tom tom Blues Tour Diary1996
tom tom Tour Diary
"A Fool Realizes A Dream" pt. 1
September 6-8, 1996 - "HELL ON WHEELS" - I wasn't planning on spending much money until I met up with the band, so I only took $40 cash with me as well as a Chevron and UNOCAL 76 gas card Mike gave me. I wasn't worried about gas until I got into Wyoming.
I remember seeing a Chevron within seconds of crossing the border into Wyoming, but I had over a half tank, didn't see any reason to worry. No worries until I started getting down past 1/4 tank that is. I had to stop before I ran out of gas, so I put $10 into the tank hoping to get to a Chevron or 76 down the highway.....down to empty again, so I put $20 in thinking I may be in trouble. Once that 20 was almost gone, I reluctantly pulled out my last $5 right before I was to cross the mountain range which homes Elk Mountain (between Rawlins and Laramie). It was 3AM. I prayed for one of the stations to appear, but once I got on the downside of that mountain range and some 40 miles from Laramie I realized I was darn near on empty and flat broke (well I think I had a dollar)! Needless to say I was frantic, and quite angry.
Realizing I couldn't do anything until morning, I pulled off into a rest area and called the Wyoming Highway Patrol for help. Mike was gone with David Leonhardt and Brian Healy on their pre-tour acoustic thing, and I didn't want to wake Mark or Bruce up, so calling the cops was the only feasible alternative. It took the officer about two hours to get to me, at which point he basically laughed at me when I explained the situation to him. There was nothing he could do for me except apply for a Salvation Army grant. There's people in need of help much more than I was. Why not try to make it to Laramie?
Gathering all the loose change in the truck and throwing in my last dollar, I put all I had into the gas tank at a nearby Exxon. Laramie would surely have one of the gas stations I needed, if I had enough gas to get there. It proved disappointing, and the point at which I lost control. I got on the phone starting at 6AM leaving nasty messages for Mike. I called my roommate and started charging calls all over the place trying to find help. As a last ditch effort, and weary from sitting in that particular gas station's lobby for the last 6 or 7 hours, I called Street Level Artists (the people who booked most of the tour) and explained to them my situation and falling morale.
I don't remember the secretary's name who charged $40 worth of gas on her Visa, but I truly appreciate her help. She helped me cool down (I was really starting to get irate...even called Chevron who had an office there in Laramie and proceeded to tell them how worthless their little piece of plastic was...) and got back on the road unhappy that I lost almost an entire day, but thankful that I was at least moving now.
I still ran into some problems though. I guess UNOCAL is selling many of their huge truck stops across the country, because even though there's a huge round orange 76 sign announcing the presence of precious fuel, they sell Conoco or any other brand of gas besides UNOCAL and would not take the credit card........what a way to start a memorable trip!
September 9-11, 1996 - "HOME SWEET HOME (kinda)" - It has been more than ten years since I had gone back to the place where I grew up. I called my childhood buddy Mike Webb prior to leaving, and made arrangements to stay at his place for a while. We really hadn't kept in touch much over the years, maybe calling once or twice a year and somehow forgetting each others birthdays (we're a week apart) and every other holiday for that matter. You never would have thought I had left at all with the way Mike and his wife Robin treated me. They really treated me like family even though I hadn't seen my old friend in over a decade, and it meant a lot to me. To give a quick example of how well we've stayed in touch......I didn't know they had a child........Matthew........5 years old! That's not gonna happen again.
Anyway, I got to see some family I hadn't seen in years, and I spent a lot of time walking around my old stompin' grounds. My family moved from Iowa to California when I was eleven, and I never did get to go back and visit friends and the old neighborhood....this time was for me and I felt just like a kid again going to the creek and riding a bike through the fields behind our block. It was great.
The greatest part of the whole stay there was renewing a friendship that was long over due with Mike and his little family. I truly miss the guy and can't wait to hang out with him again! It truly is nice to know that some friends do keep!
DAY 1 - September 12, 1996 - "HEY-HO HERE WE GO" - Lavonia, Michigan - It seemed I had just recovered from my California to Iowa trek, when I had to get up and go again. Leaving Iowa this time was extremely difficult for me since I was truly enjoying the time with my old friend, his wife and kid. But, after a quick good-bye (due to my fear of crying), and a double check of everything, I was on the road again. Roe had sent me $100 to cover the gas station dilemma I was having (which my buddy Mike Webb fronted me because it hadn't arrived in the mail yet), and by 11PM of the eleventh I was on my way to the first show of the tour in Michigan just outside of Detroit.
I got in Lavonia around one in the afternoon. I got ahold of the promoter, Tony Weatherly, who informed me he hadn't heard from Roe yet, but he'd meet me at the hotel he booked for all of us and get me a room so I could get some sleep.
