Box News #280 – May 30, 2019


TOUR DIARY PART (1) URIAH HEEP AS SPECIAL GUESTS TO JUDAS PRIEST IN THE USA

Okay it was the first day of May and there was no dancing around the May Pole for us, as we all met at LHR Terminal 3 to fly British Airways to Miami Florida. Scampi, Brian and Ben came down from Manchester, so we only got to see them once we had gone through security. Then we all met in the BA lounge for something to eat and drink. The flight was 8 hours 40 minutes, but it was an old plane that had a few things broken. Phil had his seat that was lopsided, my light didn’t work, and some of the video screens were temperamental as well. The control for the screen was in the arm rest, so every time you put your arm down not only was it uncomfortable, it either changed the channel you were watching or stopped it.

Now as it was the first of the month they usually update the content of movies on British Airways but we had the same movies that we had going to Japan a few weeks ago, which was bad fare I have to say, as we had seen most of them. Oh yes and the newspapers that they supply for you to take on board if you so wish, were a day out of date. Now if that wasn’t bad enough after lunch they closed the bar. This did not please our particular travelling party as you can imagine and other passengers were not happy about it too. In the end they condescended to open it for a short while but not for long, and they certainly did not announce it.

On arrival in Miami it was the fastest I have ever entered the USA and we breezed through everything. Then Scampi phoned our transport to pick us up and it was only a 30 minute drive to the hotel. It was rainy when we arrived, which was a bit of a shock, but still hot and humid.

After checking in as it was 9pm, we decided to go down the street a few blocks away, and have something to eat and drink, otherwise we would have gone straight to bed, as we were all tired having very little sleep on the plane. Davey took a cab to meet his mate Richie Faulkner from Judas Priest as he has a house quite close by the venue.

Then for the rest of us, it was a short walk back to the hotel and even then we tried to stay up as long as possible to try and beat the jet lag. Miami is 5 hours behind the UK, so it isn’t too bad. I was in bed by 11pm and I nodded off straight away.

Most of us got up for breakfast and some had been up since 5am, while others had the no sleep story to tell, but I didn’t do too bad. After breakfast we just relaxed in our room before going to lunch at 1pm. We went back to the same restaurant and ate, but in the evening we went to another restaurant for a change and this time we turned left outside the hotel and walked a few blocks. It was a nice setting as it was by the water with boats and yachts moored up, but the food was not so good. During the day I did a couple of phone interviews and even before that Bernie and I walked to Walgreens which is a big Pharmacy/Chemist over here to pick up a couple of items that we had forgotten back in London.

It was pretty much an early night for some, but others had made the mistake of having a long afternoon nap, which to be honest makes it even harder to shake off any jet lag. I worked most of the afternoon clearing up my emails and getting on top of everything I could not finish in the UK before leaving, which was a good move. It kept me busy and prevented me from going in a deep afternoon coma.

The following day was gig day, so we had breakfast, and then we had to check out of the hotel at 12.30pm and go down to the concert, as after the show we had an overnight journey to Miramar Beach Florida, which was a 12 hour drive away. The venue for the first night though was the Seminole Hard Rock Live Hotel and Casino. Our soundcheck was at 4pm, and we were on stage at 20.00pm. As it was the first night everything was delayed, so we did not get to the stage until 5pm. Now as we would be playing to a predominantly metal audience that Priest pull in, and we only had an hour to play, we decided to do an hours worth of straight Heep rock. We started with ‘Grazed By Heaven’ and ended with ‘Easy Livin’ and it was full on power rock set all the way through.

As we hit the stage we could feel it was a good atmosphere, and that the audience were up for some good rock music, and rock they did. It was only an hour set, but the reaction was amazing and we had everybody standing up and shouting for more, which was just great. It was a good first show and then we had the chance to go out and see Judas Priest. Well I must say they have it all down. The production, the playing, the songs the Image, the whole nine yards. If it is metal you want, with Priest it is metal you get of the highest caliber.

