Sleep right through a wake-up call (I vaguely recall picking up a phone) and get a call from Rich at 11:09...nine minutes after lobby call. Grumble. Scrape together all my carry-on stuff which is scattered all over, throw on my clothes and hit the lobby; good, Steve and Pia are just now checking out. Shit. I left two shirts up in the closet. Run up, run down, into the car. Steam escaping from the ears of a fellow member of our touring unit due to my tardiness. Reach the bullet train station, dodge some fans and arrive on the platform with ten minutes to spare. Purchase a completely rewarding little food assortment, get on the train and, after initial confusement about whether or not we're on the right train at all, settle in and consume the food. A messy way to achieve bullet trainosity to be sure, but all's well that ends.
Listen to my new Prince boot during the ride - awesome. Steve's jealous - and the first 2 1/2 CDs of the Costello/Nieve box and boy howdy!, a three-hour train ride is thus dealt with. I take the front seat in the car from the train to the hotel, a rare occurence. Our driver points out the Diet Building on the way. Up to my room, with a slim 45-minute window to get cleaned up, and back into the car to go to the gig. The last couple of days: zoom.
Ruta's here! She shares the ride to the gig with us band member guys. On the table is the topic of our touring schedule for the weeks to come. Mike angles for as little time off as possible, I want (need) time with my daughter and in a recording studio. I wouldn't mind three weeks between this leg and South America, Mike is unenthusiastic about that suggestion. Ruta says that South America may well come before Europe which runs counter to what we have believed to be true, and relates tales of woe regarding the loser booking agent in Europe. One of us has actually had prior experience with the guy and we strongly suggest discarding him.
We arrive at the gig, I consume the now-customary tuna sandwich, and a fellow member of the touring unit gets worked up while telling me about this guy who'd told a good friend of the touring unit member that this guy had heard from some industry people that the touring unit member had been talking shit about this guy, and the touring unit member knew that I had spoken with this guy at a big industry-type shindig and wanted to know if anything had been said and I assured the touring unit member that all this guy had wanted to talk about was himself.
I'm the only one on stage for a good portion of the soundcheck and I have fun playing. But my back is killing me. I'm hoping that if I treat myself respectfully all will be well. My long history of treating myself with profound disrespect bodes not well for this scheme.
At Mangini's request, sushi has begun to be placed in the catering room before the show. In Osaka I indulged with great vim, but today I conserve stomach room for the upcoming Kobe beef extravaganza.
Across the hall from the dressing room, the restroom contains a toilet. The flush of it culminates in a rewardingly flatulent gurgle which makes me laugh for five and a half minutes. Richard captures it on DAT at my urging.
In the dressing room I change into my stage clothes behind a large green dividing screen to protect my bandmates from exposure to my troubling girth. A member of our touring unit flies into a little rage about not having sufficient dressing room area to call their own and flings unwarranted lacerating sarcasm at Pike. But shortly thereafter the usual unbridled exuberance takes hold, and good thing - this is an important show (sold out, thank goodness) and we ought to be at our best.
All goes well. My "Moment" is Roger's fave "Moment" of the tour thus far, he liked its "pulse". All the bits of the show are good. Good band, this 'un. I still muck up the transition from the end of "San-San" into the traditional show-ending lick, and pledge wanly not to do the same at the next show, which will also be in Tokyo.
During the slam dance in "Attitude" I feel my back really go. After the show I prevail upon Pia to assist in the acquisition of magic back magnets (quite pricy in LA, they can be had for a song or two in Tokyo). Others queue up for Piatic assistance in this endeavor.
Following the show we're supposed to get ourselves out of the venue quickly in order to prepare for dinner with Mr. Udo. A supposed Sony meet 'n' greet (during which I hope to prevail upon someone, anyone, to load me down with free Miles Davis shit) lobs a spanner into those works, but ultimately no Sony people are either met or gret, and valuable minutes are squandered waiting for meeting and greeting to take place before I finally haul my ravaged back out to the van. Back at the hotel I ought to swab the show filth from my skin in a warm tub, but there's only a 15-minute turnaround and I literally can't move that quickly. I sit stock-still in a straight-backed chair and watch CNN until it's time to go again.
At which point a fleet of cars whisks us to the restaurant of copious beef. My back and my mounting homesickness have conspired to make me forlorn, but one Asahi and sake into the occasion, accompanied by the sights and smells of food expertly prepared, and I'm warm and happy and prompted to initiate the following exchange with Steve:
MK: You know what I like about this?
And there is much to enjoy, from the fabulous food itself, to the scintillating company, to the fascinating discussions including one regarding Johnny Mathis' apparently massive wang, to basking in Mr. Udo's legendary status and enjoying his tales of his many years in the business. He's a VERY young-looking 66; started in the biz 40 years ago, booking the Mills Brothers. The Mills Brothers provided the soundtrack to every Long Island house party of my childhood. Sigh.
After the meal: I'm sitting in the front seat of the car, with no-one behind me, which enables me to lay the seatback completely flat. It is in this position that I, along with my bandmates, am transported to a roadside photo booth to have passport photos done. It's an absurd mission for this time of night anyway, and the fact that we're all drunk and in a strange locale make us all as giddy as anything. Magee tries to videotape interviews with nearby prostitues, Mangini shrieks like a banshee, and I have my photos done: with my matted, hatless short hairdo, oddly tilted head and insolent expression I end up looking like four early publicity photos of Bruce Willis.
After another brief hotel respite, and a bit of a kip to sleep off some sake, I awaken (still drunk) and hail a cab to the Lex where many of my friends are in full force. Quiet night tonight though. I'm happy to drink JD from the bottle and be quietly amused by the mating antics of others of my species, although when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" miraculously slices through the incessant disco kick-drum I'm forced to take to the dance floor and do something about it. Video footage exists.
The ride in the van back to the hotel is quite outstanding as well. We're well-lubed and rowdy. A married couple had propositioned one of our touring unit and he declined to go home with them, prompting general accordance from most of us but bitter, corruscating derision from me, and I have fun teasing him. At a stop light Mangini and I stand up and put our heads through the open sun roof and find that we are in the midst of a sea of on-duty taxicabs, all their lights glowing, beautiful and eerie. There must be at least sixty of them. I shout extremely loudly: "Ah, are there any CABS around here? We have, we have some friends who need a CAB around now. Um, would it be possible to find a CAB?"
I sleep good and long tonight.
Awaken and ready myself just in time to get to another room in the hotel where a gentleman from "Young Guitar" interviews me. He'd met me previously, at Z rehearsals, and has a large reservoir of intelligent questions. There's a Sony rep present but she vacates the premises before I can ask her my very important Miles Davis question.
Thus thrust into the most acquisitory of moods, I cab it to Wave and do precisely what you knew I'd do all along: plunk down about $100 for the Coltrane Village Vanguard sets. And you think I won't buy the US Impulse! version when they eventually remaster the whole batch and stick it all in a pretty box with new artwork and liner notes? Pity me.
Happy van ride to the gig. Catering and dressing rooms precisely adjacent to one another. Last show in Japan = one more tuna sandwich for the road. The potato chips, Mangini notes, are especially brown and well-cooked today.
The soundcheck is expedient; we've had the same monitor guy for all the Japanese shows so he's got the moves pretty well dicked, although he still displays an unfortunate tendency to adjust volume levels as though he's manipulating the wheel of a pirate ship, so that while any one of us is proclaiming what a genius the monitor guy is, another one of us might well be wishing to hold him underwater by the neck and squeeze the life from him.
Oh! Indian food before the gig! Good Lord is it good. During dinner Gungi expresses his concerns about the potential for mistreatment of Pia in Malaysia if a fundamentalist Muslim should take humbrage at her attire, and the possibility of her bypassing the country entirely and flying directly to Singapore, as Ruta is doing, is discussed. Pia decides to deal with Malaysia (and receives no grief whatsoever from anyone during her stay there).
