THE STEVENS SISTERS
ROAD KILL – DAYS 1 & 2 – OCTOBER 15 & 16: Today we are off to Kumamoto, Japan. Artists are Brad Paisley, Ricochet, BR549, Riders in the Sky and the Stevens Sisters. All but a couple of people are flying out of Nashville. There are 41 people on the trip total. No problems at the airport this morning. Northwest was “ready” for us and check-in went so smoothly. Plane departed on time. The two passengers we were meeting in Detroit were both on time. I went into the World Club to check email and had a major panic attack because my computer was not allowing me to sign on. Called my computer “guru” and finally got the problem solved. Don’t want to think about what would have happened if I had to stay in Japan for 6 days with no internet access. Plane in Detroit was supposed to depart on time. We boarded and were then told that they had to replace a fuel pump. Last year we got stuck in Detroit for 6 hours and missed our connection in Osaka. When we got on the plane a couple of Japanese girls were asking us to change places with them. One of them asked a Japanese man to also switch so I could sit with Penny from my office. He agreed to move over to another aisle seat. I got all my stuff transferred, turned around to get my bag out of the overhead and when I started to sit down, he was sitting in the seat he had just vacated for me! He said the other seat was too small. Now, every seat in business class is exactly the same size. Even the flight attendant told him it was the same size, but he refused. I ended up sitting with a lovely lady from Okinawa, Japan and we talked about all my visits to her island. We finally departed over an hour late. When we booked our flight from Osaka to Fukuoka, I was thinking that this was the first year in a long time that we had a nice layover and would not have to “run” for the plane. The little fuel pump incident took care of those dreams. We landed and Northwest reps pulled all our luggage and equipment off first. They also moved us to the front of the line at immigration. But then we had to go upstairs, get boarding passes, and re-check everything. I was running back and forth, up and down stairs, and was sweating profusely by the time I finally got on the plane that they had to hold for us. Do you know how wonderful it feels to fly for 30 hours and then be soaked with sweat? I needed a shower sooooooo bad! Flight to Fukuoka was fine. Then we had a 1 ½ hour bus ride to Kumamoto. Arrived at the hotel at midnight their time. We then had a staff meeting to go over the itinerary and production requirements. I finally got on line at 1:30 am and finished answering email at 5 am. Slept for one hour (broke my own record with that one!) and got up at 6 am to jog.
DAY THREE – OCTOBER 17TH Weather is absolutely beautiful. I ended up jogging much farther than normal. I would say “Ohiyo Goziamasu” to everyone (Good Morning). That’s one of the few Japanese phrases I don’t butcher. Everyone would smile and answer me but one lady decided to converse with me in Japanese. Of course I couldn’t understand one word she said. So much for trying to impress them with my knowledge of their language. The artists visited the Government Offices and met with the Treasurer of Kumamoto this morning. I had to make a speech (WHICH I HATE DOING) and I talked about how fortunate Kumamoto is to have Charlie Nagatani (our promoter). He sat across from me and tears ran down his cheeks the entire time. Men in Japan never cry in public. I had no idea it would affect him that way, which of course made me tear up. After that visit, we all went to Suizenji Park for sightseeing and a traditional Japanese Lunch (remove the shoes and sit on the floor). There was a lot of sashimi and some meat that looked like cooked beef. I knew from past experience that it was probably horse meat (raw horse is the delicacy of Kumamoto!). I was right. There was a lot of gagging an spitting going on when the contents were announced. After the park, we went to Kumamoto Castle. This was my 25th trip through the park and Castle. I am in “heaven” because we got the DSL line working in my room. Good thing it’s free because I’m afraid if I sign off, it will never connect again. Tonight a group of us went to a great sushi (imagine that) bar. I stayed pretty safe with just some sashimi BUT there was the option of raw horse and one of my all-time favorites – Fish Sperm. Yep. I watched some Japanese people eat it. None of our group even tried it. Our interpreter did eat squid legs marinated in salt. Yummmm!!! We had the Welcome Party at Charlie’s nightclub. His nightclub looks like Tootsies Lounge in Nashville except about ¼ the size. All the walls and the ceiling are covered with autographed photographs. Charlie did his regular set then all the artists got up and sang 2 songs. Made me realize what a fantastic lineup we have this year. I left as soon as the “jam session” was over and am going to bed early (for me). I’m sure some of the others will “jam” until 2 am. It’s really a better concert than what the folks will see this Sunday at Aspecta. Jude
DAY FOUR – OCTOBER 18th
Four glorious hours of sleep. It was wonderful. Don’t have the “down” pillow problem here in Japan. One side of the pillow is relatively soft but if you turn it over, the other side is filled with little “balls” that move around. Sort of like those wooden ball seat covers that you see in cars. I thought I it would be terribly uncomfortable. Wrong! It’s sort of like a face and neck massage while you sleep. Up at 5 am to get in my 5 miles before starting a very strenuous day. Decided I needed to see new scenery, so I ran up to the castle. Then realized it wasn’t far enough, so I figured if I kept running in a straight line, I wouldn’t get lost. Will I NEVER learn? I couldn’t remember where I had crossed streets and was lost for about a half hour. All the signs are in Japanese, so that’s no help. Plus it was still dark outside. Just when I was thinking of trying to find a taxi, I found the moat around the castle grounds and followed it back. Had a nice, LONG, run in beautiful weather. We took the scenic route up to the venue. It’s about 1 ½ hours outside of the City of Kumamoto at the base of an active volcano and it’s located at the world’s largest outdoor stage. The road up winds up and down beautiful, lush, green