After our show we had to go overnight to Miramar Florida which was a 12 hour drive where we were playing ‘The Village Door Music Hall’ on our own. Well they did have a support band, but the venue was a a lot smaller than the first show with Priest. However, we adapted and had a good gig. The promoter looked after us very well with food, drink and transport, so no complaints there, The agent who booked us there said that he had never seen a better band than Heep play at this venue, and they had people like John Waite and L.A. Guns play there, so that was cool. Talking of John Waite I used to love his band the ‘Babys,’ as they had some great songs. Well the crew stayed on the bus and the band had hotel rooms, which at the most we would be in for 7 hours, but a non moving bed is essential to some of the band, me included.

The next day we had a 7 hour drive to Nashville. Now as we did this in the day time there were all sorts of traffic jams as you would expect. In hindsight and we all know that hindsight is never wrong, we should have gone overnight, but there you go.

Our first stop was to a restaurant called the ‘Cracker Barrel’ for breakfast. Only Phil, Russ, Scampi and I made it, but it is a famous chain of restaurants that have a huge porch around the outside with rocking chairs outside for people to either sit on while they are waiting for a table or they can buy one. Inside there is a shop that sells so much toot that it is incredible. We had to wait 20 mins for a table as it was a Sunday and everyone comes out for their Sunday breakfast, so it was mobbed. I have to say I marvel at some of the breakfasts some of the people were eating. Just across from us an elderly couple were wading through, 2 fried eggs, bacon, hash browns, 4 pancakes with oodles of cream and maple syrup poured all over them, and believe me there was not a morsel left on the plate. Amazing! One things for sure that is not in the Jenny Craig weight watchers menu. Jenny runs a huge successful weight loss programme that is advertised everywhere here in the USA much like the UK Weight Watchers.

Well we eventually rolled up to our hotel in Nashville TN at 8.30pm, so Phil, Bernie, Russ and I dumped our bags in the room and went in search of some dinner. We found a Japanese restaurant a short walk from the hotel, so that was perfect. As we were staying just outside of Nashville in Brentwood TN, Davey and a few of the crew took an Uber into the Main Street in Nashville where it all happens.

The rest of us had a quiet night which was cool. I am lucky enough to have been to Nashville many times, so my need for rubber necking was not quite the same as others. It’s going to be a long 2 months on tour so a bit of self preservation has to come into play.

They following day after breakfast we all went to the concert venue at the Municipal Auditorium and had lunch, before the band went on walkabout downtown. We saw all of the bars and even though it was in the day there were bands playing live in every bar we walked past. Some of them actually on view in the window, which was usually the back of the drummer. We went in every boot shop there was headed by Bernie and Davey and saw some amazing sights. Cruising through the Main Street there was the ‘Pedal Tavern’ where people sit on bar stools drinking alcohol while they pedal away up and down the Main Street which was a hive of activity, and that was just in the afternoon, so I could see why some of the boys that went out the night before were a little peaky the next day to say the least. Still they had a great time by all accounts.

After walking around for a couple of hours and having a coffee, we headed back to the venue, as it was extremely hot and humid. The dressing room was air conditioned and comfortable so we stayed there until showtime.

Now the Nashville audience were amazing and we had a great time on stage. They were well up for it as the intro tape started up, and I have to say they were ready to rock with the mighty Heep and rock they did. We had them standing from the first note to the last and it was just a fantastic concert.

You can also hire motorised scooters that go 15 miles an hour, which is like 60 miles and hour when you are on them. Apparently after using them you can dump them anywhere as they were in some very odd places left by the person who had hired it. So after our concert Angus, Ben and Rich gave them a go, and went downtown for a laugh.

The following day we drove to Atlanta Georgia for a day off. It was only approximately 5 hours journey, so when we arrived it was the usual meet in the bar at 7pm and then all go out to a restaurant for dinner.

The venue in Atlanta I had played before and it is a very unique theatre. It had kind of a castle theme and in the roof a sky which looked amazing. It has an atmosphere before anyone had plugged in it looked that good! We were on stage for 19.30pm and we were just getting to grips with only playing a 1 hour set. We rocked from the first note to the last and the audience were with us every note played and sung. It was over all too quickly, but we had made the impression we had come on to this tour to do, and it felt good.

