We drove all night to Syracuse. No, that’s no accurate. The drive was only five hours, but we stayed in the bus overnight, parked at the venue. I sleep better when the bus is in motion, so I slept about four hours and then just lay there in my coffin wondering about where we were.
The Carrier Dome is unbelievably fucking immense. No wonder it wasn’t sold out. We play all those hockey and basketball arenas, some at colleges, some in cities, and they usually hold around 18,000. This place had basketball but they also had football, indoors, under a dome, and it seated well over 40,000. In fucking Syracuse. No offense Syracuse, but your population isn’t that dense. I felt one really couldn’t blame anyone for this humongous place not selling out, though I don’t actually know what percentage of bands who play there come close.
I got sleepy again finally at the worst time, around noon when Remo had to go do a radio spot or something and so everyone else wanted to grab a “Baker Street” rehearsal, since that night we’d be doing it.
I fixed it by chugging a Coke (it was always Coke with Remo, never Pepsi, and I wondered if it was in his contract rider) and sequestering everyone in Clarice and Fran’s dressing room. The two of them being the only females in the band, they had a separate room, which meant at a place like this they had what amounted to an entire team-sized locker room to themselves.
We did two run-throughs at low energy–saving it for the show–and I declared it more than ready for prime time.
Then I was jittery all afternoon–the combination of Coke and lack of sleep will do that–so I found myself playing basketball one-on-one with Martin on a practice basket that was in a back hallway not far from the loading dock. It had been cold overnight, but now it was in the mid-70s and we worked up quite a sweat.
For your information, we weren’t being complete idiots: laundry detail was part of the deal at this venue and we’d been told where to put our dirty clothes. Show clothes went in one bin and personal clothes in another.
Bernie introduced me to his parents shortly before the opening act went on. They didn’t leave much of an impression on me since I can’t think of a single thing to say about them other than I know they were there. I guess I had other things on my mind. After exercising I knew I should eat but I wasn’t hungry, so I had some yogurt and ate some carrot sticks off the catering tray. Yogurt was definitely on the rider because we’d had it in every city so far and it wasn’t one of the usual things venues would give you if they had a choice.
Our plan was to sneak “Baker Street” in after “Riptide,” which was when Remo stepped back and a spotlight hit me while I played the intro to “Taking My Time.” I’d have the mic. We clued the crew in to what was going on. Any decent road crew loves a good prank, and I hadn’t thought of this as a prank exactly but I suppose that’s what it was, given that we’d now successfully kept it a secret from Remo.
Of course when the moment came, Remo knew something was up immediately, because I switched to the Fender at that point instead of keeping the Ovation. He had walked back to the drum riser where he had a bottle of water and I could see him looking around, at me, then at the crew offstage.
“So,” I said into the mic. “One of the members of the band, our sax player Bernie Watson, is from right here in Syracuse.” I paused to let the crowd cheer, which they did. “And his folks are here tonight, so we thought we’d give them a little thrill with a special song.”
And I didn’t say anything more, I just counted off, and then Martin and I came in together in a fairly faithful recreation of the style of the intro to the song, even if the guitar sound I was using wasn’t quite the same. The lights hit Bernie–who had put on sunglasses for the occasion–right on cue, when the big intro solo came in.
Which was when I could hear Remo laughing. It had taken until then for him to figure out what song it was. I wandered closer to him so he could see what chords I was playing, and Clarice and Fran picked up the lyrics.
Remo said into my ear at one point a string of words that I think were: “You’re as crazy as a rat’s ass.”
“Yeah, but do you want a solo?” I said back.
He shook his head, but when the jam came around, after I’d had the solo, and Alex had had it, and Bernie’d had it again, I made eyes at Reem and he picked it up and ran with it. And after that we brought it home.
The set went on from there as usual, no other surprises, but Remo kept looking back at me and laughing. And after the second and final encore, when we had our arms over each other’s shoulders to take a bow, he tousled my sweat-soaked hair and practically pushed me off the stage as we went into the wings.
“What have I done, what have I done?” he bellowed as we went into the green room. “I’ve created a monster.”
I stripped off my shirt and added it to the “show” bin. “This is what happens when you leave me in charge.”
I caught his damp jeans with my face as he tossed them at me/the bin. “We’re not even two weeks into the tour and you’re bored already?” he asked.
Martin threw his stuff into the bin and then, buck naked, started looking for a towel. “Yeah, but did you like it?”
“Love it, but all that just for one show?” Remo asked. “If I hadn’t met Bernie’s parents I would’ve thought you were making it up.”
“I don’t make shit up,” I said, tearing open the plastic bag of laundered towels and tossing one to Martin, then getting one for myself. “Fran’s birthday’s when we’re in LA. I think she wants to do ‘Shout Away’ by the Stones.”
“At least I know that one,” Remo said. He shook his head. “How the hell did you rehearse that in secret?”
“Are you kidding?” I said. “The whole idea was to give the band something to do when you were away and they’d be bored otherwise.”
“Told you you were bored,” Remo said.
P.S If you missed this month’s liner note, it was posted over the weekend here: https://daron.ceciliatan.com/archives/4080 We still have slots for fan posts to fill in during the summer!