Saturday, May 26, 2007

Roadie Report 26-The Winter of 2007 by Camilla McGuinn

For years we have eschewed the opportunity to drive north in February, but in 2007 we opened our schedule to driving everywhere in spite of the weather because the American roads are kept pretty clear during adverse weather conditions. We packed a couple of warm coats and we were ready for a winter adventure.

Our arrival in Fairfield, Ohio on February 2 was greeted with a blast of cold arctic air. Everyone was talking about the weather but the weather couldn't keep the fans at home. People remembering where they were in 1965 and people not even born then, warmed the Fairfield Community Arts Center.

Farm Niente was on our way home. Linda and Bill greeted us for an overnight reunion. It snowed that night and it was cold enough to crack the S.Pellegrino bottles in our van. Those winter coats were being put to good use.

The weather was warming up in March, so we thought the winter was going to sleep. While on our second winter adventure of the year, a surprise snow and sleet storm woke us up on Friday morning in Littleton, Massachusetts. I called the promoter and arranged for him to have someone pick us for the concert. The show was sold out and in spite of the icy roads, most of the seats were filled.

Snow was still coming down when I peeked out of the hotel window early Saturday morning. It looked peaceful, but we had hundreds of miles to drive before another concert that night. I put on my coat, pulled a hat over my ears and headed out the door to see if the van was buried in snow. It wasn’t buried, but I was sinking up to my knees in white powdery snowflakes.

While Roger was packing the guitars and equipment onto the hotel cart, I decided to shovel the snow. Amazingly, I had just bought a snow scrapper for the windshield that had a small shovel attached. For the first fifteen minutes I laughingly shoveled and enjoyed some else’s weather but it didn’t take long for me to quit seeing the humor in the situation. We had miles to go and the parking lot was much too big for me to shovel. Drastic measures became necessary. I went in search of the hotel maintenance office and pleaded for their snowplow to get us out of the parking lot.

Roger arrived with the equipment minutes before the snowplow. I left him to pack the van and I went to check out. When I got back to the van, we were ready to go. Even though the snow was unrelenting, we were on a mission to make it to Fairfield, NJ in time for our day-of-show lunch at 2pm. Our snow and mud caked van slid into an icy parking lot just in time for that welcomed meal.

We had a few days off before our next concert at Monmouth University in Long Branch, NJ. After we found a much-needed car wash that could handle our high-top van, we headed to the Sheraton On The Hudson to spend a few nights and to hop the ferry for some appointments in New York City.

While at the Sheraton, our first shipment of “Live From Spain” was delivered from Oasis CD Manufacturing to our hotel suite. Our record label’s (April First Productions) third CD is a live show which was recorded for radio broadcast from the Azkena Rock Festival in Vitoria-Gasteiz Spain on September 10, 2004. The master of the recording sat on my desk for over a year and it was during a “Creative Saturday” moment that I picked it up and took it to Roger’s studio for him to analyze. He immediately put it on and before I could get back to my office, I stopped, turned around, went back to his studio door and stood listening with my mouth slightly ajar. The recording is of a very high quality because it was for radio broadcast and the show has an interesting flair since Roger had targeted it for the Spanish audience. There is even a rare guitar solo on one of the songs. When we heard the solo, we simultaneously said, “I didn’t know that was there!”

Then the fun began. I called Oasis CD Manufacturing and arranged for quotes and a design team. Roger and I had the same vision for the cover - an Old World map of Spain with flames. The Internet and the wonderful art department at Oasis made it possible for the cover and contracts to be completed within the week. Roger asked me to write a Roadie Report about the trip to put on the inside cover and then with an overnight delivery of the master, the finished product was scheduled to be in our hands during the next tour. All I had left to do was to arrange the publishing licenses for wonderful songs written by Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Jacques Levy, Goffin and King, and other gifted writers.

We gave the first copy of "Live From Spain" to Roger’s son, Patrick, at dinner that night.

Roger was not only performing a concert at Monmouth University; he was also presenting a lecture about his experiences in musical history and about the advantages of computer recording. We went to West Longbranch a day early to sing some songs live on WBJB radio and to help with their fund raising. The weather was still cloudy and cold.

The sold out concert in Albany in the Swyer Theatre at The Egg, had a few technical problems before the show could begin. I seriously thought about beginning a career in comedy while we waited for the equipment to be fixed, but I could hear Roger's voice in the recesses of my mind calling with a Cuban accent, “! What are you doing?” The equipment got fixed just in the nick of time. Not only was the audience patient, they were appreciative.

The weather had cleared in the morning when we headed to Beacon, NY to Pete Seeger’s house for a BBC radio interview about the song, “Bells of Rhymney.” We drove past patches of ice banks along the long rutted driveway up to the Seeger home. Roger had recorded Pete at his mountain top house in 2000 for the Grammy nominated CD “Treasures From The Folk Den.” Walking through the front door into the arms of Toshi and Pete was like another homecoming.

Toshi and Pete Seeger found their mountain acres in 1949. They met in NYC at a square dance and because of empty pockets, they started looking north of the city for a place to live. They found their homestead and built their house with their own hands and with the help of everyone who came to visit. Pete tells of having a hammer ready for every pair of hands that shook his hand.

