|Salem Jones - One Soul Thrust - Gig From Hell|
|Written by Salem Jones|
|Sunday, 05 February 2012 05:00|
I've been a musician since I was a kid. So were my parents. I could tell you a hundred "gig from hell" stories. Let's just say that they all come down to some combination of: a twisted promoter, substance abuse on someone's part, greed or weather. I've experienced all of those challenges but let me tell you one...Hell is not hot. It's cold.
Once I gigged with The Northern Pikes in some small town in Saskatchewan in the middle of a Canadian winter. When we left for the show the weather was mild enough that our sound tech was only wearing a tour jacket, but hours later during load-out it became apparent that travelling would be extremely dangerous because a whiteout blizzard was in effect and the temperature had dropped to -47 with wind chill. The RCMP were issuing travel warnings, as they do when this happens. Some brain surgeon (likely the same guy who rented the van) decided "We're going."
We should've stayed put for a few hours in that little town- what were we thinking? So at 3:00am we're driving down a wilderness highway in a vehicle that wasn't working too well in the first place, and the heater completely quit. It just tanked on us. We had no heat and we're driving in a whiteout with visibility of about 1.5 meters in front of the van. When it gets like that the road disappears and people literally drive into the ditch, get stuck and freeze to death. You can't see a bloody thing. This went on for hours and finally Brian (guitarist) took a turn driving and I sat up front with him as navigator- watching for the edge of the road if I could see it. We could only maintain a speed of about 20 km/h. it was a life threatening nightmare.
We were all freezing cold and the sound tech was literally praying. Many of us were convinced we were going to die unfound in the ditch, because we were the only vehicle we'd seen in hours- Canadians simply don't travel when the weather gets like that. I was lucky to be wearing a full length heavy winter coat and at one point I sat on the drummer to keep him from going to sleep. I literally sat on the man. You don't go to sleep when you're freezing or you're gone. So what happened next? The engine seized. Damn thing stopped cold- pardon the pun. That can happen to an engine in arctic temperatures if it isn't in top shape. By this time it was about 7:00am and we were incredibly lucky that we happened to be crawling along a stretch of highway that had farms beside it.
It was Sunday morning and we ran into this dairy farmer's yard. We knocked and knocked but no one answered and we thought, "Right! They're down feeding the cows." The door wasn't locked, and the hell with convention or breaking and entering, we all herded into this farmhouse on our knees to finally feel some warmth. We called out but no one seemed to be there and then the farmer walked in. She was very sanguine I tell you, to see a crew of half dead rockers in her kitchen; in a surreal Monty Python kind of way she hardly seemed fazed at all, as though every second Sunday she returns from the barn to this kind of spectacle. We explained that we hadn't come to rob anybody, and I got on the phone calling our agent to send in the cavalry and telling him to shoot the bastard who'd rented us the van. (Turned out it was another musician. Can you believe that a musician would send other musicians out in the middle of winter with a totally faulty vehicle?)
The Northern Pikes were becoming quite famous at the time and we learned later that the farmer's teenagers had been awake upstairs but were too lazy to come downstairs. They were kicking themselves when they found out it had been The Pikes in their kitchen... People often have no idea what we go through to bring them a rock show.
As Jay (Pikes' leader/bassist) had facetiously said during load out just before we hit the road, with his fingers numb from the cold, frost hanging off of his face, teeth chattering, while he hauled a Marshall into the bus, "rock n roll. Yup. It's all cocaine and swimming pools."