Mike's famous timing had him banging on my door about 3 hours after I had laid down. It was time to set up. Mark and Bruce met us at Clarenceville Hall, and got right into the setup routine we had worked out. Love Coma arrived shortly thereafter, exhaustion drawn on their faces too, since they had just driven up from San Antonio, TX. We got the formal introductions out of the way and went right to work. Everyone was pretty nervous about how well the set would go off since it had been more than a week without a rehearsal, but I thought it went rather well.
Although I had met Love Coma briefly on a few occasions while they were recording "Language Of Fools" with Mike, I've never seen them perform live. I was extremely entertained by their set. Chris Taylor is an awesome vocalist, songwriter, and showman who did a great job on stage (as well as on the floor mixing in with the crowd while he sang). Chris Dodds is simply a wild and entertaining guy both on the stage behind his drums and off the stage in the dressing room! Chris Mattingly simply blows me away with his guitar work...what talent! And last but not least, the newest member of Love Coma, Curtiss Saunier, is a good bassist with a powerful on-stage presence. It was a great opening set for them!
Brian Healy and I have met before, done business over the phone, eaten dinner together, etc. but again... I've never seen him perform live. He and Dave Leonhardt (who acts as sound man during the first part of The 77's set) put on an acoustic "Greatest Hurts" set featuring some of Brian's most memorable and meaningful songs....many of which were brand new to me. His deep, booming voice really grabs you, and along with Dave's acoustic six string strumming along, it made for yet another cool opening night set.
Once Brian finished and left the stage, I sprung into action getting Mike's pedal board set, checked Bruce's drums which we had set up already but covered with a blanket, lit the incense (which became a nightly ritual), then went to the dressing room to see how far along Mike was. He tuned the two guitars he took for this tour (a blue Fender Stratocaster, and his beloved white Gibson Les Paul). I would then take the Fender on-stage just prior to them walking on.
Tonight was the first night for Mike's "Liberace" guitar strap he picked out while we were getting supplies for this tour. If you haven't seen it, it's this white guitar strap lined with fake diamonds....it matches his Les Paul perfectly! Leave it to Mike to make the ultimate fashion statement on stage! The Love Coma guys were really getting into this new strap and were giving Mike as much grief over it as they could without making him a nervous wreck........it really is quite a "loud" strap.
The strap didn't take anything away from his playing though! When the trio hit the stage to a so-so crowd of about 150, you couldn't tell they hadn't rehearsed in over a week! From the opening riff of Rocks In Your Head to the set closer Pray Naked those three guys rocked the place hard, then extended it for another 1/2 hour for an encore...an 1 1/2 hour show opening night.. Very cool!
DAY 2 - September 13, 1996 - "I DON'T KNOW HOW TO PLAY QUIET!" - TAYLOR UNIVERSITY, INDIANA - Booked as an "acoustic show", and being just the second day out, the decision was made to ignore the "unplugged" booking and just let 'er rip! Stage limitations did have Bruce and Dodds sharing a drum kit, which made my life a little easier second day out. I had more time to set up the merchandise that way, and get a better feel for what Mike's needs were (and there were/are many! hehe). We did have to wait to finish completely setting up until all the students finished eating (YES, the show was in a large cafeteria), but they provided us with enough volunteers to get everything done just in time.
About an hour or so before the show I took a peek outside to look at any line that may be forming..............there were hundreds of people waiting there! The guys had an awesome attendance of some 600+ fans, though it was a casual hang out in which a number of people were there to only socialize, sometimes getting louder than the actual music.
The 77's certainly quieted them down! When they got up on the little stage there, and got everything plugged in and working, Mike walked up to his microphone and said "This is supposed to be an acoustic show......so shut up", then he tore right into "Rocks". The 7's fans were thrilled to see the guys do a full blown electric set (albeit turned down a little), and they held the crowd's attention all night. It really gave all of us a boost to see such a good response on the second night out. There would be times where we'd wish we could go back and play there again.....
DAY 3 - September 14, 1996 - "THE BOY CAN'T DANCE!" - THE LIGHT CLUB - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - By the third day I was just about settled into the routine, and had an understanding of what was expected of me. I had the procedure for packing the equipment trailer (that Love Coma pulled for us with their van) down to a science. Bruce had been helping pack the last two nights which really wasn't his job, but I appreciated the help and hints he gave. I was confident from here on out to "be in charge" of the loading and unloading of everything.