After the show we left at 10pm to travel on an overnighter to Kent Ohio where we were headlining on our own with a support band called ‘Prognation.’ It was three shows in the same venue which was the Kent Stage. We played there before on our last tour doing two shows, so we must have made the right impression as it went up to three. ‘Appy days!

We arrived at the venue and had lunch across the road from the venue and then the crew started setting up the stage and the band then went to the hotel. The sound check was important as we were playing a full set, so we did a fairly long one, and as we arrived we said hello to all of the staff that we had met before.

The first of the three shows was great and we had a brilliant time playing our full set. In the end everyone was standing and shouting for more so that felt good especially with another 2 nights to go. It was good seeing our Webmaster Dave White and his wife Carol there as they live in Cleveland Ohio up the road

The following morning we had been invited to the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ in Cleveland which was approximately 1 hours drive from our hotel. Dave White joined us which was cool. Firstly they took us down to the Vaults where they kept items that had not been displayed yet, which was very cool. From clothes to instruments it was very interesting. We were then set free with our passes to walk around the ‘Hall of Fame’ by ourselves. It was stocked full of so many interesting memorabilia items, but the most exciting thing for me to see was the original Les Paul ‘Clunker’ Electric Guitar. This was originally a 1942 Epiphone Broadway Guitar which Les Paul himself designed. He signed a contract with Gibson in the early fifties so they made him put a Gibson decal on the headstock. It was just amazing to see it, as it was that guitar that I had first heard on my Les Paul & Mary Ford vinyl EP’s. It was a really cool experience. Dave White kindly bought me a ‘Hall of Fame’ mouse mat that I was looking at which was very kind of him.

It was good to see our old mates Def Leppard and the Zombies inducted this year and good on them. After walking around we had a little lunch and then drove back to the hotel. This gave us a few hours before we had to get back down to the gig for the second show. There was no need for a sound check, so we just turned up in time for a warm up and to get changed for the gig. The dressing room was a broom cupboard anyway, so some of us used the bus parked outside.

Once again it was a fantastic reaction, and we changed the set around a little and added 2 more numbers. We did this, as we were mindful that some people were coming to all three shows. The second show was great, and they were truly rocking with the mighty Heep.

I have been putting Rich my guitar tech through it, as I wanted some new pick ups to try on my White Carparelli, so he kindly put them in for me, and also I bought a new Cry Baby Wah Wah which is the basic one with no frills, as I was having trouble trying to find the sweet spot on the one I have, which I love so much. They do wear out, so I thought that might be the problem.

While Rich was doing this Russ and I went for lunch and then to have a coffee in a coffee shop cum library. It was a cool place and the coffee delicious. On the way back to the venue and we were just about outside of the venue a lady walking behind us said that she liked Russ’s leather jacket. She said her father used to renovate Harley Davidson’s and he had a similar jacket that she liked to wear. She then asked if we were going to the Heep show and Russ said that we are Heep, and she nearly lost it. She then told us a story of a cat her family had with the name Uriah, named after the band. She wanted a picture but her phone was down the street in a shop she worked in. Well we waited outside while she ran to her shop and back and we had the picture taken and she was delighted.

The support band had a friend who is an Astronaut, and he took a picture taken of me and a guy from the band up into orbit with him, and then had a picture of him in space holding the picture of the both of us. How cool is that? So I am now officially an Urban Spaceman or a Space Cowboy if you like.

As it was the third night in the the same venue, we changed the set around again for a little variety. This was received very well and we after we did not leave until late as we had an overnight bus journey to Washington DC. Well the venue kindly kept the bar open and we enjoyed ourselves immensely as only Heep can before jumping on to the bus, where for some the party had only just begun.

In Washington DC we were playing the ‘Anthem’ which is a really cool venue. The band had lunch in the venue and then went to the hotel to get ready for the concert, while the crew set up the stage. Since being on this tour I must say that the Judas Priest band and the crew have been brilliant and the catering top notch. They have been very kind to us overall, and it makes for a good package when it is like that.

I had two good friends to meet who were Scott and Beth Graham. It was great to meet up with them and catch up on all of the latest news, as Beth is a longtime friend of my wife Sheila, so we have a lot of history there, as we have stayed at their house in Baltimore (well Sherwood Forest to be exact ) with Romeo over some summer holidays.

