WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY, OCTOBER 12TH & 13TH – NASHVILLE TO KUMAMOTO, JAPAN:
Leaving Nashville, TN this morning with Wade Hayes, Mandy Barnett and Meagan Mullins and 4 musicians. I’ve worked with Mandy and Meagan before and a couple of the musicians. Going to be a wonderful visit back to one of my “second homes”. Kumamoto had the major earthquake back in April and most of the city is still “under repair”. Our hotel for the past 27 years only opened back up a few weeks ago. There was also an issue getting from downtown Kumamoto to Aspecta at Mt. Aso. The two roads that access that area were closed because of the earthquake. But, Charlie’s faith and belief that good things will happen came true again. Mt. Aso even erupted again last week, and things are still on track for a beautiful concert day this Sunday.
Our flight to Detroit was on time but on one of the “little” jets…not my favorite. There was no turbulence, so that made it easier. We had about a two hour layover in Detroit and I spent it working in the Lounge. We were supposed to board at 11:15 am but there was a problem with the air conditioner on the plane and our departure was delayed by about an hour. Fortunately my SUPER travel agent takes these things into consideration when booking our flights and we have a long layover in Narita. We have to clear Immigration, pick up all our luggage, clear Customs, go to another terminal, re-check everything on ANA and clear security before our short flight from Tokyo to Fukuoka!
Wade and I are on the upper deck of the aircraft – a first for him. If you aren’t familiar with Wade, he is an amazing singer but even more amazing is the fact that he survived Stage IV cancer! It’s an honor and privilege for me to be able to work with him for the first time.
I watched a really good movie called “Ashby”. Sadly, I’ve flown so much lately, I’ve already seen most of the movies that are worth watching on the flight. The meal was definitely not as good as what we have been served on the Delta flights to Europe but it was edible. I worked for several hours after the meal and then took a little nap. I only got one hour of sleep last night since I had to get up at 3:00 to depart to the airport for the early morning flight. Wish I had just stayed up all night because 1 hour of sleep is pretty brutal.
It is going to be interesting to see the damage from the Earthquake. The beautiful Kumamoto Castle that we always tour will be under repair for an estimated 20 years.
We landed in Narita and were delayed going through Immigration because a couple of the guys didn’t receive their “forms” to fill out on the plane. Had to find the forms and then wait for them to fill in all the information which is a lengthy process. Fortunately, all our luggage and equipment was waiting for us when we finally made it downstairs.
Shoji was supposed to meet us when we exited Baggage Claim but he wasn’t there. I looked around for him but couldn’t find him. I called Charlie and Charlie said he had just talked to him. As soon as I hung up, Shoji walked up, of course! We had to recheck all our luggage/equipment but fortunately they didn’t make us pay excess charges. We did have an issue with one of the fiddles though. They wanted Brice to check his and he refused. I just told them “No. It is too expensive”. The overhead compartments on ANA planes are twice as big as on U.S. airlines. ANA just gets really stupid about some things. They finally came walking out with a bright blue fiddle case that was in the shape of a fiddle. Brice’s case was in a rectangular shape. They made him put his fiddle in their case and check his empty case. Then the paperwork began. Just to have them fill out one sheet of paper took almost 15 minutes. I finally just grabbed Brice and said, “No! We are leaving. We don’t want to miss our flight”. And we did. Megan also had a fiddle she was carrying on and she hid out so they wouldn’t see her when Brice was checking in. She had absolutely no problem carrying it on the plane and putting in the overhead.
It was a 2 hour flight from Narita to Fukuoka and very, very turbulent at the beginning. They served us little “bento boxes” but about the only thing I could eat was the “egg”. Wade slept the entire flight and they gave him his bento boxes in a little bag as we got off the plane. J
Seiya was waiting for us as were several fans who wanted autographs and gave us gifts. It was another 2 hour bus ride to the hotel and I think everyone slept the entire way. Our room keys, backstage laminates, YEN for dinners, and McDonald’s Big Macs and Chicken were waiting for us at the hotel. Charlie met us at the hotel this year because he had important clients at his nightclub and couldn’t come to Fukuoka.