Before we left Indiana that morning, Greg Carnes (Love Coma's manager and Road Manager for this tour) told us that he had a "good morning" tape for us to listen to on the way to Milwaukee. We put it into our car's tape deck (we rented a Chevy Lumina), and proceeded to laugh hysterically for the next hour! Although there was a lot of vulgar things on this tape, it was funny none the less. Have any of you heard of The Jerky Boys? It is definitely adult humor, and I wouldn't recommend it to everybody, but there were times during this tape where we couldn't stop laughing for minutes afterwards! It was an honor to hang out with the guys and "let our hair down", even if some of it really wasn't all that funny.
Well, the show was one like a few others you'll read about. We were originally scheduled to be in Ohio this night, but they canceled on us almost at the last minute. This show was booked in about a week, with little time to advertise. The turn out reflected that.
The Insyderz (A Christian ska-punk band) were originally scheduled to headline this show, but they graciously backed out and OPENED for all of us! They're a great bunch of genuine Christian men who put on a great show! I love ska, and the way they did it made for a great set, and one that I am thrilled to have caught. They're gonna have a new album out on Brainstorm sometime soon...check them out!
Because of the extra band in the night's line-up, Love Coma performed only 4 songs, and Brian kept his set to 20 minutes to accommodate the full length sets performed by The Insyderz and The 7's.
I'm beginning to develop a closer friendship with Brian, since we've been assigned as "roomies" for the duration (we both snore loudly). He's quite a guy, and one I'm looking forward to know better as we go along. For that matter, we were all beginning to feel more comfortable with each other. I've started to notice that Love Coma is getting over their collective shyness. Dodds, always being the nutty one, was really opening up to the rest of us and sharing his whacked yet hilarious sense of humor which took center stage later on that evening.
Mike has this set of "road clothes" that he wears which consists of a pair of bright purple baggy pants, whatever shirt he happens to be wearing, and this purple sweat shirt with a pullover hood. It was nearing the end of the set and the guys started into Deliverance, at which point I decided to go to the dressing room for a soda. On my way back I thought I bumped into Mike.......but he was on the stage......now who's that?
Dodds had put on Mike's pants and sweat shirt, pulling the hood over his head so just a small portion of his face appeared through the hole. No one was dancing, so Dodds thought he'd go out and put on a little show dancing to Deliverance. It had to have been one of the most hilariously funny things I've ever seen! This was not normal dancing mind you...it was jerky, wavy....well, just plain bizarre. He danced through the entire song and continued as the guys tore into Pray Naked. I was almost in tears laughing so much, but I guess Curtis from Love Coma couldn't take anymore, so he walked onto the dance floor, grabbed Dodds' hands and cha-cha'd off the floor. That little gag had the whole band rolling. Mike came back to the dressing room afterwards still laughing and told us "I thought at first it was an ugly woman out there dancing. Then I realized it had to have been an ugly woman in my clothes! I knew then that it was NO woman!"
It took a little while to load everything back in for some reason (probably since it was my first time supervising it), but we did it and got to the Holiday Inn at 3AM. Mike, Dodds and I weren't really all that tired, so we snuck into the indoor pool they had which closed officially at 11. We had to climb a fence or two to get there, but it was well worth it! Never did get caught!
DAY 4 - September 15, 1996 - DRIVE DAY TO KENTUCKY
DAY 5 - September 16, 1996 - "DOWN HOME COOKIN'" - Lexington, Kentucky - It was a good twelve hour drive from Milwaukee to Lexington, and although we had a day off to travel, we were all pretty much feeling road-weary. But we were re-charged with some great food! The trio of Angie, Pat, and Candida have been huge fans for a number of years now, and insist on treating the bands very well! Man, we had corn fresh from the garden, roast beef, chicken, salad, and several kinds of deserts I regret I did not try. These girls had worked real hard to get this show at the local church, hiring a production company to provide lights and sound and even getting it sponsored by some insurance company!
For a Monday night, the turnout was great! The fans were really receptive and appreciative....even started to sing along with Brian during his song Y.S.D (she's young, sexy and dead...uh-oh young, sexy and dead) which really made the night go well. The show was particularly memorable for me because Chris Taylor introduced me to the crowd as I was trying to sneak up and take a picture! Quite flattering! Oh yeah, the other thing that made it memorable was the fact that I jumped off the stage doing my best rock-star impersonation prior to the show and really strained my right ankle.......it made loading out a lot of fun, and had me soaking my foot in ice at the hotel. Brian thought it was rather funny to see a big, 6'5" guy wince in pain as he put a sore foot in very cold ice. Hey, it was very cold!
Hats off to Angie, Candida, and Pat for making this show a great success! It was another one of those almost last minute gigs, and they did one bang -up job, and one we are all very grateful for.
