Black Clouds & Salty Linings

It’s that time again!  Dream Theater are on tour and I get to write an epic blog about my day.  This year however the blog of reflection will be somewhat smaller as I have only attended one show of this tour.  The previously blogged about responsibilities are part of the reason, the other part is the previously blogged about back injury that I didn’t want to aggravate with cramped plane seats and epic long days after long days following the tour.

So here I sit, at my cosy day job the day after Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation ripped the guts out of the Brisbane Convention Centre with an epic night of prog goodness.

My day began at around 1pm with the now traditional catch up with Jordan Rudess for lunch.  For those who don’t know, I’ve been working for Jordan in a variety of capacities for around eight years or something now from running his chat room to running his website to dealing with online publicity and interview arrangements to cover art producing to whatever else needs done that I’m able to do.  In that time I’ve also had a variety of interaction with other members of Dream Theater either through my involvement with Jordan or through OzProg.com and doing interviews.

So I head down to the hotel that the band are staying at and hit the first hurdle. “Excuse me fine-looking reception lady of posh hotel, can I by chance call up to a room from here?” to which said fine-looking lady says “Of course you can sir, what is the room number?”.  I reply with the correct information and supply the last name of said musician, being “Rudess” to which I am responded with “Sorry that doesn’t match”.

Curse you rock star aliases! So I went with the alias he was booked under last time but to no avail.  This chick is obviously thinking I’m some sort of band fan stalker guy, so I say “That’s fine, thanks, I’ll just call his mobile”.  So I head over to the big plush seats in the lobby and dial away.  “Sorry, the Verizon Wireless customer you are calling is unavailable…”.  DAMN!

So here I sit, continuing to try and get through to Jordan’s mobile in the lobby.  From over my shoulder at the reception desk I hear the girl on the phone saying “What name was that?  Please hold…Salty?”  I turn around to find her smiling and holding the phone receiver out towards me.  Woo success!

So Mr Rudess makes his way down to the lobby and we take a stroll up the Queen Street mall to Jo Jo’s and head up for a bite to eat and a good old-fashioned catch up.  I never realised that place had so much white marble inside of it…I’m sure last time I went there (years and years ago) it didn’t look like that.  But anyway, it was really good and I was thoroughly impressed with my Spaghetti Bolognese, which it claimed in the menu was “THE BEST IN THE WORLD!”.  I’m not sure about that, but it was pretty damn good.

We sat and ate up there and watched the various types of Brisbane wandering around below and spent about two hours or so catching up and talking all things life, business, music and iPhone apps!

Actually…lets back track this 24 hours…

24 Hours Earlier…

In New Zealand, Jordan’s V-Synth rack started having some problems and playing up, so the call was put into the salt-man to see if I could source another one locally here for him to use for the rest of the tour.  So I spent the day before the show on the phone with Roland reps in New South Wales and Queensland trying to track down this piece of uber synth gear that apparently nobody anywhere stocks.  Ended up organising a demo model of the Roland V-Synth XT rack to be express shipped from Sydney to Brisbane.

So that’s the back story of what I was about to say, which was that during lunch I got a call from Brisbane Sound Group to let us know that the V-Synth had arrived and could be picked up.  A call was put into the production team and a runner was sent out to deliver the hire paperwork and such so we could take the rack.

During lunch I gave Jordan as a gift the original pencil drawing that I did for his album Notes on a Dream.  I was worried in the days before that I wouldn’t be able to find it, but I did and he was very happy that I had given it to him.

Over lunch I was lucky enough to star in one of Jordan’s famous tour videos which I have embedded below!

Jordan has uploaded a few Brisbane videos which can be seen here, here, here and here.

So on finishing lunch and making videos it was drawing close to time for sound check so we headed back towards the hotel.  Of course, a small stop off had to me made at Starbucks along the way where we encountered a Dream Theater fan whose name I believe was Aaron, but I can’t be sure…it was probably something completely NOT like Aaron.  Sorry Aaron.  If by chance you are Aaron, or the guy I’m now calling Aaron, make sure you send your photo with Jordan to the Jordan Rudess Facebook page!  This dude Aaron had mentioned that he had spotted The Pirate LaBrie floating around nearby, so who knows what sort of plundering had been going on in the Brisbane CBD that day.