We got checked in and I realized our breakfast coupons were not in the packet with our room keys. Had to call Seiya and he called the hotel. They put the coupons under our doors but only gave us 3 and we needed 4. I’ll deal with that tomorrow.
It’s almost 2 am and time to sleep in a “bed” instead of an airplane or bus.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2016 – SIGHTSEEING IN KUMAMOTO, JAPAN:
Even with the “naps” on the flights and bus ride, 4 hours was NOT enough sleep last night. Got up at 7 am and did a quick work out in my room with the “bands”. Then showered, answered emails, had breakfast with some of the group and met the others in the lobby for a 10 am departure to the Suizenji Park.
Lots of things different about the park this year. Many of the “structures” are gone and lots of the shops are closed because of the earthquake. There are two huge ponds there and when the earthquake happened, all the water disappeared! Then a few weeks after the earthquake, the water came back. There aren’t as many fish in the ponds as before and the one very strange thing is there are no pigeons! There’s always flocks of pigeons and this year there was only one.
We walked around and then shopped for a few minutes and headed to the “Josaien” area for a quick lunch. I have never been to that area and wanted to eat there because they have restaurants with tables and chairs instead of having to sit on the floor. Only, that’s not what was reserved for us. The food was great but we are all just too tall to sit for very long on a cushion on the floor. It was a very “quick” lunch – and very traditional with Miso soup, Japanese pickles, tempura, sashimi, sushi, rice, and some “unknown entities”.
We then took a tour of the Castle grounds led by an English speaking Japanese guide. He did a great job. It was heartbreaking to see all the damage from the earthquake and learn that it will take about 20 years to restore the castle and surrounding buildings. Strange to think that last year’s visit might be the last time I’ll get to go inside the main “museum” structure after 28 years of visiting.
As I mentioned, I’ve worked with most of the group in the past and two of the musicians have been to Kumamoto before. It was great to see how interested Wade was in learning about the history of the area and the culture of the people. And it’s always nice to work with good people who are easy to please and this group is that!
We went back to the hotel and then walked over into the “Ginza” (shopping area). I just wanted Seiya to show me the sushi restaurant options for tonight and then I came back to the hotel. Several of the others stayed to shop for a while.
Walked over to Charlie’s nightclub at 7 pm for a 7:30 pm “Welcome Party”. This is always more fun than the actual concert. Tonight it wasn’t as crowded as in years past. This event is only for the Country Gold Sponsors and out of consideration to the U.S. artists, there was no smoking until 9 pm when they opened the doors and let the fans inside. Charlie kicks off the party with a couple of songs and then each artist gets up and sings a couple. We finished at about 5 minutes after 9 and I left with several others in the group before the smoking got started.
Was able to work for a couple of hours and now I am hoping to get in bed by 1 am. We leave at 11 am for Aspecta at Mt. Aso for our sound check tomorrow.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15TH – SOUND CHECK AT ASPECTA:
I left out one of the best parts of the day yesterday – Sushi at the restaurant for dinner. It was amazing. I had about 6 pieces total plus a bowl of Miso soup. I pulled out my credit card to pay and it was only about $9.00 U.S. Unbelievably inexpensive! When we were eating, the restaurant manager kept coming by looking at one of the musicians and saying something. We finally realized he was telling him that Japanese do not eat sushi with chopsticks ….they use their hands! So much easier, too.
I got up at 6 am and was running along the river this morning by 7 am. It is a beautiful day and the weather is perfect. I ran for 3 miles and didn’t see any earthquake damage at all. Had breakfast, showered and departed for the venue at 11 am. Yesterday, the hotel next to us is covered in thick plastic and there were crews there all day drilling and pouring concrete. My window always faces that building and I’m usually on the 9th floor. I always keep my blinds open and am cautious to not walk around undressed because the building next to us is an office building and I assume the occupants can see in our windows since I can see in theirs….except for this year because of the think covering of plastic!