mountains but it’s a two lane road that is only wide enough for one car…and we’re in a huge bus. There are sheer drops down the mountainside. Pretty nerve wracking. I always sit in the front so I won’t get sick but I made the mistake of going to the back of the bus and sitting backwards to talk to Ricochet. I was green by the time we got there. There was one point where the driver had to make a curve and we thought we were going over the edge. AND, there was an earthquake last night. I can’t believe I didn’t feel it. I guess I was so tired from lack of sleep that I didn’t notice. Just hope that’s the only one we have while we’re here. Sound check was organized and painless thanks to the production manager that I bring with me every year. We even finished 2 hours early! Brad Paisley’s next single is “Mud on the Tires” and he’s shooting some candid footage of people getting splashed unexpectedly with mud. We talked our promoter, his son, and a male and female interpreter into letting us hit them with mud. We had a couple of “dry” rehearsals and then went for the real thing. I don’t think they realized how much mud was going to be thrown at them. It was hilarious. Photos will be up on the website next week. Tonight we go to dinner at Angelo’s. He’s an Italian/Japanese that serves better Italian food than we can get in the U.S. I’m sure we’ll all stuff ourselves and be miserable the rest of the evening. Jude
ROAD KILL – DAY FIVE
Up at 4:30 am to get in a jog before the concert. It was so dark, I could barely see the street. Went back to the river to run so I knew I wouldn’t get lost. Beautiful day for the concert. The crowd looked bigger than any I remember but we won’t have the final figures until a couple of days. Everything ran incredibly smooth. I know that when Brad took the stage, there was the largest audience still there that we’ve ever had. I walked around the perimeter to say hello to lots of friends and took photos of the “fish on a stick” being grilled. For the first time in FIFTEEN years, the finale worked. Not sure how that happened….. Everyone was exhausted, so we were going to grab a quick bowl of noodles and get in the bed. Lobby call was set for 4:30 am! Just as I was leaving for the restaurant, someone chased me down and told me the promoter was calling me. I KNEW that couldn’t be good. I was right. Northwest called and said there was “mechanical problems” and our flight would not leave tomorrow. They had booked us hotel rooms in Osaka and expected us to spent the night there. That certainly was not an option since the artists needed to be back in Nashville for other shows, my production manager has to fly to the U.K. the next day, and I have to fly to Seoul! We argued back and forth and they finally agreed to book us through Narita (Tokyo) tomorrow am. Then we were told there weren’t any business class seats so I was booking those people on a different flight. Then Northwest called back and said the seats were available. This went on until 1 am! Now we have to leave of the airport at 4:00 am!!!!! Which means bags have to be out at 3:30 am which means I don’t get to go to bed once again! Typical. All you people reading this who keep saying you want my job, count up the number of hours of sleep I’ve had, then come on down. I’m ready to pass the baton to you! Got to get packed up and checked out. Hope things run smooth at the airport. We have to go to one airline for a ticket authorization then fly on another airline without a ticket. Keeping my fingers crossed. Jude
ROAD KILL – DAY SIX – HOME!
We were able to contact the bus company and get the buses to the hotel an hour earlier and finally located the truck driver to bring the truck to the hotel at 3:30 instead of 4:30 am. All our band gear had been loaded on it at the venue that night, so it was pretty important that we find the truck. Everyone was on time and we arrive at the Fukuoka airport at 5:30 am. No one at JAL or ANA seemed to know anything about our flight changes so it took about 30 minutes to get things organized. We actually flew “ticketless” from Fukuoka to Narita. On the flight to Narita, one of the guys in the Stevens Sisters band took a great photo of Mt. Fuji out the window of the plane. He didn’t even know what he was taking the photo of – just said he knew it was a volcano! When we landed, there was evidently a LOT of wind and we hit some major turbulence. The plane hit the runway at an angle and continued to slam from side to side for what seemed like several minutes. That woke us up! Northwest had an agent waiting for us when we landed with all our boarding passes. I pulled ticket coupons for him and gathered claim checks and everything ran so smooth. We then had a 5 hour layover at the Tokyo airport. Had sushi one last time then Penny and I went for a massage. It was, of course, incredible. Never had a bad massage in Japan. Thankfully the plane to Detroit was not full (even though I had been told the evening before that it was!). I think everyone slept most of the 12 hour flight. The new Detroit Airport is one of the worst I’ve ever been in. Luggage comes out on two conveyor belts and you never know which one to look at! Then the line to go through customs stretched the entire length of the building. It took forever to go through, have our luggage re-inspected and checked and go through x-ray at security again. We got to the gate just in time to board the flight to Nashville. Everyone was feeling real good about the fact that we would be home before 4 pm. Then the plane stopped on the runway, pilot come on and said we were overweight and had to go back to the terminal. Only another plane had already taken our slot at the gate, so we had to wait. This was a big airplane, not some little puddle jumper. I’ve never been on a plane that size and been told that we were overweight. When we finally got back to the gate, they asked all the non-revs to get off and then took volunteers. A total of 9 people got off the plane. I’m still wondering why they didn’t pull luggage of instead of people… Anyway, we all made it back – safe and sound – with ALL our luggage and equipment. Now I have one whole day at home before flying back to Korea with Chely Wright for performances on military bases. Which is why I’m awake typing this road report at 1:15 am instead of sleeping…. Jude