We turn out a very fine last show in Japan. I'm especially pleased with the "Moment" although Roger prefers the previous night's "Moment", with its legendary "pulse". I, of course, screw up my final chance to get the "San-San"/show-ending lick transition right (as Mangini later says, I "broke the end of the show"), but any lingering disappointment at my lameness is obliterated when Steve and I hear, from behind us as we exit the stage, Mangini's final words to the audience, delivered in full "Skipper" voice: "Biddip...GILLIGAN!" The idea that this utterance is, in effect, our parting shot to Japan keeps Steve and I in stitches for a minimum of fourteen minutes.
Seeing Pike's approximately $8,000,000 worth of free bootlegs laid out on a table (he'd weaseled them out of a nearby bootleg shop earlier in the day) reignites my resolve to get those fucking Miles CDs. I hunt down "Death Rider" (a Sony product manager), describe what I want and give him an address to which they may be sent. (Upon my arrival at home I find a large envelope containing eight of the Miles CDs. Thank you, Death Rider.) Also tonight I meet a representative from Sobbat, who make wonderful effects pedals, and he turns me onto a completely bitchin' vibrato/chorus pedal, which will make its presence known on the next Keneally record.
Pretty congested autograph-seeker scene in the catering room. It's an appropriate way to wind up this jaunt. Apart from Kawasaki I was wholly pleased with all of the crowds. I'd come back.
Post-gig carousing: Mangini requires a burger. Sadly Johnny Rockets is chosen and Mike must wait 20 minutes before being granted the privilege of consuming a ten dollar burger. It's Friday and thus the scene at the Lex is predictably crazed. I'm immersed in conversation with one of the less extroverted of the models, Melissa, all of 18 years old (good God). She's an intelligent, thoughtful sort, and we provide each other with diversion for a while. She exits, and I turn my attention to securing unchallenged control of an entire bottle of Jack Daniels. I succeed in this task, and behave very badly until about 7:00 AM. Wake-up call is at 8:15. A fool is all that I am.
At 8:15 I don't particularly feel great. Have some fun in the lobby, though, interacting with a conquest of a fellow member of the touring unit - her retrieving an apple husk from an ashtray and taking a hearty bite is an especially indelible image - but apart from that brief entertainment I'm, for all intents and purposes, dead. Yet, amazingly, it is during the the interminable drive which connects the hotel to the airport that my brain, swimming in still-unprocessed alcohol and crippling self-loathing, poots forth the concept of "Spokey The Sad Monkey". Spokey is a monkey who has been forced by fate to live inside a large wheel and spin for all eternity, helpless to alter his destiny, and all he can say is "Eee". This sends Mike and I down deep into the pain of utter hysteria; we laugh and laugh. Magee does not understand.
During the desperately unpleasant pre-boarding-waiting-for-luggage-and-shit-to-be-dealt-with period, lovely Pia provides a beam of happiness in my life when she makes a gift of the cherished back magnets, which are dispensed among we strung-out pain sufferers as though they were tabs of morphine.
I got some yen to spend, and do so, on a "German hot dog", a "Tuna and Cheese sandwich" and a "Coke". I cram them joylessly into my self-loathing head.
Once on the plane I assist Mike with the basic outline of the first beloved "Spokey" tale. Then I pass out and Mangini, solo, pens the entire first draft, complete with hysterically appropriate raw cover drawing. Mangini wants me to refine his writing but I love it as is. It renders Roger helpless with laughter. I sleep more, occasionally rousing slightly to squint in the direction of "Phenomenon" on the movie screen before returning to Slumberville.
Our car breaks down on the way to the hotel, but is quickly repaired.
Kuala Lumpur has these lovely tree-shaped colored light things all about, and a couple of Twin Towers which we think might be the tallest structures in the world but we're not sure. It is also as hot and as humid as seventeen individually packaged and hermetically sealed bags of fuck. Off comes Keneally's omnipresent lengthy leather coat, and off it shall stay for the longest time.
Once we are ensconced in our rooms, we unensconce ourselves and venture to the connected-to-the-hotel Hard Rock Cafe, site of tomorrow's performance, to eat and drink gratis, be completely smitten by our waitress Azca and enjoy the cover-song stylings of the Filipino band Soulid. Their repertoire is either spunky modern female rock (the lead vocalist who isn't a man does wicked Alanis, Gwen and Dolores rips) or Toto songs, both of which they pull off beautifully.
Philip and I check out the convenience store 'cross the street, then push ourselves through the humid air in the general direction of the Twin Towers, which turn out to be inaccessible to the public during this construction period. But the exercise is good and the walk provides ample time for the sort of discussion which a pair of 35-year-olds on the road trying to remain well-defined and useful organisms in a difficult world are likely to conduct.
My hours are all fucked. It'll be interesting to see what my body tries to do about it. Back in the room I turn on the TV. It's an "ALF" TV-movie. All righty then, I'll get out the Coltrane. Wound the mini-bar only slightly, probably asleep by 12:30 AM.
Up at, er, 6:00 AM. Write for a bit, fall asleep. Awaken, listen to Coltrane. Dawdle. Walk over to the Hard Rock for a supposed 10:30 AM soundcheck before the restaurant opens. A laughable concept but there's nothing to do but wait, so food is ordered and two jumbo-sized Carlsberg Elephant Reds consumed before noon. Let's get the day off to a proper start, shall we? I sneak away to phone Viv and Jesse and send my dear daughter off to bed with a couple of rounds of "Itsy Bitsy Spider".
Soundcheck is finally achieved, in front of a full house of ear-clutching diners, and winds down around 1:30. Another hour of nap before the grand Steve Vai press conference takes place. Only six reporters present, but that means six potential interviews Steve won't have to deal with individually, which is good. Also, this way, we all get to play for a change. I'm not at all convinced that any of the assembled media reprentatives know the difference between me and a small patch of brown liquid until one of them asks if it's difficult having two guitar virtuosos in the band. Steve, as usual, is absurdly kind in his comments about me, and I learn things that I hadn't known before, such as that Frank had told Steve as early as 1987 that I was a force to be reckoned with. Nice.
I tool around the hotel shopping arcade for a minute, then return to my room, then return to the Hard Rock for phase two of the soundcheck (Steve is in attendance, which he wasn't for phase one) which takes place in front of yet more startled luncheon patrons. We keep it to a minimum.
The rhythm section fellers are keen to embark on a shopping expedition, but Gungi hasn't had time to do our per diems, and the only cash I've got on hand is $40 worth of Taiwanese, which is so much birdcage liner according to every place we've visited since. I tell the lads that I must wait until Gungi's got cash in hand and head roomward, a nifty excuse for yet another kip.
The Gungster awakens me me with the phone call of destiny, dosh is collected, a little chunk thereof is transferred to the local ducat of choice, and it's off into the balmy day to look for a mall, or just anywhere interesting. We walk into a disco called "Warp" and walk out again. We're delighted to spy Spokey's larger Malaysian cousin atop a marquee, and marvel at the ubiquitous presence of the words "Jalan Bukit Bintang" on the street signs, words which will soon loom large in Mangini's and my mythology.
We find the big green mall at an intersection festooned with orange lamps like so many Long Island patio party lights. Pink buses labeled "Bas Mini" dart here and there. Once in the mall we all realize that we don't want to buy anything, and we walk from floor to floor looking about. I am amused by a sign which advertises "Cup of Corn". By far the coolest store in the joint is one stocked entirely with late-night infomercial junk - for people who just can't wait 6-8 weeks for their own special piece of shit to arrive in the mail.
Roundly tired of shopping after half an hour, we exit the mall, signing a few autographs out in front (how do they know who we are?). Philip opts to hoof it back to the hotel; Mangini, the lately acquired Pike (we found him in the mall) and I figure out how taxi stand etiquette works and I photograph a couple of Bas Minis while waiting for a cab. Philip is just walking in the front door of the hotel as our cab pulls up in front.
