"The Hapa Haole Journal"
Thursday, January 25, 2007 1:16 AM
The HHJ: Running with the Big Dogs - Part 1
"I have a confession to make."
They looked at me expectantly.
"I listen to classical music," I admitted. "So, when Kim
invited me to
Monday night, I was so ignorant, I was clueless. But, he gave me your
names and since Google is my friend...."
"Good for you!" Ellen said.
"Thanks, but do you know how many different Phil Jones there
Phil nodded, laughing.
I recited what I remembered from the list: "There's the
professor-scientist, the astronomer, the software engineer, the
"The bass amp maker," he added.
"Yes, and none of them play drums!
Ellen said, "And Phil's mom was a Smith."
I looked from her to Phil and back again. "Smith and Jones? Oh,
They smiled and nodded. It was pretty funny. Then, they went upstairs
for Phil's break.
We were on West Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles. The Rolling Stones had recently
finished their European tour and some of their band members were
expected to be back at The Joint
doing their regular Monday night gig. Kim had first taken me to another
studio where I admired all the guitars hanging on the walls and met Neal
McDonald, the sound engineer for Somebody Famous (Google has a lot on a
sailor named Neal McDonald that wasn't him, so I can't say who Neal works with at this
time. Since Kim's been busy with the NAMM trade
show, I haven't wanted to bug him.) and a really nice,
twenty-something-looking, forty-something, recording engineer
named Robi who works for Channel and
Robi advised me to wear ear plugs saying,
"We're going to need the box." I put it in my pocket.
Once there, Kim explained how it was still in the process of renovating
into the expanded space. We had to stand because the few booths and
tables were already occupied, but that was fine by me. I had never
before taken pictures in a night club and the open space enabled me to
move amongst the crowd fairly easily. Usually, Monday nights at The
Joint are more than Friday nights at most other clubs, but tonight,
there was a reasonable crowd, probably because word hadn't gotten around
that the band members are back.
You see, what's so special about The Joint on Monday nights is that's
the night the Waddy Wachtel Band plays. Known as the recording
session and touring musicians behind superstars such as The Beach Boys,
The Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young; Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling
Stones, Roseanne Cash, Cher, Eric Clapton, Chris Isaak, Mick Jagger,
Graham Nash, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks, Jimmy Page, Tom Petty, Bonnie
Raitt, Keith Richards, Linda Ronstadt, David Lee Roth, Joe Walsh,
Jennifer Warnes, and Neil Young, it's not surprising that other stars
such as Keith Allison, Jackson Browne, Eric Burdon, Donovan, Fred Durst,
Joe Elliott, Brian Johnson, Robert Plant, Johnny Rivers, Adam Sandler,
and Leo Sayer like to drop in and jam with them.
These are Kim's associates, both in the recording studio and on stage.
He had his own gig on Tuesday nights, but since having problems with his
back and enduring back surgery that didn't help a whole lot, he's had to
scale down still recording guitar tracks and, with Robi, playing in the
Blondie Chaplin Band and concentrating on his own Flaildog Studios in
Despite the loudness of the music, Kim did his best to introduce me
around. Early on, I met Michael
Stone, Sharon Stone's brother,
and one of the producers of the movie, "Thunderheart," whose
name I never quite caught although I'm sure it wasn't Robert De Niro
(wrong face) or Jane Rosenthal (wrong sex). We tried yelling, but the
music seemed especially loud at that point and I told him we'd have to
try again later when it's quieter.
God, kill me now if that was Robert De Niro
because I never saw him again, even with Kim looking around to help me.
(I'm still alive, of course, because he wasn't De Niro. Kim later let me know
that his name is Mike Smith.)
Kim also introduced me to Rasputin who came from Russia 15 years ago,
plays drums and has a studio of his own; Fuzzbee Morse of The Cars before Elliot Easton, John
Philbrick who was tuning Waddy's guitars while they played, and Bernard
Of course, he also introduced me to the band:
Wactel, lead guitar
keyboard and guitar
and Phil Jones, drums (again, since Ellen actually introduced us first).
The only band members I didn't meet were Rick
Rosas, bass player, who
had injured his ankle to the extent that he had to sit while playing,
with his back to the audience, keeping pretty much to himself; Blondie
who wasn't there, likely at home recovering from the Stones tour, and
the new singer, Jamie Savko.
