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May | 2005 | PJ Newman

Minimum of Four Letter Words

I was going to start with FUCK!!! 100 pt bold taking up page 1, but I figured every clown that Google searched that would hit this.

I apologize in advance if my cursing gets out of hand, but it’s been that kind of day and, except for the decibel level, doesn’t look like it’s going to change soon.

Got to sleep late, alarm went off at 4:30 jolting me 6 inches off of my hide-a-bed-of-nails. The mattress (sic) is maybe an inch thick and actually left bruises on my body. We got to the tent, which is actually only 100’x 200′ instead of what I stated earlier, at 7:30 and never looked back. I don’t remember it raining very hard last night, but the tent did! There were 3 pools gathered on the roof, dimpling down like a pregnant blue whale. That the canvas did not burst was a miracle in itself, but that might’ve exacerbated matters further. The tent poles were fully askew and the pool of water above the stage actually had the roof resting on the light truss! Remember that the roof was a full 4 feet above the truss when we left. We cranked down the sound towers and I called one of the guys from the stage and lighting company to find out where the motor control was so we could take the light truss down. He yammered a bit and suggested that we wait until he could send a few of his guys our way.
The local tent people arrive and set pumps on the roof allowing the water to flow down through hoses. At first, they set the hoses at the base of the tent so the water ran back into the tent! After a few very dirty looks and some pointing, they ran the hoses to the parking lot, away from us.

Yep, that’s water pulling the canopy down onto the lights. When the sound company showed up, the crew chief looked up and then pulled his crew out, then called his office to check on their insurance. We were scheduled to see the first band for rehearsal at noon, but decided to move everybody back 2 hours. My bottom line was that if there were a single drop of water hitting the stage, I wouldn’t let the performers on.
This decision was, I’m happy to report, backed up by my boss. I missed out on the conversations with Tent Boy when he finally arrived, but I believe the gist of the conversations left him toothless in a corner with not much fight in him. The local tent monkeys, Dog blesses them, were here as long as us today (16.5 hours) and did everything conceivable to remedy the situation we were in.
Besides the leaks, there was quite a bit of standing water on the asphalt floor in pools trying to find the few drains scattered about.
Remember, this is a parking lot.

The Koreans.
Yes, we have no Koreans. It wasn’t as bad as I was told. Fine, they didn’t seem to care much for the other bands or teams, but language barrier aside, they were all sweethearts and here for the same reason we were. To put on a fucking show. I was having issues with the leaders (?) of the groups, partly because the translators didn’t know production speak and maybe partly because they are arrogant fucks. Musicians and dancers’go figure! The only ethnic groups I have a more difficult time with are actors, radio people, record company people (a dying breed, I’m assured) and record company people. Everybody else who tells me that they know how to do my job better and if I could get them a coffee or that blonde’s phone number are just plain stupid. This I can appreciate and ignore.
The first group (the Gangwon Province Arts ensemble) arrives. Musicians and dancers! Great. It was dancers first and I had to clear the entire stage (after we had completely wired it). Very cool traditional Korean dances, great costumes and props, They did about 5 numbers under the direction of a short pony tailed bespectacled old old guy with bad lipstick who made grunty noises to signal the dancers. Next up was the band. There are 18 or 20 of them, all with traditional instruments (except the synth). I personally enjoy Traditional Asian music and this is very good
For when the bandleader insisted that that be the order. Dancers, then singers.
Except (again) that it only takes 3 minutes to completely strike the stage and at least 25 to reset.
Come on, there’s 20 of ’em, and then, of course, they want a complete sound check every time they play. Please, give us credit for writing down the console settings. Maybe we’ve done this once or twice before… The sets are either 30 or 60 minutes long during the festival. You do the math. I finally convince them to switch the order, although I still don’t think they understood why!
The second band (Balkwang) arrives. They are anything but traditional or ever vaguely Korean sounding, but what do I know? When I bartended in Irish pubs, I didn’t always play Diddley music (Trad Irish). When people asked me why, I told them to take a guess what they listened to in bars in Dublin. I’m guessing U2 instead of the Clancy Brothers. I’m not quite sure how to describe their act. They all wear silly jumpsuits and stupid grins. The music is a percussive cacophony. When they do their version of ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee,’ the crowd goes ape shit and we grit our teeth. It’s circus music for the blind and we’re all pretty sick of it. If it weren’t for the fact that they are incredible nice folks, the body count would’ve risen into triple digits by now.
It gets worse?