Pike and I head straight to the Hard Rock for dinner, where we are joined by various other members of the entourage and the radiant young Azca wreaks havoc upon our fractured libidos. Pike is proud of a "schlepper" he purchased at the mall for 20 bucks, and Gungi predicts that the bag will fall to pieces within a week. Magee proudly displays his new watches - one of them a "Rolex" - purchased on the street for about 30 dollars. My fajitas are goooood. A gentle man, friend of an email buddy of mine named Paul, pops by and joins me to discuss the need for Malaysian Keneally distribution.
One more chance to hit my room for some rest and Coltrane before the gig. Have a bath, put on my Vai suit, get in character and saunter gigward.
The first gig of our three-show Asian Hard Rock Cafe mini-tour is a great deal of fun. It's raw and sweaty, and the audience, while greatly enthused, is also greatly well-behaved (although some bastard makes off with Philip's Sobbat bass distortion pedal). We trim the set to 90 minutes, and this becomes our official Hard Rock Cafe set. My Marshall does its job and the rented D-50 has some very nice patches - always interesting to compare disparities in synth programming from region to region. Our stage sound is tight and good. Varrin agrees with me that the show has a very appealing, almost punk-ish energy, probably as close to a good Clash performance as a Vai show is likely to get.
"Backstage" is actually a large office downstairs. Before the show Steve did a TV interview down here, and afterward he presents the club with a Pia-made outfit, extracting a promise that they'll actually display the thing. I gratefully accept a bag of swag (a clean T-shirt!). A couple of Carlsbergs, an Evian and a little bag of cookies are also tucked into the swag bag, and it's time to retire for the evening.
Pack bags and leave them outside the door, a reflex action which prompts a telephoned warning from the front desk to take them inside until the bellman arrives in the morning - we're not in Japan anymore, Toto. Phil comes by to purloin one of my beers and we briefly continue our discussion of the night before. Round about 2:30 AM I break out the journal and prepare to wax eloquent. I pass out instead.
Awaken, bathe, check out. Steve and Pia wake up five minutes before lobby call, and Steve makes the announcement that wake-up calls will be standard policy from this moment on. Another hot, sticky day it is. Manage to arrive at the airport without the car exploding and it's a snappy flight to Singapore.
Betcha by golly wow but Singapore Airport is a beautiful place. Turns out, it's indicative of Singapore at large (as are the air hostesses on Singapore Airlines, reducing the bunch of us to quivering fleshsacks of testosterone yet again). I'm pretty sad, during the overwhelmingly scenic ride to the hotel, not to be spending more time here. The hotel itself is breathtaking - the view upwards from the lobby, 25 circular floors extending forever, is Gilliam in extremis.
3:30 lobby call. I got a few hours - hey, I'll get some more sleep! Wake up at 4:00. BONK.
Although Michael had phoned me at 3:00 to awaken me, I slipped right back to sleep and didn't get another call. By the time I reach the lobby, Michael and Philip are, of course, long gone, and the attempt by a bellman to assure me that they haven't left yet provides only a confusing and completely wrong dead end. It appears I'll need a taxi, and it further appears that I'll need to change some money. I've got the equivalent of about $12 in my pocket, which should suffice for a cab, so I'm directed to a money changer in the small mall connected to the hotel (rather a shabby mall to the beneficiary of umbilical association with such a sparkling hotel). Once there I spy a line on the exchange rate board for Taiwanese currency. Score! I must go to my room to get my previously unexchangable Taiwanese dough. Passing through the lobby towards the elevator bank I'm directed by a bellman toward a figure near the front entrance - it's the driver who's here to pick up Steve at 4:30, and he's been instructed to collect me as well. Very well, this gives me about fifteen minutes to do the money exchange. In my room to gather the cash, I pause to give Steve a call and let him know that I'll be sharing his ride. But maybe not, as it turns out - his scheduled MTV interview is running late, and he won't be ready to leave by 4:30. Hmm. I change the money, and inform the waiting driver of Steve's unready state. His brief is to pick up Vai first and foremost; if I want to get the gig right now, this fellow is constitutionally unable to act as conduit. His cel phone is called to action and Natalie, the comely lass who is representing the Hard Rock during our foray in this land, is summoned. The end result, which is that Natalie drives me herself and we spend a leisurely ride gaily topic-hopping, is far more pleasant than I would have imagined possible when this primarily disconcerting episode first got underway.
Yet another comely lass, Brenda, brings me plates of free Hard Rock food. Despite my most appalling lateness, my presence is not immediately required on stage (is there a lesson to be learned here? Is that lesson that the band doesn't really have to be at the venue as early as we usually arrive?), so I chew on a club sandwich and admire the clock/calculator and lighted-tip pen which Sony Singapore has kindly awarded each member of our entourage. Finally I take to the stage. Another D-50, this one stuffed with unimaginative, reed-thin patches. Another Marshall, sounds something like a Marshall although to my ears it doesn't seem to be projecting very effectively, even though I'm right next to it. It is as perfunctory a soundcheck as is possible and I return to my interrupted lunch; after signing a couple of autographs I'm asked to move my culinary base of operations to another room, equipped with full bar, which although nowhere near the stage is masquerading as our "backstage" area for the duration of the event. Sit with Ruta and the Vais and discuss the myriad opportunities Singapore offers for an inveterate shopper (which I suppose I am, since Steve was sufficiently impressed by my enthusiasm for malls to include a mention of it in the profile he wrote about me in the tour book). It has begun to rain; when a Hard Rock honcho remarks that the weather is good, Ruta's "It IS?!" is resoundingly insolent. Steve has to go to a nearby Tower records for an in-store appearance; the band is scheduled to return to the Concorde Hotel but I ask to be taken to Tower as well, so I can at least see something of this beautiful region beyond the hotel and the venue. And of course the fact that this "something" is a record store is not exactly offensive to me.
A very sizable thing, throng-shaped, has gather at Tower and I browse happily as they queue for Steve's John Hancock. I happen across two copies of "Dust Speck" and photograph them, only to be instantly reprimanded by a store employee for taking pictures of CDs. I focus my mind on deducing precisely to what nefarious purpose one might apply a photograph of Tower Records stock; I fail. I lust in front of the well-endowed jazz box-set display, and buy a pair of magazines - the issue of "Empire" with Elizabeth Hurley glaring from the cover is a must-have.
During the drive from Tower to the hotel, Steve and I verbalize our fascination with the palpable effect that rampant censorship and extreme regulation of such pasttimes as spitting, littering, swearing and gum-chewing has had on Singapore. At first glance, at least, the benefits seem undeniable, and as the U.S. becomes ever more mired in ugliness and killing (and as the case for its art being ever a mirror, never a catalyst becomes ever more unconvincing), the seeming paradise of Singapore, with its unsullied vistas and (according to our guide) two murders annually, provide food for deep and troubling thought in the mind of a left-leaning, free-speech-boostering American rock 'n' roll performer.
Back at the hotel I laze around on the enormous bed, thumbing the magazines before luxuriating in a too-bubbly-by-half bubble bath. When Gungi calls to say that I'm needed in the lobby to go to the gig, my voice betrays no concern, despite the fact that I'm half asleep in the bathtub and all naked and foamy. I towel off and dress up and am in the lobby within four minutes, all smiles.
While Steve was signing assorted throng-things at Tower, Pia was off shopping and returned with a gift for me, a Chinese multicolored tam replete with red tassels and one long black braid. When I wear both it and my clip-on sunglasses, I become this other guy, a very aloof guy. Sitting backstage with my journal I am this guy, although Keneally comes out momentarily to warmly greet Rita, a Hard Rock employee for 26 years, the longest tenure of anyone. Magee videotapes her for a spell, then feigns running out of tape when he grows tired of her tales; fucking guy's got no respect.
The new guy whom I am comes in very handy during the show. The room could not be more packed - it is in fact filled well beyond capacity - and from the opening taped explosion the crowd is swarming, pushing, lifting each other aloft. It looks like it might be fun until people start spilling onto the stage, landing on and disabling our pedalboards. At the sight of the first security guard truncheon, my brain shuts off. I want only to lay down my instrument and leave; if it were my show I would, but for Steve's sake I bustle through the motions soullessly. I try to force myself to give my best for the audience, to place myself in their shoes and feel their excitement, but I might as well be masturbating to an 8x10 glossy of Regis Philbin for all the passion this gambit stirs within me. Steve, to his credit, halts the proceedings twice when things get really out of hand, but for the most part he runs through his paces by rote, as I am, and for once I'm forced to ponder whether consummate showmanship is an entirely admirable trait. I know first-hand of Steve's genuine humanity, and I guess I would have been comforted to see more of it applied to this extreme situation. But that is a matter of degrees and is, of course, not mine to judge.
