grounds, and planes of all types flew overhead prepping for the annual air show, which would later include a stealth fighter, and the Blue Angels. But our focus was on the Alter Bridge bus we could see clearly in the large bus parking lot. Their equipment semi was already backed up to the stage and the crew was setting up. The band and crew had traveled all night from Louisville to get here, and though the latter were hard at work, we knew the boys in the band were all in their bunks, and probably would be for several more hours. We stood by the empty ticket booths, up on concrete blockades, checking out the height of the chain link fence that separated the fans from the buses. Once again, this was not going to be a walk in the park.
Or so we thought.
To be continued...