All of those guys have played with Francis before but I haven't so I had no idea how he was on a gig or in rehearsals. I saw a whole other side to him and he was tough! It was like boot camp because he's an amazing musician with decades of experience and everyone else, by comparison, 'dabbles' with it. After all the things going on with my brother's wedding, juggling an overload of things on my plate and some shameful procrastination, I didn't come as prepared as I should have and he let me have it... all the way to the point where he joked around even at the gig itself saying I hadn't learned the songs and I was winging it. Of course by the time we did the gig I had learned the songs or we couldn't have played them... that's not to say I didn't have plenty of cheat sheets on my music stand and some winging it missed the mark. But it didn't matter then and in actuality I made no less mistakes than anyone else. The energy was high and the spirit of the event took front seat to everything.
To get 'there' I did have a few extra road blocks to overcome. I had a few buzz kills like my Nord Wave keyboard that I had lugged around England on trains and the Underground sort of 'blowing up' the minute I turned it on. That's because, despite what a few techs told me, it was not able to handle UK power (on a deeper level it was because I was 'out of alignment' and that gave room for something like this to happen). I saw it light up for a second and then POOF it was gone and my heart sunk. Fortunately enough my own company Sonic Reality's sounds and IK's SampleTank music software saved me! I had everything I was doing on the Nord Wave right there on my laptop. Cool to put our own products to the test! I should have just used my laptop in the first place but I do like that Wave for live use because I can reach for a knob on the fly. I did still have my Nord Stage 2 with me (rented... ie 'smart') and did some on the fly knob twirling and foot pedaling on that. The rig turned out just right in the end.
SampleTank with Sonic Reality sounds on my laptop at the gig
I have to say that it was one of the most challenging gigs for me to have 20 songs down, an unexpected change in my set up and sounds plus finding that 'magic sync' with Francis which reportedly really only happened for 10 seconds in the song "Heartache Reborn" (according to Francis... according to everyone else the whole show was on the money! haha).
Here's a video of the next phase of rehearsals the day of the event. We didn't have too much time to rehearse everything which was like a fire under everyone's asses to get it all together... and I was the resident keyboardist playing on everyone's tunes so I had a heavy work load! Fortunately Gary Gerson, Francis's tech, loaded me up with Red Bulls which was my fuel to get through it. Phil Beaumont was also there to make sure I had everything I needed. Paul Brown, Paul Ramsey and John Dunnery, the other main players in the band, were extremely supportive and cool with me (being the newest to be part of that 'family'). The band chemistry was instant and fantastic.
So, when Paul Ramsey and Brett Kull of the band Echolyn (check out their latest album titled "Echolyn". It's great!) arrived we were able to finally rehearse "Whoever Brought Me Here" and everything else with drums. We also went over the powerful Echolyn song "Past Gravity" in rehearsals which you can hear a short bit of in this video. You can see my rig, Hackett's rig and a few other things.
I've been working with Francis on my "Sonic Elements" projects and we've become really good friends. I helped him get on the Steve Hackett "Genesis Revisited 2" album which then led to Steve Hackett's guest appearance at this charity gig so we could all cross that off our bucket list finally after all these years! It was amazing. It really was an honor for me to be there with all of those great people.
I'll post more about Hackett's arrival but for now I'll share with you a cool video montage of our celebrating his presence at this event which was already an incredible group of people. Steve and his wife Jo were so nice and friendly. It was great of them to come. They seemed genuinely happy to be there and all of us were beyond ecstatic. People who have known Francis for years say they've never seen him quite like this. He couldn't contain himself. "Steve-o!!!!" Haha. Priceless stuff. Watching Francis Dunnery and Steve Hackett improvise on Steve's "Ace of Wands" was magic. But that's just the tip of the iceberg...