Box News #282 – June 21st, 2019


TOUR DIARY PART (3)

URIAH HEEP AS SPECIAL GUESTS TO JUDAS PRIEST IN THE USA & CANADA

Well moving on from Blog (2) we were still in Saskatoon for another day off. Our temporary tech Ryan arrived, while Brian was in Cancun while his son got married, so we all went out for dinner that night at the same Italian restaurant as the night before, simply because the food and wine were good and sometimes it is nice to know the quality is there ahead of time and it was excellent service.

Bernie lived in Saskatoon for a year playing all the bars and clubs, so he hooked up with a few of his old band mates and took a trip down memory lane. After dinner a few went off to the Irish Pub but Russ, Phil and I walked back to the hotel for an early night. I am nearing the end of my antibiotics, so after having a bit of a rough ride of late it was the right thing to do.

The next day was gig day at the Sasktel Centre which was a huge venue. After a reasonably relaxing day we met in the hotel lobby at 5pm to get down there in time for a quick sound check, then dinner, and we had some meet and greets. Our showtime was 7.30pm. In catering I saw Andy Sneap of Priest and he was looking a little worse for wear and he said that he had contacted the tour lurgy and was not feeling too good. Luckily on our tour bus I had some left over Theraflu as they call it over here, which in the UK we call Lem Sip, so Rich my guitar tech kindly went on our bus and got him the bag they were all in, and he thankfully took what he needed. This will at least help him in the early stages, unless it gets worse.

Well our show was outstanding, and we had an amazing reaction and it sure was a good way to start the Canadian run of this tour being the first Canadian show. I saw in the audience two of our Dutch fans Joke and Marco which was cool. They have come over for a couple of shows and are making a holiday of it.

After the show we met Joke and Marco and Bernies old band mates, but the hotel was calling as we had a 7am rise out of bed to travel to Lethbridge Alberta BC, which was about 8 1/2 hours away.

The following morning was my 27th Birthday (sorry 72nd Birthday)

Well I will always be 18 years old in my head for sure, but never mind. My phone, iPad and LapTop did not stop pinging all day with wonderful messages, which was vey humbling and extremely nice of everyone to take the time to wish me a Happy Birthday.

I did manage to FaceTime my UK family who were all having a wonderful dinner in my absence, and it was so good to connect with them and seeing them all having a great time. Romeo my son was at home studying as he had some serious exams coming up to get into University. Still I managed to FaceTime him too, which was lovely and he was wearing his Heep T Shirt in my honour, and then he put the phone by my dog Iggy who was lying on the bed sleeping, and when I whistled and called his name his tail went into overdrive. So all of that did my heart good as you can imagine being so far away from home. My son Mike in the USA had been sending me lovely messages too, so it was a special day.

Now Lethbridge AB I was told was a one horse town, so it was not a very exciting place to spend my birthday, and it was highly unlikely that there would be any non stop cockney dancing once we arrived there, but we did find a quiet restaurant and had a chilled one. After this current bout of illness I think that is going to be the best option.

I had promised to tip a glass to Trevor and Terry Uttley from ‘Smokie’ as we all share the same Birthday, as indeed does genius Les Paul. So a sensible quiet one it was, as we have a long way to go this year with all of the dates and tours booked already in the diary.

As luck would have it, the restaurant was a short walk from the hotel, and it was called the ‘Keg,’ which is a chain of restaurants across Canada, and the food and wine are top notch. I had not been drinking for a long while, so three glasses of lovely red wine went down a treat. We chose a South African wine from the Stellenbosch region that was to die for. The whole band and crew were there too which was cool, and after dinner they gave me a Birthday card signed by everyone and a bottle of my favourite cologne Jean Paul Gaultier. On top of that the band paid for my meal and vino which was super nice of them.

After dinner I went back to my hotel room keen to keep this persistent lurgy at bay, and I was back in my room by 10.30pm, while others hit the bars. It was the perfect evening, but I was missing everyone at home terribly. Still at least I was safe in the knowledge that they had a good time in my absence.

Well I had the next room to Bernie at the hotel and about 15 minutes before we were leaving the hotel to go to the venue, he was banging on my door. I opened it to see him just wrapped in a towel and he could hardly speak as he was in a lot of pain on his left hand side. I made him go back to bed while I called Scampi our tour manager to get a doctor to him immediately. Luckily we had two good friends visit us George and Eleanor Norton who we had known for years, so I could go to the gig with the other boys and George stayed with Bernie. I had to be down at the gig to explain that we may not be able to play that night.

The doctor came and called an ambulance, and Bernie was taken straight to the hospital which luckily was close by. Once this had happened and with only 2 hours before showtime, it was obvious we could not play that night.