Pete told me that Toshi was the quintessential pioneer woman. With a baby on her hip, she would walk down to the creek for water. Her small frame stands taller than the highest mountain tree and she is my hero. As she was heating water for tea, I asked her if she still drove up the long steep, driveway to their house. She replied, “Everyday.” I mentioned I was glad to hear that because I wondered how long I would be able to drive the roads as Roger’s roadie. Toshi smiled and said emphatically, “ You will do it as long as you need to.”
Disciple and Teacher

We drove down the mountain and headed for Buffalo late that afternoon with our emotions deeply touched by two of the inspirations for both of our lives, Toshi and Peter Seeger.

Coxsackie, NY is home to another amazing couple, Mary and Bob Irwin. Bob and Roger met while working on the first Byrds Box Set in 1990. He and Mary formed Sundazed Music in 1989. The label is a meticulous labor of love. Bob loves music and searches for rare jewels to encase in supreme packaging from vinyl to compact disc. We stopped by for a quick hello which turned into a lunch that lasted all afternoon. By the time we left, Bob expressed a desire to package “Live From Spain” on vinyl. You never know what a day may bring forth.
Bob, Mary and Roger

A day off between concerts is always an opportunity to explore. Such were the days before the concert at Rockwell Hall on the Buffalo State College campus. We had visited Niagara Falls before, so while reading about the area, I discovered a small town called Niagara on the Lake in Canada. We set the GPS and found ourselves spending the day and evening in a charming quaint town surrounded by vineyards. We had no idea the Canadian wine country existed and we can’t wait for another opportunity to visit and thoroughly explore the area.

The previous time we were in Buffalo, Roger and I were walking through the Walden Galleria and heard the sound of a wonderful voice drifting our way. The mall was celebrating something, as malls often do, with a stage and music. An attractive woman was standing bravely on stage by herself singing her heart out to shoppers passing on their way. We stood by a store window and listened to her last song. Roger loved her voice. I approached her and asked her name and contact information telling her that my husband would someday like to have her as his opening act.

Later in the evening at Rockwell Hall, I mentioned to Jeff, the promoter, that Roger would like to have Maria Sebastian open for him the next time he played the venue. Jeff was familiar with Maria and made a note of Roger’s request. When this show was scheduled, Jeff arranged for Maria to be on the bill.

I opened The Buffalo News on March 30 looking for advertisements for Roger’s show. The headline that I saw on the front page of the entertainment section was, “THE WEEK: Maria Sebastian is a storyteller with a guitar.” Mark Sommer, a reporter we have worked with for years, interviewed Maria about how she became the opening act for Roger McGuinn. She told Mark about the day a woman approached her about opening for her husband but she didn’t recognize the musician's name. That night she Googled him and was shocked and embarrassed. She wasn’t the first one to be caught unaware by this quiet troubadour.

Maria was the sparkling local celebrity singing to happy hometown crowd at Rockwell Hall on March 30, 2007. Roger enjoyed listening to her through the speakers in his dressing room. I enjoyed musicians coming to my “lemonade stand” and letting me know when they would be performing at the mall. There were a lot of smiles leaving the venue that night.

The Buffalo show was followed by concerts in Indiana, Pennsylvania and the beautifully restored State Theater in State College, PA. It was at the State Theater that we celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary on April First. We enjoy celebrating special occasions while we are working at what we love. Mike Negra, director of the theater, and Wanda, his wife, filled the dressing room with special refreshments to take back to our hotel room for a wonderful quiet party after the concert .

We stopped in Hershey, PA on our way to The Barns at Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA. We often pass by the exit signs for Hershey and I had always thought of it as a tourist area built around a chocolate bar, but with a few days to get south, we decided to see if there was anything unusual about the town.

The Hershey Hotel is a grand old place, maybe a little too old. There was a mold problem, but we loved the view of the grounds from our room for one night. The hotel had a television channel continually playing the Biography Channel’s story of Milton Hershey. We were amazed at the heart of this man who built a city with chocolate. The model community he designed for his factory workers did not exploit them, but provided for their happiness and welfare. We wondered if Mr. Hershey inspired Walt Disney. Had Walt lived, would he have been able to make EPCOT a working living community just as Milton Hershey had done?

Driving through the town brought a smile to our faces. The lights that illuminate the streets are in the shape of Hershey Kisses. Chocolate Avenue meets Cocoa Avenue.

Our hotel room rate included tickets to the Hershey Gardens and to the Hershey Museum. It was too cold for the gardens, so we went to the museum. The town has a big amusement park but luckily for us it wasn’t the season to be open, so the traffic was very light on the small streets.

We also went to Chocolate World. I wanted to go into the factory, but that opportunity no longer exists. Chocolate World has a ride that takes you through a mock up of the factory. It spills you out into a store filled with all the chocolate Hershey makes and as I was typing this, I realized some of that chocolate was still in our refrigerator, calling for me to leave my computer and to share a bit of it with Roger. After all, “Creative Saturday” ends at 2pm.

All photos by Camilla McGuinn

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