Anyway, we left Starbucks and headed along to the hotel where I had some stuff to grab from Jordan’s hotel room, so headed up there where we proceeded to get completely distracted by checking out some more awesome iPhone music apps now that we were in a quieter environment.  So much awesome stuff.  So we jammed on some iPhone music for a little bit and then I took off to let him get ready for some serious fucking rock.

I made my way over to the Convention Centre at around 4pm and headed in to find some fans lined up already at one of the doors.  Those mothefuckers wanted some prog and they wanted it NOW!  Good to see keen as mustard Dream Theater fans.  I wandered around a bit, had a look at the merch desk and decided I was gonna grab a Dream Theater bandana and fucking totally forgot to get one.  Ah well, I’ll get someone to pick me one up at another show.  Hear that people?  Someone please get me a DT bandana from one of the other shows!  Seriously, I’ll pay you back.  [Edit – This has now been done – Thanks Sam!]

Anyway, I put a call in to Matt, the ever amazing and helpful Dream Theater Production Assistant dude to let him know the salt-man was in the house.  He came and let me in and gave me my shiny laminate VIP pass which I slung around my neck and started a hardcore chill out inside by the stage.

The band turned up shortly after and I said hi to a couple of them who spotted me hanging around.  Said hello to Robert, who is Jordan’s keyboard tech, who, like a LEGEND was rocking the OzProg.com shirt he was given last Australian tour.  What a champion of a bloke.  I made my way up onto the stage to hang out and kicked around keyboard world for a while.  Then it was practical joke time…

I climbed up onto the keyboard riser while Mike, who at this stage hadn’t seen me yet was fiddling around with something to his left on his kit.  I took position where Jordan would usually be, hands on KORG ready to BUST OUT THE PROG!  Mike started saying “OK so shall we play…” and looked around to find a gigantic bearded me standing where he would usually see the much smaller also bearded Jordan.  He looked…blinked…looked and exclaimed “UNCLE SALTY!!!”.  He come over and we had a quick chat and catch up and went back to drum world to get the sound check started.

Jordan, who is forever discovering new gadgets has this new camera made by Zoom called the Zoom Q3, which is more microphone than it is camera, but it’s awesome!  The camera is pretty limited, only has a 2x digital zoom which in my opinion isn’t even worth putting on it, but the microphone is brilliant.  It’s a stereo mic and does a really great job.  Jordan’s recent piano improv pieces on YouTube were done using it.  Why don’t you check one out!  So we figured a good way to test it out would be for me to bootleg a couple of songs from the show and see how they turn out.  I walked around the stage with it filming part of the sound check which was cool.

Dream Theater finished their sound check and ducked off to get some food and have some rest before they had to make a room full of musicians feel really bad about not practicing more (thanks Mikey!).  In their place come the support act for the night, but I know the draw card for some, Sweden’s Pain of Salvation!  They took the stage and did a line check and a bit of a sound check while Mike’s drum tech Jose and the sound guy threw a football the length of the venue to each other.  Mike come out to watch some of the PoS sound check and then wandered off again.  I hung around and checked out Dream Theater’s video guy’s set up, which is absolutely mind-boggling to someone who doesn’t really know what half of it is, and so complex in programming and coding that I was lost after about 5 seconds of him explaining how some new thing works to Jordan.  I have to say, very very impressive.  I wish Clint from Red Tape Pictures had been there, I’m sure he would have been in heaven.

I got a call from Jordan shortly after doors opened to let me know if I wanted to come up to the platinum ticket meet and greet to head up to the production office where I could hang out and watch that go through the motions.  I did that last tour in Melbourne.  It’s awesome seeing all the people there with their stuff, so excited to be meeting the guys and having their photo taken and their stuff signed.  I did some filming of the fans for Jordan on his iPhone and snuck in at the end of the line to get my photo with the band.  I have no idea when I’ll end up getting that, but I’ll post it as an edit to this blog when I do.  When I jumped into the middle of the band calls of “Uncle Salty!” went up again.  I’m not sure where that come from, but apparently that’s me [Edit – OK so “Uncle Salty” is an Aerosmith song – Thanks Mike (Mills)].  Then, strangely, Mike, James and John (Petrucci) proceeded to make up a plethora of nicknames for me in rapid succession that included the word “salt”.  This was strange because the exact same thing happens whenever I go into Billy Hyde Music to see Mikey.  There’s usually two or three new “salt” themed nicknames for me from different staff members.  Dream Theater’s highlights were  Sea Salt (James), Saltrinitus Monks (Petrucci) and Tyrano-salt-us Rex (Mike).  There were others but I can’t remember them all.  So I stood around and every now and then helped James sign a shirt by holding it taught for him.