Judas Priests tour manager asked if I would go on stage with the rest of the boys and explain this to the audience. As we walked on to the stage there was a huge roar and when I explained the circumstances we received another huge roar and they were so good about it, and I think they appreciated us letting them know personally.

Well it was disappointment all round, but what could we do! Eventually we found out from the hospital that Bernie had a Kidney Stone, and that would have to pass through his system. After a scan it showed that it was so small that it would probably dissipate in his system, which was a relief for him, as the only other alternative was to pass it out through his bell end…….ouch!

By 11pm Bernie had checked out of the hospital and went and had some dinner and was back on the bus for an overnighter to Edmonton. I have had a kidney stone before and the pain is excruciating, but if you are lucky it only lasts for a few hours. They say the pain is equal to giving birth, but hey we will never know that will we, but it does hurt like hell.

In Edmonton Canada we played a venue called ‘Roger’s Place,’ which was huge. Probably the biggest venue thus far, but as we were driving along in the bus we could smell fumes coming inside and we could see smoke outside the windows, and the signs were not good at all. The head gasket blew, so we knew we were in trouble. We made it to the venue, but that was it, it was a dead bus.

However, we had a fantastic show in Edmonton and the crowd were with us all the way. They rocked hard and we had a great time. Then started phone calls aplenty trying to get our bus fixed, as we were driving to Dawson Creek BC with a proposed leave time of 8am from our hotel. The poor crew had to sleep on the broken bus. Luckily it was a travel day and a day off!

The next morning I was receiving texts from Scampi giving me updates that did not sound very encouraging. We had to try and get our rooms extended until 2pm as they where having serious problems getting a replacement bus, so it was a full on hang about day for everyone, band and crew.

Well the story was that in Canada there are only 6 rental buses available, and 2 of them were in for repair, and 4 of them were already out. So we ended up hiring a private bus from a Country and Western artist called ‘Gord Bamford,’ which had his picture and name right down the side of the bus. Country and Western ‘Heep’ indeed.

Thinking that everything was sorted, I then received a text from Scampi who was on the C&W Bus driving to our hotel saying that the air conditioning had packed in, and it was hotter than hell. When they arrived at our hotel at 6pm we had to get another engineer out to fix that, which took about another 1 1/2 hours. You could not make it up could you!

Luckily on the side of the hotel there was an Irish Pub where we could wait and watch all of the sport on the TV’s, but even that got boring as hell. We had avoided indulging all afternoon with the refreshments that were on hand, but eventually when the crew arrived we broke down and sampled the delights of the pub, relenting in the last few hours to have a Guinness or three while the air conditioning was fixed. Some of the crew had been drinking what was still on the bus, so they were having a jolly old time.

Once the van was fixed it was a party atmosphere from the get go, with Ben hooking up his phone to the bus Bluetooth speakers, and there started Bens Disco Juke box, with plenty of singing and joviality. There was even a Congo line formed up and down the bus for a while, and it was a lot of laughs for a few hours, until everyone eventually wound down and disappeared to their bunks.

Overall it was a 20 hour wait and journey, and we arrived at the hotel in Dawson Creek BC at 4am cream crackered (Knackered.) Well it was 5am really, but the clocks went back an hour. Needless to say none of us made breakfast, but we all went for lunch at a nice restaurant across the road from the hotel.

The concert was in a venue called the Encino Events Centre which was another huge venue. Well the minute we hit the stage they were up for it and rocking and it was a fantastic gig and a brilliant reaction. You could feel the energy hit you on stage and the atmosphere was immense.

Well it was the last night for Joke and Marco over from Holland, so it was a good one for them to see, and we met them in the dressing room to say our goodbyes, and then it was back to the hotel as we had a 7am wake up call booked to travel to Prince George BC.

When I got back to my room I had a shower and put on Planet Rock Radio on my iPad with Paul Anthony on, and it was because of the time difference that it was the beginning of his morning breakfast show. I was amazed and sent him a text telling him, and then he said on air that people from all over the world listen to his show, and that after playing a concert with Judas Priest, Mick Box in Canada was listening.

He said after his morning show he was off to ‘Download’ now being called ‘Drownload,’ as it had been raining so hard. He sent me pictures that looked terrible, and I told him to pack his wellies, but he came back with he should take a snorkel and flippers more like! From the pictures I saw he may well be right! What a shame!

On the journey to Prince George BC we did see a few wild Moose which was cool, and there were even signs to Alaska, but I was quite happy to be going to Prince George.

We had no hotel that day, so it was a bit of a hang about day at the gig which I hate. Still it had to be done so we showered down at the gig and we had to do an overnighter to Kelowna BC.

