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Steven Wilson Tour Blog 2013

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Tour Blog Part 31 : LA - Mexico City

Mexico City

The day off in Downtown LA was relaxing. I had planned to meet up with a friend who I last saw in September when we were in L.A recording 'the Raven...' album at East West studios on Sunset Boulevard. However she had to cancel so I just chilled most of the day and was not very sociable. I did get concerned however when from my hotel room I heard some screeching tyres then a very loud bang. It sounded like a nasty traffic accident. I was even more surprised when about 30 mins later I heard another screech of tyres and an equally loud bang. I thought maybe the first accident had been in a hidden spot so someone else had driven straight into them. Ouch! An hour later I heard yet another screech and bang. This was getting weird. I decided to get out of my room and go for a walk to see what downtown LA is like as I have never been here. On the next block was a whole film crew and movie cameras and lots of people milling about with megaphones. It seems that a movie for Universal was being shot right there. Some cops and robbers type thing featuring Ice T and they were filming a scene with screeching cars and an explosion. Well I guess Hollywood is just down the road, so fair enough I thought. 

I took a long walk down 7th Street, past the Jewellery district and the Fashion district. On Broadway I saw some historic movie houses that have been renovated, some as performance spaces. Some of the buildings and shops looked pretty run down, and others just old. There has been a lot of renovation however including lots of new Loft space apartments. I chanced upon an interesting alley called St Vincent's Court (photo right), which has a slightly surreal feel to it and doesn't seem to fit with neighbouring 7th St. A cobbled street mainly full of Mediterranean and European small eateries it has a quaintness unlike any of the surrounding area and feels a little like a slice of Victorian London or Paris. I did find an amazing 'Juice Crafters' bar nearby and bought what is called an 'Oh yes', which was quite delicious. I later bought a light Mexican dinner which was a) not great but OK, and b) pretty dumb considering I was flying to Mexico the next day. Seemed like the right thing at the time, though... The following morning our lobby call was 6.45 am. This is a bit of a change from getting up on the tour bus at around 10.30 am. As we were flying, we had to take all the stage equipment with us, so all the guitars, basses, pedal boards, effects, lights, microphones, stage backdrop etc had to be checked in as baggage. We needed to allow some extra time for this as it can get complicated, especially if the airport staff at check-in happen to have got out of bed on the wrong side and decide to take it out on you. So we got to LAX airport and checked in etc and thankfully it was not too bad. The flight was completely full, so although I took my tenor sax as hand luggage, there was no room for it in the overhead lockers, and the air stewardess took it from me to put it somewhere - I assumed a cupboard or something. The flight itself was 3.5 hours and was OK. When we landed that was when the fun started. First of all, I was told my tenor sax was not in a cupboard but had been put in the hold. I have heard several stories of a saxophone going into the hold of an aircraft and coming out trashed, or flattened, or separate from its case. So I was indeed concerned. Then when we got out of the plane, it took 75 minutes to get through passport control. Argh! Luckily my sax was OK, but when we reached customs they decided to ask for every case to be opened, all the equipment to be explained and listed - every pedal and lead and instrument and light, and relevant forms to be filled in. This took an extra hour. Ian our front of house sound man stepped up as acting tour manager and dealt with it all very well without visibly showing the annoyance I am sure he was feeling! 

Finally we arrived at our hotel and after briefly freshening up, a few of us went out to dinner, before strolling round the square across the road, where there was a buzzing market place. Tacos stands, jewellery, dodgy DVDs, trinkets, food and three big dance floors full of people salsa dancing the night away. Very cool. Welcome to Mexico!

St Vincent's
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Tour Blog Part 30 : San Francisco - Club Nokia, Los Angeles, California

Adam and Theo
Club Nokia
The gig at the Fillmore is the last one with Marco (at least for a while), so it gave it an extra poignancy. Plus of course it is such a classic venue. You cannot but be humbled walking around the backstage area, seeing posters of Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, King Crimson, Sly Stone, the Mahavishnu Orchestra etc etc. So it was going to be a special gig. When we hit the stage it was interesting to see all the familiar faces of the fans we had met and spoken to at the Amoeba Records performance and signing. I felt like I knew half the audience! And there was the girl with the Steven Wilson tattoo on her arm in the middle of the front row. Maybe I should not be surprised because it was San Francisco but I do believe I could smell dope wafting across the stage during the show.

The gig felt good and relaxed. The advantage of doing 70 plus shows with the same band is that you become very comfortable with the material, even when it is complicated music. So you can relax more and feel less and less tense about forgetting something or not being able to play a certain part correctly. And for the improvised solo sections, you dig deep to find different things to play each night, because I generally want to repeat myself as little as possible. I can only remember one time in my life when I played the exact same solo each night, and it was when I filled in to help out a Pink Floyd tribute band called 'In the Flesh' for about 8 gigs in 2010. The job there was to play Dick Parry's solos on 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' and 'Money' note for note and to be honest I was more than happy to do so as I had known those iconic sax solos since childhood and always loved them. In fact when I first started out, I am sure I stood in my bedroom and played the 'Shine on..' sax solo along with the record 'Wish You Were Here' pretending I was in Pink Floyd. My version of the solo is on youtube actually. I think it is not bad (even if I do say so myself)... see video:

The coach home


However, I digress... After the SF gig I went out with Nick to sign CDs and programmes and meet and greet. It was good to meet fans and get feedback on everything. Then there was a backstage 'hang' with various friends of the band. I had the pleasure of meeting the third member of Marco and Guthrie's band the Aristocrats - Bryan Beller who is an excellent bass player and a very nice chap to boot. Also there was the very talented Mike Keneally who is playing with Marco and Bryan in the Joe Satriani Band. Innerviews writer Anil Prasad and his wife and a friend were there too. 

This was to be our last night on the tour bus as from LA on, it is to be all planes and hotels. After the LA gig we fly to Mexico, then to Chile, then to Brazil. I have got used to the bus and sleep fine on it. It is also nice being able to sleep in in the mornings and have your little travelling house (photo right) with you on the road and backstage too . So we drove overnight to LA and in the morning left the bus for our hotel which we are in for 2 nights. After checking in and relaxing for a bit, it was off to the Nokia Theatre for soundcheck and gig. Chad Wackerman was back with us now, so we had an extra long soundcheck for him to run through some of the songs. After all, this is complicated music and he has not played with us for nearly a month. Amazingly he has now learnt all the music off by heart and was to play without any reminder notes to refer to. The soundcheck was fine although I was not sure how it was going to be without Marco. There was then hours of waiting around until the gig. This was a little dull as the gig was a late one and we were not going on till after 9pm. 

The gig itself was surprisingly good. We wondered if the audience would be a bit "LA" and laid back, but they were very responsive. Steven talked a lot on the microphone and was very funny. He mentioned before we went on that this is the last English speaking audience for this part tour, so he thought he would go that extra mile with the chat and anecdotes. He is very good at all of that. Chad was absolutely superb. Not only had he learnt all the parts perfectly, he played with a lot of fire and added his own personal sound and groove to the songs. Very impressive and we all commented afterwards what enjoyable gig it had been.

In the VIP lounge it was good to see Rob Trujillo again. He is the bass player with the band Metallica, knows Nick and is a big fan of this band. He was raving about our gig when he came to the show last year at the House of Blues, LA and he thought tonight had taken it up a level. When a member of Metallica, who are one of the heaviest bands on the planet, thinks your band really rocks, that is one heck of an endorsement! Alan Parsons and his band also came along too, though by the time I got to the party, they had already left. Oh well. So day off now, then off to Mexico. Hola amigos!

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