Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Touch of Home. And A Lot of Home

 I know everyone in the states is celebrating Independence Day today, but due to being right next to (yet on the other side of) the International Date Line for us today is the 5th. And that's not me trying to be a hipster ("Oh you're partying for July 4th? yeah...we did that yesterday")

Good News is I can tell you all about our 4th of July celebration while you are gearing up for yours.

Yesterday started with rough weather. And I mean it was hanging-off-a-mast-with-a-knife-in-your-teeth bad weather. Dale, Bobby, and Tim had left about 10 minutes before in one golf cart to go to the venue site (on the opposite side of the island). When I finished showering and getting ready I took the other golf cart to go meet them. I never made it. As I got about an eighth of a mile from the Kwaj Lodge (where we live here) the rain started. And it was the good old Mobile rain that I'm accustomed to. Then it got stronger. It was getting to be a little more like the Hurricane rain of Mobile that I'm accustomed to. Once I was about half way to the destination the rain and wind got so strong I thought it was going to flip the golf cart over. The rain was hitting me like rocks and it was coming at me sideways (every one think Forrest Gump rain). Well I wasn't fearing for my safety (Hell, I was already soaked. Couldn't get wetter) but it pounding the golf cart so I looked for shelter. The next block I passed had a grocery store on it so I pulled the cart under their roof and next to a wall. The store was closed for the 4th but the shelter was saving me and the cart. I'm glad I found shelter when I did because the rain actually got worse than it already was. So I sat there kinda stuck for about 10 minutes.

The rain finally started slacking off. It wasn't calm by any means, but it was back down to hurricane level. Right then I see the golf cart with Dale, Tim, and Bobby pass at the end of the block (headed back toward the Kwaj Lodge). I run through the rain, jump in my cart and punch it. It takes a while to catch em but I eventually do. The rain picks back up and we must seek refuge again. After a few minutes of waiting we brave the rest of the ride back.

Upon getting there I discover to no surprise that the set up has been postponed.

The last time we were on Kwaj our biggest show got dumped on. Although that show was one of the most memorable, I hoped this year's July 4th would have cooperative weather.

Thankfully it did.

By the time it got to be 1-2pm it was smooth sailing (that term has more meaning to me after this trip).

We set up with the help of a great and friendly crew. (Dale said this has to be the smartest crew we've ever had. And I must agree being as the guys that were helping us were all radar engineers and rocket scientists). Anyway, one of the guys asks where I'm from. When I said Mobile, Alabama (Dauphin Island Parkway to be exact) he said that he had went to Davidson and Murphy High School (which are also in Mobile).  We started talking about all sorts of things from our home town of Mobile. He said he had been out here on Kwajalein for 18 years but he had something for me.

He went back to the sound board. As soon as the PA was up and running: what do I hear? Wet Willie.

For those that don't know, Wet Willie is a band from Mobile (our home town) that was as big as it gets back in the 70's/early 80's. For all Mobile musicians of my generation and beyond, Wet Willie showed us what was possible. They were the benchmark. The goal was to find a way to get to where they had gotten. They were a legitimate, world class band that kept true to their roots in Mobile.

Over my many years of playing I consider myself very fortunate to now be able call the members of Wet Willie my friends. Most notably of these, Donna Hall who sang backgrounds on my album, and Rick Hirsch, who not only produced my CD, "My Brother's Keepers", but also will be touring with me in Belgium (after this trip in the Pacific). These people have directly affected my life in a positive way and I still get amazed that I get to call them friends of mine.

Well with that as the back story you can see how yesterday was a special moment for me.

I was waiting to perform for the United States military ON Independence Day, half way around the world. I'm not sure how I could be in a situation where I would feel more patriotic and proud.

Then Wet Willie is played over the PA for an hour.

It was the icing on the cake. I'll tell Rick about all this when I see him in Europe in a couple weeks but the rest may never know they were a part of my "moment". But their music being there mattered to me.

I don't have any false conceptions that I have made as big a wave in the industry as Wet Willie. They were a big time signed act with multiple charted songs. But standing in that situation last night I was sure I had at least made a ripple. And who shows up to give me a reassuring pat on the back and a congratulations but Wet Willie (in the form of their music). It just felt good. The people I had looked up to were right beside me on my proudest day.

I sat back and watched the sunset over Emon Beach. There were red, white and blue streamers and lanterns dancing from palm trees and "...give me that country side of life..." filling the air.

With that as the prelude to the gig, it obviously couldn't go wrong.

Our show went off without a hitch. We were so excited to get to play for these soldiers and their families that we started 30 minutes early. That's not "rock'n roll" I know, but we wanted to give em their money's worth and more importantly let them know how much we appreciate them and their sacrifices.

Everyone in the band put on an exceptional show in my opinion. We were hitting on all cylinders.

The military danced and enjoyed their 4th of July and it felt so good to be a part of it.

As I watched the people dance I could just feel that they had been needing that show. Everyone I have talked to out here loves living and working out here, but there are sacrifices that have to be made to be here for extended periods of time.

One of those sacrifices is live music. The people that live here say the last band they saw out here was us in 2009. That's a long time without live music.

There are so many sacrifices they all have to make, but last night we made sure that having a real American party with live music wasn't one of them.

I could see it on their faces. They weren't just dancing at a small little beach party that was kind of a close proximity of what they could get at home. They were transported home. Or rather a little home was transported to them.

A lot of times I'm sure it probably feels like they are forgotten and separated from the world out here.

Well last night we brought a piece of the world to these good people. They made us feel like we brought it all.

Happy 4th of July to everyone. (Me included)

Early In the Evening (July 4th Emon Beach, Kwajalein)

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