The 3rd of the Korean bands (Goo-oun Mong) check in today. They supposedly played on the same instruments as Balkwang, but with even more shit. A Marshall stack, an SVT rig, another synth, 4 tympanis, gongs, the better part of another drum kit, a glockenspiel in addition to 2 marimbas and a set of vibes. We’re busting our asses to come up with all of this stuff, but finally get it all. Seriously, we’re shitting blood to get it here in time for their arrival and tech rehearsal. They show up and say they don’t need it; what’s onstage is just fine.
Somebody’s going to be hurt.
The first 2 days (Wednesday & Thursday) feature matinee shows for school kids and private events at night. The first night was a party for Asiana Airline (probably the largest sponsor of the festival). We’re all in dress black. 8 hours or walking on asphalt in my dress shoes has thrown my back into seizure. My tennis shoes blew out and all I’m left with are my hiking boots. These I never wear for 16 or 17 hours at a time, and never on asphalt. My feet are killing me and I’ve got some nasty shin splints as well.
Bitch Bitch Bitch.
We somehow manage to pull the program off. Very happy clients. They admitted that they had low expectations of the evening just because. This makes me slightly cocky, but I still see trouble ahead.
Dig, these are VERY LARGE, COMPLEX AND LABOR INTENSIVE BANDS. If we were doing rock or jazz groups, I could do 4 or 5 in my sleep. The instruments and levels vary only slightly and any adjustments can be made on the fly. The musicians are usually drunk by show time anyway, so they don’t notice anything. The opening gala on Thursday had 2 of the international bands, plus a shitload of locals, including a 60-piece chorale group. Almost immediately, I’m 20 then 30 minutes behind schedule. By the end of the evening, almost an hour late. I expect to be fired or have to commit seppuku.
No such luck.
Please note, when I’m talking about this, it’s not just me. I have 2 stagehands and the sound company has between 4 and 6 techs. Plus, there are supposed to be 3 translators, but they’ve either wandered off and don’t speak English for shit. There were a few that were VERY CUTE, but chose to station themselves at front of house before sneaking off to the bar or buffet.
Everybody understands the impossible task I have stupidly taken on and either congratulates or pities me.

For some reason, most of the companies that have booths are giving away stress balls. I spent the last 2 days with one in each hand. Whenever anybody saw me without one, they would run off and re-supply me.

Saturday was a COMPLETE CLUSTER FUCK! Even setting up 4 microphones takes 30 minutes! Why haven’t they fired me yet? The fuck ups just won’t stop. People who aren’t even involved with production go out of their way to come backstage and fuck things up. My only consolation is that absolutely nobody else could work within the timeframe I’ve been given under the identical circumstances and succeed.

It’s 1:37 Sunday morning. I’m back at the tent in 6 hours. It’s the last day of the festival. I hope to be out by 7 pm, pick up my dog and then be home by 10.
2:06 Sunday morning. The bars have closed and my room is now hosting 5 more people shooting craps, doing kung fu and something else. There’s somebody I’ve never seen before sleeping on my bed.

Everything’s wet again. Nobody bothered to shave (or shower, we were very late today). Just as I was waiting for the Kimchee stand to open, someone brings me a to go container of chicken fried steak and eggs. All I need now is the Sunday paper and 3 Bloody Marys. My friend Panzer came down. He ate Korean pancakes and noodle, tells me I look like shit and leaves. I can’t even count the minutes until the end because it’s a full tilt schedule with events on all 3 stages, one firing after the other. My turnaround times have been cut in half, but after the first 2 acts, it’s all tracks and dancers.

It’s over. The second the thanks and goodbyes have been announced from stage, the entire tent goes into teardown mode. People and heavy things are flying everywhere. I finally get somebody to fire me so I can go. There’s a whole box of stress balls by the door. They are now mine. Obviously, I only remember when I’m 10 miles up the freeway that I left them by the entrance.

I’d like to state for the record that the crew I worked with are insane. They are incredibly talented and hard working people. I am humbled in their presence.
They are my friends.
Thank you for watching my back and covering my ass.
Thank you.



ps… There are a lot of episodes which didn’t make these pages due to the fact that names would be named and I never got the Samurai swords promised early on. Ask me sometime over a beer and I’ll eat cheese.
I’ll put more pictures up soon.