The concert was brilliant and we received yet another fantastic reaction from the audience, considering that even Priest admit they have a Partisan crowd who are staunch Priest fans, but we seem to be breaking through that barrier each night, which is great making it a fantastic night of Classic Rock and Metal.

The following day was a day off in Huntington NY, so it was a pretty relaxed day and much needed to be honest. We had our good friends David and Lana Vinogradov join us on the concert day which was cool. We always have a lot of fun with them and it is always good to see them. The venue was the Paramount Theatre where we were performing two nights. Now I like that, as it is heavenly that we did not have to unpack and pack up our suitcases and move on, but we could stay put in the one bed for two nights. Luxury!

Well Huntington did not let us down and we had a great time on stage and the audience were so loud it was amazing. This happened both nights, so it was good to get that sort of reaction in the NY area. The second day however I had an interview in my room at midday and then one at 6.30pm at the gig. I am constantly doing interviews, so I may have missed a few in the above text but trust me between interviews, meet and greets, trying out my equipment, having dinner, warming up, getting changed and the like, from the minute I get to the venue I am busy, busy, busy.

Also on the second night in Huntington, the crew were staying on the bus with no hotel and Angus & Ben discovered they could order McDonalds while on the move and that they could have it delivered to the bus on arrival. The crew were all starving, so apart from a number of different combinations of Hamburgers and french fries being sent, they had 70 Chicken McNuggets delivered. You read that correctly 70 of them! Now with copious amounts of Jack Daniels on board, and any other liquid refreshment that was available to consume, the party began until the early hours of the morning, and in some cases until daylight. In case you were wondering there was not a morsel of food left at the end either. At most a hamburger stashed in the fridge for later consumption.

Rich my guitar tech and I were trying out some new pick-ups in my signature White Carparelli S4, but although the pick-ups are brilliant, they sound great on their own, but with the band not so! The problem is that from stage left, the low end frequencies from the Bass, Keys and Russ’s kit, (mostly Bass Drums) I need a certain sound to cut through. As I said above in Kent Ohio, I also tried another Wah pedal, but that did not work either for the same reasons, so Rich and I have worked on the Wah I have been using for a long time, and we have made some adjustments that now sound just perfect. Sometimes it takes the slightest tweak, but it can make all the difference.

Now to change these pick-ups is time consuming, so my original ones have not made it back into my White Carparelli yet, so I will just have to be patient until it can get done. It is difficult to do this on the road with the schedules we keep. The pick-ups that I did try, Richie Faulkner from Priest suggested, but they may work for Priest but not for Heep. Also Andy Sneap Priests other guitarist and Grammy Award Winner Producer, gave me another set of a different make, and they were closer, but not as good as what I am using, so we have gone full circle, but sometimes it just happens like that. A lot of equipment sounds good on its own, but not with the band, still that’s life.

I do get lots of compliments about my guitar sound, so it is all good in the end.

The next day we were in the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. This was an exciting day for us as we were being inducted into the ‘Heavy Metal Hall of History,’ on stage that night. Pat Gesualdo and Martin Poppoff presented the awards on the stage, and it was a magical night to receive this award for the band. Each band member received one, so that was super cool.

Now as you well know from reading this blog Heep have only a 1 hour time slot to play our set with Judas Priest, and it is a tightly run ship. The award was given to us that in normal circumstances is usually done in a room full of people, who are there just for that occasion. I would then probably stand on a podium and talk at length about receiving the award. However this ceremony was in the middle of our concert and we wanted to make sure we could still play the songs on our set list for the Priest and Heep fans that were there and had bought tickets. I did manage to thank band members past and present, but going into detail was not an option for the reasons stated above. I would like to say though that this line-up has travelled the world keeping the Heep name alive and kicking, and with our new album ‘Living the Dream,’ we are entering into another phase of our career that keeps the band still relevant as we move into our 50th Anniversary. It was a proud moment for us all including every member past and present and most of all for the fans! The award was given more to this line up as we are one of the few heritage bands that are considered to be still relevant in today’s market. This is being proved each night on stage with the amazing reactions we are receiving for both old classic songs and soon to be classic songs from our new album ‘Living the Dream.’