DAY 6 - September 17, 1996 - "THE EYES OF GOD" - YESFM (89.3) - Toledo, Ohio - Got to this gig rather early to find out that the show is in a cafe/Christian bookstore/radio station all wrapped up in one building. The stage was no bigger than most bathrooms, and was lined with those silver handrails you see in salons and the like. Personally, I wasn't looking forward to this one at all when I first saw it, but when I met the people running the thing and discovered how thrilled they were to have everybody, I warmed up quickly. I also discovered that the show was going to be simulcast on their station....OK, I was happy then.
The set up was easy because the two drummers shared a kit again. I still had a little more work to do with the merchandise after I got them ready, so I stayed behind while they went to the motel to clean up. Brian and I took this time to talk some more and look at a few new books. The more I talk to this guy, the more I like him. He's a great comedian and can get you rolling on the floor, but he is also a great friend and confidante. We both bought these cool wooden cross necklaces there (after he loaned me a buck which I still owe him..hehe). That day marked a new beginning for me of sorts with a renewed dedication to God and to my work with these musicians. All due to Brian and his consistent, caring friendship, and the things we talked about that day.......I haven't taken this cross off yet.
The "hero" who saved the day for us all was Dave. He literally had NO time and very little to work with to get the sound right. He is an amazing tech of any kind, and it's good to hear that he and former longtime soundman of The 7's, Shalom Aberle, have been working together. Dave has become quite the live engineer....without his "live on the fly" mix, the show could've easily become a real bummer. Three cheers for Dave!
This simulcast concert was by far (for me anyway) the most "spiritual". Not only had I made some changes in my thinking, but I KNOW the Holy Spirit descended upon the crowd of us gathered there. When we first arrived, I believe it was one of the managers who approached Mike and asked for a special dedication. A young man named Erik Train had been a huge fan of The 7's and was really looking forward to seeing the show. He unfortunately died of cancer a week prior. Tears came to my eyes and I felt a cold shiver run from my head to my toes when Mike announced :
"We'd like to dedicate this next tune to a real cool cat who couldn't be here tonight. His name is Erik Train, and he decided to see the eyes of God instead of this show. God Bless you Erik - put in a good word for us." The Lust, The Flesh, The Eyes, And The Pride of Life directly followed.
Everyone was holding back tears by the time the song was done. God touched all of us that night.....
DAY 7 & 8 - September 18 - 19, 1996 - "WHEN EVERYTHING IS FUNNY" - TRAVEL DAYS TO MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - Had spent long enough in the car being bored by this time, so we started playing The Name Game (in which the next player has to expand on the name that you chose, i.e. John Wayne - Wayne Newton - Olivia-Newton John, etc). We played for hours, coming up with some off the wall names which sent everybody into a laughing frenzy (just about anything is funny on the road at 2AM). Mike gets me in trouble too because he has this laugh that just makes me roar! Once he starts doing that laugh of his, it's all over for me for a good five minutes. I don't know why that is, but you've gotta hear his laugh to understand, I guess....
DAY 9 - September 20, 1996 - "ROADIE! ROADIE!" - THE NEW UNION - Minneapolis, MN - This show was definitely in the top 3 as far as turnout and overall performance goes. The good folk at The New Union can definitely promote a show, and I'm thankful that Minneapolis has a place such as theirs. They have a very nice building there; two stories, the basement holding a little music store, pool tables, a few video games, and the "bar"-non-alcoholic of course! The entire second story held the stage on one end, a row of bleachers on the other, and a nice wide open space for kids to pack in and have a good time.
We hooked up with long time friend Keith Rintala whom all of us originally met back in 1984 when he was the lighting tech for Rez Band. We conned him into doing the lights for this one....he's a real pro! He's the only guy I saw during the whole tour who actually changed the color gels in the lights to get a better look and "feel". It took him nearly 2 hours to set the lights up (unfortunately he had to put everything back the way he found it after the show). With Keith on lights and Dave behind the mixing console, this one will definitely be hard to forget.
I suppose what reinforces the good feeling about this particular night was the crowd chanting "Roadie...Roadie...Roadie!" and cheering me on for doing stupid things like lighting insence, or double checking everything prior to the encore...another flattering experience.
The show ended uniquely, with the pastor coming out to speak after the first encore. The 77's never have been big on altar calls, but it's part of The New Union's ministry and the guys were happy to oblige. After he got done speaking and led everyone in a prayer, both Mike and Brian came on-stage and did a wonderful version of Ba Ba Ba Ba which had the whole joint singing along. I can't remember now if they did another one after that or not, but I do know Mike ended the show with solo versions of Ache Beautiful and Denomination Blues (That's All)....the only time during the tour that he performed those tunes. A nice treat Minneapolis!
DAY 10 - September 21, 1996 - "PEDAL BOARD WOES PT. 1" - TRUE TUNES - Aurora Illinois - I must start off here by thanking all the volunteers who helped for this show. We had to haul equipment up two flights of stairs! To make matters worse, we were very late and had very little time to get things up and running. The rushing came and bit me especially in the butt!
