A LETTER TO STUART McLEAN (THE VINYL CAFE’) WHICH WAS EDITED AND READ ON CBC NATIONAL RADIO
Wed.June 4th, 2003 Hello Stuart, I am writing you as we drive through the Utah desert enroute to Denver,Colorado.I am yet again on tour playing guitar with Ron Sexsmith opening for UK pop phenoms Coldplay. Since the last tour we did with them in February, Coldplay has ascended in popularity.This time out they are selling out venues like the Hollywood Bowl and Madison Square Garden! Our group departed Toronto on Friday May 23rd, flying to Seattle where we were met at the airport by Paul Newman(not the actor), our road manager/guitar tech.Paul used to pound the drums for Canadian power poppers the Doughboys and recently joined seminal Hamilton punk outfit The Forgotten Rebels. With his trusty black Ramones t-shirt and ever-present cop shades he is rock’n’roll. Paul had driven our van and equipment trailer from Toronto to the west coast. Our first show was the next day at the Sasquatch Music Festival in George, a town situated in Washington State. The next morning, after a night of fitful sleep we left the Westcoast Wenatchee hotel for the Gorge Amphitheater, but not before myself and drummer/cellist and vocalist extraordinaire Don Kerr put on the roller blades and skated the entire 11 mile trail along the Wanatchee River, a smooth surface winding it way through sand and cactus trees. Upon arrival at the venue we were stunned at the natural beauty, the main stage cradled at the bottom of a steep incline, behind which the rock face plummeted sharply. Across the gorge sat a mountain range and at the bottom a crystalline lake dotted with canoes and sailboats, the boater enjoying the sun and sounds from behind the stage area. We performed that day on the secondary stage further up the hill. We were sharing a bill with fellow Canadians Sam Roberts and Kathleen Edwards. It was wonderful hanging out backstage, a sense of pride that we were all doing well, travelling and playing great music. Coldplay headlined that evening and it was great to see them and their crew once again. Lead singer Chris Martin asked me if I remembered his girlfriend Gwyneth(Paltrow that is)> I nodded and said “hello” to her, all the while thinking, “as if I could forget meeting her!”. From George we played shows in Boise,Idaho and Marysville, California. On our way to Sacramento I played DJ for awhile, sitting in the front passenger seat picking tunes off my laptop. Lately I have been playing a CD of productions by Beach Boy Brian Wilson (recorded mainly in the early 60s in Los Angeles) non-stop. As long as I can remember I have been moved by Brian’s music, his ballads moreso than the surf/car songs. His story is well-documented, the wonderkid who got lost in an emotional wilderness, incapacitated socially and creatively. Brian suprisingly has outlived his two brothers:angel-voiced Carl succumbed to throat cancer a few years back and hard-living drummer Dennis(the only real surfer in the Beach Boys) drowned back in 1983. He has overcome extreme stagefright and in recent years has been performing live concerts and releasing material under his own name. I figured the song “Sacramento” was appropriate so I gave it a spin as we sped along the highway towards its namesake. On Friday the 30th of May we played outside of San Francisco at the large outdoor Shoreline Amphitheatre. This was a “Bill Graham Presents” show and we were given beautiful colour posters commemorating the concert as souvenirs. The late Bill Graham was the biggest concert promoter in the US.He put on shows at the famous Fillmore West in San Francisco featuring all the 60s heavyweights, from Joplin to Hendrix to the Who, you name it. Near the backstage area huge props from bygone Grateful Dead tours including the skull&roses emblem and a giant(presumably magic) mushroom decorated fthe surrounding hillside. I walked to the dressing room and ran into Guy Berryman, Coldplay’s bassist. He had a stack of old 45s on a table. He said he’d picked them up that day with the intention of buying a jukebox when he got back to England. As you know by now I’m a bit of a pop music-obsessive sort so I had to look through the treasure trove. Wouldn’t you know it, he had found a mint condition copy of “Don’t Worry Baby” by the Beach Boys, with the original lemon/orange swirl Capitol Records label!? Back in our dressing room