It’s been awhile since I wrote a blog on this page. 2012 has been a very busy year, and while I have seen a few shows, nothing compares to the experience I had last week in Chicago. As many of you know, I’m a huge Alter Bridge/Creed/Tremonti fan, so when I got the opportunity from work to take off the same week Creed kicked off their 2012 tour in Chicago, I jumped at the chance to hit the road again.
I instantly fell in love with the Windy City. It’s a beautiful, clean town full of culture, arts, deep dish pizza and a rich history. I can’t wait to return again. I really felt like I got to the best Chicago had to offer, from italian beef to Wrigley Field to the top of the Willis Tower, literally. My girlfriend and I had a fantastic time the entire trip.
One of the reasons we really wanted to see Creed live (again) was that Creed was promoting this tour as “two nights live,” playing their first two albums, “My Own Prison” and “Human Clay” in their entirety (one album per night). I was very excited to hear my favorite albums from my childhood. Some of the songs, like “inside us all” and “pity of a dime” haven’t been played in over 10 years.
Finally, friday night, it was time for the first show. Creed was going to play “My Own Prison” and I was cautiously optimistic. I knew this was a very talented band, but I was also taking into consideration it was their first night of the tour, first time playing these songs in years, I knew there was some rust to be dusted off. The second the band hit the stage, they proved me wrong. They came out with a bang, and ripped flawlessly through the entire album. It was the best Creed show I saw since the “Weathered” tour, back in 2002. It was if the Chicago Theater took a time machine back to 1997. Fantastic show.
The only problem with playing such an amazing show is that you’re setting your expectations so high for the second night. I was wondering how could it get any better than this?
Now before I talk about the second night, I’m going to take a little trip down memory lane. I will never forget what it was like seeing Creed live for the first time, and what it took to get tickets. Long before stubhub, high speed internet, and live nation, you had to call a phone number to get tickets to a show. I kept redialing for over an hour before I got through and was able to get get nose bleed seats. I was the happiest person in the world to sit in the worst possible seats. I really appreciated just being there. It was a very special moment of my childhood.
Fast forward to last saturday, before going to the second night of Creed, my girlfriend and I decide to have a nice steak dinner. Turns out that the manager, George is a friend of Mark Tremonti. He gives me a card, telling me how he knows the whole Tremonti family, and to give them his best. Small world.
As we’re approaching the venue, we happen to bump into Michael Tremonti, Mark’s brother. While I’ve never met him before, we’ve written to each other online through various social media. I explained to him who I was, my story, and after I do he says “hold on, I’ll be right back.” He comes back downstairs with VIP passes, inviting me to come up to see Mark.
Next thing I know I’m standing in a little hallway outside Creed’s dressing room, along side Michael, and pretty much Mark Tremonti’s entire family, who happen to be from Chicago. I met his brothers, father, wife, kids, cousins, you name it. I felt like I was in the middle of a Tremonti reunion. Everybody was so kind, they welcomed my girlfriend and I in like we were part of the family.
Now Mark Tremonti comes up to us, saying “Hi, nice to see you guys again.” Mr Mark world famous guitarist Tremonti couldn’t have been a nicer guy. After talking for a few minutes, he asks me if I’d like to hear his new, unreleased solo project. I felt like a kid who was asked “do you want a lifetime supply of candy?” I was so excited. As a long time Tremonti fan, I always wanted to hear what it would sound like if he fronted a band. And I got an opportunity to hear it months before the world.
At this point I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record, saying the same things over and over. I’m sorry, but it’s only for emphasis. Like I said before, I’ve been a Mark Tremonti fan for a very long time. I’ve listened to his albums a million times, I’ve seen him live dozens of times, I’ve watched his dvds, I’ve seen him shred. I’ve even had the privilege to see him play behind closed doors, and watch him play some stuff he wouldn’t put on a record. Point is, I’ve known he’s more than capable for a solo record, and even since it was announced, I’ve had extremely high expectations. Plus every time I hear a review of the album, all I hear is how “amazing” it is. With expectations like that, I feel like one could be very easily set up for failure. How could you set your expectations that high and live up to it?
