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Backstage with Baldy

Leeds – November 10th

Stale beer.
Like so many venues around the world, the O2 Academy in Leeds reeked of stale beer when we arrived in the morning.
I thought about all of my friends who have “regular” jobs, and how they go to work in an office or a store or a school.
I would imagine that things probably smell okay. Possibly there’s an air freshener somewhere, and it even smells like vanilla, or lavender. That’s nice.
My job stinks like years and years of spilled beer, soaked into carpets and floorboards, and even spilled on the walls.
Oftentimes it’s joined by the putrid stench of stale cigarettes, and on certain days in certain venues, if you tilt your head just right and clear your sinuses, you’ll detect a slight hint of vomit in the air.
That’s the unfortunate aftermath of a good time.
An aromatic scar that can only be covered briefly by a stick of incense or a scented candle, which is what we end up lighting in our production office on a lot of days.

So we’ve established that my job can literally stink, but there was a second chapter to the O2 Academy story that was even worse in my experience: stairs.
This place was a rat’s maze of stairs.
I tend to be on the move a LOT over the course of a day, so from a strictly physical standpoint, stairs kind of suck.
Unfortunately, I’m also prone to getting lost and confused quite easily, so any place with multiple levels, doorways, and turns ends up sending me meandering off confusedly through the back recesses of the building.
Remember the “Hello Cleveland” scene in This Is Spinal Tap?
That was me in the Leeds O2 Academy, only multiplied by about 15.
We’d been in the venue for nine hours and I was still making wrong turns and getting lost.
Which was okay when it was just me going astray and wandering aimlessly.
But then it was time to lead the band to the meet & greet, and you can probably imagine what happened next.
Yep, a wrong turn, one flight of stairs too many, and instead of ending up in the basement bar where the meet & greeters were patiently waiting, I led the band to a mysterious door that exited onto the street.
Thankfully, as I’ve mentioned before, the band enjoys it when I screw up, so my faulty escort skills weren’t that big of a deal to them, and we quickly made our way back to where we were supposed to go.
A couple of hours later and it was showtime, and luckily for everyone in attendance, Chuck led the band to the stage.

I managed to make it out in the house (on my first try!) to watch a few songs later in the set, and I also ended up witnessing the behavior that leads to a beer-scented venue.
People packed in like sardines and bumping into each other. A guy attempting the always dangerous four-beers-in-two-hands maneuver, and the classic toast your buddy by tapping his cup with yours move, which always results in a spill when one or both cups collapse.

So I can safely say that whatever band plays here next will be dealing with the stench of a multitude of freshly spilled beers added to the mix, courtesy of Alice In Chains.
Breathe deep.
And good luck with the stairs…

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