first let me start by saying that being a guest host was a great experience, and i am grateful to have been chosen. i would do it again in a heartbeat. second, i was not alone in my guest host duties, and if not for the help of my best friend and roommate marion walsh, none of this would have been possible. she did far more work than i did, and lent her car to the cause to make it all happen. so even though she wasn't an 'official' host, she was more responsible than i was....last but not least, i will attempt to keep this brief (chuckle chuckle), so that i will not be mistaken for the idiot bastard son of some ill-fated pairing of mr. beller and mr. speiglehalter....so....well, here goes: for reasons beyond my control, i had missed the '96 tour, and while reading through various LOB entries, feeling massive guilt and remorse, i emailed bryan and offered the band a place to stay on their next trip east, explaining that it had always been a dream of mine to hear mike's notoriously loud snoring emanating from my living room...... bryan laughed and said he would put me 'on file', and warned me to be careful what i wished for..........i really didn't think much of it, and when i saw the sign for the guest host thing, i really wasn't going to apply as i figured there would be plenty of other people with better offers, and that if they needed me they'd drop me a line, but then i thought, what the heck i'll throw my name in there for kicks, and much to my surprise i was chosen.......
i snuck out of work early and made the berklee show on july 27, or 28? which wasn't really a show, in the usual sense, as it was more of a 'class/special event thing' at berklee school of music, which started about 4:30 in the afternoon. we had been informed that it was a show for 'students' only, and when i got there, the place was locked, and the folks out front were playing stupid, so i snuck out back, and wandered around. the backstage door was closed, but not really if you were determined :-) (copies of my police record will be available in the lobby after the show....hey, i'm from brockton, whaddya want?) so i "popped" the door open and went on in. in a few short steps, i was on the back of the stage, listening to what may be the most incredible sound i had ever heard in my life, which was mike and the band ripping through "day of the cow"......the funny part was, that the place was empty, and mike was about halfway back in the auditorium wailing away on his wireless system, smiling beatifically....i was about four feet from the drum kit, and i thought, wow, mike sure is giving me a warm welcome!, but then i quickly came to my senses and remembered that mike's eyesight is not so good, and i don't think he had his glasses on, so i laughed out loud, realizing he was just totally enjoying the moment and probably couldn't even see the band, never mind me!....it really was an incredible shock to suddenly be standing there amidst one of my favorite bands in the world while they were mid-song in an empty room.....i just stood there and chewed that reality sandwich for as long as i could........it was a moment i will always remember. mmmm good. ok, so enough nostalgia. i went downstairs and met scott briefly and told him amidst the chaos i was the guest host for the show on 8/15. cami was kind enough to babysit me for an hour or so, and soon i was introduced to the rest of the crew.........they were great, lovable, wonderful people, just like everyone else says, and it was really great to finally meet all of the people i had only read about and or watched from afar...i can't emphasize enough how nice everyone was....i mean sincere, down to earth, genuine goodness. ok? (i also met doctor opperman, ernesto schnack, and a few other legendary folks, and enjoyed the berklee show fully......) and so on.
i spent the next couple of weeks attempting to get things ready, and promote the august 15 show and to secure the necessary mattresses to accommodate everyone. the band was scheduled to play a clinic in worcester mass, about an hour west of boston on saturday afternoon at an e.u wurlitzer's music store. marion and i drove out there and watched the clinic, which was also awesome and great fun. highlights included jason pounding the daylights out of a tiny, oddly assembled drum 'kit' and a wonderful improv of a song called 'antelope man' (where are those tapes, spieglehalter!?) for what it's worth, the band sounded as good in this small store as they did in the auditorium a few weeks before. have i mentioned yet what amazing musicians these people are? ziegenhagen was doing that little lucky charms jig he does while playing 42nd notes with his right hand and making odd gestures in a different time signature with his other hand and smiling as though he was about to be assumed into heaven. this constitutes normality for him. bryan expounded on the merits of the henry the 8 by 8 bass cabinet. mike was mike. and so on.
i finally met mr. spieglehalter here too, which was interesting and also a little scary. :-) after the clinic, we drove back to boston, with the humble and lovable jason harrison smith riding shotgun and the rest of the entourage following behind convoy style in the other three vehicles. we stopped at the apartment and unloaded a bit, which brings me to my next hallmark moment, which was having the whole crew in my apartment. now i don't have much money, and what i do have i usually spend on music in one form or another, so i have a few different musical instruments that i have acquired, which we affectionately refer to as the musical instrument petting zoo. it was fun to watch everyone pick things up and fondle them, highlights of which included jason harrison smith's hurdy gurdy solo, bryan beller's very interesting and varied facial contortions whilst holding a dobro (tuned to sol hoopii's c#minor hawaiian!#@), and marc ziegenhagen smelling the accordian. (it has that certain 'old world' aroma, as marc put it !) which i guess you had to be there for, but it was another moment i will never forget.........luckily, thomas nordegg didn't realize that we had an actual working theremin in the other room..........
