Friday, November 9, 2012

Childhood Revisited (Hanging with Hackett)

A major 'bucket list' moment for myself, Francis Dunnery and a stage full of musicians was getting a chance to play live with Steve Hackett, the former guitarist of one of our favorite bands growing up... Genesis. Francis and I both recently guested on Steve Hackett's Genesis Revisited 2 album. But playing with him live was like a visit back to your childhood fantasy of wanting to be on stage with your musical heros. There we were doing it and it was so natural. Really felt great!

So let's start with Steve Hackett arriving for rehearsals... We’re on stage rehearsing and both Francis and Steve go back and forth talking about Genesis songs with Steve showing Francis the tuning for Musical Box, Cuckoo Cocoon and others that they just start jamming on right there on stage! It was like a private show. I caught a bunch of it on video but just to be there while it was happening was fascinating! Here was Steve Hackett being super cool and improvising on Genesis tunes with us on stage!

Francis played “Ace of Wands” with  his own finger picking guitar chords underneath which Steve really liked. Everyone there from Frank to Brett Kull and Paul Ramsey of Echolyn to Paul Brown to John Dunnery to Gary Gerson to ANYONE who knew were just over the moon seeing this interaction. We might have even played some of these tunes live!  But we did have an agenda already and one last minute addition was to get Steve to play on one of Francis’s songs from It Bites called “Still To Young To Remember”. So of course Steve Hackett being super cool said “Sure!” and we did it. We also did a Hendrix cover (actually a Dylan song) called “All Along The Watchtower” just to do something completely unexpected. That was Steve's suggestion. Then we worked out “Blood on the Rooftops” with him which I played keys on and Frank sang while Steve played beautiful nylon acoustic… he did a great classical guitar intro that also featured bits from Horizons off of Foxtrot. 

Here's a video of various highlights from the rehearsals and gig from my perspective being the keyboard player... keep in mind I also had to play so could only be camera man for so long! Francis could hardly contain his excitement. "Steve-O!!!". Fun stuff. Check it out. Francis playing Gulley Flats Boys for Steve, talking about Joni Mitchell, jamming on Steve's "Ace of Wands" and all sorts of stuff. 

We worked out a jammy version of “I Know What I Like”!!!!! At this point we were all in SUPER HIGH spirits. Steve had space to do some really cool atmospheric improvisation. It was great. Also, any sort of stress from before went away and we just had a BLAST the whole night when we did the gig. Francis was looking over at me and without saying anything his smile said “It doesn’t get much better than this” which is exactly what he said to me later. I felt the same way. I think Steve knew he was in a good warm place of people who thoroughly appreciated his art, his presence and his sacrifice to be there. I'm so glad I was able to play a part in helping to make this happen for me, Francis and everyone else. 

Someone in the audience posted a clip of "I Know What I Like" from the gig. You can get an idea of how much fun it was.

It was an unforgettable experience playing with all of the people in this gig. We played some of my favorites of Francis's songs like Soldier, Gulley Flats Boys, I'm In Love, My Own Reality, Whoever Brought Me Here and so many more. We also did a variety of songs with other artists such as Brett and Paul of the band Echolyn doing a song called "Past Gravity" from their latest album "Echolyn", we did a beautiful song called "Oh Marie" with Stephen Harris as well as great songs from Aquarian Nation artists John Gilmour Smith and Lars Mosin. I didn't get a chance to really talk to Lars but John drove me back to the hotel to change my shirt and we had a nice chat in the car. All really nice people. 

Here are some pictures of some of those guys (and if you want to see more join my Facebook page): 

Me with Paul Ramsey and Brett Kull of Echolyn

Squids & Sconna: Me with John "Sconna' Dunnery

Got to have a short but great hang with Stephen Harris. The story behind his album is incredible.

Paul Brown, me and Francis Dunnery

The Francis Dunnery Band on stage with Steve Hackett

There was also a great sense of relief when the gig was done. A lot of pressure! But we did it... a major high to come down from. The next day we did a charity walk around Ennerdale lake in the cold wet rain. We had the option of walking just to the bridge or around the whole lake which included slippery rock climbing and water streams going down the back of your neck. I chose the bridge because I couldn’t get sick since I had some big sessions coming up (and I also like living… I didn’t have the right ‘boots’ with me to do that). I had some nice chats with the people who were at the gig that do house concerts with Francis. Stewart, John, Sue, Clare… all very nice people. They loved the show and appreciated that we rocked out and were louder than usual!

Me (wet) with John and Sue

Squids and Stewart (Sav) Savage

I'm really thankful and grateful to all of the people that sponsored me for my walk for the charity. I brought in very close to my goal (91%!) of $1,000 to help children with diseases like cancer and that's a great thing! Everything about the event was positive and I hope that everyone, whether you donated or not, got to have a taste of that energy and experience from the pictures, video and stories shared after the event. I promised a few song downloads to those that sponsored my walk and I will come through for you but I will need you to be patient for it is all. Thank you for your support and above all I am sure there are children and their families that are grateful to all of us for a wonderful thing we did. There should be more of that in the world... and there will be! 

Here's me cold, tired and hungry on the walk around Ennerdale Lake in Cumrbia. (puns intended for FD and IB fans...). Honestly I could go on and on about this weekend with more pictures, video and stories but at least you get an overview of what it was like. A very memorable time. I happen to know what's planned for next year already. I can't reveal what it is but if it does happen... wow! What a great thing Francis and Erica have going with the CKDCF. They work so hard to make it amazing for everyone and they deserve a lot of praise for that. 

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