Edit – Here is my hijacked Meet and Greet photo!

The rumble of Pain of Salvation started floors below us as the line was dwindling down and the guys finished off signing the last of the fans bits and pieces.  Let me take you back 23 months to the last tour.

23 months ago…

At the Melbourne Dream Theater show after show meet up I was with Mike Mills and Brad Dixon and some friends and James come out to say hi and took some photos.  Knowing that he was tired and I was no doubt going to see him again a bunch at other shows I was attending I didn’t worry about getting a photo and we both agreed “we’ll get it later”.  That never happened.  The night of the New Zealand show I sent James a message saying “Don’t forget you owe me a photo…” to which he replied “AHAHAHA I remember!  Let’s make sure we do that”.

Present day, Brisbane Convention Centre…

The platinum meet and greet finishes and the band get up to leave and James turns to me and says “Hey Sea Salt…lets get that pic now to make sure we don’t screw that up again!”.  So the below dodgy photo was taken by Matt on my iPhone.  Shit photo, but it was awesome that James remembered and we finally got it done.

It was time to go and see the awesomeness of Pain of Salvation bust out their phenomenal dark brand of prog metal.  They put on an awesome show!  Would have been nice if a few more people had been there to see them though.

After their set I headed over to the front and made my way backstage again so I could get Jordan’s camera ready to film the first song of the night and headed into the front of the barrier with the other photographers.  They kicked off with “A Nightmare To Remember” which was awesome.  I got some brilliant shots of the guys playing and the audio very rarely peaked, even that close to everything.  On reviewing it though Jordan was sad to report that it was mostly bass and double kicks…but at least they weren’t peaking!  I’m not sure if that video will turn up on his YouTube channel but you never know!  After that I headed out into the crowd to watch the show.  I took the camera back out and recorded Jordan’s keyboard solo from the sound desk…levels sat at a perfect level, so that probably sounds awesome.  The only shame was that the camera is limited, like I mentioned earlier, so JR is a tiny speck on the screen.  After that I headed forward into the crowd and stood about halfway in to film “The Mirror” and “Lie” which it was AWESOME to see played.  Lie rocked like nobodies business.

But get this…I was all over the place with this pretty awesome microphone/camera bootlegging away filming a bunch of songs.  When I finished road-testing Jordan’s camera I found my girlfriend Kylie and started watching the rest of the show.  During Whither I got out my iPhone to record a little bit of the song, knowing the audio would be disgustingly blown out, but you know, just sussing it out.  It was doing THAT that had security come over to me and tell me to cut it out.  Idiots.  I felt like getting all self-important and shoving my big shiny VIP laminate in his face but figured it wasn’t worth the potential hassle if he decided to be a prick.

So Dream Theater rocked my head off.  It was awesome and The Count of Tuscany completely blew my mind live.  Such an amazing song, and a HUGE way to finish the night.

Found Mikey who I had scored an aftershow pass for as he was instrumental in my previous day’s efforts to source Jordan a V-Synth rack.  So we zipped off with Super Matt upstairs to this lounge type area where we sat and hung out.  Jordan come out and we all had a chat and talked about the show and various things.  James come out but couldn’t stay as he had to be on a conference call from the US so said a quick goodbye and he took off.  Did the usual photo taking with Jordan to mark the occasion and made our way back through the production office where we said a brief good-bye to Mike and Rikk, Dream Theater’s tour manager, bid Jordan a fine farewell for another tour and made our way into the night.

A very long but very awesome day was had by your friendly narrator.  Spending some time with Jordan again reinforced with me that he is not only an insanely creative genius but one of the absolute most stellar human beings on the planet.

Until we meet again, Dream Theater…fare thee well.

Don’t forget to check out these awesome links –

Jordan Rudess’ Personal YouTube Channel

The Official Jordan Rudess YouTube Channel

Jordan Rudess on Twitter

Official Jordan Rudess Website

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2 Responses to “Black Clouds & Salty Linings”

  1. Fuck I had no Idea man, Sounds like an Awesome bloke. The VJ station sounds immensely impressive.

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