After this presentation, we hit our stride and finished the show to an amazing response that felt so good. Backstage we had pictures taken and the party began. Jim Paidas with his family had delivered a box of ‘Sick Boy’ T Shirts for everyone, so it was a bit hectic there for a while and then David and Lana with their two friends Walter and his lady, took the band and crew to dinner in the Main Casino in the ‘Michael Jordon,’ restaurant. This was fantastic and something we had done before, as the food and drink were exceptional, and no more exceptional than the company we were in, and it was most generous of David and Lana to pay.

There was still good news on the horizon because our manager Ace Trump sent us all a message that the song ‘Falling Under Your Spell,’ from the latest ‘Living the Dream’ album had been added to the Planet Rock Radio play list in the UK. This will be the fourth song to be added to their playlist, which is a first for us, and just incredible. This just rounded off a fantastic magical day.

At midnight it was Russ’s birthday, so he continued on into the Casino with Davey and Richie from JP to celebrate some more, as did others, but I made it back to my room as I was indeed full as a gook. The mere fact they can smoke in the casino did not endear me to carry on in any case, as both Phil and I were fast getting a bronchitis type second attacks from all the different temperatures and time changes we have been through. We always seem to suffer this more than anyone unfortunately, and it is our cross to bear.

The following day we drove to Albany New York where we had a day off. It was officially Russ’s birthday and as there were a few casualties from the night before it was a quiet bus ride with most people sleeping. On arrival we went to our rooms to relax before finding an Italian restaurant, so that we could all go out and celebrate Russ’s birthday. We met in the hotel lobby and the hotel courtesy bus drove us to the restaurant that was deserted. There was only us in there and the food was average, and Russ could not even look at another drop of wine after the night before, so it was a quiet affair.

Now Mike Carparelli and his wife Natasha had driven down from Toronto to give me another Carparelli S4 with a Floyd Rose Tremelo Arm on it (Mike nicknamed it “Tiger”) as I have been recording and using live my Black S4 with the Tremelo Arm, and needed a spare just in case. Mike did a deal with a guy called Dan Preston for the guitar and I am eternally grateful for having this beauty in my guitar armoury. So many thanks goes out to both Mike and Dan!

As Mike was in town, we texted each other and they made it down to the Italian. It was good to see them both, and we had a quiet meal and sang ‘Appy Birthday to Russ, as he was given a slice of chocolate cake with a lit candle on it. Most of us do not eat cake so that duty was given to Davey, who has the sweet tooth of the Heep family. We then gave Russ his card and a nice bottle of red. After this it was all back to our hotel and Mike and Natasha to theirs for an early night.

The following day was gig day, so we slept through breakfast and then went to the venue for some lunch. After lunch it was back to the hotel after a short walk to do some laundry as they had a washer and dryer on the second floor. Davey and I shared the machine and it was good to have fresh clothes in our suitcases once again. I did not want my clothes put in the dryer as they shrink, so my room looked like a Chinese laundry there for a while, but they soon dried once the air conditioning was switched off.

Well Mike and Natasha joined us at 5.30pm and presented me with the beautiful S4 ‘Tiger’ guitar, and we then had some dinner in catering. While we got ready for the show, and I did some interviews, they took their seats. It was a rockin’ night for us and for a first night we had a great time. Huntington NY was ready to rock and rock they did. It was a great show, but unfortunately I did not see Mike and Natasha afterwards, as they decided to go back to their hotel after our set, though we did text a lot. However they loved the concert and Mike can be proud of just how good his Carparelli S4 guitars are sounding.

I did manage to meet Jason Morris who I first met at BB Kings in New York ages ago. Now Jason is a Judo 4 times Olympian Olympic Sliver Medalist. He has his own school and is a Heep fan. He gave me a picture, and I still have the original one from BB Kings up on my office wall in London.

The next morning Mike and Natasha (they have been married for 22 years – see I got that in Mike) left to drive back to Toronto Canada, which took them 7 hours straight.