I’m here to tell you that once Mark turned on his computer speakers, my expectations were BLOWN AWAY. All that I thought Mark Tremonti could do on guitars, as could as a signer I thought it was, he took it to another level. Even now, as I’m thinking about it, I can’t believe that album is real. Now, while Mark is playing me the album, he’s also sitting down with his guitar, playing along to all the licks, leads, and solos. So I apologize in advance for not having any specific details about this songs, that part, etc, but I was too busy having my mind blown. What I can tell you is that the album is very fast and heavy. There are sections that can be considered “trash metal.” Personally, I’ve always had a deep respect for heavy/trash metal, with all their speed/technique. yet I’ve never actually been a fan, because I never found it particularly interesting. I love heavy licks and speedy solos, but I’m more so into rhythm. On Mark’s solo record, I felt he combined the best elements of metal with his own personal songwriting style, making it a musically intense album thats still enjoyable to listen to. If I had to describe it in two words, I’d call it “ear-crack” because right now I’m fiending to hear it again!
After listening to most of the album, it was time for night two of the show. This time, i was allowed to watch the show from the side of the stage, behind the engineers. At this point, I bumped into Like A Storm, a talented rock band from New Zealand, who were on tour in the area and came to see Creed. So here I am, on the side of the stage watching my favorite childhood band play, and I couldn’t stop thinking about that first concert. Sitting all the way in the top, so many years ago, I would have never even dreams of having the opportunities that have come to me in my life. Once again, I can’t tell you much detail about the second night, aside from that it was another awesome show, and I was too in awe to remember it all.
After the show, I got a chance to spend some more time with the Tremonti family. Poppa Tremonti, Mark’s Dad, was telling my girlfriend and I stories of Creed back when they first hit stardom. All the parties, celebrities, and the jamming. Man what I would have given to be part of an all star jam session at Mark Tremonti’s house.
Turns out that Mark’s birthday was in a few days, and since his family was in town, everybody sung happy birthday to Mark as he cut a cake baring the same image as the cover of his solo album.
As the party was winding down, it was time for us to catch a flight back to New York. After saying goodbye’s to everybody, see that it’s pouring raining outside, and we have nothing but the close on our backs. In a matter of seconds we were drenched. Luckily I was able to hail a cab, so we didn’t have to walk back to our hotel, with my girlfriend literally sliding feet first into the cab. T’was an adventure to never forget.
Thought this Journey was over? Far from it. Now that the holidays have settled down, and everyone’s getting used to saying 2012, I bring you the finale of my Wembley Journey.
As I was leaving the arena, I see a familiar face running toward me. It was Stijn. He was able to pick up my VIP passes for me, and was on the side of the stage. He then quickly said “c’mon, we have to go.” Apparently, being VIP gets you access to a private hospitality room. So here I am, filled in a room with people from record labels, news affiliates, and all kinds of professionals. And me, I couldn’t believe it! It’s while in this room that I get a chance to talk to the drum tech, the band’s manager Steve Wood, and the director of forth coming DVD, Dan Catullo. Dan was such a nice guy to talk to, and even though we’ve never met before, he recognized me from the video I submitted to be a part of ABIII.5’s “One by One” documentary (which I was very proud to find out I was a part of). The best part of the hospitality room was a chance encounter with Max, one of the professional photographers from the show. We started talking about beer at the bar, and we happened to both be photographers. Luckily I had my ipad with me, so I was able to showcase some photos for him. Max was so impressed with my photos, and the camera I took them with, that he wanted to set me up with an agent.
