This past weekend, I worked two shows, making it three in the past eight days! We’re on a roll. I wish I could say that June looked as busy, but it appears that only one show is stuck to the calendar for the entire month. Well, one show is better than no shows, and July looks promising.
These dates were an odd combination of flying and driving. The first show was at a casino/hotel in Oak Grove, Ky., about an hour from the Nashville airport. Like the majority of our shows, this was a fly gig, meaning that everyone flies in and we play using rented backline.
The following day was a show 870 miles away in Dickson City, Pa., where we used our own backline. Looking at the geography reveals that there’s no easy way to fly from Nashville to Scranton, Pa., which has the airport closest to Dickson City. No surprise there. Traveling from the first gig to the second would consist of a one-hour drive from the casino in Kentucky to the Nashville airport, fly Nashville to Charlotte, fly Charlotte to Scranton Wilkes-Barre, and a short 20-minute drive from the airport to Dickson City. Given the distance, there was no way we could send our own gear to the Kentucky gig and have it in Dickson City the next day.
The casino hired a transportation service with two vehicles to pick us up at the Nashville airport, take us to the casino for the show, and then return us to the airport the following morning. Have I mentioned that this casino opened eight months ago, and the address doesn’t appear on GPS (or so we were told)? Maybe that explains why the drivers got lost on our way from the airport to the casino, and maybe it doesn’t. Reading a map has become a lost art.
The next day, leave time was 4:30 AM, which would put us at the airport around 5:30 for a 7:26 flight, which is within my comfort zone. Occasionally I’ll plan it a little tighter, but not on a holiday weekend when I was expecting the airport to be a madhouse.
Driver Number One arrived at the casino on-time for the 4:30 pickup. Driver Number Two (who had brought us from the airport to the casino the day before) got lost on his way. Great. At 4:45 AM Driver Number Two was still not on-site, and, judging from what I was hearing on one end of a phone conversation with Driver Number One, was still lost. Though I was told, “He’s only a few minutes away,” I knew in my heart that this was BS (it turns out that he was in Clarksville, Tenn., at that time—far from “a few minutes away”).
Time to cut bait. My crew—who are Tetris champions—squeezed everyone and everything we had into one large van and we departed for the airport. Can you say, “clown car?” We arrived at the airport around 6:00 AM—way too late for my comfort—and my expectations were met: the airport was a madhouse.
In theory, you can check in for a domestic flight as late as 45 minutes before flight time, but that’s an unrealistic expectation when you need to check bags and get through security on a holiday weekend. Unfortunately, curbside check-in was unavailable; most airports haven’t yet revved up to full speed. Fortunately, one of the band members had status on American Airlines so we were able to use the priority line…. which was moving like molasses in the winter, in the Arctic Circle. Forty minutes later, we were checked in and on our way through security. I said a quick prayer that all of the bags would make the flight.
On the other side of the trek was the task of getting our equipment to the gig in Dickson City, which required extra crew to pack our gear and drive it to the venue while the rest of us flew. The auxiliary crew met us at the airport, loaded our fly gear into the cargo vehicle with the rest of our backline, and then headed for the venue. All good, except for when I wacked my head on that @#$%* street sign at curbside pickup.
The gig in Dickson City went very much like the one in Oak Grove: cold, wet and muddy, but we survived. Under normal circumstances, we’d have simply rented cars and driven home to the New York area after the show in Dickson City. Have you tried renting a car one-way in the past year? Impossible.
Hertz filed for bankruptcy and sold off a major portion of their fleet, while other rental car companies furloughed their fleets during the pandemic and don’t want to lose any cars by renting them one-way. When we planned this trip weeks ago, we literally could not find any one-way rental vehicles that we could drive home. The solution was hiring a mini bus and a driver to take everyone back to New York after the show.
Fun times, but you won’t hear any complaints—we’re happy to be working!