Ron’s bass player Jason Mercer warmed up his fingers on his 5-string banjo. We soon hit the stage under the California stars. Saturday morning we set off for Hollywood. We were all excited to play the famous Hollywood Bowl. I figured it might be one of those celebrity love-ins but I was mostly impressed by the history of performers that had walked across its stage. Before soundcheck I walked up to the top of the Bowl and high in the distance I saw the Hollywood sign. Our set went well and afterwards I ventured out to the front to check out Coldplay. They were solid as ever, Chris throwing in a solo piano version of “What a Wonderful World” in the encore section of the show. As they say, the crowd went wild, thousands of them! There was an after-show party in the backstage area. We all left our dressing room down in the basement to join the revelry. After a few minutes Ron tapped my shoulder, and pointing towards the backstage entrance gate said”Brian Wilson is over there!”. We both went over to Brian and his wife and introduced ourselves, trying not to gush too much. Brian’s wife told Ron that he was Paul McCartney’s favourite songwriter! Brian went downstairs to visit the Coldplay lads. Shortly afterwards I was invited inside their dressing room.Brian was friendly, if a little bit awkward, picking up an acoustic guitar and strumming an edgy E chord. Someone asked if he might play a song but Brian replied that he didn’t know how to play guitar. That’s when Guy Berryman piped up,”Tim, you must know a Beach Boys song,no!?”. I picked up the guitar, my mind racing, good God, which one!?I began strumming the intro chords for Brian’s “The Warmth of The Sun” and noticed him pep up a little bit. I started the verse with my head down to the floor, trying to seize the moment without completely falling apart when I suddenly heard another voice in the room. I looked up and Brian was singing along with me!!!!!!!! I simply couldn’t believe it!. Everyone in the room was smiling, just a beautiful moment! And that was it, Brian floated out of there after a quick photo and a round of goodbyes.I could only ask myself, “what just happened????”.As you can tell I am walking at least a foot off the ground these days.Memories of a lifetime………….! Well Stuart, that’s all for now, we play 2 shows in Denver at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre then work our way north-east, ending with Toronto/New York(Madison Square Garden) in mid-June. With Regards, Tim Bovaconti.
ANOTHER VINYL CAFE’ LETTER (EDITED) READ BY STUART McLEAN ON THE VINYL CAFE’ 2003
thought I would drop you a line from the road. As I already mentioned to you we
have the opening slot on the Coldplay tour in the Southern US. We started off
in sunny Orlando less than a week ago. Coldplay are on their way to global
domination so you can well imagine we are playing sizable venues.
the Hard Rock Cafe venue in Orlando I was delighted to see the actual Magical
Mystery Tour bus used in the Beatles film. One of the benefits of touring for
me has always been the opportunity to seek out the rock and roll landmarks
around the globe. You may recall me speaking of my visits to Graceland and the
SUN studios in Memphis, Abbey Road studios in London England (including the
famous crosswalk photographed for the cover of the Beatles 'Abbey Road' to name
a few. In this tour (so far) we have stopped in Montgomery, Alabama at the Hank
Williams Museum. Inside was Hank's '52 Cadillac. I imagined Hank slumped in the
backseat, navy blue overcoat and Stetson,, his driver oblivious to the fact
that country music's biggest star had passed away. They were driving to
Ohio for a show on New Years Day, 1953. He had been battling severe back pain
for years, attempting to wash it away with a steady stream of pills and booze,
an old man at 30.
You really have to maximize your spare time on the
road. In Miami, for instance,, on the day of the show I put on my rollarblades
and skated all over South Beach. I noticed people pausing to take photos of an
impressive colonial Spanish beachfront mansion. Upon asking I was informed
that famous fashion designer Versace had resided here and was gunned down by
a jilted lover on the front steps. And so I skated along the pathway marked with
palm trees, observing the homes of the rich and famous across the river, with a
slip containing only top end yachts or powerboats.