Eventually the hospitality room was cleared out, and while I did get a chance to talk to Brian, I wanted to get a chance to say hi to the rest of the guys in the band. Now I’m waiting for Sitjn and his two female friends. As we all walk out together, the two girls go down a different staircase than us. As security’s giving us the boot, I’m wondering “where are they going?” Stijn then tells me how they “always get backstage.” Now I’m saying to myself, “why aren’t we going with them?” So I decide to walk back to the security door, thinking of what excuse I would give security as to why I needed to get back in the building. As I got up to the door, the security guard had left, and the door was open. I took my chance. I walked through the doors the two girls went through, and I found myself behind the stage. Everything in boxes, everyone working hard to get everything packed up, and here I am standing in the middle of all this. From earlier in the day, I remembered where Alter Bridge’s dressing room was, and I made my way over to it. I opened the door and found myself standing in a hallway with Stijn’s two friends, one of the guitar techs, and a few other people hanging out. The band was in a room around the corner, which was guarded by a security guard. I wanted to respect their privacy and not force myself into their private space, so I just hung around the hall, figuring I’d say hi on their way out. A few of the guys from Black Stone Cherry came by, as well as Steve Wood again. I wanted to thank him for the passes, and tell him about my pictures. While he was busy at the time, we did get into an interesting discussion about photography. Eventually I told him how I got Myles a little birthday gift (it was his birthday two nights before). His answer was “well come on in and give it to him.” He then escorted me into a room where all the guys were hanging out with their families.
The first person I saw was Myles, and before I could even say anything to him, he came up to me and gave me a big hug. He was happy to see me! Mr. I sing in a rock band that just played to a full house at Wembley arena for a DVD, Mr. I play with Slash and jam with Led Zepplin in my spare time was happy to see me! He goes on to tell me how much he appreciates seeing me out in the crowd. He’s telling me how he knows that I’ve been there since day one, at all the little shows, and what it means for the band to see me out there. Wow. I knew Myles Kennedy was a nice guy, but I was blown away by how humble he really was. We really got into a deep person conversation about Apple, twitter, words darker than their wings (and why they didn’t play it live), and many other topics. I really felt like I was having a regular conversation with some regular Joe-smo at a coffee house or something. I could not believe I was having that conversation with thee Myles Kennedy. Eventually I gave him the gift, which was the “Jawbone Up” an electronic wristband that helps keep track of your sleeping, eating, and exercise habits using your iphone. At this point Brian comes over, having had a few drinks, and Myles starts to tease him. He’s all excited about the gift that I gave him, telling Brian all about it, and joking that Brian should get his own because he only sleeps two hours a night. Eventually Myles’ wife and some other people needed him, and he was even so courteous as to excuse himself.
At that point, I went over to Scott Phillips, who greeted me with “What’s up Donny?.” Once again, I can’t believe these guys actually know who I am. It was really such an honor to be a fan of Alter Bridge. Scott started talking to me about how he saw my picture in the “Alter Bridge Fan Bible,” and we start chatting about iphones, and he’s telling me stories like we’re buddies.
Before I could leave though, I had to talk to Mark, to thank him for everything. Once again, I was greeted with a “Donny, glad you could make it!” With all due respect to the other guys, I’ve been a Mark Tremonti fan since the first time I heard his guitar playing. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be here. At this point in my life I’m 24 years old. When I was barely in middle school, I saw Mark Tremonti play the guitar for the first time and I was instantly hooked. I was driven to pick up the guitar and start playing, and have been listening to/playing all music and going to as many shows as I could ever since. Never in the craziest dreams of the younger version of myself would I ever think I would be backstage at an Alter Bridge show, hanging out with Mark. After thanking Mark numerous times, he just kept saying “no problem,” or “anytime.” Sorry guys, but the rest of that conversation is going to have to remain private ;)
And so marks the end of my craziest, most extravagant, and definitely the best road trip of them all. Seeing my favorite band play two amazing arena shows, meeting such great fans from other countries, getting industry contacts, realizing that my favorite band actually knows my name, and getting to hang out with them after their biggest show of their career will go down as a highlight of my life. And it couldn’t have been made possible without a lot of help from my friends. A very special thank you goes out to everyone that made this possible. First I have to thank all the guys in Alter Bridge for creating such amazing music that’s worth traveling all over to see, and for being some of the nicest guys. I have to thank Anabela, my girlfriend, my travel partner in London. She was with me side by side the whole trip, and she pretty much booked everything on her own, I wouldn’t have gotten to London (or made it through) without her. Thank you all the Alter Bridge UKer’s, especially Lisa, who went above and beyond to make sure that I made it to Wembley. Big thanks to Adam from Abbey Road Live for the passes, and the free USB. Of course Sitjn and Jim, for getting me my passes. If it weren’t for Stijn going out of his way to make sure I got my passes, my story would have been a lot shorter, and I would have been short one id! And a very special thank you to Mark Tremonti and Steve Wood. Never in a million years did I think that Mark would be as kind to me as he’s been. It’s been unreal. Here’s to starting off 2012 right, setting the bar even higher, and as they would say in England, Cheers!