I didn't have much time to do anything extra like I have had up to this point, so when the time came for The 7's to take the stage, I couldn't get Mike's pedal board to operate. I was frantic. I followed the signal path, checked the power cords, everything...I still couldn't get any signal out of it. Sweat was pouring down my face as Mike peeked through the side stage curtain and tried to explain to me how he'd go about troubleshooting it. It only made things worse, and he had to come out on stage to fix it right before they were announced. I was embarrassed and a bit mad. Embarrassed that I couldn't get Mike's jumble of cords and effects to work, and mad when I discovered someone had been toying with the thing and had switched some of the cords around! That was very uncool.
Despite the slow start, the guys played extremely well. Performance wise, this was their second best show of the tour. Mike was totally into the sound and pulled off some rather spectacular solos. I can always tell now when Mike is confident on stage....if he rolls his eyes during his solos....you know he's reached the other plane! Mark and Bruce were nailing everything as well, I got some great photos too!
DAY 11 - September 22, 1996 - "JUMP AROUND!" - BRIAN QUINCY NEWCOMB'S CHURCH - St. Louis, Missouri - Brian Quincy Newcomb has been a CCM music "critic" for a number of years, and has been very supportive of The 77's. In fact, he's the guy who wrote the booklet in the 1 2 3 box set. Just having taken over pastoral duties two years ago at an older church in St. Louis (which has spectacular stained glass windows, a breathtakingly ornate wooden cross and a carving of the last supper in the main sanctuary). Brian still likes to keep some activity going in the music biz, so he promotes a few concerts every year to keep his feet wet. He is a very cool guy! One of the most straightforward and honest men I've ever met.
We, of course, did not play in the main sanctuary, but rather right below it in the youth room where we attracted some 200 fans who stayed for the entire hot, musty, sweaty thing! There was one group of guys who started to "mosh" during the first song the 7's played and didn't stop until an hour and a half later! Man what I wouldn't give for that kind of energy!
Speaking of energy, Bruce had a run-in with the kinetic type during the show. I must explain here that Bruce is simply an awesome drummer........he can do with one foot what most guys can barely do with two on the kick drum! They played Woody during the encore, and towards the end when it all goes faster and louder and there's a double-kick pattern going on, Bruce does it with one foot! He had the beater moving back and forth so blindingly fast it actually flew off! This is the first time I've seen this happen, but seeing how he plays that song with one foot on the kick, I'm surprised it didn't happen earlier. I kept expecting for it to happen again during the tour, but I guess he musta super-glued that thing back on!
DAY 12 - September 23, 1996 - "HOTEL HELL" - TRAVEL DAY TO NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - After fighting a bad cough thing for the last few days, Bruce finally succumbed to the flu of some kind. We were supposed to be in Atlanta today, but seeing how far the drive was, realizing how sick Bruce was, and knowing how important tomorrow's show in Nashville in front of several record company folk was, it was decided to postpone Atlanta, hopefully just until January.
Nashville was supposed to have been the city in which most of us on The 7's crew were to have gone and stayed with some old pals from the Exit days, to save some money. With Bruce possibly having the flu, and now Mark not feeling good as well, they each got a room at a Motel 6 outside of Nashville on I-64. Now, I'm not one to criticize establishments I frequent, but this was by far the worst motel we picked all month! The air-conditioning vent in the ceiling was molding and falling down, the carpet was two different colors and not even seamed together, the TV acted like it was going to explode any minute, the phone jack was pulled away from the wall with all the wires exposed, the bathroom door wouldn't shut.............Mike and I stayed at Doug Jones' house (he used to road manage The 7's and now works for Gary Chapman, as well as owning his own tour production company, Insane Domain). Poor Mark and Bruce! To top it all off, Mark was rudely awakened by some drunken guy banging on his door and yelling for his girlfriend to come out............PLEASE! What a dump!
When Mike and I got to Doug's, he wasn't home. We had the rental car, so decided to go to the store for some ice cream and aloe vera. Mike has real dry skin, and uses aloe vera gel (the blue stuff) on his arms to prevent chaffing. Anyway, it was just Mike and I, and he had me all wound up with laughter and jokes. We walked into this one supermarket (our third store in search of aloe), and I was aghast and making fun of the fact that people in Nashville must not know what aloe is.....nobody had it!