Well the gig was amazing and the reaction incredible even from the hardened Priest fans down the front. We also saw a lot of old Heep shirts which was cool. It was a fantastic night and the band were on fire. We stayed around for nearly 90% of the JP set which was as good as ever and then we all boarded the bus for an overnight journey to Kelowna BC for a night off! A few of the team stayed up all night and did not make their bunks until after 8am, being the party animals that they are.

We had been invited by the JP boys to join them for dinner at a restaurant called the ‘Keg.’ This was the restaurant chain where I had my Birthday meal, which was excellent, as it was Bernie’s Birthday and he would be duplicating my Birthday in the same restaurant chain, only this time with the JP band as well. We only stopped once for some breakfast in Kamloops and arrived at the hotel by 3pm in time for the check in. We we’re meeting at 5pm, so that just gave us a couple of hours to freshen up.

We were just a few minutes late for the restaurant as the taxi was delayed, but at least we arrived okay. Now Kelowna BC is a beautiful city and it would have been nice to have spent some time there, but that’s touring for you, and I am told the months of July/August and September are blisteringly hot. The restaurant was down by the waterfront where so many boats were moored, you could smell the money.

Well the meal was fantastic and the drinks were flowing at a rate of knots. Rob Halford didn’t make it but it was fun with the rest of the guys. Having not had a drink in a while it hit me hard and after a delicious meal, I was the first to leave with Phil and Scampi, while the others all went back to Judas’s Priests hotel for more drinks. How they did that I will never know because joined up talking for me had become a bit of a problem, though we did have a lot of laughs.

The next day funny enough no one made it to breakfast but Russ, Bernie and I made it to lunch. We were all so well oiled last night that we even forgot to give Bernie his Birthday card and Bottle of Organic White Wine, so I gave it to him at lunch. Phil decided to go down to the venue at 1pm with the crew and do some rubbernecking.

As it was Father’s Day I sent everyone a message wishing them ‘Appy Father’s Day, and I received text’s and Facebook messages from my family, and I even had a FaceTime call from England with Sheila and Romeo which was fantastic, and boy that did the heart good.

Well, when we arrived at the venue which was the Prospera Place, we met our manager Ace Trump who had driven from Los Angeles with his assistant Sean Baldwin. He also had his lovely mother with him Fay Rothlander and a few very nice friends. It is always good to see Ace and when he is there you kind of feel that the touring team is complete.

The concert was fantastic and by the end of the set they were all standing up and having a great time. We enjoyed the atmosphere immensely and the place was rockin’ big time. The night was set for Judas Priest and they took it by the throat and gave them some good old British Metal.

We said hello to a number of people after the show and then it was back to the hotel as we had a 7.30am wake up call to drive to Abbotsford BC where we were playing the Abbotsford Centre.

The weather was beautiful and it was good to be back in a pair of shorts and a T Shirt. There was no hotel that day, so we had to hang about the venue all day as we are driving overnight to North Quest WA for a day off. I personally hate this as I find it draining. At 5.30pm I was due to meet Gary Lambert from Graphtec Guitar labs who kindly supplies all of the hardware on my guitars. The locking tuners, nuts, and bridges are fantastic and they really make a difference on keeping my guitar tip top and in tune with dependability. I cannot recommend them enough and a big thank you goes to Mike Carparelli for the introduction.

I introduced Gary to Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap of Priest and they were well impressed and hopefully they will follow suit and arm their guitars with these goodies. Andy had already ordered from the company a bridge/nut, so he was a convert already,

Well the concert was just amazing and we went down an absolute storm which was just great seeing as it was our final Canadian concert on this run. Bernie had his sister Brenda there and a whole lot of family so there were plenty of people to say hello to and Rich kindly went to the trailer to get my guitars as Gary wanted to have some pictures of me with the tuners etc on my Carparelli S4’s. We did this with the Black and the White S4.

The bus was going overnight to North West WA in the USA, so we arranged a midnight departure. Our new bus had arrived, so we said goodbye to our driver Dave driving the Country and Western ‘Gord Bamford’ bus, and then we started transferring everything from one bus to another. The new bus was fine and it was good to see our driver Bob again, who is not only a good driver, but a good man.

Now the Border from Canada to the USA was only 15 minutes drive from the venue so the plan was to arrive at the border and get everything checked and cleared, and then we could all hit our bunks for the ride to North West WA USA by 1am, and get some sleep. The journey was approximately 8 hours, so we planned to stop at 10am for breakfast and then drive to the hotel where we could check in early as Scampi had pre-arranged this.

At the border we all trooped off the bus and then the whole world turned upside down for us. Firstly in each of our passports there was a stamp missing, which was not a problem so this took longer than expected, but then the real bombshell hit. They asked for the Carnet to check the equipment and Scampi only had a copy, but they needed to see the original. Now if you followed all of our bus problems in this blog, the original Carnet was with the bus papers on the first bus we had. So the bus and people on board could enter, but not the trailer with the equipment in it.

