I was stressed. It was Friday and my 4-year-old daughter had a fever from the night before and was sick to her stomach. I called into work and took her to the doctor. I’ve got a team of guys at work I certainly don’t want to let down. And a band of brothers of whom we were trying – and struggling to meet our quota of ticket sales for the upcoming show we had Saturday.
I took Jenna to the doctor. They didn’t have anything to say. It was all inconclusive and we had to wait it out. That is one of the most frustrating things in the world, to have a child who is sick and you’re told you have to play the waiting game. So there it was: Children’s Tylenol, rest, fluids, and prayer.
In between all of this, I attempted to help my work fellas by logging in remotely. I barely was able to assist. In between all of this, reports starting coming in that our ticket sales were gaining traction. There was a flicker of hope, like an old lightbulb sparking in a dark farmhouse on the edge of town.
The FTF guys were due down later, for our final practice and load-out before the next night’s show. A crying kid snapped me back to reality. Had to run her to the bathroom and help with more throwing up. Time to wash the soiled clothes – mine included now. Carried her upstairs and gave her a bath – the third one of the day.
Gave her some more medicine and she lay down on the couch. The ticket sales were picking up a little. Caught in this juggling act, I continued. I reached out to the guys to see what they wanted to do for dinner. Pizza would do. I bided my time, trying to coordinate a few other items band-wise. When it was time, I rounded up the little one and made the 20 minute trek to the pizza place and came back.
When I arrived, Gabe was there. We started grubbing out. Then Brian arrived. And Ben shortly after that. I set Jenna up with Disney’s “Frozen,” and apparently Gabe’s boys had never seen it. After practice, they were glued to the television, haha!
We had something special planned.
We’d been working on it for the past few rehearsals.
Tonight was the last hurrah.
Gabe is the King’s X guy in the band. He’s a massive fan. Huge. The remaining three, myself included are definitely fans, but Gabe is a rabid sort for them. And who can blame him? KX is certainly amazing. Ben and I are more familiar with prog-leaning stuff. So when we got this opportunity to open for KX, I immediately went to Dream Theater’s 1997 album “Falling Into Infinity.” The song “Lines In The Sand,” with lyrics by John Petrucci stands as one of the record’s centerpieces. KX lead singer Doug Pinnick sings a call-and-response with DT singer James Labrie on the chorus.
I thought to myself, what better way to honor these guys as such an influence – in Gabe’s case hardcore influence – than by playing some bits of this DT song. And we had all secretly hoped Doug would sing the final chorus with us, haha!
But this is Dream Theater we’re talking about. Learning those riffs and musical passages is quite an undertaking for us. So, as it often happens with most of the ideas I have of this sort, it was met with some resistance. Especially Ben – and I get it – we play the slow guitar solo in “Lines” and he gets stuck with the brunt of the work.
We went back and forth a few times, and Ben even wanted to scrap it altogether at the 11th hour. And this is after we all – including him – had put in monster hours on this beast of a song. I think he was inspired on the second-to-last practice, however, when he came in and me, Gabe and Brian were jamming on it.
By the time the last Friday rolled around, despite all my family stuff going on, Ben had hit his stride and mastered the JP solo. At this point it was full speed ahead, Doug or no Doug. We went over “Lines” a few times and then ran through the set twice, all vocals at half-or-less power, haha! Then we commenced loading out.
The next day, arrival at State Theatre was a 3pm, so there was a little family time to get in before heading out. Jenna was still back-and-forth. Just still waiting it out and keeping the fever controlled as best as possible. Later on that night, she was feeling better and was getting back to her normal self, thank God.
I rolled out slightly late, but when I arrived at State Theatre, there was a little bit of traffic backed up behind the venue in the loading area. This is expected for a show of this magnitude.
Again, as always with me, this was the calm before the storm.
Ben was already there and came and hopped in the truck as we waited for the line to move. Gabe arrived and came and hung out for a moment. He was in and out, trying to catch most of King’s X’s soundcheck, trying to take it all in.