I was out of control with laughter when we discovered there was no aloe vera gel to be found in Tennessee. Mike did pick up a soda or something, and we went to the cashier. I couldn't start laughing! Mike was egging me on the whole time, and I just could not stop. I decided instead of making a full of myself in front of this nice lady cashier, I'd start walking out of the store. I continued to laugh as I walked away, when I overheard the cashier kinda whisper to Mike in that slow, southern drawl, "He's not riiiiight is he?". Both Mike and I lost all control at that point laughing loudly, not stopping until after we got into the car. That poor lady must've thought we were some pair!
DAY 13 - September 24, 1996 - "WHO'S WHO" - CAFE MILANO - Nashville, TN - A very important day for all of us! Started it out with a "power lunch" with a PR rep from a large, well known label and it went rather well. It felt good to hear that someone still believes a lot in Mike, Mark and Bruce. Although I can't divulge details about the meeting, I can say that it looks pretty good so far! Pray that the whole thing comes through! It is needed!
I was like a teenage kid all over again once we got everything set up. I ran backstage to see if Mike needed anything, and who else is standing next to him but Charlie Peacock himself (along with his lovely wife Andi)! I hadn't even talked to him since 1985 when I joined the navy, so it was a very nice surprise to see him. I was thrilled yet again when I ran into Steve Griffith (of Vector fame)! It was like being at The Warehouse all over again. I kept looking and hoping that Aaron would show up (to no avail), but had a perfect substitute when his wife showed up! Kathryn is such a sweetheart! It was good to see her again. Oh yeah, Steve Hindalong was there too! I never realized how short this guy is! Then again, compared to me, everybody's short.
The real treat was having Sarah Masen open the show there. Mike introduced her as "a perfect angel", and after hearing her songs I'd say that he's not too far off! She was kind enough to let some of the Love Coma guys crash at her house...she must be an angel to willfully put herself through that! (Kidding guys!) They did put on one of their best shows there at Cafe Milano, playing well enough to have a good label become attracted to them afterwards! Brian's set was sadly plagued with feedback problems, but did well overall. The 7's were their usual spectacular selves even with Mark and Bruce fighting flu-like symptoms. It was another great night, and although I'm sorry for you folks in Atlanta, I'm glad we didn't make that 10 hour trip...Mark and Bruce would've died!
DAY 14 - September 25, 1996 - "A FOOL AT SCHOOL" - GREENVILLE COLLEGE - Greenville, Illinois - Well, to be honest I never would have thought that a college would ever offer a degree in Contemporary Christian Music! I sit here now eating my words. You can actually get a degree that will prepare you for a career in the Christian music industry! OK, maybe this is where Mike should've gone, do you think? Actually, I understand that Jars Of Clay attended this school, which lends whatever credibility that may bring to their program. Bruce and Chris Taylor actually did a seminar on the industry for the students....1/3 of whom have heard of The 77's! I guess they use The 77's as a band to study to learn what not to do in CCM....hmmm, there may be a class here somewhere.....
We didn't find out until we arrived that they booked an opening band for the night.....another surprise! This meant shaving minutes from Brian's and Love Coma's set, something I hated to see. You travel clear across country to perform and a surprise opening band gets just as long as you do. I found it rather unfair myself, but the opening band was all right!
The turnout was a little weak, another last minute add-on to the tour (of course). For me this show was a technical nightmare of sorts. Due to the limited amount of microphones available, Dave was stuck with using one mic for two toms. This mic was placed into position by a worn out stand which was setting on a drum riser that was structurally weak. When you have a drummer like Bruce who kicks the snot out of his kick drum and pounds like a madman on the toms, things are going to move when he is playing on a weak riser. I had to adjust the front tom mic stand at least 3 times, and during You Still Love Me when Bruce sings backup, the stand he had wouldn't even stay up! So I sat right beside Bruce as low to the ground and out of the way as I could holding his stand for him! My ears are still ringing from the "crack!" of his snare which I was about 8 inches from for 5 or so minutes. I hope that there aren't any pictures of that around!
The students were really cool, and it is just a shame that there wasn't a better turn out. Maybe next year we'll pack the place!
DAY 15 - September 26, 1996 - TRAVEL DAY TO RICHMOND, VIRGINIA AND MARK'S FAMILY! - I truly felt for Mark on this leg of the trip. We were heading down I-77 in West Virginia towards the next show in Richmond when we had to take 64 East.........we were only an hour or so away from his parents and where he grew up in Bloomfield, West Virginia. He hasn't seen them for a number of years, and I could see the hurt in his face when we stopped at a rest area just before heading East. Someday he's gonna take me down through there into all that beautiful country when it's daylight. I have been told that we drove through some of the prettiest parts of the country when it was pitch dark outside. It hurt him even more to not see his home when the sun was shining down on it. Anyway, a piece of cool trivia....Mark grew up in Bloomfield which is right off of Interstate 77.....must be his destiny to be in this band!