Arriving in London/Newcastle
Finally saturday morning I arrived in London, exhausted. While the Wembley concert wasn’t until the following tuesday, that saturday was very important. Alter Bridge was playing a show in Newcastle, only 3 hours away from London. Since I was already in the UK to see Alter Bridge, why not make it two shows? I was also curious what the guys from the band would say if they knew before WEmbley that I came from the US to see them in London (I have met the guys before, more on that in future blogs). I spent the entire first day in London trying to get to Newcastle using public transportation. Arrived just in time for the show to start. This was such an awe inspiring moment for me because, while it wasn’t yet Wembley, this was my first Alter Bridge arena concert. I tried to get as close as I could, and when I did, all I could do was just look around me and marvel at how big this place was, and how many people were standing around me wearing Alter Bridge shirts. When Alter Bridge hit the stage, the place became electric. Every single person knew the words to every song and were singing along as loud as they could. The production, audio, and visual were on such a higher level then any Alter Bridge show I’ve ever been to. Usually at an Alter Bridge concert I’m standing right in front of Mark Tremonti’s amps and his wall of sound is all I can hear. This time I really felt I could hear everything, especially the low end. The drums sounded thunderous.
After the show, I waited outside the venue for the guys from Alter Bridge, hoping they’d come out and say hi. This is where I got the chance to meet Selina, Sarah, Holly, and some other big Alter Bridge UK fans. They all embraced me with open arms and hugs. After I told them about my long day, they went into their cars to get water and cookies. Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. We ended up waiting about two hours for Alter Bridge to come out, and at this point it’s about 1am, with the winds that easily were 60-70 mph, and it was cold. The few of us who stayed this long are debating whether we should stay or leave. The girls decided to leave, but I stayed with a few guys from Newcastle who had such thick English accents, I could barely understand what they were staying. I had to stay because I wanted to talk to the guys before the Wembley show and I knew this was my one chance. Now it’s like 1:30, the winds are stronger, it’s getting colder, starting to rain, and exhaustion is starting to hit. There are so few people inside the venue that whenever we see anyone walk by, we start to joke “oh there’s Mark Tremonti,” or “I just saw Myles Kennedy.” Next thing I know I see someone in a jacket and zipped up hoodie walking around and in my disillusioned state say half jokingly/ half serious “Hey it’s Mark Tremonti.” As he gets closer I realized that my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me, it was Mark Tremonti himself! He comes over, says hi to everyone, signs a few autographs, and the first thing he said to me was “What are you doing here? I didn’t know you were coming.” So I explained to him how I came for the Wembley show, but I wanted to catch another show first. His response to me, which I still cannot get over, was “you spell your last name with a K right? I’m going to put two passes for you on the guest list so you don’t have to wait outside Wembley.” I cannot fathom that Mark Tremonti, a guitar legend who tours the world and meets millions of people, remembers my first and last name! There are people I work with, people I’ve known for years, people in my family who don’t even know how to spell my name right.
