ROAD KILL – DAY 1 & 2 – JULY 27 AND 28:
Off to Europe for THREE weeks. Makes me feel stressed just thinking about it. I have 4 festivals – Sweden, Norway, Switzerland (again) and Denmark with lots of different artists: Marty Stuart, Jolie Edwards, Jill King, Bobby Flores, Jett Williams, Elizabeth Cook, Dale Watson, and Asleep at the Wheel…I think that’s all.
Flight was delayed (AGAIN!) out of Nashville due to weather in Newark. EVERY flight I’ve taken this year has been delayed due to weather! But, we had a 4 hour layover, so we arrived in plenty of time with only a 2 hour layover for our flight to Sweden. We were on Continental Airlines and it was me, Elizabeth Cook and Tim Carroll out of Nashville, connecting with Jolie’s group in Newark. It was AGAIN one of those tiny jets with one seat on one side and 2 on the other. The elderly couple across from me reached up and instead of pushing the button to turn on their light, they tried to turn the light. It came out of the ceiling and was hanging by the wires. Now, I’m a very nervous flier anyway and the last thing I want to see are exposed wires hanging out of the ceiling of the plane. They couldn’t get it to go back in, so I got up and moved to a seat in front of them so I wouldn’t have to look at it. The landing in Newark was quite an experience because of the clouds and storms and the tiny plane.
We boarded the Continental flight from Newark to our connection in Oslo and the plane was a 757….that’s the same size plane that is flown within the continental U.S. It was absolutely TINY. No space at all in coach or business class. It did have a foot rest which promptly fell apart the minute I tried to use it. There were individual video monitors but I had already seen all the “latest” films they were showing. Since I never have time to go to movies, that tells you how recent the films really were. Putting Continental on the same “do not fly again” list as Swiss Air.
There must have been a lot of wind in Oslo because the plane was bouncing all over the sky when we tried to land. We finally hit the runway – twice!! Had a 2 hour layover in Oslo where the group purchased some local souvenirs – trolls, reindeer fur slippers, Viking horns – you know, your “usual” Norwegian trinkets. Flew on Scandinavia Airlines from Oslo to Stockholm. Short flight of about 50 minutes. When we landed, I waited in the gate area for everyone to congregate. Jolie took the opportunity to visit the ladies room and by the time she came out, everyone was at the gate area. We started to walk to baggage claim but Jolie started frantically “patting” herself and then exclaimed that she had left her purse – with her passport, credit cards, and all her money – on the airplane. The gate was locked so I ran around to another gate to try and get someone to help us. A nice man took pity on us and went back through security and on to the plane. You can imagine our relief when he came walking off with her purse!
All our bags arrived and our two wonderful drivers from last year – Harri and Thomas – were there with large vans to meet us. Two hour drive to the hotel in Gavle. The weather is beautiful. They said we brought it with us because it had been unusually cold before we arrived.
After doing a little “work” with the buyers, we rented bikes from the hotel to ride into town. Now, these are bright red bikes with SCANDIC HOTEL printed on them and the front tire is incredibly small. Every time you take your hand off the handle bar or turn your head, you veer to the side. Jolie looked like a “drunk” driver trying to pedal into town. The guys were pretty embarrassed to be on the bikes but were trying to be macho. Just when they are starting to feel like they are inconspicuous, we rounded a corner and there comes “Tour de France”! About 12 guys all decked out in helmets, pads, bikeware and riding state of the art bikes. They passed us as our guys tried to look invisible.
Shopped in the cute little town for a couple of hours then came back to the hotel for a delicious meal in the restaurant. Gavle is where the wonderful Gevalia Coffee is made. Last year we got to tour the plant (which was fascinating) and purchase the coffee at ridiculously low prices.
Penny is supposed to fly to Norway today and take care of Marty Stuart and his group in Norway and Sweden. She called to say that her flight was delayed out of Nashville due to weather and Newark and she was going to miss her connection. Last time I talked to her, she was going to be routed through Paris and arrive at 4:30 pm into Oslo instead of 9:30 AM!
Bobby Flores and his musician came in around 9 pm and Jill King and her group just arrived at 1 am. Think I’ll go to bed and write more tomorrow.
ROAD KILL – DAY THREE – JULY 29TH:
Ran into “town” this morning – perfect weather and a great 5 mile jog. Jolie’s band had to rehearse today with Elizabeth Cook. I took Jolie to a shopping mall while the band was rehearsing.
Jett Williams and Don Helms arrived today. Don’s pedal steel and suitcase didn’t make it on the flight. He’s 80 years old and has diabetes, so we were very concerned about him making the flight. But, he looks great! He was Hank Williams, Sr., original pedal steel player.
After rehearsal, we took everyone over to the animal park to meet the animals. We got to play with the chimps, orangutans, monkeys, snakes, etc., etc. It’s a fascinating place and one of the highlights of the trip for everyone. There is a very special lady who trains the animals and she gave us a “backstage” tour. Got some great photos of the artists kissing the orangutans and holding the snakes. We had dinner at a fabulous restaurant on the Baltic Sea. I remembered how excellent the meal was from last year’s visit.
Easy day – just the way I like them. Except for having to stay up most of the night to answer emails! It’s 2 am and I’m going to bed soon.
