ROAD KILL – DAY ONE AND TWO – OCTOBER 13-14:
I’m sitting upstairs on the 14 hour flight from Detroit to Osaka, Japan and I can’t sleep because I have too many things going on in my head. So, here’s the scoop on this trip….
The Country Gold Festival in Kumamoto, Japan…I started the festival 16 years ago with Charlie Nagatani. And everyone said Country Music would never “work” in Japan. HA! This trip I have Darryl Worley, Blue County, Jill King, and Williams & Clark Expedition plus a tv crew – total of 6 people flying over. Everyone goes home on the 18th except I take Darryl Worley’s group to Korea for 5 shows for our U.S. Army. Oh, they are going to LOVE him.
We got everyone checked in at the Nashville airport with very few problems. Northwest has cut their staff back so much that it is a very lengthy process. But I called my buddy the day before to “warn” him (he likes to hide when he knows I’m coming because I’m never “easy”!). He printed out all the boarding cards and baggage tags and had them waiting for us. (How about that, Denny? Way to go, huh?)
I’ve traveled with most of the artists before and they are a great group. We landed in Detroit and had about a 3 hour layover before our flight to Osaka. Met up with my production manager who flew in from Kansas City and one of the artists in Blue County who flew in the night before from LA.
We were able to move all the business class passengers upstairs. Although Darryl has gone out of the country a couple of times to Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, etc, it has always been on a military aircraft. The best part of this trip has been watching him and his tour manager in “business class”…. They are hilarious. The tour manager could not believe that they gave him socks and slippers. Then they brought the “menu” to them and totally floored them. They had to go downstairs and bring one of their guys up just to show them what it looked like in business class. I think they spent the first hour just trying to figure out all the different positions for their seats. They also brought several movies and could not believe that they had individual monitors where they had a choice of several movies. The flight attendants brought around the hot washcloths. I was sitting several rows behind them and we all got a kick out of watching them “bathe”. They washed their faces, their hair, cleaned their ears….:) I think the words I’ve heard most from those two are “no s…t”! Can’t wait to see them in Japan. Darryl is about 7 feet tall, so everything is going to be a challenge for him.
I have the publicist for Curb Records on the trip with Blue County and to assist with the media in Japan. She was harassing the manager of Blue County because he’s in coach and she’s in business class. Seem to remember her saying something about throwing some peanuts down to him. So, of course, she and the lady sitting next to her get the only 2 seats on the entire plane that does not work. She is stuck in a totally upright position. Also, the video monitors weren’t working, so they shut the entire system down. When it finally restarted the monitors worked and their seats started working. But, before the first movie ended, everything went out again. The flight attendants had to come up and “manually” let her seat back but they can’t get the foot rest up. I told her Blue County’s manager put a hex on her for heckling him.
I was just about to try and sleep when an announcement came on asking for any tour manager to come downstairs. Assuming one of my guys was probably drunk and dancing naked in the aisle, I ran down. Fortunately, they only wanted to tell me that we were landing late and that arrangements were being made so that hopefully we would not miss our connecting flight to Fukuoka! One of the musicians did tell me that the flight attendants had “cut them off” and were refusing to serve them any more alcohol. I told him that there was nothing I could do because if they had cut them off, there was a reason for it. Since 9/11, LOTS of things have changed!
The flight attendants have been so nice on this flight – which as you know from my previous reports, is not the “norm” (cudos again, Denny! Did you have a chat with someone??)
Got back upstairs and tried to go to sleep but one of the people on the trip whose name I will not mention had been drinking quite a bit. This person was getting pretty loud…not obnoxious but I could see that the flight attendants and other passengers were getting worried. I asked the flight attendants not to serve them any more alcohol. I tried to convince the person to get in their seat and sleep it off. Was finally able to accomplish this. Then, probably about an hour later, there was this loud screaming and arguing and I’m thinking, “Oh no! They’re up and at it again!” But when I looked over, the person was sound asleep and talking in their sleep. Not only were they talking, but had their hand up and was flipping the guy next to them off while yelling something. The flight attendant tried to wake them, but no luck! They finally quieted down, but had woken up most of the plane….except for Liz from Curb who was only one row ahead of them. I had given her half an Ambian and she was down for the count. Darryl and his road manager had taken half a Zanex and were out, too. But two of the guys sitting in front of me were awakened from a dead sleep. One of them said he had been worried about his snoring until that happened! Blue County videoed the entire episode and were laughing hysterically. They even “lit” the scene at one point by pointing the little flexible lights from their seats right on the passengers face. Every time I would almost fall asleep and then the shouting would start up again. I apologized to the person sitting next to them.
