Monday, September 13, 2010

Planes Are A Problem

The next big gig we had was Milwaukee's Summerfest. Swifty must have had a lot of connections in the Milwaukee entertainment industry. He'd managed to finagle us a spot in Summerfest's lineup. I didn't know if there was a open spot until the last minute, or if we were a last minute replacement for a band that canceled. Whichever the case, the problem was that we were nowhere near Milwaukee. We didn't have the time for an overland haul across the Midwest. Everyone and everything squeezed into the van for a prolonged period. Fleeing the scenery, the only breaks long enough to fill the tank, empty our bladders, and grab a sandwich, all to arrive at the gig tired, smelly, and more pissed off at each other than the normal road irritations. It would've been the Battan Death March of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The airplane lumbered onto the runway. As we taxied, Mitchell started one of his informative travelogues.
"Did any of you guys ever see the movie Alive? Where the plane crashes in the mountains and they have to eat each other." No response. Everybody had become used to Mitchell's musings. Recitations that had pretty much had become part of the background noise. Undaunted, he went on, "I read somewhere that landings are controlled crashes."
"Shut up!" Brian snapped. "What are you? The bearer of glad tidings?" Mitchell picked up the sarcasm in the comment. It was true, the track record wasn't very good for rock bands in airplanes. Just ask Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Lynrd Skynyrd, or Ricky Nelson. Most of the big bands rely on them for touring, smaller bands use them infrequently, except for emergencies like we had. With every bump and tussle of the plane, all I could think of was Buddy Holly, and the little splatter of a footnote we'd make in the annals of Rock 'n' Roll if we crashed. Not even an answer to a trivia question. We couldn't pass up playing in front of an audience that size. The payday was a little better than we were used to, which justified all the effort. Swifty had rented a plane, and like the van, it was just big enough to fit all the equipment and us, and fulfilled a rock truism, the smaller the band, the smaller the plane. I just hoped the plane was in better condition than the van. I sat looking out the window imagining I was a real rock star on tour. Then the engines throbbed with pent up power and the plane jumped and raced like an animal that had remembered its purpose, speeding down the runway until it pulled itself into the air.

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