Introduction - From NYC to London
I’ve been an Alter Bridge since day one. I’ve been to 22 Alter Bridge shows dating back to their first tiny club shows on their very first tour. The majority of my road trippin’ has been to see Alter Bridge. I’ve seen them in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts and Ohio. But nothing comes close to what I did to see them this time.
Being an Alter Bridge fan for over seven years now, I’ve gone on the forums, I’ve seen the youtube videos, read the interviews, and the consensus is that Alter Bridge shows are better in Europe. It makes sense, because in Europe, they play bigger venues, have more passionate fans, and tour more. It’s been a dream of mine for awhile to be a part of those shows. Instead of just being around a few hundred people in a small bar, I’d be surrounded by over 10,000 people who feel about music just as I do.
2011 was one of the most difficult years of my life. I have a very small, close family, and in 2011 both of my aunts lost their battles to cancer. My Aunt Pat, who passed away in January, was like a mother to me. Being raised by a single mother who had to work, my Aunt always stepped in to raise me like her own. Loosing her was, is, devastating to me. The only thing that helped me carry on was music, going to shows, specifically Alter Bridge. I didn’t think it was possible appreciate Alter Bridge music any more than I already had, but when my Aunt was in the hospital during her last days, all I did was listen to Alter Bridge. I felt like Myles wrote Blackbird for me, and for my Aunt. Let the wind carry you home Blackbird fly away May you never be broken again Beyond the suffering you’ve known I hope you find your way May you never be broken again Ascend may you find no resistance Know that you made such a difference All you leave behind will live to the end The cycle of suffering goes on But memories of you stay strong Someday I too will fly and find you again That was a quote from the Alter Bridge song “Blackbird,” but I really could have picked almost any one of their songs. Their last album “ABIII” covered almost every emotion I was feeling at that time, and might be the only reason that I actually got through it. After enduring such a traumatic experience, I realized two things; Life is short, and tomorrow is not guaranteed. I decided no more waiting, I always wanted to go to Europe, and I always wanted to see Alter Bridge play overseas. What better time to pick then Alter Bridge’s biggest concert to date, at the history Wembley Arena, that was going to be immortalized on film?
2011 was one of the most difficult years of my life. I have a very small, close family, and in 2011 both of my aunts lost their battles to cancer. My Aunt Pat, who passed away in January, was like a mother to me. Being raised by a single mother who had to work, my Aunt always stepped in to raise me like her own. Loosing her was, is, devastating to me. The only thing that helped me carry on was music, going to shows, specifically Alter Bridge. I didn’t think it was possible appreciate Alter Bridge music any more than I already had, but when my Aunt was in the hospital during her last days, all I did was listen to Alter Bridge. I felt like Myles wrote Blackbird for me, and for my Aunt.
Let the wind carry you home
Blackbird fly away
May you never be broken again
Beyond the suffering you’ve known
I hope you find your way
May you never be broken again
Ascend may you find no resistance
Know that you made such a difference
All you leave behind will live to the end
The cycle of suffering goes on
But memories of you stay strong
Someday I too will fly and find you again
That was a quote from the Alter Bridge song “Blackbird,” but I really could have picked almost any one of their songs. Their last album “ABIII” covered almost every emotion I was feeling at that time, and might be the only reason that I actually got through it. After enduring such a traumatic experience, I realized two things; Life is short, and tomorrow is not guaranteed. I decided no more waiting, I always wanted to go to Europe, and I always wanted to see Alter Bridge play overseas. What better time to pick then Alter Bridge’s biggest concert to date, at the history Wembley Arena, that was going to be immortalized on film?
Do you like live music? How about travel or photography? My name is Donny and I’d like to welcome to you my blog. Seeing my favorite bands, taking pictures at the shows, and creating memories along the way is a lifestyle for me. For a long time now, I have a passion for live music. For me, road trippin is what it’s all about. This is going to be my diary for those experiences. I’ll be posting concert reviews, showing off my photography skills, and sharing the stories of all the people that I meet along the way.