Travel Advisory 101

Mother’s Day
May something

The problem with pretzels is that it’s hard to tell when they’re stale. Ignoring the ‘Born On Date’ or ‘Best if Used By,’ what’s a pretzel anyway? Flour, water & salt? What’s to go bad? Look at Matzo. Same ingredients, maybe no salt’the Hebrews slogged around the desert for 40 years and nowhere in the bible do they complain of stale Matzos.
What’s with the pretzels then, you ask? Am I sitting on my couch, cold beer and unquestionably fresh pretzel within reach, watching something mildly entertaining on a widescreentelevisionhdtvstereonomakethatsurround7.1eventhoughionlyhave2earsbutdoesmynosemouthotherholeinmyheadcount?
Consider this. I am in room something or other of the fabulous Comfort Inn in fabulous Sea-Tac Washington.
Where and why, ask you? Where is easy. Sea-Tac is located between Seattle and Tacoma along the fabulous I-5 corridor. (Sorry, just corrected – we’re in Federal Way at the Commons which used to be the Sea-Tac Mall, or maybe still is – dunno) Why….
OK, we’ll jump into the Way Back machine a week or 2 and pick up where I left off.
Where was I?
Right, back from Portland and already had a weekend with Midkiff and corporate fun. So why not have more?
But, how about no.
How about NO!
How about I had about the WORST GIG OF MY LIFE! That’s a bit closer to the truth.
Without going into too much detail (there still are innocents to be protected and a paycheck lost in the mail’), it was another gala fundraising auction. This one was done in the round, which comes with it’s own issues. Long story short, gear failed, cues missed, buttons that shouldn’t have been pushed and knobs that shouldn’t have been turned ended up pushed and turned. A few things actually were my fault, others not.
Did I mention that it was the worst gig of my life?
I ended up either quitting or getting fired, doesn’t really matter. Stevie Boy was very cool over the phone, but…
Why does he call me a few days later and offer me more work? Apparently when I quit or was fired, he says, ‘Did I say that?’
Thinking back, no, but that’s no reason to be loading shit into a hotel at 5 in the morning. Besides, where is my theoretical last check? Everybody else got theirs? Hmmmm , maybe I did get fired.

Sea-Tac. Why am I in Sea-Tac already? Yes, I’m working for the HanWoo-Ri Korean Sports and Cultural Festival and possible kick-off of WWIII! From what I’ve heard, not only do the Koreans hate just about everybody else, they can’t stand much of themselves either. Rumors of church soccer games turning into brawls! Like Shaolin Soccer? Now that’s entertainment!

OK, it’s Monday night now. After 15 fun-filled hours of walking on pavement (we’re in a parking lot), I’m back in the room. I’m ok with the hotel. I remember staying at its cousin in Leavenworth a couple of years ago on a cross-country ski trip. Indoor pool, decent continental breakfast, nice staff (nearly human). This (returning back to the room) was probably the only good thing that happened today.
Let me explain’
So, I mentioned the parking lot and the mall. What I failed to mention so far is that we’re in a tent. A big tent. A 100′ x 400′ tent. Kind of looks like a circus tent (seems appropriate so far). The tent came from a company in California. Southern California, really. I mention this because it doesn’t (usually historically normally) rain down there as opposed to the Pacific Northwest, where precipitation is one of our biggest exports. It’s been raining pretty good for the last few days and the tent has been leaking pretty good for the last few days as well.
Water is pouring (well’spewing) directly onto the lighting truss above the main stage, dousing a few lights before hitting the stage deck. Water is also falling onto the Pavilion stage. My guess is that when we build the 2nd stage, it’ll be raining there, too. The installer from the tent company was a day late arriving for the build Friday afternoon. They barely got it up in time for the stage, truss and lights to go in Saturday morning. Sound and more lights came in Sunday. The second the tent was up, the installer disappeared and turned his cell phone and pager off.
The local contractor has been paged hourly and seems to have turned theirs off as well.
They did a piss poor job erecting the tent. Once water started accumulating on the roof, the poles started listing noticeably. Not good when you realize that the lighting truss is hanging from these poles and that the sound towers are right below.
Why, you ask, am I going on and on about this? Good question.
The short and simple answer is that the tent is a GIANT PIECE OF SHIT THAT LEAKS AND IS PROBABLY GOING TO FALL DOWN ON TOP OF ME, and if it doesn’t kill me, it will in all certainty fuck me out of another paycheck!
Did I mention that I’m here for 8 days? In theory, anyway. The devious fuckers I’m working for don’t pay me until the day after the gigs over, and then only half at that. The other half comes 2 weeks later. I should live so long!
When I return to the tent in 7 or so hours, there is supposed to be the A-Team of tent monkeys ready to scale the canopy and seal it up. The first group of Koreans arrived this afternoon and looked at the puddles on the stage. I assured them that when they returned for tech rehearsals at noon on Tuesday the stage would be dry. Tent monkeys better not make a liar out of me.
You know, I realize that if I chronicle this entire event, it’ll be the size of a Stephen King short story.
Read on!
Last bit of tent intrigue for the night. Dr. Z has chosen to camp out in Oliver’s and my room (smart boy) instead of sleeping in the tent tonight (questionably smart boy). After reading up to this point, he has filled me in with more bullshit about the tent build, including intentional dereliction, shoddy construction, broken or incorrect tools for the job. At one point in the evening, I’m watching a fool on a forklift ramming the poles in an attempt to straighten them. Fuck, I’m going to die in a big tent with a bunch of pissed off Koreans and drift in Production Limbo until my Karma account is audited.
I’d better post this tonight in case my predictions come true.
In the next episode, I’ll include some hilarious (incriminating) photos and introduce you to some of the characters in this comedy of errors.