Afterwards I sit backstage and drink directly from a pitcher of beer. I'm given another bag of Hard Rock swag and see that my name, as written on the paper sack, is "Mike Keneauy". This becomes the name of the guy with the tam and the shades, the guy I was forced to be on stage tonight. The beer improves my demeanor and I attack a tray of veggie fajitas. Pia was also appalled at tonight's spectacle, and the physical damage being inflicted on the front-row people (who had no control over where the flow of the swarming mass placed them) by the security guards. A practical suggestion is offered: the fans should simply be beaten as they enter the venue. I get drunker and tell Chris Varrin, or "Chrid" as his bag would have it, how much I really enjoy littering, I'll buy a dozen donuts just so I can toss 'em out the car window. Phil wants to know where this evil Mike came from - hey, it's just Mike Keneauy. A line of autograph-seekers is led in and Mangini and I giggle madly at Mike's suggestion that instead of signing autographs we should simply draw a big "5" on each fan's forehead.
I suggest to Steve that the unleashed chaos of tonight's audience might actually be a negative by-product of all those things which we originally perceived to be good about the repressed society that is Singapore. The suggestion rings true to him.
At the hotel, I've no interest in sleeping once I find the radio station which plays only one tremendously majestic and haunting song over and over, and I devote hours to transcribing it, interspersed with writing a postcard to Viv and Jesse (the second in a series to feature a drawing of a spider for Jesse's edification; this one's "happy"), writing in the journal, magazine perusing and taking a very long bath - there are radio speakers in the bathroom, so I can allow the song, as well as the very idea of there existing a radio station devoted to playing only it and no other, to continue haunting me as I daub off show filth.
I do not sleep tonight.
By 4:00 AM Pia has left to catch a flight to LA - 'bye darling. at 4:45 AM I hit the Melting Pot restaurant for the breakfast buffet, where Gungi, who has also gotten not a jot of sleep, holds court. The buffet is mine to plunder.
'Round about 6:30 we check out and Natalie escorts us to the airport. Work visas for these Hard Rock gigs are, for some reason, not being obtained until after all the shows have actually taken place, so we are instructed to tick the "holiday" box rather than the "business" box on our embarkation cards. For this particular flight we're also instructed to invent new occupations for ourselves. I opt for something of a basis in fact and declare myself to be a writer. Bynoe is a cobbler. Mangini is a choreographer.
Jakarta is arguably even more stunningly gorgeous than Singapore. The Hilton where we stay takes the breath away, not with the opulent flash of Taipei, but with sprawling, eclectic ethnicism which seems to stretch for miles. Taipei greeted us with flowers and a frantic photo-op; Jakarta provides a welcome more appropriate for a weary group of wanderers such as we: we're led directly to an executive lounge where we're offered juice, newspapers, a comfortable seat and a calm set of surroundings, before heading off at our individual leisures to our individual rooms. It has the feel and function of a cushily-appointed decompression chamber, and it sits very well with me.
I regret now having gotten no sleep the night before. I long for the strength to explore the hotel and its environs. But the second king-size bed in a row is more than merely a temptation, it's a necessity. Click on the Cartoon Network, remain arguably conscious through Quick Draw McGraw (a "dog biscuit" episode) and Augie Doggie (a "nature" episode). I don't remember having ever before seen the third Hanna-Barbera creation which is placed on display: through fogged eyes I see a too-cool, soft-spoken cat detective (a detective who is a cat) piloting a helicopter. A minute into it I am out, out, out.
Awakened five hours later by Rich Pike on the phone. Five minutes to lobby call, time to go to the gig. Grum, BLE. Hang out in the lobby waiting for all stragglers, trying to converse, barely functional.
The people of Jakarta fucking drive like mental patients and we have and exciting drive to the Hard Rock. The venue is festooned with banners reading "Steve Vai". That's great. What's not is that they also each bear a "Lucky Strike" logo. I gaze upon these banners while lunching with the rhythm section. Some Zappa fans come over and have me sign a load of stuff. During soundcheck I have fun tantalizing them with snippets of FZ tunes. The avowed goal is to make soundcheck as perfunctory as can be - Steve is not even attending - but it goes on and on and on, everything sounds awful, and the soundcheck stops only because Roger does - he simply can't continue working under these conditions. I cheer up Rog by launching into a bizarre routine about Iron Man actually being a really friendly, chatty sort ("Hi! I am Iron Man! Yeah, the name's Man, Iron Man! How's it going?") which spins out of control until we're portraying Iron Man late in his career, going on talk shows to trot out his beloved catchphrase while the house combo plays big-band arrangements of his theme song. The scenario cheers us all up considerably (Bynoe's contribution: "You've met my cousin, Mr. Tambourine?") as does the beauty of the ride home, the sight of a near-palacial Sizzler restaurant, the continued presence of the word "Bintang" in our lives, and yelling at the smiling, uncomprehending driver to "Stop. Stop. Stop! Stop!! STOP!!!" when Bynoe wants to get out of the way-back of the car and shift to a grownup car seat.
Phil, Mike, Magee and I investigate the hotel grounds, inside and out. Luxury, bountiful luxury. We become lost in the hotel's bowels at one point but it hardly matters because we are having fun. We split to our rooms. I read more "Crash", bathe and zone out to the radio. Dangerously warm and sleepy, but this time I actually make it downstairs in time for lobby call, dammit. In fact, it's Roger who's late this time, and the rest of us sit and shoot the shit. I try to help Bynoe think of a movie other than "All of Me" which features both Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin for a crossword puzzle he's doing (which I still can't think of - does one exist?). Sometimes, on a plane, Philip will hand me a half-completed crossword puzzle, proclaiming it impossible, and I hand it back to him completed within five minutes. It's fun to be aggravating.
It's not far to the venue but traffic sucks and it takes forever to get there. To get to the dressing room one must go to the main room and duck under the bar twice (Magee skins a knee) and walk up a rickety spiral staircase until you reach a curtained-off area, although without a bathroom it's not much of a dressing room. There is, however, a bucket of Bir Bintang, so things could certainly be worse, and the salad I order is yum.
I'd surely have rather eaten salads all night than to have done the show, which is essentially a miserable carbon copy of last night's fiasco, not as much seal-clubbing, thankfully, but the audience might be even more out of control tonight. This time my nervous system shuts down about a minute in, when I see Philip on his knees not playing, trying to protect his pedalboard from ragers. The only time I smile is when someone hurls a box of condoms at my feet. Mangini is happy because his drum riser is about eighteen feet high. I zone on the big fake guitars flanking the stage and dream about the show being over.
The people from the club, God bless them, are thrilled with how the show went. They're gaga over me, and I'm both pleased and distressed at how workmanlike I can be on stage - no one had a clue as to how miserable I was up there. If, say, Bob Dylan went on stage as unhappy as I'd been, the signals would be plain to see. My professionalism = my lack of depth? Fuck it, and bring me another vat of bir please.
Pike is working on his twelfth milkshake in three days. More are ordered and all indulge. Giddiness once again takes hold. But I've every reason to be happy, haven't I - our two-thirds misbegotten Hard Rock minitour is three-thirds completed. At least, the teeming and obviously enthusiastic crowds demonstrated conclusively to the promoters that Steve can some day return and play real venues in these regions. Still, how sad that the two most beautiful places of the tour - Singapore and Jakarta - played host to the two shittiest gigs.
On the last couple of flights I've been toting around my leather shoulder bag, another bag filled with swag and various sundries, and my useless enormous leather coat draped over my arm. Now I cannily repack my bags and manage to stuff in enough stuff so that I'll only have my shoulder bag to deal with on the next flight. Feeling smug, I switch on some odd film on TNT and go to sleep around 2:00 AM.
