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August 15, 2003. Hamilton Ranch Festival, Hamiltony u Vy‰kova


Chaos. The first annual Hamilton Ranch Festival looked in serious danger of becoming the last annual Hamilton Ranch Festival after a string of near-misses, misunderstandings, screw-ups and rip-offs. As of 3 pm, when the thing was supposed to start, the drum kit to be used as the default stage kit still hadn’t arrived. To compound that, the food concession – a profit center Barry had invested a fair chunk of money in – was still in Prague, several hours from delivery thanks to a truck still in the repair shop.

Brian and myself also ended up being a few hours behind. Our ride to the festival ground – a functioning western-style ranch deep in Moravia two or three hours down the main highway from Prague – still hadn’t been nailed down.

Which was unfortunate for the event itself, as we belatedly learned that the default drum kit was in fact...Brian’s! That was a surprise to myself and Brian. So around 1 pm, we finally secured a sturdy Volvo generously loaned by Jiri, an old friend of Barry’s, and away we went, loaded down with the drum kit and most of the band’s equipment. We also had a few other items that, like the drums, had suddenly been deemed essential for the festival – a halogen light, a 16-track recorder, two recording microphones complete with stands and around a dozen multi-plug “tree” extension cords.

What compounded these difficulties – as if they really needed compounding – was a few 30-minute long spots of traffic jam on the highway. It was Friday, after all, which in the Czech Republic means the roads are full of people driving out of the cities to get to their weekend cottages.

We made it there close to 5 o’clock, to the best of my recollection. The two of us added a lot of bulk to the crowd, as there were only at best 150 people watching the bands. It turns out that in addition to the rapidly growing pile of problems, another one had occurred when the cops tore down all posters advertising the festival in Vy‰kov, the nearby town.

The crowd grew slowly. By the time we went on – late, not surprisingly - there were probably another 100-200 people in the audience. Well, I’ll take 300 over 0 any time.

By the time we set to go on, Barry was semi-berserk from all the problems (many of which, due to some unreliable subordinates, he had to deal with personally). We tried to hurry him up, but no sale. “I go on WHEN I WANT TO GO ON!” he yelled, eyes and neck veins bulging alarmingly. Uh, okay, sure man. I’ll be waiting onstage, then.

Barry’s festival duties prevented him, apparently, from tuning his instrument. As we launched into our first number, (“I Don’t Care,” for those of you who do care) we heard the jarring sounds of a guitar banging out notes that had nothing to do with the song we were playing.

Barry was busy blowing off steam, an activity I fervently wished he’d conduct before or after our performance. Regardless, Brian and I managed to hold the songs together, somehow, while our singer/guitarist ranted and raged.

Barry did tune his guitar, thank God, after “I Don’t Care,” and by the time our closer “Na Sracky” came around, he was playing the songs a little more consistently. “Na Sracky” again turned out to be a good choice for a last song, as the audience enthusiastically shouted along to the refrain. They cheered and clapped as we left the stage. They hadn’t noticed, or minded, Barry’s miscues and ranting.

The band following us (sorry, I forget the name) HAD noticed, as they took the stage more than an hour later than they were supposed to. They weren’t happy about this. “Get your stuff off, please,” said, I think, the guitarist. “It is time for US to play.” So we tried to break it all down quickly.

Unfortunately, something got lost in the shuffle. More than something – the bass combo amp I had borrowed from our friends ProWizorium. At some point that evening, it transpired the following day, the amp went missing.

Dammit. Sound equipment in this country is very, very expensive for your average Czech musician, so replacing the amp won’t be cheap, easy or quick. A tough break for those guys.

The rest of the night wasn’t too eventful. Which, given the negative happenings, was probably a good thing. It got cold and I generally stayed around one of the two campfires – becoming pretty much addicted to the heat while doing so. I finally tore myself away at 6 am, rolled out my new sleeping bag at the beginning of the long valley that seemed to be exclusive property of the ranch, and took a 4-hour power nap. Awake and kind of refreshed, myself and Brian left in the Volvo early Saturday afternoon.

Barry, not surprisingly, stayed around an extra day to try and deal with all the problems. We didn’t envy him.





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