It was a chilled day all around for us, but soon we were back at the gig for another rockin’ night. We changed the set a little and it went down a storm. The reactions have been incredible, and we get the feeling that Heep is just the ticket for the USA & Canada audiences and this tour with Priest is a serious building block.

The following morning we drove to Sellersville which was only a 4 hour drive. We had played the ST94 Theatre a few times before so we knew what to expect. We stayed at the venue for most of the day, and some had a kip on the bus parked outside. They always look after us well, but the dressing room is a broom cupboard, but surprisingly there is a shower crammed in there by the toilet.

It was a packed show and we were pleased so see that David and Lana had made it down there too which was cool. We played the full set which was so good to stretch out and play and the reaction was brilliant. The theatre was rockin’ big time and it was a good atmosphere. After this show we had a 12 hour overnight drive to Indiana, which is as far as our driver could legally drive. We all checked in to the hotel for a night off, and then we were hit with a surprise. We wanted to get a cab to a restaurant as per usual and all met in reception at 7pm, only to be told there was no cab service for a 50 miles radius, which was incredible, and I had never heard of that before. The end result was that the receptionist had menus for a Chinese Restaurant that we ordered from, and we had it delivered and ate it in the hotel reception. So it was not quite the night off or the food that we were looking for, but with the drinks brought in from the bus into reception, we made do Heep style.

The next day we finished off the drive to Milwaukee where we were playing two nights at the Riverside Theatre. Although we were playing at the Riverside Theatre we actually had our hotel in the Potawatomi Casino. We usually do two nights on our own in the Casino venue but this time with JP it we’re doing 2 nights at the larger Riverside Theatre which was 1.7 miles from the Casino.

Well we had two amazing shows at the Riverside Theatre and it just showed what a good ticket this was with both bands on fire. However with some time in the hotel and the TV on, I did see that Ladies Baseball is big over here now. It was always just played by men but the ladies games are all over the TV, and having watched a few, they are very exciting. They do pitch underhand but with immense speed. The other thing that is a totally different subject I have noticed over here is that I cannot believe how thin the toilet paper is in the USA and 1 ply is probably the max, therefore necessitating many folded pieces of paper to get the job done. Too much information you might say, but that’s the truth.

The following day we drove to Rosemount Illinois where we had another night off. It was a long drive so really we just had dinner on arrival and an early night. Well I did anyway as this chest/sinus infection caused by Passive COPD had really kicked in big time. Phil had his bronchitis return too and Bernie was beginning to get chesty and croaky.

There was a doctor brought down to the gig at the sound check as some of the Priest boys and crew were going down with it too. So Bernie joined Richie Faulkner and some of their crew to get sorted with various antibiotics etc. At that juncture I still found some meds in the bottom of my suitcase to help me out in the hope that it would have sex and travel, but that was not the case unfortunately.

Anyway as they say the show must go on and go on it did, and none of the audience were aware of either of the bands ill health and Chicago rocked. Unfortunately I had some guests after the show that I would have loved to have seen, but I had to make a quick escape for a shower and go straight to bed at the hotel. Bernie was a happy pup as his family had joined him from the UK for a few days.

The next day we flew to Austin Texas, so I will continue the next part of our rock n roll adventure in part 2 of this blogolicious…!

‘Appy days!

Mick

http://www.mick-box.net

http://www.uriah-heep.com

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2 Responses to “Box News #280 – May 30, 2019”

  1. Glen Doucet (Canada) Says:

    So happy to see that the tour is going so well, great seeing the amazing pictures on the Heep Facebook page of the various shows….as for Heep only getting to go to the Rock n Roll Hall of game on a tour is a disgrace, Heep should be in the Hall as members……the band should have been inducted years ago….I have personally written 2 letters to the induction committee over the last 10 years explaining why you should be inducted….but, congratulations are still in order for your induction into the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame…..so well deserved….

  2. Egil Bokn Says:

    Wow, you guys are doing one hell of a job in USA.
    Thanks a lot for sharing all this info Mick, where some is rather weird (no cabs) and a lot of fabulous info. Keep on moving around and please keep up the great stories you are telling us. Best of regards, Egil

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