At 5:00 AM I awaken and find that TNT has metamorphosed into the Cartoon Network, and I take in a classic episode of "Josie & The Pussycats In Outer Space" (imagine the sounds of cheering and clinking glass at the meeting where THAT concept was proposed) before heading down for a 5:30 lobby call.
During the ride to the airport there's very little traffic. And then we hit a bunch of traffic, and still our driver zooms like a maniac. Then it begins to torrentially downpour and STILL etc. It's the sort of situation where you voice your discomfort subtly at first: an "Ahem", or clawing at the ceiling and saying "Eee" like Spokey - but it soon escalates to loudly asking questions like "Wouldn't it be interesting if people around here ADJUSTED THEIR DRIVING TO SUIT THE WEATHER?" No effect.
We arrive at the airport no more than 60 minutes before departure time, yet immigration procedures are still underway. The promoter reps - the least slick of this breed we've yet to encounter - got to the airport late and bollocksed up the process. While Gungi was reprimanding one of them, the guy wouldn't stop smiling, prompting a further lashing from Roger, who can't deal with that shit.
But Mangini keeps us amused by taking a running leap and sliding on the floor through Gungi's splayed legs as the enormous Scotsman leans against an airline counter. His efforts to gain us admittance to the plane finally bear fruit approx. 15 min. before takeoff and we hustle back through the airport (which, for reasons I don't totally fathom, reminds me of my junior high school) and into the plane. Two flights to get to Perth: the first a brief, uncomfortable wing back to lovely Singapore Airport, where several members of our touring unit take way too much pleasure in flatulating loudly in the bookstore ("You suck", I tell them) and we have a lovely couple of hours drinking and jawing in the "Raffles Class" lounge. They sell bootleg CDs in Singapore Airport. Freaky.
On the plane, in business class. Settle in next to Chrid Varrin and do a lot of writing whilst simultaneously admiring the Air India air hostesses, who gather around Mangini as if he were a campfire. I eat crab and catch little naps from time. During one of my naps Mangini scrawls the word "DIMM" in my notebook. Chris is reading "Cider House Rules" and tries his friend's book test on my copy of "Crash" - the book test holds that if you read Page 87 of any book and enjoy it, then you will enjoy the book in its entirety. "Crash" passes.
The most legendary bit of the flight takes place just at the end, when the fellow sitting behind me (who speaks not a word throughout the following) opens the overhead compartment above me, allowing a bag containing 378 pounds of rocks and gold boullion to fall on my head.
Me: "Holy fuck!!"
The gentleman makes no attempt to stem the downward progress of a further, 451-pound bag of mortar fragments, which also achieves Keneally cranial contact.
Me: "OUCH, a LOT!!"
This latter quote becomes a valued catchphrase within the Vai organization, but Magee says it's "Holy fuck" (which was issued forth at approx. 140 db) that assures my status as a hero in his eyes. Later we spot the offending fellow in a gift shop; I yell "Hello, sir! All the best to you! Have a wonderful day!" from about 100 feet away. He does not acknowledge my existence.
The ride to the hotel is brief, and the exclusive use of the language of English on the buildings and roadsigns is disconcerting at first, but the reacclimation period ends abruptly and I'm left feeling grateful for the familiarity and comfort of these surroundings. The comfort, the familiarity and the gratitude will increase steadily as I grow to love Perth.
The Sebel of Perth is quantums less ostenatious than most of the hotels on this tour have been, but o so welcoming. My room is plain in a decorative sense, but surprisingly spacious. Phil comes in, sees my room and complains about the relative smallness of his own quarters, and later when I go to Gungi's room to collect a replacement itinerary for the one I've lost (I think Gungi finds me to be generally responsible and does not offer the guff I deserve for losing the book. He also never gives me shit about being late so often for lobby call. I'm an expert at exuding calm authority and rightitude despite my penchant for tardiness - canny bastard, I), I find that his room is also much smaller than mine, whereas the reverse is often true owing to his requirements - space for computer equipment, reams of paper, his own terrifying size etc. I of course comment not at all on this dichotomy and exit the room swiftly.
After bath time I inhabit the pub in the lobby which is filled with my comrades plus assorted reps: the earthy and wonderful Nolene Blizzard, the earthy and wonderful and every-other-word-is-fuck Gus, and the toned and immaculate Steve (no relation), Sony rep, who is mere hours away from his 37th birthday and looks a million times better than I did when I was...well, ever. I've never looked more than one-millionth as good as Steve does, a few hours from his 37th birthday. (For clarity's sake he shall be Steve No. 2 from this point forward.) Mangini's got a Guinness and is making Mangini face, so I buy one and make Keneally face, and I also buy a chili burger which which is piled high with everything, extraordinarily spicy and good. [ed. note - As I type this in July I can still taste it.] Steve No. 1 stops by to survey the goings-on before deciding to go for a walk, terrifying Ruta who is certain that Steve will wander blindly into the street and get hit by a car.
There is a large man here who engages me in conversation. A fan of Steve's, his drawl is 80% incomprehensible. I, having spoken to only a smattering of Australians in my life, become concerned that I'll be unable to communicate with the natives during my stay; it soon becomes clear that not only is the bloke desperately inebriated, he also suffers from internal maladies, which makes his ubiquity unsettling (at the gig in Perth he'll virtually threaten Rog with violence, promising vengeance should the show fail to meet his expectations), but also makes me hesitant to judge too harshly.
A second Guinness and I am well-warmed-up. Steve No. 1 returns safely. Steve No. 2 and a batch of us take the town, stopping first at Greenwich, a groovy little acid jazz place with a pool table (occupado), much beer to consume and a sparkly lighted curtain airlifted from David Lynch's dreamworld. We dig some groovy tunes and continue on to "The Site", described by our host as a "titty bar", a term which, in the US, generally means just that, so it is a source of no small interest when, within minutes of our arrival, a fully unclad dancer is aggressively grinding her crotch within centimeters of patrons' quivering complexions. This specimen actually returns to the hotel with us and accompanies a fortunate member of our touring unit to his cubicle within. (He will claim in the morning to have done "nothing sexual" with her after deciding to be taken aback by her age [18, significantly but not criminally aback-taking]. They do share the bed for purposes of sleeping, and within seconds of his awakening in the morning [but seconds before his regaining awareness of her lithe figure on the mattress beside him], he obliviously plants a lengthy, sonorous, flappy fart directly on her sweet young leg. He claims there is no way she could have slept through the conflagration, but that she stirred only slightly before opting to feign uninterrupted slumber. The two of them lay there silently for a couple of minutes before the touring unit member finally slipped out of bed and wordlessly proclaimed his own idiocy to the bathroom mirror. As voyeurs go, I don't consider myself upper-echelon, but oh what I would have given to witness these proceedings.) A further happy fun event is when a dancer, whose every mannerism exudes contempt for all, sneaks up on me and mashes her head in my not-at-the-moment-standing-at-attention nether region, then arises with her fingers forming the universal "small dick" gesture and a look of pity, to the great amusement of my cronies. Very witty! Huzzah! At the end of the evening some members of our touring unit dash madly to collect dancers' names for tomorrow night's guest list. The girls put on a display of great interest and gratitude. None of them will actually attend.
The following day is blessed with a 3:45 PM lobby call, and I get plenty of sleep for a blessed change. At around 12:30 Philip and I set out to experience the considerable charm of Perth. Lunch at the Cinema City Cafe, most rewardingly punctuated by Philip reading the line "Any cakes - $3.00" on the menu, then asking the waitress "What are Any Cakes?".
Browse a bookstore, thumb through the autobios of Marsha Hunt and Paula Yates (Philip opts for a divergent path at this juncture). I take to the walking streets and shop happily, buying the Dylan "Masterpieces" 3-CD compilation for around $24 US. Browse yet further in book and record shops before happening upon a large dept. store which yields a much needed pair of shorts, three cheap garment bags, this very journal (without the words in, of course) and a postcard. See that Burger King is called Hungry Jack here, log this data. Snap a touristy snaps and return to Vai Station Zebra at the Sebel at 3:44.
