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Michael Devin's Blog
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  • 2011-12-18 13:51:45
    Somebody Needs to Alert the Public! (Insane in the Ukraine, pt.2)
    Ukraine...colder than a dead man’s nuts in a snowman’s hands... day off today...would love some coffee...coffee in the lobby...I see the elevator has no floor indicator above the door...no way of knowing what floor I’m passing or approaching... puzzling first thing 3 o’clock in the afternoon morning...sure is slow...ah, a familiar face in the lobby...Brian Ruedy. A real shocker there. Ruedy spends more time in the lobby than the concierge... suckin’ up all that wifi... he should consider moonlighting as bellhop, make a couple extra bucks. The coffee is sludge... should do. Back to my cave. I enter the slowest-elevator-in-the-world-with-no-floor-indicator... alone... but wait... three men in suits enter the lift...Hi gents, no, I’m not strung out on speed and pain pills, this is what a fabulous night of rock and roll will do to you come daylight...the looks on their faces...outta sight...ok, someone needs to wake up the mule in the basement to get this lift moving...so slow...but wait, more folks enter...four more Suits...they all know one another...man, we’re really shoe-horned in here, packed like mackerel in a barrel... I just came down here for a cup of coffee...I feel like I’m headed to a court hearing with all these ties about... what are the charges, your Honor? Hold the elevator... a petite woman in a suit with great lips enters and fits in next to me... I notice her lips ’cause I swear her bottom lip trembles as she looks me over...maybe it’s my attire... camouflage shorts, black sweatshirt, jean jacket, no shirt...no socks, no shoes, sunglasses in place, hair a ball of brown yarn...middle of winter. All I wanted was some coffee and get back to the cave... so off we go...oh, so slowly, we start climbin’ floors and all eyes are fixed at a bare spot above the lift door. Myself included. We’re pretending there’s a floor indicator there. They’re pretending I’m wearing shoes and a shirt. I accept this. All I wanted was some coffee. The door opens to what I assume is my floor ’cause a Whitesnake Tech is standing there, waiting for the lift. "Dude, we’re all going out for some beer and pool, you in? We’re leaving now. It’s on." Uh, well... I should, like, put on some long pants and a shirt. "Nah, just... throw on some shoes... you look fine, dude...let’s rock n roll!" Ah, those four little words...Let’s Rock and Roll. I’m free again. Billiards and pints at 3 in the afternoon on any given Tuesday... Rock ’n Roll. Someone said it more appropriately... “One person’s insanity is another person’s reality.”


    Tonight everybody is staying in... such good boys and girls...well I’m bored...gettin’ my rocks off listening to Little Walter’s "Juke" and James Cotton’s "Live at the Electric Lady". So, I play a blues lick on the harmonica in the hallway, full steam, ’cause it sounds so damn’ good with all the concrete... maybe I need some attention... I step out into the hall, wail a blues and quickly shut the door… I hear at least two doors open and close. I wait. I step out again, I send off another riff, it echoes down the hallway. Bouncing. I hear the animated doors. I wait. I slowly open the door to sneak out another riff and see Reb down the far end of the hall… he’s wearing red reindeer pajama pants that DC gifted him... he’s laughing... eating peanuts from a tin… I send another blues riff his way... Ruedy pops his head out and says loudly, "come on now!"... we’re all laughing....I send another blues lick, far and loud. A door opens, crosswise to me. Tichy? Aldrich? I don’t recognize this face... Hells Bells... a strange man stands there squinting at me, replete in complimentary hotel robe and slippers. His face is puckered, like he’s been sleeping, like he should be wearing glasses, like the light is bothering his face. We stare at one another. We say nothing. I hold up the harmonica. I smile, as if this gesturing is somehow going to put his mind at ease, put him back to sleep. He stares. We say nothing. It’s a showdown. I slowly begin closing my door, he’s staring. I close the door. Peek out the hole. He slowly closes his door. Coast is clear. The time? About 1:40 in the AM. If you’re reading this, Guy I Have Awoken With a Blues Harp a Wailin’... apologies, good sir. I didn’t realize the time...


    There is Reb...the lone figure, backstage catering... talking to himself at the serving table... something about the soup... ah, he’s actually talking to the soup... yep, I believe he’s telling the soup - yes, he’s definitely telling the soup how good it is this evening... here in the Ukraine. He speaks to the steaming vat from the third person point of view, for those concerned with "narrative mode". "Whoa...they really kicked some ass on this soup tonight! It’s, like, all creamy and soupy!" It’s mushroom soup. How do I know this without seeing the soup, Dear Reader? Reb is now informing the steaming vat that the mushrooms in the soup are just the right size...not too "mushroomy", he says. This is not new. Reb speaks to himself often... even in front of others...we simply aren’t there, even though we are...nor are we invited into the conversation. It’s strictly between Reb and Reb, no interference....he covers all sorts of topics, too... wardrobe, best time to eat before the show, what time is "Beer-Thirty"...sometimes even argues with himself... "What are you doing, Reb! 20 minutes til singing!" ... but only sometimes.


