It’s the second week of the Bush and Nickelback tour and I've made it back to my hometown of NYC.
While a lot of people move to New York for a little while and claim to be New Yorkers, those of us who were born in Manhattan or one of the boroughs might beg to differ. My father is from Howard Beach, my mother is from Ozone Park, and I was born in Rosedale: the trifecta of Queens.
As an adult I lived in Manhattan for seven years and then moved into Brooklyn for more than a decade. I'm not telling you this to "out New York" anyone, because lord knows there's millions of us, but more to give you the sense of how strong my connection and roots are to this amazing city.
This week I was returning home to play Madison Square Garden for the first time. It's been a dream of mine ever since I saw Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains The Same.
When I first saw the schedule for this tour, I noticed there were a few days off in the city. I was looking forward to some free time to hang out with my family and friends, hopefully filling up on some real pizza and bagels (why can't anyplace else get it quite right?) and hitting up Chinatown for dim sum.
Of course, if I had actually really read the tour schedule I would have noticed that my week was filled with press, television and special acoustic performances that were sure to keep me stuck in traffic in the back of a 15-passenger van with a driver who didn't know how to get to wherever the hell I was supposed to be (and once I got there, having to wait four hours until I performed for three minutes and 29 seconds).
We started the first morning with the entire band missing wake-up calls from the hotel. I was supposed to be in the lobby of the hotel at 7:45 a.m., but magically woke up at 7:43 a.m. without an alarm. I was in panic mode, and it wasn't a great way to start the morning of a major day time television appearance on The View.
I must admit when I first found out we were doing The View, I wondered how it made any sense to play a daytime talk show. But in the end it totally rocked and they had a great stage set up for us with fog machines and video walls. After four hours of waiting, and three minutes and 29 seconds of rocking, it was all worthwhile.
Afterwards we got to hang with Whoopi and Joy Behar, and Star Jones told me I have a "big career ahead of me." I hope she's right.
We hopped into a cavalcade of black SUV's (hybrid upon request) and headed downtown to sound check with a kids choir in preparation for a performance to benefit The Food Bank. The Food Bank is an amazing charity that remarkably feeds 400,000 people each day in NYC.
Stanley Tucci hosted the event and it won me major cool points with my daughter to have been hanging out with the Caesar Flickerman from The Hunger Games. The performance went off without a hitch and, due in large part to the wonderful singing and spirit of the kids in the choir, we got a standing ovation from Mario Batali, members of R.E.M., Kevin Bacon and, most importantly, Kenneth the page from NBC's 30 Rock.
I stole a bottle of wine and tequila from the party and took some friends back to the Standard to have drinks in my hotel room. I think I passed out around 4:30 in the morning.
My wake-up call rings harshly at 6:30 am. A rock tip: if you spend the night drinking tequila, don't leave the open bottle on your night table because the smell is absolutely nauseating the next morning. I manage to stumble out of my room wearing the full denim outfit I fell asleep in. We are off to do VH1's Big Morning Buzz and by the looks of the other band members, we've all had a good time last night.
When we perform our partially acoustic Bush sets, we call ourselves "Shush." We do "Shush" versions of "Baby Come Home" and "Comedown" on VH1 and I think they sound really great. The dudes in Nickelback are coming in the building as we are leaving, we hang and chat for a bit by the elevators. Gavin and I head out to the next television performance (Talk Stoop with Cat Greenleaf).
Talk Stoop is shot in Brooklyn, two blocks from where I lived for 10 years. It made me feel super comfortable to be in my old neighborhood again, and Gavin and I perform the first purely acoustic version of "The Sound Of Winter."
I realize we have never rehearsed it this way, just as I was trying to reach the 14th fret on my 12-fret Martin acoustic. Shortly after we finished filming, we break up a dog fight on the street and head back into our cars to go to the hotel. I have a late-afternoon run on the west side highway into Battery Park City, and it dawns on me how much I miss living in this town.
On the morning of the Garden show, I wake up with a stiff neck. I make an emergency call to my friend Dr. Paul Salinas at Park Ave. Spine, and he comes in for the afternoon to straighten me out. Paul is a Mets fan, but I don't hold it against him since he's such a great chiropractor. My phone doesn't stop ringing with texts, voice messages and emails from friends and family asking if they are on the list and if I'm nervous. Honestly the most nerve-wracking thing about playing the Garden was people asking if I was nervous.
We got stuck in traffic on the way over to MSG and the police blockaded the street we were supposed to enter on. So far my Garden experience is nothing like Led Zeppelin’s Song Remains the Same movie.
We are sequestered in a cinder block room backstage that is similar to most every arena in the country. There is a photo of John Lennon performing at the Garden with his brown Les Paul special. I wonder what his experience was of playing there, and whether or not his mother was having trouble finding her name on the guest list 15 minutes before he was supposed to go on.
I remember seeing the Grateful Dead, Jane’s Addiction, Peter Gabriel and numerous other classic acts at this venue, and I was really trying to channel into the historic energy of the building. I don't feel mentally nervous but my heart is palpitating as we are headed toward the stage. It's pitch black on deck and I'm actually nervous that my fingers might not be on D flat to start the opening riff of "Machine Head."
The flash pots blind me synchronistically with the thunderous sound of my guitar as I begin to play. The crowd goes off and takes the band with it. The rest is just a blur of adrenaline and snap shots of moments in my mind. We finish the set with the entire Garden singing the final chorus of "Comedown," and it just feels epic.
After the show I had a few drinks with my guests, and like any good New York boy I took my mother out for a Chinese dinner.
I had most of Friday free, and found myself doing what I love to do most: hanging out in a guitar store, playing guitar, and talking about guitars. I used to work in Dan's Chelsea guitars when I was a kid, and going back always makes me feel grounded. Dan is like a brother to me and he has some of the best guitars in the world. Here are some pics of me in the store, and a Fender Jaguar that I really, really want.
Photos by my good friend Yana Toyber.
Chris Traynor plays guitar in Bush. Visit him on Facebook.
Photo: Yana Toyber