The Metropolis is a real venue, and a farkin' beautiful one to behold after the Hard Rocks. It sports layers and layers of angled steel staircases, balconies and bar counters shooting off in all directions - its geometric eccentricity thwart photographic attempts to capture it accurately. It's later suggested to us that the financial backing for this just-opened venue is not exactly pure-as-the-driven-snow, but I long ago became wearily resigned to the truth of this business: if I hope to align myself only with associates who share my ideology, I'll never walk past my fucking front door. Remind me to play you the commercial I did for Coors Light sometime. And how 'bout that place we played in Long Island not long ago - if Martin Scorcese wants to save some dough, he can plant a hidden camera in the office and have his next movie wrapped in two hours flat.
For all the glory of this venue's design, none of it was lavished on the "star" dressing room; at the very least a couch would have been nice. But there's beer, and I'm into my third by the time Steve No. 1 arrives. A JC-800 with some very lovely patches is my second keyboard tonight. We run "All About Eve" a few times in soundcheck (it's a little rusty 'cause we didn't bother subjecting the Hard Rock Cafe mobs to it) and learn "Waltzing Matilda", of course. There's some very nice fans hanging about with guitars and stuff to sign, all very casual and easy - so far everything about Australia appeals to me.
Return to the Sebel and find a freshly laundered suit in my room - yay (all my stage clothes are profoundly dank at this point. Tomorrow I'll have them all dry cleaned at tremendous personal expense thank you very much). There's not much time before we leave for the gig so I veg in my room for a couple of hours, read some "Crash", bathe.
Beautiful gig tonight, despite copious technical problems in the first half which cause the "Moment" to be unexpectedly pushed five minutes ahead in the running order. The audience is ecstatic throughout but totally cool, precisely the required antidote to the madness of the last several shows. At the post-climactic pause in "Tender" they just won't stop cheering, no matter how much Steve tries to quiet them. Finally he has to approach the mic and say "It wasn't THAT good!" which becomes a part of the show from that point. Post-show Ruta is troubled by the flow of the show and what she perceived as a muted reaction, but she must've been in an odd area of the venue to accurately gauge the audience response - those people went nuts. A lot of them will tell me over the next couple of days that it was the best show they'd ever seen. Other items of concern, such as Rog and Rich's onstage activities occasionally being too distracting from the main event, are easily dealt with (Pike's sin is deemed to be inexpressiveness - he's actually asked to appear happier when he takes to the stage).
Nice aftershow in the uppermost bar. I meet for the first time Kevin Druck, long time Aussie MK and Andy Prieboy enthusiast and email buddy, and the present owner of the black Heartfield guitar employed in "Zappa's Universe". I also meet for the first and in all likelihood last time the most beautiful of the very many beautiful girls I will see in Perth, a dark-haired, tastefully-glitter-eyelidded stunner named Juanita (the name surprises me - she's quite Australian) who takes great joy in proclaiming her undying love for the Green Bay Packers and whapping me on the head with her just-obtained band-autographed drumhead. She's devastating and I go all gooey and stupid. She leaves early and I breathe again. There's this other pneumatic creature in a white nothing-dress who is driving most of the other guys crazy, but her vibe is way too obvious: Pnuemo-Girl is to Juanita what Anna Nicole Smith is to Meg Ryan. When I get to my room I play my Jesse picture frame over and over again.
A very special day! A real live complete day off, in Perth no less. I've only gotten three hours sleep - up all night writing - but I'm in the lobby raring to go at 10:30. The whole troupe, save Roger (who needs a day OFF, not just a day off) is going to Rottnest Island, about a half-hour's drive, twenty minutes ferry ride and a further half-hour's chartered boat journey away, for snorkeling and diving and general water-oriented fun. First, though, I must hunt down an optometrist to repair my glasses, which exploded on stage last night. I also need to purchase a new eyeglass screwdriver - the old one was incinerated in the bus fire. The optometrist can't sell me one, but she fixes my specs for free which is sweet.
There's a snack bar at the ferry dock where I buy "breakfast" - a sausage roll and a Sprite, which brings my exposure to those funny little fold-in-half-and-squeeze tomato sauce packets. Yum, really. Steve No. 1 hires a bicycle and we're joined by a couple of female friends of Steve No. 2, one named Luana and the other whose name I've forgotten, my apologies. We line up to board the ferry amongst genteel folk; Magee senses an odor which displeases his delicate senses and queries, loudly enough for a traveling motorcyclist in Dubuque wearing a Discman to hear, "Did somebody shit?" What an utterly fine gentleman is Magee!
During the turbulent ferry ride I become fleetingly concerned that my recently encountered sausage roll might decide to saunter upward for a return appearance, but I think it down. My last nightmare ferry ride (during a Z tour, after a night at a London bar fueled by copious Carlsberg Elephants, tequila and pot - I projectile-vomited like a water cannon not more than ten minutes from UK shores) is not revisited, thank golly.
The port of arrival at Rottnest is lovely and commercial, with loads of hotels, cafes, shops etc. There are peacocks about, and lots of nice shaded areas in which to loiter. I go for a quick walk and have a quick talk with a diving instructor and her daughter - they, like seemingly everyone else around here, are really, intensely curious to know what we think about Perth. I love it! Really! Believe me! I need to do a lot of journal writing, and for a second I consider finding a suitably idyllic spot in which to gather my thoughts, which would entail giving the snorkelling a miss. Two hours later I'll want to slit my throat for even momentarily giving such a blasphemous notion safe harbour within my skull. In any case, I'm fitted for fins and wet suit and off I go.
The chartered boat is named Moby Dick I, and if I were smart I'd have gotten a photo of its exterior, but I'm not. A lovely vessel is she, filled with beverage and vittles of yum, and she zooms us foamily to our spacious and scenic area in which to snorkel. Whilst the foamy zooming occurs, Midnight Oil's "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1" blasts. It is one of my very most favorite albums ever, 'though it's far too easy for me to forget that fact since I've ever been vaguely disenchanted by, outright disappointed by, or not heard at all everything they've done since "Diesel & Dust" (inclusive). The boat at this time in this locale is the perfect vehicle, moment and location to be reminded of its splendour. I conduct the bars of seven in "Read About It" for Mangini's edification and his eyebrows go up.
Lemme tell you this: I haven't had a snorkel wedged in my craw since I was about seven, vacationing with my family at Baiting Hollow Lodge on Long Island, and I didn't exactly brandish the thing like a budding Lloyd Bridges at that point. So for all intents, and purposes as well, this is my first time snorkeling. The initial panic period, during which I can't quite rationalize seeing underwater and breathing simultaneously, lasts about a minute. That dealt with, I realize I can't see very well, and think that, perhaps, the water is foggy. I rinse out my mask, just to make sure, and put it back on.
Oh. My. God.
Won't attempt to do it justice with words, but I'm a changed man from this moment. One fun bit: I was having trouble getting the fins to happen, when suddenly the first school of fish I've ever physically encountered approaches me from the left. "Oh God, Oh fuck, Oh God" I say through my snorkel, and miraculously my fins start to work and I'm keeping pace with the fish. You've done it, then you know the drill. You haven't, then I recommend you do.
After a good long time I haul myself onto the boat, grab a beer and babble, all embarrassingly post-orgasmic. Steve No. 2 and the female friend whose name I've forgotten are pleased by my ardor. Steve No. 1, who's been riding his hired bike 13 miles 'round the island, climbs onto the boat clad only in swimshorts (the rest of us have wet suite - water's chilly), having swum a good piece from the shore, and delights us with tales of quokka encounters (sort of rat-sized kangaroos, indigenous to this island and very cute. Steve No. 2 then disgusts us with tales of university students who come to the island to play Quokka Sokka - I'll spare you the details but Vai and I thirst for Uni blood), feeding half his sandwich to a peacock and a nice encounter with an elderly French lady.
