We'll first things first... got a little jet lag, woke at 04:00, I think that is like 10:00 in the UK? finally get back to sleep and then wake around 08:30. Time for some filter coffee before heading out for breakfast. We head out to Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf. Kris gives me a camera lesson... I feel like a fool... the old adage.. RTFM springs to mind. But I'm happy... at least now my photo's will be in focus.
We walk along the road a bit and find a Starbucks with free Wifi. Time for another coffee and some breakfast... a glazed doughnut, lemon drizzle cake, banana walnut cake and a couple of Americano coffee's. This might sound a lot for breakfast, but by the end of the day, this is a good idea... no lunch and then nothing to eat until 22:30! Hey but don't let that put you off, the pay back is an afternoon with the awesome Greg Howe!!
Kris makes some calls to Jason Becker's friend Dave Lopez, the organiser of this amazing festival. Dave is organising the rehearsals for the bands who are playing... but later I find out the guy is the same Dave Lopez from hugely successful Oakland based Hip Hop Rock band cross over Flipsyde.. hey I'm from the UK, I'm a little slow on the significance of things!
Dave advises us to get to West Oakland, via the San Francisco Light Rapid Transit System. First we have to use the tram cars to get to the metro station. We pay the guy 5 dollars for the ride, but no change :)... when we get to the metro it's a case of trying to find out how the ticket machines work... we may speak the same language, but it still like a foreign country, you feel a little lost, a little vulnerable, but that might be the information that we already know. Kris has already done the research from someone he knows in the area and from the Internet... we know a little about Oakland... this is the hood man, the area with the highest homicide rate in San Francisco, also the highest rate of Crime and Asthma. I put my dark glasses on, may be they won't see me, I'll blend into the background, yes?
The metro ride is only four minutes or so, but it goes under the bay and comes out on the West Oakland side. We get out and get our bearings. We call Dave and he tells us he's just sorting some stuff and he'll be right over in his Volvo car. We wait outside West Oakland station for the Volvo to arrive. You don't realise how many Volvo's there are until you have to wait for one! Each time one passes we say... that must be the one... but it's driven by an old guy, or young girl. Then we finally see Dave arrive. Man the guy is cool, the real deal. He makes the Volvo look cool just by the very nature of his driving. He tell's us... I drive a Volvo so no one breaks into the car!! We laugh... but he's serious, a lot of crime... but may be not if you drive a Volvo!
We stop at a Starbucks to get a whole boat load of coffee's. Americano, Cappucino, Choco Mocha Chino or whatever. Dave borrows my "SAP" pen to mark the coffee cups up, we just don't know who for though, not just yet. As we get out of the shop, a dude pulls up in a sports car... "Hey guys want to buy a flat panel TV?"... um... I'm guessing the TV does not belong to him. I think I'm right... but I guess we'll never know as his car accelerates away and we get back into the Volvo.
We arrive at the Soundwave studios in Oakland http://goo.gl/maps/rKwv... Soundwave... this place has a lot of history, lots of million seller albums made here, lots of bands record their albums here and lots of bands rehearse here. In fact this is why we are here... we enter the studio and there on the stage is Greg Howe, Dave Tweedie, Phil Bennett and good old Jimmy O'Shea from Cacophony days! I'm in heaven, just sitting down to take it all in. These guys know how to play. They hear the things that the mere fan misses... "hey guys can we do that bit again... it doesn't sound right to me" To me it sounds perfect! We run through the set for tomorrow... three songs in all played through at least five times... so cool.
We are joined in the studio on various occasions by people who've come to see Greg Howe rehearse, fans, friends of Jason Becker's family and other musicians who are playing at the studio. Greg Howe stops at one point to explain the use of the hair band to help mute the strings. He tells us he learned that from Jason Becker... I paraphrase, he says there's this kid who is 15 years old is playing all over the neck, incredible technique. Greg says he asks Jason why he has some cloth over the strings. Jason explains... the penny drops in my mind... Then I hear a female voice from across the room. "Hey did you tell Jason that story?"... like me, she thinking that a cool story... Then I here here name... "Serrana" another penny drops... boom!!, now I know where the Serrana arpeggios are from!!
When the rehearsal is finished we get a chance to talk to the band. Jimmy O'Shea is a great guy he's playing with Michael Lee Firkins too. Greg Howe is calm and happy. We talk about all things guitar... he's down to earth. With Greg we talk about the players, Gary Moore, Steve Lukather, Allen Holdsworth... and the use of hair bands! LOL Which side are you on?... I'll leave you to say to Greg he's not a real man because he uses a hair band... because from what I saw this guy could play most people off the stage!
Other names of the people we see at the studio include Erik Peterson, Jon Allen and Bryan Kehoe... apologies to anyone I forgot... but when you get to my age it's difficult to remember them all!
We get back into the Volvo and had back to the station passing Nicole Kidman's new movie set, an old train station. Finally we leave Dave Lopez and Greg Howe to pick up Steve Lukather from Oakland airport. They head off for some Sushi, we head off to the metro and back, in the rain, to Fisherman's Wharf. We go back to the hotel... then off for some more American food... Johnny Rocket's original ham burgers... not sure if the amount of fat is what I can handle, but if you've not eaten all day... food is food!
These are some of my photos from the Android. Need to process my RAW images before I get some online, but in the meantime you need to get a feel for what it is like here.
|Greg Howe's pedal board|
|Greg Howe and Jimmy O'Shea in jamming mode|
|Greg Howe's awesome orange guitar!|
|Greg Howe checks out the drummer for a signal|
|Jimmy O'Shea with Laurie Monk|