next it was off the hotel, to drop mike and scott's stuff off, and then on to the gig. this went almost without a hitch, save for the fact that most of the roads here were built by the pilgrims, and thus, we have some 'unique' traffic situations. i had emailed scott earlier in the summer, asking how tall the winnebago was going to be, but since it died, well, that was moot anyway. at any rate, we were driving along on storrow drive, when we realized that the underpass we were approaching had a clearance of about 10 feet, and we weren't certain of the truck's height.......we tried to radio back to the truck (jason was still driving with us) but they had already pulled off, and unfortunately, we were already past the exit ramp so there was nothing left to do but continue on and wonder what had become of the rest of the convoy. of course, we lost radio contact with the rest of the group, but jason remained totally calm, and never even blinked. once again i was struck by how seemingly calm and friendly everyone remained in these situations. luckily, bryan knew the area well enough from his days at berklee that he got them to the club ok, and we fell right in behind them in a nice big ass kenmore square traffic jam.
the next 'issue' was the club itself. now i don't want to get into a 'thing' here about aerosmith, they were a great band once, and i think it's great that they have a club and are trying to 'give back' to the community, but......i think it's a lot like some of the power ballads they do now for movie soundtracks: part of them means well, and part of them wants the paycheck. having said that, the 'mama kin' club is located in a glorified alley which runs behind fenway park called landsdowne street. there are various 'nightclubs' on this street, most of which are run by a group of gentlemen who belong to a 'social club', if you know what i mean. at any rate, the dolphins had the misfortune of being booked into this club on the same night that there was a red sox game. now, i don't know if you've ever had the pleasure of attending a red sox game, and far be it from me to criticize the patrons of such a wonderous event, but let me just say that many of the folks who attend these games tend to be bit on the inebriated side, shall we say, .....this, combined with a fourth grade education can be a dangerous mix.......if you know what i'm saying..
still awake? good! as we pulled onto landsdowne street it became apparent that it was going to be impossible to find a parking spot. scott informed us that the people from the club had told him that we could use their 'loading zone'. the only problem was that there were two boston police blue wooden barricade horses in several of these loading zone spots. no problem, i think, as i hop out of the car and proceed to start moving one with jason and several other people, when out of nowhere, this guy comes over and grabs jason and starts trying to throw him to the ground. it seems that this 'gentleman' was one of the owners of souvenir shop/front for organized crime next to the club, and he claimed that he 'paid' for that parking spot, and that we could not move the barricade, and for whatever reason he felt the need to explain this to jason in a physical way. i was a little 'stunned' to say the least, and was still considering my 'options' (remember my police record) when several people came to the rescue and got between jason and 'souvenir man!'....actually, i think it was mainly mike, who got right in the guys face and said 'stop that. right now!" with equal measures of anger and compassion....you had to be there, but this was really funny. the tone was priceless......! i was still looking around for a sharp object, or any sort of weapon, when who should come over but mike, which brings me to favorite moment #4 (or is it 5, i've lost track...) wherein mike proceeds to stand there and have a 'discussion' with this guy, which was absolutely priceless (again), and there is no way to give it justice here, but in essence, mike was standing there telling the guy that this was no way to handle the situation, and there are better ways to deal with things and so on. it was great. i know if i had tried that, at the very least i would' ve lost my cool, and gotten shot at or something, but here was mike, just letting the guy have it, but somehow not really making him any more pissed......very surreal. and cool in its own way. ....
ok. so we do the load in, and then everyone disappears, and i am left with marion, superfan colin from new jersey, and several really nice guys from berklee school of music who's names elude me (sorry guys) - we are asked to "guard the truck" and its contents while it's double parked........this is funny, because now, souvenir man! is six feet away on the sidewalk staring at us with bitter resentment. i smile and look back menacingly, remembering that scott had told me earlier in the day that he thought i looked like satan and had come to steal his soul :-).
so. we sit out there for a good two or three hours, and the sox game starts letting out, which brings lots of drunk bostonians out into the street... (sidenote, best line we heard while guarding the truck, drunk boy #1: "what do you 'spose is in this truck man?" drunk boy #2: "dildos").......and so on. finally, just when i'm sure a riot will ensue, all sorts of dolphins pop out of the club and we are magically moving vehicles and doing parking lot roulette and everything else under the sun.
