SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE
NO SLEEP 'TILL NAMPA! (May 2004)
A choice of titles for this review, take your pick!
The spring had already been busy travel-wise, but I couldn't resist one more short trip to catch Cheap Trick, particularly with a rare headlining show (at least, during the Aerosmith tour) in Seattle. So about 3 weeks before the shows in the Pacific Northwest I hunted around online for air fares, and managed to find one from Manchester that wasn't as expensive and out-of-the-question as all of the rest! Trick-friend Victoria from California, with whom I've had several memorable road trips before, had kindly offered to let me ride along as she was already doing those shows, and so once again plans were set and my travel bags packed!
A short and intensive trip (I knew it was going to be, even before the start), the plan was to catch three shows. Two of these were Aerosmith shows at which Cheap Trick were opening, with the headlining Seattle show in between. Grab matchsticks for your eyes and have a big flask of coffee ready, as we set off on what proved to be one of the most tiring and challenging trips I've done! And my apologies in advance that the majority of what you'll read is about travel and not CT! You have been warned!
Saturday 22 May - Leeds, England To Ridgefield, Washington
As usual, an early start saw me leaving my house in Leeds at 7am on a beautiful sunny morning. A long travelling day lay ahead, starting with a bus ride into Leeds in order to catch a train to Manchester Airport. Then catching a late morning flight to Chicago, and connecting with a flight into Portland, Oregon. I was scheduled to get to Portland around 5.20pm, and sometime after that I was being met by Victoria, who was driving up from Northern California (and hot-footing it straight from her daughters university graduation!). So a hectic travel day all round, but we hoped to make it to the venue at Ridgefield, Washington (some 15 miles north of Portland Airport) in time for Cheap Trick.
I had no problems getting to Manchester Airport, though checking in was slow as the flight was full. The plane was due to take off at 11:05am, so I had a little time in the BMI lounge before getting to the gate before 10.30am for boarding. We sat and we sat Take off time came and went with no news, until the ground staff finally announced that the BMI flight was delayed (No! Really?) but that we'd be boarding in a "couple of minutes". That proved to be nearer 25 minutes, and it was 11.40am before I got on board. Around noon the Captain apologised for the delay, and told us it had been due to a technical problem with the plane we were due to fly on, so they'd had to switch us onto another. And twenty minutes later we were still delayed, this time awaiting a replacement machine to help start the engines as the one we had was faulty <sigh>. As you can guess, I was getting pretty antsy by this time as my connection time in Chicago was only 1hr45mins to start with, and that included clearing immigration and getting from Terminal 5 to Terminal 1.
Well, we finally took off at 12:50pm, and all I could do was hope that we'd make up time en-route. It was a long eight hour flight, much of it spent with the seat in front leaned back into my face :-( Damn, I hate that. Some of the time was killed by watching "Lord of the Rings - Return of the King" on the small, seatback screen in front of me. Somehow the film seemed bigger at the movie theatre We finally landed at Chicago O'Hare at 2:35pm local time, my back was hurting and I had 30 minutes to my Portland flight. But with taxiing to the gate, slow disembarkation and then a load of people already waiting in line at Immigration, no way was I going to catch my 3:05pm Portland flight. In the Customs hall, a United rep said they'd re-booked me on the evening flight to Portland (sometime after 9pm). Huh? So I'd get to Portland at nearly midnight local time <big sigh>. Well, I got the shuttle over to Terminal 1 to see if I could get onto an earlier flight, and succeeded in getting onto the 7.05pm but also on standby on the 5.15pm. All I could do was sit and hope for an hour.
At 4.45pm I returned to the gate for the 5.15pm flight and was given a seat! Good news! Bad news, there was a 15 minute delay. Hmmm, figuring the flight was under 4 hours, I could still get to Portland by 7.30pm and we could maybe still catch the end of CT. Fingers crossed.
I sat at the gate. And sat. The take off time went from 5.30pm to "unknown" as the plane had mechanical problems (sounds familiar, eh?). The United desk agent announced that two bathrooms on the plane, which had come in from Bermuda, were not working, and though their engineers were working on the fault they may have to get another plane for us <sigh>. What the heck were those people coming in from Bermuda up to, to damage two bathrooms? Hmmm maybe best not to wonder. I wandered away to a nearby food court to buy something hot (and which wasn't served in a small, square plastic dish!). I hurried down some Chinese food, went back to my gate to find everyone had gone! Desk agents and all! Empty! Well, the faulty plane was still there, so I guessed they'd changed gates rather than left without me, so off I went to find the new one. We eventually took off at 7.25pm I guess 20 minutes later than the flight I could have been on <another sigh>. Well, it didn't matter much by now, there was no way in hell that I'd catch CT :-( At least I'd been able to call Victoria on her cellphone as she drove north, so she knew I was going to be late into Portland though not quite how late.
