Day 3, Greece: ROCKWAVE FESTIVAL, Athens
The Rules of The Road, Unfolding
1) Never overburden your bag.
2) Van must remain upright at all times.
3) Food is to be cooked, peeled or boiled only.
Flying out of Stuttgart with a day and some change, rehearsal under our belts, we arrive a day early in Athens to pop the cherry on this hit-and-run tour. It's a festival gig. Eight bands on one stage in a meadow atop a mountain overlooking God's own swimming pool, the Aegean Sea. Cool beans.
Lazing around the hotel pool, chewing the fat, our morbid curiosity gets the best of us and we decide to head up the hill to the festival grounds to catch tonight's headliner: Guns and Roses.
The radio car drive up the mountain road is dramatic.
With the aid of a little of that old Green On Red charm, we hustle our way onto the festival grounds and after tying on Day-Glo wristbands as instructed, we are escorted down into THE PIT with the shutterbugs and media types; spitting distance from Axl and Co.
Shit, he don't look so tough.
Somewhere in the middle of Guns and Roses set I swore I saw Axl Rose look at his watch. I mean, it wasn't like he fixed his stare on it. It was more of a sideman salute. A deft pull-up of the sleeve as if brushing his arm, in one swift motion, a slick kind of maneuver. I turn to Chris: "Did you see that?"
"I think Axl -- is that really a word?—just looked at his watch."
"Is he afraid he'll go over the allotted time?".
Chris enlightens me. Such do we expect of expatriate keyboard dudes. Chris says Merle Haggard has a rule barring any of his band from carrying wallets on stage, fearing the audience might think that the band is up there playing for the money.
Obviously, no sane person would play music for money, even overlooking the Aegean Sea. Chris says that Steve Wynn on the other hand—wallet very much secure in his front pants pocket—has his own rule: NO WATCHES ON STAGE.
This is not an advice competition, but I'm leaning Steve Wynn's way. Music: Keep your wallet and you can always buy another Timex if the hoodlum's and riffraff swipe it. How much time is enough playing to folks who want to listen? The Rules of the Road unfold.
Don't stand in the sun if you've got butter on your head. Good advice. Maybe worthy of being a Rule.
There was an explosion of light at a peak musical moment during the Guns and Rose set and I felt the heat from another sun on my face. Intense heat. Another sun.
Tommy Stinson (formerly of our old school mates The Replacements) is playing bass with GnR. In terms of pure professionalism—can't speak for Axl— Tommy has come a long way. First time I saw The Replacements was at SF's legendary Gay disco Monday night stalwart the, I Beam. Three songs into the set and a fight breaks out ON STAGE. At which point Tommy addresses the audience and asks if there are any bass players in the house. Then he hands off the bass to the first volunteer and heads to the bar to enjoy the retarded but entertainingly inspired disintegration of a gig. Tommy's learned.
But Axl's -- singing, I suppose. Odd.
Backstage the "Guns" road crew proudly show us the results of the When-Will-Axel-Go-On-Stage? betting pool. A spread sheet laid out like a racing form in three minute increments. Horses with names like: Watery Grave, Knickers In A Knot, Don't Call Me Late For Dinner, Izzy's Fax Machine, Donkey Dick Blues.
The Green on Red machine isn't exactly looking for the trifecta. But hey! We've got fluorescent wristbands and an ocean of pretty Greeks to look at while we stumble through.
Axl hasn't been able to finish a record for over a decade. It seems possible to me that Axl Rose is depressed. Not in a hand wrenching, paralylitic, incapacitated kind of way. More in a veering from ecstasy to agony in a matter of seconds kind of way. Indecisive and dysfunctional, unbalanced spiritually, musically, physically. This could merely be the influence of the Grecian Sea, this thought. These hominids discovered philosophy, am I right? Hey, I'm not Dr. Phil, but he seems lonelier than Martha Stewart, Axl does.
Tonight, though, I get a glimpse of the GnR power, I'd only ever heard about. I really couldn't name but like one GnR song before tonight, but they are killing tonight with the crowd singing along en masse.
STAY TUNED FOR TOMMORROW... NOW WE GOT TO JIM MORRISON'S GRAVE?