At soundcheck that night at 5 pm we ran through a
couple of songs, making sure each of us were comfortable with our vocal
monitors. The music reverberated through the empty music hall crazily. From
experience we know that the presence of a few thousand people will improve the
situation, soaking up at least some of the sound. In front of the stage local
crew were tearing plastic covers off every seat on the floor of the arena. The guys from Coldplay informed us that we (since we were on first that night) were
the first act to grace the stage of the new Convocation Hall (University of
Miami)! Once soundcheck was completed we all headed backstage to catering,
where the food on the tour has been high quality, a good selection for
herbivores and carnivores alike. Being an opening act has its advantages and
disadvantages. On the plus side, you play a short set and then get to hang out
anywhere you like, enjoying the headline act. In the case of Coldplay we are
fortunate enough that all of us in the band enjoy their music. They are also
personable and down to earth as people. On the down side, some nights you just
start to hit the sweet spot as a band and the set is over. You also don't want
to be subjected to catcalls of 'bring on Coldplay' or worse. Fortunately, we have
been received enthusiastically. As a footnote to the Miami show I should
mention to you that Daniel Lanios dropped backstage to say hello to his fellow
Canadian travellers. After producing U2, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson to
name a few, he spoke of releasing a new solo record and touring in the near
We played Birmingham, Alabama on the 24th. After an
ungodly 12 hour drive (remember, we travel in a van with a trailer). I just had
to once again maximize my time. Before soundcheck I visited the Civil Rights
museum. It is situated right across the street from the 16th Baptist Church,
site of an infamous bombing that claimed the lives of four black children in
the early 60s. It was shocking to relive the horrific treatment of the black
population thru many forms of media.
Last Saturday (the 25th) we played the Grady Cole
Center, in Charlotte NC. I watched Coldplay's soundcheck from the empty stands,
a few rows up from the floor of the basketball court. Pink Floyd apparently
played here in 1969 back in the day of Crazy Diamond Syd Barrett. The band was
playing through a new composition, one which wasn't on their current set list.
It was interesting to observe the interplay between singer Chris and guitarist
Johnny as they worked out the signature run of notes central to the song. We
went over very well that night. As we were about to begin the drive to New
Orleans we discovered four bottles of Champagne in our dressing room under which
there was a note from Coldplay thanking us for doing the tour with them (as if
they had to do that).
We arrived early evening here last night, in time to
walk en masse to Mother's, a renowned eatery famous for their Po'boy sandwiches
and fine gumbo. After dinner some of us headed to a bar in the French Quarter,
reputedly the oldest structure in the US being used to serve liquor. It used
to be an ironworks, can't recall the name of it though. Outside a local
constable ambled up to the front door on his horse,, very old time.
Today before soundcheck at the Saenger Theatre (one of
New Orleans oldest right on the edge of the French Quarter) I wandered about
doing the tourist thing, taking digital photos and sampling the pralines (a
local favorite comprising of butter, pecans and loads of sugar). I stumbled
upon Rock and Roll Collectables, a used record store stuffed full of rarities.
My excitement mounted as I found an impossible to find LP by the late Gram
Parsons. The price was out of my league but the store owner said he would make
me a copy for a small fee. Like striking gold!
After a great show, we all retreated to our dressing
room for the obligatory post‑show Guinness. Tonight was special because we all
got to meet Chris Martin's girlfriend, the lovely and talented Gwyneth Paltrow.
Two words we thought we'd never alter 'Hello Gwyneth'. Also backstage, we met
Aimee Mann a wonderful pop
songwriter and her husband Michael Penn (brother of Sean and a recording artist himself). A bit star‑studded tonight, but on the downside the catering wasn't up to the usual standard. Well, we are off in the morning to Houston Texas, will write soon!