    Sometimes it’s a blur... Aldrich, Tichy, and I are somewhere in some town, in some hotel, hanging out in a small restaurant inside the hotel... big hotels usually have lower level shopping and restaurants, which for us tonight means football and beer. I think we’re in Zaporozhye... ah, who can say... well I bet a lot of folks around me could say... like our tour manager. See, you should never ask a bass player questions concerning time or place... you’ll inevitably get a rounded off type of answer. "Um, I think it’s around 10-11... um, we’re somewhere in Texas." Maybe it’s not a bass player thing...maybe it’s just me. Either way, it’s a relaxing evenin’ here with the lads. Hey! DC! David surprises us, out of nowhere… apparently he’s been waiting in the lobby, ready for the press, but the press ain’t ready for him...they’re late, or they’re lost...whatever it is, it’s got him waiting and hangin’ with us at the bar for a bit… he starts sharing some of his ideas for the last shows of the 2011 tour. He’s got some really big ideas. Gonna be good fun. He’s sipping on what appears to be some kind of cafe latte with a frothy, foamy head… he spots my Guinness... he looks me in the eye and in that deep Coverdale voice delivers... “Devin you Irish bastard, this is my best attempt at a Guinness... for tonight." Wink...smirk...


    Aldrich likes to throw his back into a stack of Marshall amps during his guitar solo...we watch and hope they don’t topple over onto the man’s head. Tonight, Doug’s added some smoke and fire to his stunt... well, technically it’s a theatrical interpretation of smoke and fire, made up of flashing white lights and a fog machine...but from the audience perspective it looks intense, exciting, as though fuses are blowin’, wires are zappin’, fires are startin’, transformers and tubes are poppin’... mayhem! He’s smirkin’... he’s diggin’ the "smoke and fire"...Doug throws himself into the stack of Marshall amps... the guitar head nearly comes down on his blond head... close call! He’s all smiles. If you know Aldrich you know his code...you never know how far you can go, unless you risk going too far...


    Tichy and I always compete for "shotgun" in the car... Badger got it this morning on the drive from Kharkov to Dnepropetrovsk... yeah... for the English speaking variety, let’s all pronounce that one ... Tichy, Ruedy and I are in a car rolling down the Ukraine two-lane...the sky is darkened...somber... Thin Lizzy on the radio... good morning music... the driver is wearing a leather vest with his "colors" sewn into the back. He’s a member of a Ukrainian bike gang... someone mistook him for a Hell’s Angel. This morning it’s a four-car caravan through Kharkov. Coverdale is stylin’ in a Jaguar, in front. We’re cruising... weaving in and out of traffic, oncoming tractor trailers, rigs, motorbikes... I imagine Reb has already shit his pants and Doug... well, Doug likes the thrill of speed so I’m sure he’s cool, probably sleepin’. Three hours of driving lunacy...we’re flying...fast... passing cars left and right... Van Halen at full volume... Rock is the perfect hangover elixir. How refreshing it is to be rollin’ in wheels and not flying on metal wings… this is the first road trip in quite a while...to see the landscape... smell the air... catch a glimpse of the people, modes of transportation, architecture, the cities in all their magnificence and decay... soakin’ it up... to be out in the world is to be alive in the world. We’re feelin’ gabby... we talk about our last tour bus in Europe... how cool it was to have tiny windows in the bunks. Man, that seems like forever ago… "It was", says Ruedy… "It was about three months ago", says Tichy. We’ve covered so much ground... fascinating footsteps all over planet Earth. Seems longer than three months. Biker Driver offers us some Cognac. "Dude, it’s not quite 10 o’clock... in the morning." Not quite the hour to rock and roll. Biker Driver shrugs his shoulders. He’s not impressed. This is a rock band, right? "Too early for Pappy", says Ruedy. Biker Driver’s cranking AC/DC, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Whitesnake... Fool for your Lovin’... Stormbringer. This guy doesn’t have a care in the world... life’s a gamble for the man behind the wheel. I’ve never seen Ruedy so nervous in a car before. Whole Lotta Rosie is now playing...the harder the rock, the faster this guy drives. I’m wonderin’ if there’s any Carpenters in his collection. Yet, all the cars in our caravan are flyin’... maybe they all hit the cognac...I never really think about wearing a seat belt, I’m free-wheelin’ like that, but this morning... with this driver... I buckle up. I’d rather meet my demise in a waterfall in Hawaii...