The only available plan was to take the trailer back to the gig, and drop it there, then get the original Carnet speedily couriered up to the border. In the interim period we would all travel the 8 hours on the bus to our hotel in North West WA USA, and then Bob and Scampi would have to drive back the next day and get the trailer.

Now it was about 1am when they went back to the gig to unhitch the trailer, while we all sat uncomfortably in the Border Control waiting room. Although the gig was only 15 minutes away this process took nearly 2 hours, as they could not unhitch the trailer from the bus because it was stuck. Scampi called Angus and asked him where a big lump of metal was to smack it with to loosen it, and once he had that identified and he used it, he could unhitch the trailer. Eventually they got back to the Border and we could leave, and by this time we were all hanging, as it was 3am.

The worse part of it all was that while we were waiting there all of the Priest Trucks and Bus personnel came through and walked right past us while we were waiting there. As they passed by we said to each of them ‘don’t ask,’ as we had told the firsts guys who cleared through the story, so they could tell the rest of them.

Well we did not stop as planned on our journey to North West WA USA, so we arrived at the Casino hotel and checked in, and then went to bed. Scampi and our Bus driver Bob then planned to drive back to Abbotsford BC in Canada to pick up our trailer, and timing it so that the original Carnet had been couriered to the border police in time. That is an 8 hour journey for us to get to North West WA, and then an 8 hour journey back to Abbotsford BC Canada, followed by an 8 hour journey back to North West WA USA. That’s a total of 24 hours driving for poor old Bob our driver.

The venue at the Northern Quest Casino and Resort was an amphitheatre outside, and if you for one minute think the Bus saga was finished, then think again, as they were that close to the hotel that they could see the venue and then to cap everything off they had a tyre blow out. So they could see the venue and the hotel, but had to wait another hour and a half to get the tyre fixed. Unbelievable, but eventually the Bus, Bob, Scampi and the equipment turned up so the gig was on.

We arranged to meet at 7pm in the lobby on our day off for dinner. Ace our manager and Sean his assistant were driving there so they would join us too. Now I went downstairs a little earlier and I saw Ace in reception with a face like thunder which was most unusual, and he was obviously upset, and then I found out why. They were in Ace’s vehicle right at the front door of the hotel when Sean his assistant shut the door with the keys inside, and with the engine running. Even Ace’s phone was locked inside the car. They phoned the service that deals with things like that and they said it would take 2 hours to come. Now leaving the car with its engine running for another 2 hours at the hotel entrance would not please anyone, but luckily the whole saga was over quicker than the 2 hours as predicted and thank goodness for that. Still it was a long time and a lot of stress was involved.

Well our Brian was back today from his sons wedding in Cancun, so he turned up all tanned and rested, and after hearing all of the stories, I bet he thought he was glad he left and came back when he did! We are praying that the bad luck is now over and we can finish the rest of the tour on a high, well certainly in the bus department anyway!

Dinner was at a sports bar restaurant called the ‘Epic,’ which some liked and others disliked, and then we went to the bar where those that were still hungry ate more food there. Some were also enjoying a variety of cocktails that lead into the night. Phil and I took the no drinking early night route, and I am glad I did.

I had breakfast with Phil and Ace and there was a no show from anyone else until lunchtime. Then we had a chilled afternoon before getting ready for the concert. Well as we were chilling the whole weather outside was fast becoming less sunny and very overcast, and by the time we went down to the show there were rain spots in the air. So much so that all the equipment and pedals were covered in this thick clear see through plastic. We could not use our backdrop as the wind was blowing too strongly, so the conditions were not good.

However by the time we went on to the stage, the rain had stopped and it stayed that way for the whole of our show which was great. The crowd were rockin’ and we had a great time under those conditions, and we left the stage to great applause and yells for more. It was quite windy, so I did half the set with a pair of hair curtains in front of my face, which neither looked good or helped in the guitar playing department.

Unfortunately by the time we got back to our dressing room the skies opened up and it rained really heavily for the Judas Priest set. Being the professionals that they are they played on through and gave the audience some good heavy metal that they came for, even though their own production was restricted by the weather too.

After the show we all went to a restaurant for some dinner, as we were finished by 8.30pm which was nice, and then I had an early night with not a drop off drink passing my lips, even though the red wine on offer was right up my Strasse!

I hope you enjoyed this read, and Part 4 will follow with the rest of this adventure documenting the warts and all, on this road trip we call touring.

‘Appy days!

Mick

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One Response to “Box News #282 – June 21st, 2019”

  1. Dougie walsh Says:

    Great read mick my god ups and downs i will be youre driver nxt .hope u guys are all well not long till u head back .take care hopefully see you guys rock the uk soon.

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