We finally loaded in and got the merch table setup. We back lined and got the amp heads and pedal boards ready to go. Everything was set. At that point I made my way up to see J-Rock and Patty and who stumbled up to the front? None other than Doug Pinnick himself. We chatted for a moment and had a “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” moment, he knew a friend of mine from ages ago and was briefly in this friend’s aforementioned band. Small world indeed.
I felt a little strange doing so, but I went all in and asked him to sing with us. He was gracious, but apologized, saying they don’t really get back to the venue until around 10 minutes before they hit the stage. I understood completely. If they made themselves available to one and all prior to the show, it would be a maddening swarm. I did manage to let him know we wanted to do it for them because of what a huge influence they have been – especially on Gabe. Doug was literally the coolest, most down-to-earth, humble guy. It was great having that chat and I could tell how appreciative he was of us wanting to do that for them. All the while being apologetic because he wouldn’t be there sooner.
I’m very much the same way. Before a show, I’m so focused on everything we want to do: lyrics, melody, riffs, if we’re planning something special (like this night, obviously). So I definitely “got it.”
Gabe was in heaven. He hung with Jerry Gaskill and got to talk with Doug.
We left and went to eat. Came back and started peddling a few tickets and hung out with some of the FTF faithful that came out.
Then it was go time!
I remembered this from when we shared the same stage with Sick Puppies in 2009. The drum riser was occupied by KX, so there was barely any room for a boom mic stand, my pedal board and me in front of the kick drum. Whenever there was an instrumental or guitar solo section, I moved closer to Brian and rocked out.
We ditched the intro tape and went straight into “Friction.” The main riff is an odd meter, but before the solo section we add a few notes to make it straight. Brian and I tried jumping on that part and I started getting the crowd worked up. The intro for “Enemy” was a steady kick drum which allowed for a Metallica-esque “HEY!” call and response.
“Sever” was next, with “Forget.”
Then “Days.” And that was it.
But wait. There’s more. We did “Lines” nearly perfectly – when lights are on you and there’s a huge crowd in front of you, you’re definitely thrust onto a larger stage than the comfort of your nice little practice space. But I think we pulled it off well, considering we practiced it only a handful of times leading up to the show. So for the 2 or 3 guitar dudes in the crowd that understood what we were doing, kudos!
Man, it went too fast. We quickly broke down and had a few friends help us load the gear back into the trailer (thanks, Taylor!). We made it back inside just in time for church to start! King’s X launched into “Groove Machine,” and I tell you: from side stage, the whole experience was amazing.
It was as though we took all our work, all our sweat, all the hours, all the stress, squeezed it into a ball and threw it into deep space. And only to have the universe send it back and rain down peace, harmony and brotherhood upon us all in that venue last night.
Gabe was going insane! He knew every word, every syncopated beat, every harmony. They sang “Over My Head” and “Over And Over,” and the crowd seemed like they truly were in the spirit, as one. Divine. Brian and I shook our heads in wonderment over the extended vamp of “We Were Born To Be Loved.”
The most beautiful moment had to have been when Ty and Doug turned their boom mic stands to the crowd and everyone sang “Goldilox.” Gabe was literally freaking out. It was awesome.
One of the last songs was “Dogman,” and King’s X just killed it. Everything came together for one of the most memorable nights we’ve had at State Theatre. The entire show will stay with us for a long time to come, from our hectic schedules to our hectic set, to finally laying back and taking in the force that is King’s X.
It was a surreal experience, being side stage and witnessing one of the greatest, yet most underrated rock bands of all time. Well, you get the picture. Basically everything they played was classic ear candy. Jerry played in the pocket, just behind the beat, and as a drummer myself being used to pile driving through everything like a freight train, I had never seen anything quite like it. Ty’s guitar sang through the venue and I’m sure spilled out into the surrounding streets and neighborhoods and changed someone’s life. His tone was perfect. And Doug – he poured himself into every lyric, every bass line, every raw emotion, and tapped into what made us all human that night. We were all one in that moment. We were all at church. We could see beyond the dark horizon and learn how to hope and have faith in who we all are and what we could accomplish.
The night had to be lived, breathed and tasted to be believed. The night was palpable and visceral, and it sang back to all of us. In short, if From This Fire could relive Saturday again, there would be no hesitation. Of course we would.