As you might realize by now, the band gets thinned out when the
superstars go on tour and other musicians have to fill in for the
Photography was a bear. It wasn't so much the darkness, I've done that
before, or the movement, I've stopped a softball in mid-flight where you
can see the stitches, but my little point & shoot digital camera coupled with
the players' unpredictable movements, colored lights, a spotlight that
laid a purple haze onto Jamie, and one of those rotating mirrored-tiled
disco balls that occasionally threw the strangest circles and hotspots
into some of my photos: DELETE! I didn't have my tripod, but would have
probably been bumped by somebody dancing, anyway, and I couldn't prop
myself or the camera on a table, the bar, the stage, or against any of
the walls because everything was vibrating from the music.
I was dying for the lack of my SLR. One thing with using film is that
you can push it, making ISO 100 film work like it's 200 or 400, 400 like
it's 800 or 1600, ISO 1000 like it's 2000, etc., and vice versa, called
The best I could do with my digital was the
equivalence of 800 and the flash is puny compared to the unit I left at home. I think
there's the equivalence of ISO 1000 in the digital someplace, hidden,
maybe in the AUTO setting, not on-demand, user-selectable, as far as I
can tell. Bleah!
Although, I could get better flash by slaving another unit to the digital. Huh. That wouldn't add much to my packing list although I'd
have to use a light stand which is about as bad as using a tripod in a
Anyway, that's how I met Ellen. She was in a reserved booth and I tried
to lean against it for stability. Giving up and just standing there for
a time trying to figure out how to cope with the photographic situation,
she invited me to sit and we talked when we could. Very few words, as
you might imagine. But, she's very nice and I returned between trying to
get my snapshots.
During the break, a man asked me how long they'd be gone. Me, the newbie
who hasn't been in a night club in over 15 years because of cigarette
smoke. "Five minutes? Ten minutes?" he asked as I hesitated.
"Fifteen minutes?" I countered, gesturing the stringing out of
the length of time and shrugging.
"I want to stay," he explained, "but the bass is killing
I pulled out the box of ear plugs and held it open while he fished out a
After a song during the second set, Ellen yelled something to the effect
of what did I think? I nodded. They're good. Definitely, No matter what
the genre, when there are professional musicians at the level of
excellence required to play with superstars, I can't deny it.
What struck me was the effect on the audience when Bernard Fowler joined them.
Thinking that the level of excitement, of expectancy, rose because he
just came back from touring with the Stones, I was rather nonplused,
almost amused. But, when he stepped back out of sight, it remained high.
I could see him because, at that point, I was standing on the right up
against the stage, almost behind the bar, but most of the other
Although he was waiting to return, I couldn't tell by the music or by
the other people that they knew it. Interesting.
Then, it happened again. Having left the stage for a break the length of
several songs, Bernard mingled with the people at the bar before
returning to the stage. Considering these are already world-class
musicians, Bernard's merely stepping onto the stage, in the back, before
approaching the front, before nearing the microphone, before singing a
note, the energy level in the entire club escalated to the roof. Fast.
I was amazed.
While he sang a song or two with the band, I thought about my
conversation with Kim about American Idol. As obnoxious as Simon Cowell
can be, I agree with him much of the time. At one point last year, he
emphasized that the contestants have to have star quality. A few days
after that, I bought a U2 DVD from Wal-Mart's bargain bin and playing
it, immediately saw what Simon was talking about. Those Idol contestants
weren't even close which makes me wonder, are the winners going to be
one-trick ponies or will they last the duration?
I thought back to years ago when I had one of the Farm Aid shows on TV.
Doing various things, moving through the house, probably trying to avoid doing school homework, I
wasn't paying close attention, just had it on to be aware of what was
going on. Someone on the screen caught my attention as I passed through
the living room compelling me to stop, then sit and watch, riveted. The
song was "Bad," the singer was Bono, and the group was U2.
That's the effect Bernard's presence on stage was having.
The music rose in volume before dying to nearly nothing. Playing what
seemed to me to be the same thing over and over again, not recognizing
it, I waited with the crowd. Would they burst into a renewed blast?
Bernard said it was his gift to us and still, the subdued music went on
while he stood silent.
(To be continued.)