the show finally starts, and i miss the part where jason is playing the hurdy gurdy onstage, but i try to introduce the band and politely insult those from the club and any locals responsible for the bad karma while still appearing gracious....... i was finished for about a millisecond when mike ripped into the opening notes of 'immigrant song' by zeppelin. i swear i'm not making this up, but everyone on stage was playing so hard that their hair was horizontal. really. it was like a bad mtv video with fans blowing people's hair, only there were NO fans! it was just the intensity they were playing with......it was really amazing....i suspect that all of the bad vibes the band had experienced that day were coming out on this song, and would soon come out in the rest of the show......the were two things happening: ENERGY and EMOTION. both with a capital "E".......mike was having a wrestling match with his guitar, and jason was coming out of the seat on virtually every hit of his drums. i was vibrating. nordegg glowed. colin practically imploded. awesome.
the rest of the show was just as intense. enough said.
when it was over, we loaded back out, which was also pretty funny, as the street was now packed with people who were spilling drunkenly out of other clubs......the scene was positively bacchanalian. like retarded mardi gras with a boston accent (retahdigraaa?) it was also very hot and humid, even though it was about 3 in the morning. there was a group of people who were dancing wildly to some sort of beatbox/drum machine thing that they had somehow amplified. the cops were nowhere. it was tough maneuvering through all this chaos with various pieces of equipment, but we were all led by colin, who was still bouncing around like it was 6pm and there was no place on earth he'd rather be. come to think of it, there was no place on earth i'd rather be either....... the funniest part of all this was when some girl (?) came walking along with an anatomically correct inflatable male doll of love tied to her side. really. it was about four feet tall and had a little cloth covering its 'parts'.......of course, bryan struck up a conversation with her, which was very surreal and not unlike seeing mike talk to mr. souvenir! only in a different sort of way.......this all ended with bryan performing fellatio on the anatomically correct member of the male inflatable doll of love. i told him i wouldn't tell anyone about this. i lied. (this is now referred to as the 'fellatio alger story')
we finally finished loading, and caravaned back to our apartment at roughly 4am. at this point, i think mr. nordegg needed to get more batteries at the store 24 or something, so we stopped in for 'snacks'. have i mentioned yet that mr. nordegg is my hero? he is mike keneally's sherpa. the guy has a work ethic like a puritan. he is the best. really. too cool.
so we drop everyone off at our apartment, and scott goes off to the hotel with mike and j. while marion and i drive back to brighton center to sleep at a friends' place. i think it was about 5am. when i dozed off. in an attempt to be "thoughtful", we had turned the answering machine down, and turned off the ringer on the phone, so in case anyone called us early, it would not disturb our dolphin friends. good idea, right? wrong! it turns out that mike needed to leave early to go to a clinic in pennsylvania, and would be driving with j, and cami in one vehicle, while everyone else went south to jersey where they would meet up later. the only problem was that mike, scott and j were at the hotel about two miles away, and had no idea how to get to my house to get cami. meanwhile everyone else was at my apartment, including cami, sleeping soundly........this led to a series of very funny messages on our answering machine left by mike, which i still have on tape, including a rendition of "row row row your boat" and a talk on the history of european film. good stuff. of course, i'm sure it wasn't so funny for them, but eventually, they got on the internet and got directions to our apartment, and hit the road. we arrived back home about noon, which was the earlier agreed to meeting time, only to find mr. nordegg watching candlepin bowling on tv. (don't ask, it's a new england thing) this of course caused much speculation as to whether or not mr. nordegg even went to sleep, but that's a whole other story. maybe he found the theremin?
so we spent a little time hanging out with everyone (excepting mike, cami and j,) reminiscing about our childhoods and telling grammar school horror stories, before they finally hit the road and left marion and i toasted like potato chips at about two that afternoon. i was supposed to go to a wedding. that did not happen. :-)
so if you're still with me at this point, a hearty congratulations to you. i guess this turned out to be belleresque after all.......oh well......sorry........hee hee.... all in all, i'll say that it was an incredible experience, and we had a great time having the whole crew here and meeting everyone, including all of you who i met at the shows and after....... if you've read this far, i'm sure you're already a fan of mike's music, so i won't beat a dead horse about how great it was to hear them live or how you should all buy a cd, because i guess you already know all that....soooo.......... thanks to mike and the whole gang for making the sacrifices to put this whole thing together and to keep bringing us this great music......i hope to see all of you again soon.....
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