We drove what they call “The Green Road” to the venue and I can understand why it has this name. It’s a small 2 lane road with beautiful trees – mostly firs and evergreens — on both sides. It winds up and then back down a mountain. Absolutely breath-taking scenery. It actually took us 10 minutes less than our normal route. But tomorrow there will hopefully be a lot of traffic for Country Gold so could be slower. The only negative to the ride is how much damage was done to this area by the earthquake. Over 200 people were killed and mostly in that area. So sad to look at all the homes that were destroyed.
The stage was set up and ready for us and Charlie was just finishing his sound check when we arrived. The group grabbed a quick lunch in the Green Room and while Wade began his sound check, Megan and Mandy counted in their merchandise for sale tomorrow. I worked on reprinting set list and hanging signs while everyone finished up sound check. Thought I would finish quickly but it actually took me the entire time I was there.
Sound check went fine and everyone is impressed with the venue and production company. All the artists sounded great from the front of house and I’m sure it’s going to be one of our best concerts.
They finished sound check a little before 4 pm and by 5:30 pm, we were back at the hotel. I did a little “power shopping” and then met most of the group for dinner at Angelo’s – my favorite Italian restaurant in Japan. My friend Hiromi met us at the hotel to walk over and two of Wade’s fans/friends from the USA had dinner with us as well. They have been here touring around Japan and will go to the concert tomorrow before flying home.
The dinner was outstanding as usual. I had my usual tomato/mozzarella salad with mushroom soup but ventured into something new for the entrée – eggplant. I think it’s my new favorite meal.
I walked by Charlie’s club so I could show it to Wade’s fans and then immediately came back to the hotel. Way too tired to do much work tonight other than this Road Report.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16TH – CONCERT AT ASPECTA, MT. ASO, JAPAN:
It started raining at around 7 pm last night and the forecast for today changed to rain at 1 pm, 3 pm and 7 pm. I hope they are wrong again!
Since we have been here, there have been multiple “after shocks” and it scares us but the Japanese seem to have become accustomed to them. I never would! Yesterday, there was a huge crane on the other side of our hotel opposite the side where they have the building covered in plastic and drilling on it. There were huge cable connected to the crane and our hotel. That was a little disconcerting! It’s gone today.
It was raining lightly when I got up this morning so decided to just do the “bands” again for exercise. Had time for a really quick breakfast. Got a text from Wade’s fans who were riding the shuttle bus to the venue and there was a mix-up and the driver didn’t have their names. I tried reaching someone but did not succeed. Fortunately, the driver let them get on the bus. Now I just have to make sure he takes them back tonight!
We arrived at the venue at 11 am and it has been non-stop since then. There are interviews with 4 different media outlets, autographs to sign, a meeting with the Consulate from Fukuoka, the Governor of Kumamoto and the Village Mayor. And the most important of all – Kumamon Bear showed up. J The Governor said that last year, the bear brought in 1 Billion US dollars in income and this year, the figure has already reached 2 Billion. My question is, “where” does the money go? Trying to find out….
The show opened with a speech by Charlie and the Consulate and then Charlie performed. Megan performed next and after her, the Governor and Village Mayor and Kumamon appeared. Megan had a great show and after her performance, a local Japanese artist performed – Shime Nakashima. He’s really good too.
In between all of these performances, I try to remember the interviews and autograph signings that I need to get the artists too. Everything ran smoothly with the exception of the set changes. It took the production company 20-25 minutes each time instead of 10 minutes that we had scheduled. This threw the show about 25 minutes behind by the time Wade took the stage. It was starting to get dark and cold and people began leaving because they didn’t want to drive down the mountain in the dark.