ROAD KILL – DAY FOUR – JULY 30TH
Was too tired to say very much about the animal park last night. We visited it last year, too, and it was awesome. The Orangutans are very friendly. There’s one female that we are allowed to touch and feed. She likes cherries and cheese and iced tea. If you hand her a bottle of tea, she will unscrew the cap and drink it and then put the cap back on and give you back the empty bottle! We got to go inside the cage with her and try to entice her to come out with us. She decided NOT to be that friendly but did put her arm around Elizabeth Cook and try to pull her through the little doorway into her inner sanctuary. She’s the one who got so upset last year when we turned our back on her to look at the Chimps. She spit in my hair to get my attention!
Santimos is the huge Chimp and he is the leader. He’s as strong as 4 men and lets you know it. He races up and down his cage, beating on his chest and slamming his fists into the bars and walls. He screams so loud, we had to cover our ears. Then, when we walked up close to him and “Linda (the smaller Chimp and his girlfriend)”, they both started spitting at us. And they can spit a LONGGGGG way. The trainer is the only person who can control him. She walks up to him, talks to him, and they kiss!
We saw the largest Anaconda in the world inside a glass cage. He was huge and had these lumps in him. That was the live animals they had fed him and he had not digested fully. He eats 4 live rabbits once a month. They have their own rabbit and rat farm underneath the building we were in. We also went in to visit the little monkeys and our group fed them live worms. I made sure I stayed OUTSIDE when the worms were present. Give me a snake any day over a worm. Hate worms!
Got 3 hours sleep last night and wanted to go to the gym this morning. However, gyms in Europe don’t open “early” and the one in this town didn’t open until 7 am – too late for me. The hotel has a “gym” but when you ask the front desk about it, they can’t keep a straight face. I checked it out and the few pieces of equipment that they have is broken. So, I opted for exercises in my room using the rubber “bands” that I brought with me.
We had to depart to the venue at 9:30 am for sound checks and rehearsals. The sound company didn’t have the stage set up for us – imagine that! They were running an hour behind schedule and they didn’t have the converters for our electrical equipment. Finally got started and everything ran pretty smooth. Jolie’s band is backing Elizabeth Cook and Jett Williams tonight. We got back to the hotel at 2:00 pm and have to go back over for the show at 6:00 pm. Won’t finish until 2:30 am tomorrow morning and have to depart to the airport at 7:00 am. Guess we won’t be going to bed tonight. When we arrive Oslo tomorrow, we have a 4 hour drive to the venue and must go straight to the show site for sound check. Won’t finish that show until 2:30 in the morning either. Going to be brutal for the next couple of days. Then, we get several days off in Switzerland.
Departed the hotel at 9:30 am for sound check with Jolie’s musicians. When we arrived at the venue, the production company did not have the stage set up. It took them over an hour to get ready and then they still did not have the electrical power we needed for the U.S. plugs. Once we finally got started, everything ran fairly smooth. Jolie’s band is backing Elizabeth Cook and Jett Williams. Going to be a very long day and night for us.
Finished sound check at around 2:30 pm and returned to the hotel. We had to eat dinner at 5 pm and go back to the venue at 6 pm for the shows. Elizabeth was great. She wore a very sexy dress and really high red heels. Of course, she sang wonderful traditional country music. Jolie’s guys did a great job of backing her up. Audience loved her.
Jett was on next and she had Don Helms playing with her as well. The crowd went wild for the Hank Williams songs and for Don’s pedal steel playing. The buyer took us down to the Park’s gift shop and gave us a festival t-shirt and let us pick out a “souvenir” from the park. The artists have loved performing here and the buyers have been so great to everyone.
I was called on stage and presented with two gifts that could not have been more perfect for me – a stuffed animal replica of IGGE (the Orangutan we visited yesterday) and Gevalia coffee! Igge is so soft and snuggly….got me a new “man” to sleep with….oops, Igge is a female…oh well, still cuddly.
Jolie took the stage at 11 pm and rocked them out. There was a Swedish American Football team working the event as “security”. All cute, young boys who definitely had a few muscles. I warned them that Jolie would be going out into the crowd at some point. The audience had been drinking quite heavily, so it wasn’t exactly smart for Jolie to venture out. She had one incident where they almost pulled her off the stage, but the security guys shut the guy down in about one second’s time. Security kept coming up to me all through her show saying, “She’s going to go out in the ‘public’ now?” I thought they were concerned but we later learned that they were thrilled. Said it’s the most fun they’ve ever had at a concert! She did go out and they took excellent care of her and the crowd loved it. There was one guy in the audience who was dressed like Elvis….dark sunglasses, long sideburns, big belt, big belly, etc.!
All the artists signed autographs after their shows and sold a lot of cds. Elizabeth and Jett both signed for over an hour. Jolie didn’t finish until 2 am. It’s 3 am now and we have to be checked out and ready to depart for the airport at 7 am. I’m not going to bed – AGAIN. Do you notice a pattern here? It’s a 2 hour bus ride to the airport, 1 hour flight to Oslo, and then a 4 hour van ride to the venue! We don’t have time to go to the hotel when we arrive but must go straight to sound check. We won’t finish until 2:30 am again tomorrow night.