    DC picks up on the fact that I cannot pronounce, Dnepropetrovsk. I don’t think he can pronounce it either... none of us can. Nobody taught us. We just showed up. So tonight on stage he keeps saying, "Isn’t it great to be in -- " and puts the mic to my face, as if I’m going to deliver that one... yeah right. What comes out is... "Ahhh... Deppsshhh". I see this amuses him. We rip out a couple more numbers. DC comes over and says, "Michael! Isn’t it wonderful to be in -- " Puts the mic up to my face... again! "Uhhh... I... Duprop... uhhh...dunnnepropeeetroovvv". He’s gettin’ his kicks! The schtick gets thicker! Most of the time when I sound drunk, I am drunk. Not tonight... not in.. one sec, copy/paste... not in Dnepropetrovsk...

    "Fonzie would take his dates here if he were living in the Ukraine." Tichy and I enter the diner... faux 50s Americana, puffy red pleather booths, vinyl records tacked to the walls, Cadillacs and Car Hops in plastic picture frames, Buddy Holly playing overhead. This is not the Big Shindig we’re lookin’ for, but we’ll make do... it only takes these two to get the party started.. alright... a bite to eat...a beer from the tap... admiring the pretty legs peeking out from underneath the tables... cigarette smoke in billows overhead... somehow the waitress recognizes us... must be Tichy’s Bruce Jenner sweatpants... the bartender keys in on the napkins we’re signing for her and calls out, "Whitesnake!" Surprised to be recognized...now the beer tap is wide open, full throttle... "What are you drinking?" Well, more of this and how about some of that? Now we’re talkin’... he’s pourin’ ’em faster than we can drink ’em... open sign on the door changes to closed... a few lights are put out...swiftly the music changes from 50s bubblegum pop to hard rock... that’s more like it... Jaegermeister unexpectedly joins the party... we’re up, out of our seats, singing songs...Tichy spots an accordion nailed to the wooden booth divider... not sure if the Italian accordion compliments the American Graffiti motif, but what the hell... let’s see if she plays... no matter what key we push, it’s always the same note... ah, sometimes that’s all you need... off we go... Still of the Night in the key of C... the tender is psyched... the waitresses are giggling. Now, we’re not gonna take it to eleven ’cause we realize it’s really late and these kind folks have to go home. Tichy decides he’s gonna pay for the meal as a token of appreciation for having to tolerate those sweatpants all night. Anyway, the credit card’s not working... everybody is huddled around the card machine... except me. I’m diggin’ into this accordion...and I’m getting thirsty. I hear Tichy explaining the different types of credit cards to them, why some work better than others depending on the country...he’s the Badger...he’ll explain it All in one breath..and I mean It All... the history of the Universe, why Boston is a great band, and credit cards... one breath. Ok, I need a beer... now I’m tending bar. Why the hell not. What’ll it be? Tichy makes his way back to the bar... he’s getting thirsty explaining the history of the Federal Credit Bureau to the Ukrainians. What’s up? "I dont know Devin, they’re still wrestling with the credit card machine." Well... now what? You wanna do a shot? "Sure." Blam. Blam. Now we’re feeling fiery. Trouble. We take some beers back to the accordion and begin crafting a song for the Tender and the giggling waitresses who are in deep at this point. Tichy starts in on a riff in C...I’m feeling loud, I take the high notes, we got a melody, we’re scattin’ words about the credit card machine calamity... let’s call it, Credit Card Blues... so we’re really getting into Credit Card Blues... The tender and waitresses are laughing, wrestling the machine... we reflect their actions in real time lyrically... "He’s swiping the card, but it does no good! We just wanna pay for our food!" That type of thing... "We thank you kindly that the beers are cold! But all this waiting around is surely gettin’ old! Got the Credit Card Blues!" Ah, good fun with music. Tonight, I’d say we sang for our drinks...we busked. If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it... or else you’re gonna be locked up...


    Butterflies... they flutter about in the belly when the lights go out and the noise of the crowd swells... then the feet hit the stage... then the performance takes its first breath... this one has got its own life to live for a couple hours... and there’s a connection made with all the people in the house... mystical through the music... then the butterflies take flight... out the eyes, out the mouth, out the fingertips... and the butterflies fly away with all one’s pain and inner turmoil... for a couple hours, all sufferings are lifted from the body... and the soul... and it’s pure. If I didn’t feel the butterflies, I’d be concerned...