As it turned out, we landed at rainy Portland at 9.15pm local (4 hours later than originally planned :-( , and as the show was at an outdoor amphitheatre (so I thought), I wondered if it was even going ahead. I quickly got off the plane and ran towards the exit to find Victoria. We quickly left the airport and decided to still catch the end of Aerosmith. We found the Clark County Fairgrounds and parked in one of the huge lots. We could hear Aerosmith and the crowd as we walked maybe a mile to the Amphitheatre. We got in at 10.10pm and soon found our way to the 23rd row seats that we'd paid $90 each for. Great seats too (we were only 30 feet or so from the end of Aerosmith's walkway), shame we only saw 35 minutes of show.
The Amphitheatre was mostly covered, I think only the rear was open to the elements and that was for the cheapest "lawn" tickets. The other Aerosmith shows I've seen on this tour (Atlanta and Montreal) were both held in cavernous sports arena's, but this was much nicer and much more a music venue. A large stage, and lightly banked seating going quite a way back. The crowd was very enthusiastic and Aerosmith were in full swing as we got there. I was surprised that security allowed several women to get onto the walkway during "Walk This Way" and dance with Steven Tyler, and the final song "Train Kept a-Rolling" was impressive for having 3 air cannons blowing out a huge amount of confetti into the crowd.
Aerosmith finished at 10.45pm and we made our way back to Victoria's "Trickmobile". For anyone going to a future show at Ridgefield LEAVE EARLY!! There's only one way in/out, which meant that the departing traffic was solid and we sat in the lot for over 90 minutes before even starting up the engine. We reached our hotel at Woodland (a few miles north of Ridgefield) at 1am and it was a relief to fall into bed after a 28 hour day.
Sunday 23 May - Cheap Trick in Seattle
A typically Northwest morning, cool, overcast and damp, though it wasn't actually raining. We left Woodland at 9.25am and headed north towards Seattle. A more leisurely day, we could afford to stop off at a Starbucks to get coffee and do a little other shopping as well as check into our hotel at Federal Way at lunchtime. We chose a hotel some 20 miles south of Seattle so that we'd have a little bit of a head start tomorrow as we had a 500 mile drive to Idaho.
After a little shopping at the bizarre Archie McPhee's in Ballard, we headed back to downtown Seattle and eventually managed to park in a parking garage just a block away from the Showbox, venue for this evenings show. We had a wander around, going to the original Starbuck's close to Pikes Place Market where Victoria discovered that she'd lost her drivers licence (i.e her main photo ID). We eventually worked out where she'd left it (at the Harley-Davidson store, back towards our hotel - she'd been distracted by a call on her cellphone as she was paying), and on the phone managed to negotiate that it would be left with a nearby Denny's, which is thankfully open 24 hours. Phew. So we'd collect it on our way back to the hotel after the show. We ran into a local friend Lori (the Tonguelady) and had a pre-show drink/food at the Pike's Pub before they went to get in line at the Showbox. Nice to see another friend already in line, Margie who I'd last seen at Saratoga a couple of years ago, she caught the album flat as I recall that evening!).
I went inside to start helping set out the merchandise stand. The venue was nice and intimate, with a good sized but low stage. To the left of the main floor were steps up to a bar, and there were two more bars to the rear of the room. The walls were black and deep red, and the circular, recessed ceiling was fairly low. The tech's would have a difficult time tonight as there were no proper sidestage areas, so they'd have to rely on protection from equipment boxes and security men.
The band soundchecked at 5.45pm, playing "My Obsession" and "Oh Caroline" (electric). Robin stayed on stage a little longer, playing (but not singing) some of "Ghost Town".
Doors opened at 8pm and sales of t-shirts etc was brisk. The opening act was a local three piece band, "Visqueen", who were made up of two women and a male drummer. I thought they sounded good, and I bought one of their CD's as a result. And whilst the stage was being set up for Cheap Trick, it was good to hear Warren Zevon's "Disorder in the House" - his final CD "The Wind" has been high on my playlist at home for many months.
