We're Not In Seattle Anymore...
Well, a new bunch of fly dates - this time to China. I am excited about this as I have never been to China. From Seattle the first flight is 12 hrs. That's a long time in coach, still a long time in Economy Plus or what ever your airline calls it that day. A quick plane change in Shanghai and I am off to Guangzhou.
I am rewarded with a extra day to acclimate, and it is a great day, not too hot, in the upper 80's, blue skies. The hotel has access to the regular social media websites, I have some of the regular entertainment I am use to. The next day is a different story, it is very foggy - but its not fog - its totally air pollution! I am definitely not in Seattle anymore.
The next day is our first show of four in a row. Tonight is a great night for a great meal in the hotel. The menu is a mix of Italian and Western food done very well with an Asian flair.
On the first show they get the equipment list slightly wrong. This run I am on the other end of the snake and doing monitors, a little out of my comfort zone, but I am going to nail it. One thing to be aware of when touring in Asia—and this can influence any and every part of your show. Saving face is a huge deal culturally. With the Chinese they do not want to look bad at all. So, for example, they may tell you that the gear you requested does not exist in that city (even though the last time you were there 9 months ago, you used it). The effects unit they supplied dies in between the time of me checking mixes and the band’s arrival for sound check - NOT GOOD!
We do a quick swap out and I am up and running again. We do sound check and every one is happy with the results, time for dinner. Tonight's attempt for dinner is fried rice, thats all .. just fried rice.... I raid the band’s dressing room for some more food, and then its time to go put on a show. It’s a great night and we get back to the hotel around midnight.
Day 2 - 05:30am Lobby call! A flight back to Shanghai, and hours drive to the venue to do it all over again. More air pollution. This room is a little tougher. Its a "LESS IS BETTER" room. Again a failed effects unit!! (I am certain it is a different unit than yesterdays) ... quick swap drill and back in business. Sound check is a little tough, but we get to a good place to start the show from. Dinner for tonight is a bag of Mc Donald's!!! Let's just say I don't eat McD's in the good ole USA, I AM NOT eating it in China! I raid the bands dressing room of snacks and some fruit - its going to be a long night. Show goes off with a out a hitch and every one is VERY HAPPY (still) ... back at the hotel by 11:30pm.
Day 3 - 05:00am Lobby Call! A flight to Beijing - More air pollution, but I am told its a beautiful day because there is actually enough sun to cast a shadow on the ground, but visibility is like a 1/4 mile or less. Todays gig is very dirty and smelly. My work area is setup in a spot that smells like a cat box. The stage is super dirty and dusty, just like my console. I shudder to think what is in the dirt here. The 3rd effects unit in a row to not work ... Sound check wise and show wise, everything is going as planned and is consistent. We nail the show and we are back at the hotel by 12:00am
Day 4 - 05:00am Lobby call. For a flight to Chongqing. As I do every morning, I gather up our equipment that we fly with (4 extra pieces). This morning its gets rolled off and loaded into a vehicle. In the confusion leaving the hotel we think we have it all -(here is a learning moment for everyone)- We get to the airport after an hours drive in heavy traffic, lo and behold, we do not have the gear. Now myself and the two others on the early fly team are experienced and we slipped up a tiny bit .. but this is huge. After many calls we think we have the gear located, but really there is no guarantee that its on its way. When the band and the other equipment van arrives we find the gear, but we have to run and catch our flight and the band is going to have to fly with the gear, which already puts us over an hour behind in the next city. On the other end we go to the venue and get everything there in place and ready and wait for the "lost" gear. After all the stress, we had a great show.
Day 5 - 05:00am lobby call ... Time to fly home! We head to the airport and it is close to an hour drive (seems like everything in China is an hour drive). We start checking in and a airline rep assists me ... she basically grabs everything out of my hands and starts checking me in (I did not ask for this ...) ... while she is doing this, she books me into a center seat - I stop her and say, "you put me in a center seat, we need to change that.." She clicks on the screen and backs up to the seat assignment screen, clearly you can see I am in a center seat - AND THEN SHE FINISHES the check in with out changing it! I again tell her that she put me in a center seat and that was not OK. She looks me in the eye and tells me that she did not. I show her the ticket showing 12E and she tells me , that sometimes "E" is not a center seat. Anyways, there were loud voices being loud to each other and she finally just turns and walks away ... I end up going to the counter and resolving this ... but man oh man .. I'm not in Seattle anymore.
Long story short it was a stressful run and we nailed it. Some lessons to learn - NEVER EVER trust ANYONE to have your back. Always put eyes on it, or it does not exist (and you'll be screwed). When confronting the Chinese, there is way to do it and a way not to .. stating that they screwed up and need to resolve it is not the way .. I think the way is to present it in a way that they can save face gracefully and not to look like it was their fault. And finally .. ALWAYS BRING FOOD! I pack nutrition/energy bars and some snacks on every trip I take, some of it is for the creature comfort, some it is just in case there is no food readily available.