Even though I've got a beer in my I've got to back in the water. With visions of Dennis Wilson and Natalie Wood dancing in my head I take the plunge. Still gorgeous, but breathing is a bit more labored and I make this a quick jaunt. Swim to the shore and feel smug, hang out with both Steves there for a spell and swim back to the boat. Lemme tell you something: I can't swim. Miracles are happening here.
Steve No. 1 returns to his biking and is to meet us on the other side of the island in time for the 4:30 departure of the ferry, which happens to be the last departure of the day. I place his chances of meeting us on time at about 62% likely; this is adjudged by many of our entourage as over-optimistic. But lo, and also behold, he arrives with about two minutes to spare (he'd fallen asleep so it's quite lucky that he arrives at all) and doesn't have to spend the night on the island - not that he'd have minded.
The ferry ride back 'round the island is marked by huge bucketfuls of water blasting onto the deck, drenching one side's passengers on a twice-minutely basis (not one of their number can be bothered to unleash the plastic guards which are tied up near the top of the boat, and which would rescue them from this ordeal). Luana and I shoot the breeze and gain enjoyment from watching the struggle.
For some reason there's only one van to pick us up. Two had brought us. All ten of us pile in, Mangini on the floor between the two front seats, Varrin in the luggage compartment in the back. Odd planning, that. We all make tasteless quokka jokes until we arrive at the Blue Duck (prompting "Blue Light"-style vocalizing from Steve, Mike and myself), a restaurant wherein Rich Pike makes a videotaped vow to be more conscious of his diet (seconds after downing an entire banana shake in less than 30 seconds), and where the legs of one particular waitress inflict great psychic pain on the lot of us.
The non-sleep I got the night before begins to really wear on me by the time we return to the hotel. There a 10:00 PM lobby call for fun-having in Perth, giving me three hours to write, bathe, explore the town, whatever I bloody want. What I want is to collapse on the bed, and there I stay until I magically awaken myself at 9:50.
First stop: The Jackal, a fairly new spot evidently, as two 19-year-old female people who have attached themselves to our entourage to act as tour guides have not yet heard of it. It's the sort of place which I, wearing a - gasp - printed T-shirt, should not be allowed to enter, but owing to my spectacular celebrity status I'm given the big nod. There's a jazz/blues combo doing a more than creditable job on "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag", although it's odd to hear the stop-time guitar sixteenth-note breaks actually played in time. The bald white vocalist acquits himself nicely in the James Brown role. I go for a walk during a band break; this is a bustling and happy chunk of Perth, with partyers covering the sidewalks in search of diversion. A large truck with a dragon drives by - Happy Chinese New Year! A group of percussionists and dancers attracts attention. I walk over to the deserted train station and ride up the escalator to the exposed platform and get a good look at the city.
Next up: a return to the Metropolis, site of last night's performance. Here I'm asked by a doorman to remove my "beanie" before entering - once inside it re-occupies its rightful place in the world. Tonight the venue plays host to - are you ready - Alanis Chili Jam, three cover bands playing exclusively songs by guess which three modern music acts. We arrive too late to see the Pearl Jam band, but see some of Alanis and all of the Peppers. The latter is way too calm to be effective; the Alanis band is OK, but Soulid did her better. The audience seems only tangetially aware that there are any bands performing at all. I'm ever more grateful for the fabulous reception we enjoyed the night before.
Back to Greenwich, the first place we'd visited on our first night, and the pool table is available. I imbibe hearty beverages and enjoy watching Mangini try his hand, meekly, at billiards. Most of the gentlemen in our party wish to return to "The Site", but a small and vocal minority, myself included, prefer to return to the Sebel. I pass out more than fall asleep and get a fairly decent night's sleep.
Kevin Druck comes to visit in the morning. We check out Dada's record shop across the street and I can't resist buying the budget-priced double-CD package of "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1" and "Red Sails In The Sunset" - I've got both albums at home but ever since the boat ride I've been desperate to hear them. We walk 'round the corner and have lunch (Kev a salad, I a "Frisco Dog") and talk guitars, music and life. Kevin's an awfully good sort. It's always a pleasure to meet up with an email buddy and find them not a deranged sniper-in-training.
Back to the Sebel, pack up, check out. The lobby's packed with guitars for Steve and I to sign, and folks wanting photos and autographs. We've had less elaborate meet 'n' greets directly after gigs.
'Bye Perth. You were really, really cool.
At the airport the band sit in a lovely circular lounge and Steve gives us details of a "secret plan".
2:00 PM flight to Adelaide, a journey which comes equipped with a 2 1/2 hour time change, one of only two places in the world with a half-four increment in their time changing requirements (Rich Pike comes from Newfoundland, the other one). The food on Qantas is less ostentatious than that we've been receiving of late, but it's dependable and good. Two older guys occupy two seats to my right. They both watch the Sinbad film "First Kid". They watch the whole movie. Only once do they laugh, a two-second simultaneous outburst. For the remainder of the film they stare silently. It makes me sad. Richard lets me read his issue of Time; the back page is a fabulous essay about our unheroic times. Write a heartfelt postcard to Viv. Homesick in extremis.
At the airport I spend two Australian dollars to procure a luggage cart, then I am told that our bags will be seen to by others and I needn't have bothered. I live the cart in the middle of the baggage claim area as a free gift for a lucky traveller rather than return it for a partial refund. My good karma for the day.
We have a very giddy ride to the hotel. Our van pulls up alongside a Volkswagen and within it we see a woman having an argument with a man. Mangini feels that she deserves better and must be rescued and treated royally: "Phil will reach out and lift her out of the car by the neck like a kitten. Then, Keneally will ram her and Steve, you fill her hands with coin. Then she can leave fucked, rich and happy." I suggest that Philip should narrate the whole event with his soothing baritone to make it even more special for her, to which Phil responds (I'll explain this in a second): "Do you have a penis? That's all I need to know". This line stems from the first G3 tour, where a treasured tour-bus video was a tape of "Cops" outtakes which featured a scene of a policeman saying those very lines to a strung-out transvestite. The policeman had somehow absconded with Philip's voice; it sounded EXACTLY like Phil. Everytime we hear those lines we all giggle, and this time is no exception. I make some comment to the effect that here we are, among the most proficient and respected musicians in the world, "laughing like idiots at this silly shit."
SV: Do you have a quintuplet?
MK: Do you have a fermata?
SV: (after thoughtful pause) That's all I need to slow.
MK, MM and PB: (GROAN)
SV: HA HA HA!
MK: It's dangerous in here now. All the fluid evaporated from my body when you said that.
SV: There's too much traffic here, let's take the next coda...(etc. etc.)
Arrive at the hotel. Phil and I head to the lobby bar and dig the jazz stylings of the combo found there. Head upstairs and try to write but I keep falling asleep, so I return to the lobby bar. Jeepers it's packed down here. Adelaide's evidently not a sleepy as Perthites would have me believe. The band whips into a zingy samba, and more and more people swarm around - what's up? A moment of clarity: a newly married couple floats, glittering, into the bar. I've crashed a wedding party. Luckily I'm wearing an almost semi-decent shirt. Roger and Magee sit a few tables away looking like they could emit demon spew over the entire assemblage at the slightest provocation (through no fault of their own, of course - that's just the way they look, to me anyway. Maybe it's because I know them. It would be instructive to ask of the invited: "How threatening do you find these two men to be?").
The band knocks off after playing a 13-minute set. Hope they're being WELL-compensated. Rog and Magee join me for a spell, and Roger admits that he very likely won't be with us for all of the dates to come this year. Roger is invaluable to this organization, and good luck to the man who needs to fill his shoes. Richard stops by with a pair of friendly Vai/Keneally enthusiasts, and later Gungi sits with me awhile while he waits for the concierge to deliver an adaptor to him while offering a treatise on the subject of guilt, which, paired with that Mephistopholean brow and punctuated with his "Dark Side Of The Moon" laughter, is a little chilling. I drink a couple of Baileys and an Evian and get much writing done. When I return to the room I, of course, cannot sleep. I listen to "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1" two times in a row, and eat cashews, and start writing again. A song called "The Minibar and The Pay Button" appears.