Cheap Trick came on at 9.57pm to a great welcome from the large and enthusiastic crowd. And by now it was pretty warm (and smoky) in the venue, no wonder locals nickname it the "Sweatbox".
RN - Black suit, black t-shirt
RZ - Brown striped suit, white shirt, white tie, shades, white hat
TP - Black pants, mauve cowboy shirt with turquoise & rhinestones shoulder patching
BC - Black t-shirt, black jeans
Just Got Back, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, My Obsession, Best Friend, I Want You To Want Me, She's Tight, Tonight It's You, Voices, Never Had A Lot To Lose, The Flame, 70's Song, Surrender // Dream Police, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight Now
If you've been reading these reviews over the past months (or years), you'll know many of the regular stage comments, but here goes! "If You Want My Love" was introduced as being "from that fine, fine movie that I'm sure you all have the DVD of, Joe Dirt!" After that song, Rick announced that the band were currently on tour with Aerosmith but were happy to be here in Seattle tonight, which brought the expected cheer. After "My Obsession" there was a brief delay for some technical repairs, so Rick mentioned the chords of the next song ("Best Friend"). After "Tonight It's You" Rick talked about trying to call Eddie Vedder and how they'd both got a December birthday, but from my position I really couldn't hear his chat too well. After "Never Had A Lot to Lose" Rick mentioned that I'd won the Lottery and would be buying everyone a drink after the show! I wish! Early on during "The Flame", Rick walked off stage still playing guitar, and briefly wandered into the crowd in the bar on his side of the venue, even stopping at the entrance of the Ladies restroom close by, before deciding he'd better get back on stage!
The band finished a nice, well received show at 11.10pm, and we dealt with the usual post-show rush on t-shirts, stickers and CD's. Whilst packing up, it was great to see Dawn from Portland and her friend, and we soon wandered outside and met with a new Japanese friend, Mitsuko from Osaka. I'd not met her before, she'd flown in just for the Ridgefield and Seattle shows. We chatted awhile before saying our goodbyes around midnight, and Victoria and I walked the couple of hundred yards downhill to the parking garage...
Monday 24 May - Cheap Trick in Nampa, Idaho
to find the damn thing closed and shuttered up :-( I stood unbelieving for a moment, before going to take a closer look. Indeed, it was locked up, no way of getting to the Trickmobile and no emergency number to call. Before you cry "But didn't you look to see what time it closed?", no, we didn't. Earlier in the afternoon we'd been happy to find somewhere to park close by the venue, hadn't seen the small sign on the wall outside with the opening hours and had only seen the large sign as you drove in which gave the prices. We'd seen "10-24 hours - $20" and I guess we both assumed it was open 24 hours. Well, it's a mistake you'll only make once, right? It never crossed my mind that the place would get shuttered up <big sigh>.
Anyway, Dawn and her friend were still walking down the hill so we explained our dilemma. She said we could have crashed in their room except it was tiny. We went back to the Showbox as its adjoining bar was open until 2am. We explained our dilemma to a couple of security guys plus the lady manager, and they were very helpful in suggesting things to do, trying to find emergency numbers, possibly getting a reduced taxi fare to our hotel etc. But we needed to get the car out at 6am (when the garage re-opened) as we had to drive to Idaho, and by now it was 1am. It seemed silly to think of spending maybe $80+ return to taxi down to our hotel (20 miles away) for just 3 hours of sleep. There were no affordable hotels nearby either, and Victoria and I instead walked about a mile and a half north on 1st Avenue to Café Minnies which was open 24 hours. Along the way we passed several empty parking lots it seems like we'd picked the only parking garage in the centre of Seattle! We spent about 3 ? hours at the cafe, drinking as much coffee as they could bring, shivering under the ceiling fan (I only had on a t-shirt my jacket was in the car) and listening to French movie music! It's amazing how many people came in during those small hours. With heavy eyes we saw the sky lighten behind the nearby Space Needle, and I was glad that we'd caught one of the few days in Seattle when it doesn't rain! It was eerie walking back up the deserted street in the crisp early morning air, though it was a beautiful morning, and both the Space Needle and the Sound looked pretty in the early morning light.
