Sunday, 17 April 2011

Massey Hall and the Hammer of CAL

the day was a flurry of events
load in at 11
break at 1
soundcheck at 2
dinner at 5
then putter around backstage and discuss things about the album
cues and such
things we already knew but liked talking about anyway
- watch mark for the breaks in 'four sticks'
- don't blow too hard on the recorders
- watch the volume on the third mandolin on 'evermore'
we knew our stuff

when the band walked on stage
i felt relaxed
rich hagen was beside me on the soundboard
i describe his mix as a warm blanket
he worked alongside the massey crew the entire day
tweaking and organizing different aspects of the overall sound
i've left a trail of broken sound techs in my wake
rich is the best
the best
i'll say it again
the best

backstage at massey hall is fun
there's two different wings of dressing rooms and green rooms
you can always find an interesting conversation
or a confirming flash of excitement
fifteen minutes before the show
the band were joking around
i knew they were ready

many of you know this
but nicky had a bad motorcycle accident a month ago
and the scars and bruises are still lingering
i wanted him in the best shape possible
so he stayed with my at my house for the week
coffee and fruit
jokes and laughs
most importantly rest
i served him breakfast in bed a couple times
my son has a pet snake that i showed him one night
we didn't replace the lid on the cage properly
and the snake escaped
this caused a bit of fear
nicky doesn't like snakes
i told him not to worry
the snake will probably crawl up his ass in the night
and then we can wash it off and put it back in the cage
but i think the thought of that rattled him
at the rehearsals he was holding back
i could tell he was saving it all for the show

the rehearsals were amazing
having all the guitar players in the room together was an experience
it was a joy to watch them play alongside each other
respectful of the others sound
i would ask one of them to turn up
or down
or either trim or add a little dirt
they were all graceful
and soared out colour after colour

my favourite part of the evening was at around 7:45
i peeped out
and there was a bunch of people - lots of kids
all pressed up against the stage
looking at all the guitars and gear
we don't use guitar techs
it's nice to see all the instruments displayed
during the show i think it's kind of humbling to see the guys
move their own stools into place
and tune their own guitars
it's like no one but the band is allowed on that stage during the show
there's an undefinable quality to little things like this
something canadian about it
no pomp and circumstance
we're not precious
we can move our own gear

the album was flawless
the vibe in the hall was concrete and cool
when i got on stage to introduce the band
i was amazed at how many people were there
i remember ricky looking for kids in the audience
and throwing them drum sticks
and i remember nicky hugging me
and i whispered 'welcome to massey hall'

we went deep for the second set
i didn't want obvious hits
i wanted to show the depth of zep
and the supreme ability of the musicians
'the rain song' was a show stopper
no where else in the history of led zeppelin
will you hear that song performed with such precision
then we went into our acoustic set
'bron y aur stomp'
no one does this song
it was fun to see people reacting the four other guitar players
on the back riser - getting the hand claps together
who would have thought that 5 guys clapping would be such a joyous event

i can relay little sonnets about each of the songs
but i think the overall feel of the evening eclipsed one songs performance
something special happened that last night
i'm still kissing the memory of it all

it was back to my place for the after party
this is becoming the tradition
food and drink and hugs and backslaps
everyone remembered laughter
it was 5am when we wrapped things up
i lifted the needle off the nazareth's greatest hits album
and i hear music coming from the basement
there were two of ricky's friends down there still spinning vinyl
they had 'some girls' playing
we called them a cab
they left happy
it was that kind of a night

the zep band are the goodwill ambassadors of CAL
they spread love via riffs
they bind people via sirens
they inspire people via memory
today they've all been sending emails to one and other
thanking each other and defining the evening
i'm still up
proud of what we've all accomplished
not just the band
but the music lovers that come to the shows
and celebrate these albums
these incredible works of art
this is an important thing we all take part in

craig martin
april 18, 2011
leftover pasta and beer

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