DAY 16 - September 27, 1996 - "MARK'S LOVING, LOONY SISTERS!!" - Richmond, VA. - I feel honored to have met both of Mark's sisters Mary Ruth and Susan, as well as his new brother-in-law. Boy, you talk about some southern hospitality! All these girls wanted to do was feed us! Every time we'd turn around there'd be something delicious sitting on the counter just begging to be gobbled up! We got there sometime during the early morning of the 17th, and they had warm biscuits and ham, a roast, and deserts ready for us! All we could really think about was sleep, but dang, that food was good!
Once again, the venue we were at was another last minute job, and the turn out was low. Just last year The 77's had packed the place, and now.............The show had to end at 9:30PM because they turn it into a dance club, and all the kids under 21 had to leave the building literally seconds after The 77's left the stage.
The sound was truly remarkable here. Dave really had it going on, which made the experience for Mark's sisters that much more enjoyable. There was a group of teens who came to this show and stood right in front of the stage for the whole performance, which probably did wonders to their young ears, but they had a good time getting autographs outside from the guys. There were more people out on the sidewalk wanting to meet the band than there were people inside dancing (I don't remember seeing anybody dance after the concert was over).
I know that I may make it seem worse than it was, but I was getting and remain still very bummed about the lack of planning for some of the shows that went on. Nobody wants to hire a professional unit anymore when there are plenty of other so-called bands that will play for peanuts! This band has proven over and over again that they can pack venues to the ceiling! All they need is a little promotion, and bookings well enough in advance and they can make everyone involved a ton o' money. It's just that at this point in the tour...just two dates to go, I was feeling really frustrated for the guys. This was a nice BIG venue, and there were maybe 60 people there, if that. Don't get me wrong, we were thrilled the people who did come loved the show, I just get bummed thinking that there were a good 200 or more people in the area who would've come if they had known.
Enough of my sulking here.
We had planned to get a hotel for the night, had it booked and everything. Nothing, however, could stop us from accepting the invitation to stay another night at Mark's sisters! We stayed up till around 3 or 4 AM talking, joking and generally having a great time. We had a ball with them, and I hope I am able to do it again soon!
DAY 17 - September 28, 1996 - "THE RAIN KEPT FALLING - PEDAL BOARD WOES PT. 2" - Youth For Christ, Lancaster, PA - Besides the one minor technical snafu in Greenville with the microphone stands, the tour had gone rather smooth up till now. They had some 250 tickets pre-sold for this show! We even had a reporter from TLEM (The Lighthouse Electronic Magazine - an on-line CCM magazine on the Internet) there, which was a pleasant surprise! I thoroughly enjoyed talking to her!
The food was great, plenty of refreshments, a packed house, another production company with a full rig of concert lights were ready, everything was set...including the open fan vent in the rear stage wall up near the ceiling. This vent was a good 4' X 4' square with a big, powerful fan mounted inside it for circulating that muggy Pennsylvania summer air. The problem was, it wasn't summer. About an hour before Love Coma was to go on, we heard on the radio of a severe thunderstorm warning taking effect in our area. Not more than a few minutes after we heard this, there came a torrential downpour with lightning striking very close by all around us. Mark and I got stuck in the car during this (neither one of us willing to fight the rain) for a good 15 minutes. Once it started to let up, I went inside to double check everything before show time. A roadies' nightmare had come true.........the entire right side of the stage was flooded!
I immediately looked to the ground for Mike's pedal board (of course all his stuff is on the right side) to discover it sitting in a puddle of water! We had electrical cords strung all over the place, half the concert lights had shorted out, and everything on Mike's side of the stage was soaked. Chris Taylor's rack mount effect he uses for his guitar was literally half full of water! Everyone immediately started grabbing towels, blankets, whatever we could find to start soaking up the water. All of us were expecting someone to get shocked from all this standing water, but the only casualty was Curtiss' bass amp. As unfortunate as that was, we were just happy that everyone made it OK.
I took Mike's pedal board to the dressing room to see what had shorted out. Mike's eyes were as big as grapefruit when I carried in his board filled with some $2000 worth of dripping wet effects. We dried everything off and discovered that two of his most used and most important effects were not working right. After some discussion we decided to try and dry them in the oven this youth center had. So here I was 1/2 hour from the time The 7's needed to go on, and I'm sitting in front of an oven trying to dry out his effects. Thankfully, I got them both to work, but one did end up taking a crap later on in the show.
Once the concert started, it was fantastic! This was by far the best show of the tour! The crowd was totally into it, and the guys fed off of that to overcome the slippery conditions and put on the best show that I've seen the 3-piece do! They pulled out all the stops and played the longest set of the entire tour! I managed to escape my assigned position which was within earshot and throwing distance of Mike (kidding) to catch most of the encore. It was truly a great show! Not even rain can stop the guys from rockin' the flock!