Just after 8:00 AM I decide to go for a walk. Rather than the sort of panicked frustration which usually accompanies a sleepless night, I feel calm and contented. It's a beautiful morning, and for the moment I feel alert, although perfectly aware that my entire physical/emotional macrosystem is going to pull a big-time Valu-jet before long.
Head down a street lined with shops and cafes, virtually all closed. One place, Kelly's Kitchen, features happy breakfasters out on the sidewalk - a likely candidate for the day's opening meal, but there's much walking to be done first. It starts to rain! It begins to rain! The lucky bit is that storefront awnings protect much of the sidewalk from moisture, so I do not retreat squeaking to my dry hotel, no, no, the walk continues apace. Hang a left, the rain dies down. See a pretty little park, walk through its center which leads to a large roundabout and to more closed places of business. Peaceable isolation. Just when I get to thinking that this has become a long walk, I see a sign reading "long walk" in front of a second, more lustrous park with a stream which feeds a pond. I try to get a decent photo of one particular blue and white bird, understand the benign thrill of the "hunt" enjoyed by bird fanciers. Other, smaller birds start saying "Splek" to one another to warn against the intruder, me. One flies directly at me, straight and fast, and finally takes a sharp right turn about a foot and a half away from my face. I say: "YAH". Three birds position themselves atop three adjacent trees, look at me sternly and say, very deliberately so that there's no misunderstanding this time, "SPLEK". I sheath my camera and exit the park.
Walking back through the smaller park, I unsheath my camera and photograph...a BIRD, quaking with glee as though I've accomplished something really special. I've photographed the rare Pyrrhic Victory bird.
Walk further, reach a record shop called Domination. It's closed but it brings me information in the form of a sign in the window advertising a CD and record fair at Exhibition Hall, which commences an hour and half from now. After determining the proximity of the Hall, thanks to a helpful touring bus driver parked at a curb, I stride manfully to Kelly's Kitchen for a manful breakfast and a photo of the odd piece of art which functions as the back wall. The gentleman who serves me moves, as many of the patrons do, very, very slowly. I steady my pace so as not to offend them with my spryness.
Return to my room and awaken Rich Pike with a phone call; he's up for going to the record fair. Mangini and Bynoe are not, as I suspected, but I thought it best to call. Pike and I cab it even though the Hall is rather a short distance away - I've done plenty of walking so far today. I don't want to abuse whatever energy my no-sleep-for-thirty-hours body may yet contain.
At the fair Rich works the Pike magic and scores a free Vai bootleg, a 2-CD set documenting the last show of the "Sex and Religion" tour. Great picture with Toss and Thunes on the back, and reams of hilariously wrong titles in the song listing (eg. "For The Love Of Got"). I, still Oil-happy, score original Aussie vinyl (with all the doodads) copies of "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1", "Head Injuries" and "Species Diseases" (with a plastic outer bag I didn't even know existed), as well as Australian vinyl versions of "June 1, 1974" and "Belafonte at Carnegie Hall" (in a box!), plus copies of Downbeat magazine ('71 Trane salute, '80 Miles-is-back) and Musician (from back when it was about music rather than industry trends and gear - a Mingus cover from '77), a cheesoid Coltrane paperback bio with a useful discog, and a first printing of Ian Hunter's "Diary Of A Rock 'n' Roll Star". More shit to carry, and no room to carry it, but for under 40 bucks American a very sweet haul.
Rich and I make our way back on foot, very leisurely-like, stopping in every record shop we see, looking for Wallace and Grommit paraphernalia for Mrs. Pike, and in a constant state of dazed amazement at the natural beauty which surrounds us. We have lunch in an interesting joint called the Pancake House, where you can get pretty much anything imaginable slapped on top of a pancake. Some odd wordings on the menu stitch us up ("Don't maple syrup the dishes with a star", "You may substitute grain waffle, where waffle is", "There are bowers for chess players", "No side orders with pancakes" [that's a REAL odd one]). We have a serious talk about finances but when Rich and I are together we're generally laughing - we get along great and understand one another.
I am well and truly exhausted. Fall into the bath. Hear voices in my head, increasingly common occurrence these days, and the sound of those voices, combined with the sound, sight and temperature of the bathwater falling from the tap onto and around my feet, further combined with my sleep deprivation, places me into a state whereby, for about five minutes, I rationally consider the benefits of devoting my life to God. It passes, but it's a feeling I don't think I've ever had before, certainly not with such impact.
There's a part of me which wants to behave very badly all the time, and another part which struggles to keep the first in check, and the second part is in constant need of assistance, for I have behaved badly in my life. Steve: [to me, backstage in Jakarta] "Do you regret what you've done?" Me: "Absolutely". Steve: "Then never do it again. And never look back". The second bit is a toughie. Truth be told, so's the first. Working on it, working on it. After the bath I get three hours of the sleep I should have gotten last night. Wake-up call rouses me just before 4:00 PM - this is a very oddly paced day. There are fans by the van out in front of the hotel; I'm barely able to speak to them.
The venue is called "Heaven". Heh-heh to that, but it's nice enough. We meet Chuck, who will be our monitor engineer (and van driver) for the remainder of the Australian tour. He's smart and we ought to fall into a rhythm with him quickly. We have trouble getting my acoustic guitar loud enough in the monitors for "All About Eve" - Chuck needs to be told perhaps two too many times to really squash the fuck out of it with compression but finally the point is made. More troubling is the amplifier we've acquired for me to use on this and the next few gigs. God knows why, but it's completely unusable, perhaps the worst-sounding amp I've ever used. The spare Bogner head is down, though, and Rog doesn't have time to fix it, so the unusable amp will be used for tonight's performace. Majorly bum-outing. (Tomorrow Rog will reveal to me that the speaker cab is the culprit, not the amp, and I get another cabinet and become happier boy. Tonight, no.) I'm still too confused by lack of sleep to be in the bad mood I have the right to be in, though. There are several very nice Vai/Keneally enthusiasts present at soundcheck, no doubt bemused by my over-giddy, delirious buouancy, and downright confused by Mangini's donning a female dancer's outfit he's found in a dressing room and prancing about the venue.
Back to the hotel and very, very much back to sleep. Awaken around 9:25 PM for a 9:45 lobby call. This day is like three mini-days to me.
A completely absurd surprise welcomes us when we return to Heaven: the fog machine, a despicable piece of equipment under the best of conditions, has been set up behind the "Fire Garden" backdrop and has been belching smoke into the upper floors of the backstage area. We struggle up a staircase and find that the corridor leading to our dressing room is completely filled with thick white smoke. I'm in the front of the pack; somewhere behind me I hear Magee say "...the FUCK!" and then, silence...the others have made their way back down the staircase. I've gone too far to bother turning back, but the door to our dressing room is locked. Standing against the wall enveloped in fog, I begin to feel not at all well. The hints of a cold had been brewing for the last day, and all this oil clinging to my sinuses and lungs can't be helping. I enter the opening act's dressing room, a breach of protocol. They're currently on stage and the room is empty. (I always do my best to observe the sanctity of dressing room etiquette, especially after the Vai/BFD East Coast leg, when Steve's fuckin' mook-ass Long Island no-brain buddies took great pains to enter the BFD dressing room as often as possible on their way to Steve's room and steal all of our beer.) The opening act and the Vai band are sharing a common bathroom and I try to enter the Vai room through it; that, too, is locked. Defeated, I sit on the opening act's couch silently and watch wisps of Auschwitz smoke curl through the cracks in the doorway as the band on stage perform an acappella rendition of "Superstition". The band finish and I lock myself in the bathroom, not wishing to be caught on their couch. Stand in there a good five minutes until I finally hear voices on the Vai side. I pound on the still-locked connecting bathroom door until I'm let in. The room is hazy with fog and complaints. Gungi locates a huge industrial fan and our sanctum is clear within minutes.
(to be continued! Really!)
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