When we landed, it was a challenge to get them awake but we finally got them up and off the plane. Then, this person comes up to me smiling and says, “See, I told you I’d be good and go to sleep”. Didn’t have a clue what had happened. Told them that we had video to document the episodes and they still thought we were kidding.
Darryl’s road manager and Darryl had never taken Zanex before. Darryl said he got up to go to the bathroom and couldn’t get his legs to function. The road manager said he thought he had slept for about an hour and realized he had slept for 10 hours!
No problem getting through customs and all our luggage/equipment made it. Short flight but a packed plane from Osaka to Fukuoka. Then we had an hour and a half bus ride to Kumamoto. Staff meeting as soon as we arrived at the hotel which was at about 1 am. It’s now almost 3 am and I need to try and sleep! More tomorrow.
DAY THREE – OCTOBER 15TH
Got my 2 hours of sleep from 4 am to 6 am and ran my 5 miles. That makes a total of 3 hours of sleep in 48 hours. And, for some reason, I’m not sleepy. Just so much going on in my brain.
The artists were to visit with the Deputy Governor this morning. We had one “casualty” from one of the artist’s crew who overslept. It was a wonderful visit with the Deputy Governor. I told him about meeting the Japanese soldiers in Saddam’s palace in Baghdad and gave him a photo of me and Chalee Tennison with the Japanese soldiers. Darryl Worley is such an excellent speaker because everything that comes out of his mouth is from his heart. He makes me so proud to be an American and to work with country music. After the Governor’s Office visit, we went to the park to sightsee. This was my 27th trip through the park with various groups but I still love the “culture” of the place. This year’s group spent a lot of time looking at everything and asking so many questions. It’s a pleasure to see them enjoying themselves so much.
There was a group of small school children touring the park and I asked them if we could take a photos with them. After the photos, someone told their leader that we were “Country Gold” and he went ballistic….running around yelling “Country Gold” and trying to explain to the little kids who we were. They were totally unimpressed.
There is a place in the park where you can buy your “fortune” and if you get a bad fortune, you go over to some strings and “tie it off” and hope it goes to someone else. I looked up to see Blue County’s manager cutting a “blue streak” towards that site. Guess he got a REALLY bad fortune.
We had a traditional Japanese lunch in the park which is quite a spread! I was very impressed to see that everyone tried a little bit of all the items. Watching Blue County is like watching two little boys in a candy shop. The never stop grinning and one of them hasn’t turned his video camera off since we left Nashville.
After the park, all the artists except Williams and Clark Expedition went to tour Kumamoto Castle. I went with Williams and Clark to the university to perform for the students. First, the students played and sand “County Roads” for us and it was one of the most moving things I’ve ever witnesses. They Wms. & Clark Expedition sang 3 bluegrass songs and afterwards taught two students how to lay the mandolins and banjos. We then went to the castle to meet up with the rest of the group.
Came back to the hotel to rest and answer email. Tried to sleep for 15 minutes but it didn’t happen. Never knew I could get 12 phone calls within a 15 minute time period. Went to eat some great sushi with Jason and Blue County. I had 4 hand rolls and 2 piece of salmon and it only cost $8.00. And, it was the best sushi I’ve ever had! We were in a tiny little sushi bar sitting around the U-shaped bar. This Japanese man walked in and he was dressed in a shirt with the last two buttons open to expose his belly button. His glasses were sliding off his note. He stopped in the doorway and said, “What a Good Day”! Then he walked over and started talking to us but spitting all over me. He finally left but he was real character.
