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Backstage with Baldy

Buenos Aires – September 28th

I’ve had the extremely good fortune of being able to travel all over the world with Alice In Chains.

It’s an opportunity I never would have had otherwise, and I’m eternally grateful to the band for letting me be a part of the big adventure.

As a seasoned global traveller, I’ve picked up some knowledge and learned a few tricks along the way.

Part of the knowledge I’ve gained is the realization that most countries outside the U.S. don’t have delicious Diet Mountain Dew, so one of the subsequent tricks I’ve learned is to mole away a stash in a road case, which is what I did for our journey down to South America.

Since our road cases obviously don’t go to the hotels with us, I’ll grab a can or two and stow those in my luggage to enjoy in my room on non-show days.

You’ve heard the phrase “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”?

Well, so is the road to Buenos Aires, and my intentions were just to enjoy a cold beverage of my choice.

But you probably haven’t heard the phrase “A can of Diet Mountain Dew exploded in my luggage and soaked half of my clean shirts and underwear.”

I just came up with that one, because that’s what I discovered upon our arrival at the hotel in Buenos Aires.

Every good drug mule knows the risks they take when they smuggle contraband from one country to another, and it turns out that muling Diet Mountain Dew is no different.

And I paid the price.

More than being dismayed by my new Mountain Dew scented wardrobe, I was bummed about losing 12 ounces of liquid heaven, all because some big lug in the baggage department manhandled my precious cargo. Not cool.

Now that we’ve established that I’m a doofus who can’t properly pack a beverage, lets talk about Buenos Aires, Argentina, and South America in general.

Communication.

I don’t speak Spanish and I don’t speak Portuguese.

Hell, I have trouble with English half the time, so being down here and trying to communicate is rough.

I’ve mastered the art of ordering a sandwich at Subway by pointing, but beyond that I’m not so good at making my point.

Basically anytime I go to a store or a restaurant and have to interact with a waiter or cashier, I point to myself, say “English”, shrug my shoulders, and generally look like a dope.

It can make for a lot of uncomfortable exchanges, but the all time best happened when I phoned down for room service this morning.

I hit the room service button and the man on the other end answered in Spanish.

My experience in virtually every hotel we’ve ever stayed in is that people who answer the phones are bilingual, which this man was, but for some reason he and I weren’t on the same page.

I said, “I’d like to order the American breakfast please.”

His response? “Check the middle drawer in your desk. It should be in there.”

Wow. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that, so after a couple of awkward silent seconds, I asked if I’d reached room service, was assured that yes, I had, and then I started over.

Everything got straightened out and I got my breakfast, but that’s just one small example of the kind of communication breakdowns that are commonplace in a foreign land.

What isn’t commonplace are the kind of fans you find in Argentina.

My brother works for Pearl Jam and told me what I could look forward to down here, but WOW, it went far beyond what I was expecting.

There was way more jumping and bouncing than I’ve ever seen, singing along to everything (a lot of times drowning out the band), and most unique of all, singing along to riffs and solos.

Let that sink in for a second.

Imagine 8,000 people singing the opening riff to It Ain’t Like That, or Check My Brain. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it was amazing.

I got goose bumps so many times I can’t even remember.

I’ve thrown out a lot of superlatives over the years, whether it’s describing the band or their fans, but I’m at a loss for words to describe what I saw tonight.

I feel like I’m back at the Sao Paulo Subway trying to order a turkey club.

So while words may not always do the trick, music is the ultimate international communicator, and I was very fortunate to have witnessed an incredible display of it tonight in Buenos Aires.

Seriously one of the best nights of my life working for this band.

Mind-blowing…

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