We got the car out of the garage by 6.05am and minutes later we were heading down I-5, bleary eyed. We had to briefly divert en route to collect Victoria's drivers licence from the Denny's (remember?). Back at our Federal Way hotel we each took a quick shower to freshen up before leaving at 8.30am on a beautiful, sunny morning. The maid would have had an easy job with our room as the beds didn't need remaking!
We had nearly 500 miles to drive to get to Nampa, which is just before Boise. We had a time limit too, as we had Meet'n'Greet passes to pick up before 6pm plus we'd lose an hour en route because of crossing into the Mountain time zone! So, 500 miles in 8 hours, you do the math! Parts of the drive were spectacularly pretty, certainly the first 100 miles or so. We passed by spruce covered mountains, and gorgeous, mirror-clear lakes. Some of the mountains and ridges were even capped by snow. After a while the forests gradually gave way to rolling hills of sagebrush before becoming flatter and browner plains.
We reached the Idaho Center at Nampa at 5.20pm, parking near an exit for a quick getaway (the lesson of Ridgefield had been learnt!). We were met in the parking lot by a friend from Salt Lake City, Sandra, and we all headed up to the willcall windows and collected our passes. Whilst waiting there, we met two other Fan Club members, Lily and Cori from Phoenix, and the five of us (all from outside Idaho!) turned out to be the CT M&G contingent. Whilst waiting to be collected, we could hear CT soundchecking, and I was surprised to hear "On Top Of The World" and "California Man" as well as "Scent Of a Woman". The venue was surrounded by large expanses of well tended, emerald green grass, and we were taken to the side of the venue to a hollow leading to a covered tunnel entrance into the venue. This wasn't the loading-in bay for stage equipment, but obviously an alternative exit/entrance for the artists etc. Whilst waiting in the warm sunshine in very pleasant, grassy surroundings, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith wandered out of the tunnel into the sunshine, talking on his cellphone. When his call had finished, he came over to us and delighted the women fans by graciously obliging them with autographs and posing for photos! That was very cool. Soon after Robin came out, followed by Tom and Rick, and I heard from one of the crew that Daxx was replacing Bun E tonight but I didn't ask about the reason. It was a nice M&G by Cheap Trick, very relaxed in the sunshine, and I think everyone had felt it worthwhile to have travelled there just for that, let alone the show! My and Victoria's exhaustion disappeared for a while following the amazing M&G we'd experienced!
We were escorted back to the public area where we met Sandra's husband Sherman, and went in to find our seats. For a sports arena, this was cool. As mentioned earlier, the two arenas I'd seen this show in recently (Atlanta and Montreal) had both been huge, and each with 3-4 levels of seating. The arena here at Nampa had the same floor size I guess, but had much less seating. There was the usual floor seating of course, but just two levels of nicely banked seating (not steeply banked).
Cheap Trick came on at 7.30pm to a warm welcome. The lights went down and again, lots of those pink/blue flashing Aerosmith badges blinked throughout the crowd! The "drone" started, followed by the introduction "Four Great Guys, Three Great Chords please welcome CHEAP TRICK!"
RN - Black suit, black t-shirt
RZ - Brown striped suit, white shirt, white tie, white cowboy hat, shades
TP - Black suit, dark pink shirt
Daxx - Ripped blue jeans, dark jacket, light shirt and tie
Hello There, California Man, On Top Of The World, My Obsession, Scent Of a Woman, I Want You To want Me, Dream Police, Flame, 70's Song, Surrender, Goodnight Now (with Joey Kramer on drums)
By the time the band had finished "California Man" the venue was nearly full. "My Obsession" was introduced as "The next song starts with Daxx and Tom", which was the only reference to the substitute drummer. There was the usual big cheer to Robin's intro for "I Want You To Want Me". After "Dream Police" Rick spotted a sign in the crowd stating that "Housewives from Boise rock" though he didn't make of it what he would have done if this had been a CT-only show in a club! He also thanked Aerosmith for having CT out on the tour. By the time "Surrender" started, Joe, Brad and Joey from Aerosmith were standing sidestage on Rick's side watching, and cool to hear one of Rick's closing lines as being "Brad's alright, Joey's alright, Joe's alright ". Rick then introduced Joey Kramer who replaced Daxx on drums for the last song, and Brad Whitford played guitar tech and gave Rick a fresh guitar! The band looked to be having a blast on "Goodnight Now", even though Joey's beat sounded just a tad slow! Cheap Trick finished at 8.10pm, and were then to be off for a few days well deserved break. (N.B. Trick International later announced that Bun E had suffered from exhaustion after the Seattle show, which was why Daxx substituted for him at Nampa.)