DAY 18 - September 29, 1996 - BRUCE'S BIRTHDAY AND THE FINAL DATE OF THE TOUR! - Dayton, Ohio - Kurt Cosenza and his wife have a mission to bring good music to the Dayton area. They sponsor several shows a year there, and have been quite successful until Kurt's local radio show was dropped when the station got sold sometime last year. No longer having that radio audience to tell about shows, they are unfortunately having a rough time making it. Last year when The 7's came through town, they sold out! There was talk of maybe booking two shows this night if need be. It wasn't a sell-out, but a good crowd!
Everyone involved was sorta bummed that this was it, the last night of this abbreviated tour. We had all grown pretty close and were beginning to actually enjoy each other's company, for the most part. But it was the end, and all three acts performed superbly; that is until Mike's second effect died in the middle of a tune leaving me scrambling to get it out of his pedal board and get him at least some kind of noise going on.
Bruce had kept his birthday a secret from all of us (he says he forgot...Mark was the one to query), and we all gave him a birthday hug...the old man's 31 now..haha! I must admit that there were probably a million other places he would've rather been than in a bar getting hugs from a bunch of men, but he was genuinely appreciative of the affection.
I still feel bad for the Cosenzas though. They are such an awesome couple, and they treat their artists very well.........they put all of us in the Dayton Marriott and bought us dinner! No small feat considering they paid for five rooms costing $115 per night! They definitely lost money, and we hope to go back and recoup all that loss next time.
GOING HOME - September 30 - October 5, 1996 - To save money on the rental truck, I rode with Love Coma back to their homes in Texas. (A U-Haul truck was $400 less going from Texas to California than it was from Ohio; go figure.) It was a great time for me to develop some cool friendships with those guys. We had a great time together, joking around and playing The Name Game!
We stayed at Dodds' house the first night in Texas. He lives some 3 hours away from the rest of the band......imagine that commute for rehearsals! Then I stayed with Taylor and his lovely wife the next. I didn't want to come home. I loved traveling with every single one of those guys! But I did need to get back, and with yet another tearful farewell to a dear friend, I left San Antonio for another grueling drive alone.
I've learned not to say that lightning never strikes twice! This time out instead of credit cards, the band gave me $1000 cash to pay for the rental, a hotel, and gas. 150 miles out of Sacramento and at 4AM, I ran out again! I spent the night in the cab, which was by far the worst night of sleep ever, got up at 8 and started calling. I was only able to get ahold of Mark, who was extremely apologetic for this happening again. He wired me some money via Western Union, and I was finally home! I was never so glad to be rid of a rental vehicle before! The truck I had got the absolute worst gas mileage of all! But we all learned a lot from this tour, and you can bet we'll be that much more wiser next time!
I can't even begin to tell you how thankful I am to Mike, Mark and Bruce for asking me to go on this tour with them! It was literally a dream come true for me, and I am forever indebted to them for making me realize that dream. I can't imagine of any other group of guys that I'd rather travel the country with, and can't wait to do it again!
Being in a room together every night really makes you learn a lot about the person you're rooming with, and Brian Healy and I certainly learned a lot about each other. I am honored to have had the opportunity to befriend him and will remain so until the day I die.
Working with Dave again after all these years was a real treat too! He and I started out as roadies for The 7's during the Exit years, and he of course went on to join and become an integral member of the group for several years. It was nice to see that he's been doing well physically, and from what I hear he's doing quite well at home with his wife too! Good job Dave!
How do you react to people who are younger than yourself, and have more talent in their pinkie than you do in your whole body? Very carefully....just kidding. In the back of my mind, though, I am insanely jealous of the members of Love Coma. I have always dreamed of being in a band and having Mike produce the first "big" record we would record. Well, they beat me to it. Actually I'm very happy for those guys, and have made lifelong friends with all of them. They're quite a special group, and I pray for them all daily!
You already know that the purpose behind this newsletter is to promote The 77's and the projects that they may do. However, I am compelled just this once to do some promotion for some new friends. Below are the addresses for Brian Healy (Dead Artist Syndrome), and Love Coma as well as the albums each have recorded and have available. Take a minute to write them a note and order some of their recordings!
Don Bown OCTOBER 1996
Now that Steve has 77s.com up and running smoothly, he's assigned addresses to each member of the band! You can send an email to any one of the guys individually! Here's the necessary addresses for you:
Mark Harmon's email address : email@example.com
Bruce Spencer's email address : firstname.lastname@example.org
General, 77's email address : email@example.com
Fools Of The World Newsletter is produced in conjunction with 77s LTD
(C) 1996 Fools Of The World