    Tichy’s drum solo... it’s a living thing... this little life force that keeps growing, like a galaxy. It has become its own little musical galaxy traveling over space and time... changing over time... evolving... forming new sources of energy. First it was the "sticks as fireworks", next came the chopsticks and the Ginsu knives, then came the black lights and fluorescent green sticks. Most nights I hang out back there and watch the solo... what better to do at that point than have a cold brew and watch a monster drummer drum, right? Maybe he wanted to give me something to do, put me to work... whatever the motivation, Tichy’s latest burst of energy is a duo betwixt the two of us. I jump up on the riser for some bass and drum time. Solo a bit, put down a line...Awesome. Solid. One night I overheard David say to Tichy, "It’s very giving of you to share a piece of your solo, Tichmeister. Few drummers would do such a thing." This is true. Hats off, Dude. So we’ve been doing this for a few shows... then one night, Aldrich decides he’s gonna jump up and join in after a couple bars, he’s joining in on percussion... now we’re cookin’... he’s over there rat-tat-tattin’ away. Killer! It’s like Santana meets James Brown. We raise a glass at the end, a toast to the crowd... nazdarovya! Diggin’ it. I’m honored to have been invited into the hallowed grounds of Tichy’s drum solo. It’s good fun. Thanks, Tichy! Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!


    Last gig in the Ukraine tonight… the warmest gig thus far, both in terms of audience excitement and venue temperature. It’s the first night we’re not performing on top of a sheet of ice, atop a hockey rink, and it’s the first night the audience has ventured to the front of the stage, moving beyond the barricade, past security. It’s a peaceful protest, but there seems to be some commotion down in front with the police... what’s all the hubbub? Let ’em be free to enjoy themselves! The police are pushing the people back, gettin’ a bit rough with it too... DC doesn’t like this...he knows what we’re serving... a Good Time Big Rock Show and that doesn’t require people getting bopped on the head. DC slams his mic stand down on the stage... blam! The police pay little attention... the tension builds... he slams the mic stand down again... blam... blam! "Just bring everyone forward! Let the people come forward!" He stops the band mid-song. "Guys, stop playing... you down there, let these people enjoy the concert! Let the people come forward! If they want to come up to the front of the stage and enjoy themselves then let them... they’re not hurting anybody!" Boom... just like that... the police back down and single-file it back to where they were, against a wall, picking lint from their uniform jackets. Then suddenly, rushing in, a swarm of smilin’ faces meeting us for the first time tonight... good to see you... ah, where you been? We pick up where we left off and an entirely different show arises... a higher energy envelopes the stage and the front row... eyes wide open... smiles... electricity generated... it’s exciting when an audience steps on the gas... it gives the band permission to just floor it the whole way home...


    At The Big Timer’s Club…also referred to as the Admiral’s Club... this is a designated area within the airport where persons flying first or business class can grab a bite to eat, drink a beer, have some coffee, read the paper, all on the house... if you’re Tichy in The BTC you make a huge mess of the counter space with bread crumbs, cheese chunks and spilled beer... so yeah, we’re here, at The Big Timer’s Club...Doug and I are enjoying a Tiger Ale… I take a sip... DC says from behind a game of iPad Scrabble, “ Ah yes, Tiger Ale... reaches parts of the body other beers simply can’t reach." The band is flying Business today, DC’s flying First Class and apparently has it all to himself, nobody else up there but the Serpent of Soul… "How was your flight, DC?"... "It was great! I was the only one sittin’ up front... I felt like Barak Obama in AirForce One...except I’m English… and I’m white." No substitute for good wit.


    Out of Odessa and into Copenhagen. Feels familiar to me, being in this place... the ether dust from a previous lifetime perhaps. I enjoy this city’s character... bustling, spirited, lots of action, lots of people getting ’round on bicycles. Subways and buses and towering church steeples, bold, brick-faced libraries... through the long windows I can see the rainbows of book spines… it’s the holiday season here and the cobblestone alleys laced with storefronts and bars are sprinkled with Christmastime. Plastic hearts and glimmering stars hang from strains of furry garland. I took a long walk in the chilly gray day... met some new friends in Christiania. Talk about Though the Looking Glass… yeah, safe to say I could live here for awhile...


    November 17th marks sister Kelly’s birthday. I didn’t mention it in the previous blog because it would be unlike me to be on time. Though my Brotherly Love is never late, Sister. For the record, Happy Birthday! Music brought us together as siblings. That and magic mushrooms. Just kidding! You’re a charm, love you dearly…I realize, most likely you’re not even reading this because you don’t own a computer, you don’t even have an e-mail address for goodness sake … this day and age… unfathomable! You’re still making calls from a rotary phone and using a sun dial. Regardless, I’m sure the other one will be on the phone reading this to you...thick as thieves you two...


    Well, Rock N Rollers... it’s nearly that time to wind down this blog...isn’t it? We shall see. The tour has ended, everyone is home tending their gardens, sipping their tea... but wait! Don’t nobody go nowheres! I got one more left in me... one more to wrap up the 2011 Forevermore Tour... and I assure you Readers, it will be a Christmas pressie, not a Valentine or something you find in your Easter basket... so til Next Time Kiddies… Keep Plenty of Lightin’ in your Smokestack…


    Oh yeah, I almost forgot! This Handsome Devil knows how to deliver a line... I’d say he’s a natural... wouldn’t you say?

    [link]



    DEVIN

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