We stayed to watch Aerosmith as Victoria is a big fan, and I hadn't yet watched a whole set of theirs. They came on just before 9pm, entering from behind the stage and walking to the end of the walkway to play their first two songs there ("Toys in the Attic" and "Love in an Elevator"). Like everywhere else they got a huge reaction from the crowd and played an impressive show. We actually stayed until the encore started, but needed to beat the rush getting away as we had another 120 miles to drive. Ouch! We got out of the lot quickly and back onto I-84 heading north, towards the hotel we'd booked at Baker City. Of course when we planned the logistics of the trip, we hadn't expected to be doing this drive having had no sleep in nearly 40 hours, and it was hard work. I drove initially but I'm sorry to say that I started drifting off (both physically and road-wise) and I had to pull over to let Victoria take over. I think she fared only slightly better than me though I'm afraid I wasn't enough of a gentleman to stay awake with her as she drove. I dozed off and on, but she got us to Baker City in one piece and we were checked into our room by midnight (we regained the hour coming back to the Pacific time zone).
Tuesday 25 May - Travelling Home
Four hours sleep wasn't nearly enough but it was welcome nonetheless. I was first up at 4am to shower, and we eventually got away from Baker City a tad after 5am. The sun wasn't far from rising and the early morning sunlight reflected off the nearby snow capped mountains. It was a beautiful, clear morning, with mist rising over every small lake or puddle off to either side of the highway. We had to get away so early as I had an 11:15am flight out of Portland, heading home. We drove back through the open spaces and a few spruce covered ridges before driving along the Columbia River and having spectacular views of Mt Hood. Some of the scenery along the river was quite beautiful, and the Pacific Northwest is always a terrific area to visit.
We reached Portland Airport at 10.20am, and so reached the end of a road trip that had been under three days but which, because of the shortage of sleep, felt like it had lasted a week! Before getting to the Gate, security decided to search my bags the suspicious shape they were concerned about was my Cheap Trick keychain! True!
The flight to Chicago took off to the west but soon turned 180 degrees and headed east, giving me a great view of Portland, and at one point whilst turning I could see Mt's Hood, St Helens and Rainier all lined up in one view! We climbed above the Columbia River that I'd been driven along just a couple of hours earlier, and I even spotted the snow capped mountains near Baker City. Boy, from 25,000 feet I could just see how much driving we'd done. My flight to Chicago was uneventful and it didn't take long to get over to Terminal 5 and board my BMI flight to Manchester. Frustratingly we sat on the tarmac for an hour as the runway was extremely busy with both landing and taking off on the same runway. We eventually got away, and it was only 6 hours back to Manchester. I tried to sleep and God knows I was tired enough to, but it was very warm in the cabin and I couldn't get comfortable enough to even doze. I was happy to finally reach overcast Manchester around 8.15am local, as by now my back was hurting again after so much sitting. I took the train back to Leeds and was due to go straight into work (I was supposed to be in an afternoon meeting), but I was so exhausted that I called my boss to take an extra day off and instead went home. I was in bed by 1pm in the afternoon!
And so ended a tiring but memorable trip in many ways. In hindsight the schedule was ambitious to say the least, with so much driving and so little sleep, though of course being "sleepless in Seattle" hadn't been planned that way! Lessons to learn try to make a less punishing schedule or take an extra vacation day at the end to make it less rushed, and if parking in a garage for a show, to check when it shuts!! It was nice to be back in the Pacific Northwest again and Seattle is always a great place to visit! And as always it was part of the pleasure to meet a number of old and new friends at the shows :-)
As always, there are thanks to be made. First and foremost, huge THANKS to Victoria for having done so much of the pre-work (show tickets and hotels), as well as for doing almost all the driving and for staying cheerful in the face of exhaustion! I think getting Steven Tyler (and Rick too!) to sign her arm at Nampa gave her a bigger energy boost than a whole pot of double-caffeine coffee would have! Thanks also to Carla, Cheap Trick and the crew, who made me welcome as always. And thanks to the people at The Showbox in Seattle for trying to help out after we'd discovered the car was locked in the garage!
Next time, Cheap Trick can come here!! Oh of course they are coming to Europe, in July! That works for me! :-)
Kim Gisborne - Leeds, England 30 May 2004
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