August 15, 2003.
Hamilton Ranch Festival, Hamiltony u Vy‰kova
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
not surprisingly, stayed around an extra day to try and deal with all the
problems. We didn’t envy him.
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