All day we were told it was going to rain and there were dark clouds all around us. But it never rained. Charlie is convinced it is another “miracle”!
Mandy gave a powerful performance and the audience loved her. Wade performed and got called back for an encore by the many fans watching his performance. The concert ended with all artists on stage singing “Ya’ll Come” . All the artists sold almost all of their merchandise.
We were on the bus and heading back to downtown Kumamoto a few minutes after 7. We arrived at the hotel at around 8:30 pm and everyone ran out to find something “fast” to eat because we are all really, really tired! We have to depart the hotel at 7:15 am tomorrow morning for our flight from Kumamoto to Nagoya, Nagoya to Detroit, and Detroit to Nashville.
It was a FANTASTIC concert with the perfect group of entertainers!
MONDAY, OCTOBER 17TH – KUMAMOTO TO NASHVILLE:
In bed at 1 am and up at 4:45 am. Wanted to get in a quick Facetime call with Zac and Zoe and I did. Miss them so much even when I’m only gone for a few days!
Packed up, answered emails, ate breakfast with our group and met in the lobby for an “on-time” departure at 7:15 am. We weren’t sure how long the drive would take to the airport because of Monday morning traffic at that time of the day. We hit a couple of slow spots but it actually took us less than an hour.
It is so nice to fly out of the Kumamoto Airport. It’s very small but a lot more “customer friendly” than the Fukuoka Airport. Seiya said it’s the first time in 28 years that I did not get in a fight when we checked in. He was hiding over behind a post anticipating me calling him up to the counter to “referee” at any moment. J We actually “hid” all our carry-on bags with him so the counter agent wouldn’t see them. When we went through security, they did get out the tape measures and measure both fiddle cases. So crazy because my rolling bag is much larger than the fiddle cases. And the overhead compartments are about twice the size of US airlines!
Because it didn’t take as long to drive to the airport and check-in was soooo smooth, we had about an hour and a half to kill….could have slept another hour…oh well. I went into the ANA Lounge and worked but got a text shortly after I got there. One of the musicians said the gate agent was trying to make them check their carry on bags. I left Shoji watching my stuff in the Lounge and ran down to the gate. By the time I got there, the crisis was averted. The gate agents thought the guys were on a small Prop plane flight that was departing. Whew!
We boarded and departed on time and I swear, there was turbulence the entire 12 hours. Guess I was paid back from not having any turbulence at all these last couple of trips. I watched a funny movie about Elvis meeting President Nixon and getting his “badge”. Also ate another really bad meal. Strange how the meals are so bad on the flights to Asia but actually pretty good for Europe!
Was able to sleep this time – for almost 4 hours. Then connected to WiFi and worked the rest of the trip. The turbulence was especially bad when trying to land in Detroit and we landed an hour and a half early. There was a much earlier flight departing to Nashville but they only had 3 seats open. Three of the guys took those seats and the rest of us stayed over. The 3 guys will get back to Nashville at 6 pm tonight and we won’t get back until 9 pm. L I would have loved to have gotten back earlier to see Zac and Zoe tonight but at least I got a lot of work done in Detroit!
Worked non-stop in the Lounge until time to board. Then our flight was delayed because there was no flight crew. They kept saying, “They are here. They should be walking up any minute”. Forty-five minutes later, they arrived.
Short flight to Nashville – no turbulence. All our bags/equipment came with us. Very happy to be home and it seems like I was gone much longer than 6 days!
Have to say a SPECIAL thanks to Seiya – my “Japanese” son – and Hiromi, Mr. Hashimoto, and Shoji for all their patience and assistance. And, of course, Charlie who works harder than anyone and his amazing wife Toshiko. Can’t say enough nice things about Wade, Megan, and Mandy’s performance and how nice they are to work with. Of course, the terrific musicians also did their part – Kevin, John, Jason, Will, and Brice — thank you, thank you, thank you!
Looking forward to Country Gold 2017!