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If anyone saw the pictures I sent in place of last month's column, you know why I wasn't able to write. National media didn't talk about the flooding as much as our local news showed it but I've got to (thankfully) say I've never seen anything like that before. On Saturday May 1st, the streets began to fill up with water. As you may have read about in this month's cover story, one of those streets was Cowan Street, the location of Soundcheck rehearsal hall/gear storage and rental. It's located in downtown Nashville and housed storage lockers for more names in the music business than I have space to write in this column. Since the end of Brad Paisley's American Saturday Night Tour, we had placed all of our road gear there but were due to load out of on May 3rd. Unfortunately, it was about 36 hours too late. When I woke up on the morning of May 2nd, Cowan Street was completely flooded and Soundcheck had about 3 1/2 feet of water inside the building.
After breathing a sigh of relief that Brad's Trainwreck and all of his old Voxs were at home, I immediately started thinking of what I had on the floor of the locker, what was stacked high and wondering how I was going to pull off a brand new tour rehearsal that was set to begin the following morning. I called Brad and told him that I was going to assume a total loss until proven otherwise because we didn't have the time frame to wait and see. The first shows of the tour were in three weeks.
It took us several days to find an alternate location for the rehearsals to begin since the original one was also flooded. By the end of the first week we were in a new building and were headed over to Soundcheck to pull our waterlogged gear out. Everyone had to wear rubber boots, rubber gloves and we were all advised to wear surgical masks so as not to breathe in the moldy air inside the building. This water had about anything imaginable in it. Sewage, gasoline, diesel fuel... you name it. The advice was much appreciated. I can honestly say that's a smell I'll never forget.
We loaded our flooded gear up, took it to the new rehearsal hall, and dumped the truck in the parking lot. My guitar vault rolled down the ramp of the truck with water gushing out of the bottom. When the front of the case came off you could see how all of Brad's guitars had floated and eventually sank in the water. The muddy line on the side of the case showed that the water level was just above the neck joints on all of the guitars. They all had strings popped off of them. Some of the finishes were bubbling up and the hardware had already started rusting. The worst loss of that particular case was Brad's '52 tele that was used in the "Alcohol" video. I wound up spraying that guitar down with bleach water and rinsing it with a water hose. I can't begin to describe what an unnatural act it is to have to do that to an instrument, but if I didn't, the bacteria the wood had absorbed would rot it from the inside out. I took it apart to let the drying out phase start, but two days later it had cracked from the rear strap pin up to the neck pickup. All of the Crook Custom guitars were lost, as was the last prototype Gibson had sent for Brad's signature model.
My effects rack looked as though it had been left completely uncovered at the bottom of the Cumberland river. All of my amps and speaker cabinets were soaked and both of my work boxes were destroyed. I lost roughly 30 raw speakers, 12 speaker cabinets, 23 amplifiers, 12 guitars, and the respective road cases. After I had sifted through what could be salvaged, my total "saved" list was this: 3 guitars, 1 amp, 1 tool box, and 1 Pelican case that housed my midi pedals that controlled Brad's effect rack. Every other piece of Brad's personal road gear was gone. At this point I had the large pieces such as the effects rack, cabinets, amps and guitars all on order. Next was the small items, like tubes. 12AX7 and EL84 vacuum tubes can be cleaned by dunking them in bleach water and rising them off. Tubes with large plastic bases on them are much harder to save after water has gotten down in there. After several attempts at cleaning 6V6 tubes, I wound up tossing them all and reordering. It's amazing how many little items in your work boxes that you forget about until you need them. I'll spend another six months replacing all that was lost there.
All of our audio was spared. Sound Image thankfully didn't have any water inside their warehouse. Our lighting was inside the original rehearsal room as the water was coming into the building. The guys fork lifted the truss and lighting cases onto the stage so they were safe. Video and our set carpenters didn't fair as well. They had chest-deep water inside of their warehouses. Most of our video wall and the set were submerged as well.
About six or seven days before we were to play the first show of the tour we started running through the set. I've got Brad using a couple of amps and a few stomp boxes just to get through the rehearsals. The morning before we loaded out of that room the last of my gear came in. Exactly two weeks to the day of pulling flooded gear out of that locker, we played our first full production show of the tour exactly like we wanted to do it. Brad walked toward the microphone at the top of that show and I honestly thought he was going to cry. It meant so much to him that we were able to be show ready and not just able to play a gig.
A huge THANK YOU to Bill Crook, Charlie McVay, Peter Florence, Chris Klein, Brian Nipps, Tony Dudzik, Tommy Rosamond, Mike Zaite, David Friedman, Rick Skillman, Ryan Smith, Tony Bruno, Kelly Vaughn, Tyler Ham, Luke Ziegler, Riley Vasquez, Armi Iglesias, Gregg Hopkins, Matt Ali, Brian Wampler, Robert Keeley, Tim Godwin, Bruno Pirecki, Derek Brooks, Adam Hudson, Mark and Leslie Morell, and Michael Doran. Without the people listed here I'd have never made my deadlines and this tour couldn't have gotten off to such a great start. Thank you all for your time, your efforts and your friendships. I am indebted to you all.