Went to Charlie’s nightclub for the Welcome Party. Everyone got choked up with emotion at some point during the show. Just a great group of artists. I think the other three artists were blown away by how well Jill King Sings….very traditional country.
All of Blue County admitted that they have tried the built-in bidet in their bathrooms. But Scott had quite the story to tell. He didn’t realize that you have to press the “stop” button to turn it off. Said he sat and sat and sat and sat but was scared to get up because he didn’t want the water to spray straight up. He finally looked down and saw a “stop” button after about 5 minutes.
Back in the hotel room, answering email and going to bed soon!
DAY FOUR – OCTOBER 16TH
What a night! I was excited about the prospect of getting 4 hours of sleep. Should have known something would happen to prevent that. I actually went to bed at 1 am. At 1:30 am, the “party” started down the hall. Several of the members of our entourage had way too much to drink and were singing, dancing and talking loud enough to be heard on the 9th floor (we’re on the 11th). This continued until 4 am and I had to get up at 5:30 to jog. It was easy enough to tell from the loud voices exactly who was partying. Needless to say, Penny and I spent an hour just trying to get people up and ready to go to sound check. One artist did not go at all. My morning started with the front desk telling me that the other customers in the hotel were “complaining” about the loud partying all night and that I needed to do something about this so that it didn’t happen again.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think that the artists are being paid to do a job. I want them to have fun but drinking themselves into oblivion and not being able to adequately fulfill their responsibilities is not my idea of “professionalism”. I wonder how they would like it if I partied every night and wasn’t able to take care of business the next day? And, they are being paid a whole heck of a lot more than I am to “perform”. The beauty of my job is that I don’t have to work with artists who are hard to deal with. There are way too many talented performers out there to choose from who are professionals and want to tour internationally to spend my time babysitting the “problem children”. Okay, off my soap box.
The drive up to the venue was spectacular. We always take the scenic route on sound check day and this year it was exceptionally beautiful. The bus goes up a very narrow road that winds up one side of the mountain and down the other. There are fields of beautiful flowers all along the way and spectacular views all around. Two of the artists went to the venue for sound check and the other two were supposed to go to the volcano. However, they decided that they would rather “sleep in”. Which totally amazes me. It’s not like they are going to pop over to Japan in a few months and will have another opportunity to see a live volcano. But, the first two artists did go to the volcano after sound check and were blown away with what they saw.
Sound check ran as smooth as ever and we were back in the city by 5:30 pm. Had a great “group” dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant and am back in the room…answering emails. Scared to say that I may get in bed by midnight tonight….
Tomorrow is the concert day and our final day in Japan.
DAY FIVE – OCTOBER 17TH
Finally, 4 wonderful, glorious hours of sleep. I’m a new woman!
Today is show day. Buses departed to the venue and we had a huge crowd already waiting for our arrival. I’m guessing 25,000 people attended the festival. The weather was absolutely beautiful which was a welcome change. All the artists were so excited to be performing for the Japanese and kept telling me that this was the best trip of their life. I try to tell artists that when I am making the offers to them but it’s something that you just can’t explain.
As usual, everything ran as smooth as clockwork. The show finished exactly on time (unheard of in the U.S.) and we didn’t have one single trainwreck.
I went out into the crowd to say hello to some of the people and look around at all the strange food vendors. One little man tried to give me a pamphlet but it was printed in Japanese. When I wouldn’t take it, he said some have some “cow”. I said no thank you and he said, “but it’s dead cow!”. Thank goodness, I hate it when I have to chase a live cow for a meal!!!
There was the traditional squid on a stick…yummmm.
The boys in Blue County were still the most fun to watch. Scott still hasn’t taken the video camera away from his face. All the artists gave a spectacular performance, then we had some amazing fireworks and a “Kampi” to end the evening. Back at the hotel by 9 pm.
Everyone but me and Darryl have a 4 am lobby call but, of course I have to go down at 4 to see see them off!
So it’s goodnight for me!