Archive for the Personal Category

Marty Balin’s Roadie

Posted in Music, Personal on June 5, 2008 by rsalit

My brother-in-law, Jerry Gladstone, has a chain of stores, American Royal Arts, that sells rock and roll and sports memorabilia. Sunday night they invited Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship to play for a private party of clients and employees to promote his artwork. Jerry asked me to come along to pick up Marty at the airport.

The first challenge was locating him. We didn’t see him come off the plane so Jerry asked me to go down to baggage and see if I could find him. Its a little difficult finding someone based on pictures you’ve seen from 40 years ago. I figured I’d look someone with a guitar. I looked over the people waiting for luggage, didn’t see anyone with a guitar but saw someone that I thought could be him. I stared at him for a minute and he looked back at me like I was a little crazy. Finally, I approached and asked if he was waiting for Jerry Gladstone and much to my relief he said he was. Unfortunately, his guitar, which he had checked in at Tampa, had not appeared. A few minutes later, the baggage claim staff confirmed that the guitar was not on board. It was 1PM and the gig was to start at 5. the airline said they could the guitar to him by 6:15. That was not going to work. Not wanting the event to turn into a disaster, I asked him if he wanted to play one of my guitars. He said my Taylor T-5 would be fine.

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We proceeded to the venue and quickly found out there was a more significant problem in that there was no sound board or microphones at the venue for the event. I headed back to Coral Springs and picked up my guitar, my son Josh, stopped by my friend’s to get a few mics and mic stands and headed back to West Palm Beach (its about an hour drive both ways). By the time we got back it was closed to 4 with the gig to start at 5. The soundboard had not yet arrived so we were asked to go to some club about 15 minutes west  to meet the “sound guy” and assist him in loading his trailer with equipment.

After a 20 minute wait for Scott, the sound guy, we loaded his trailer and van. He let us know that there was no way he could set up by 5 and that an 8PM start was a more realistic time frame. In addition, he told us his van was having mechanical problems so we needed to follow him back. If the van broke down we’d need to transfer the trailer to the SUV we were driving. Fortunately, despite some sputtering and noxious fumes the van made it to club. Josh and I assisted in unloading the sound equipment and helped set it up. The sound guy was pretty amazing as he set up a sound board, connected it to the stages PA, set up microphones, stage monitors and started sound checking.

Meanwhile, Marty and his band were setting up the stage equipment. Marty liked my guitar and asked if he could keep it. I Slick Aguilar and myself during the sound checkliked Marty but not that much. The T5 is a little tricky in setting up, so they asked if I could sound check the guitar. I was happy to accommodate and dialed in a setting that would work for them. Seeing me up on stage my family thought I was going to be playing with the band. Uh, no.

The show started at 6:30. A little late but the crowd was not overly impatient and actually rather enthusiastic. The sound was just OK at the beginning – without a sound check its hard to be right on. Nevertheless, the sound got better through the first set and was really nice in the second set.

Marty Balin is a hero of the psychedelic era. He was the guy that formed the Jefferson Airplane. He’s got a great voice and helped make the Airplane what we now consider one of the seminal classic rock bands of the 60’s. The band that played Sunday is a four piece with Marty Balin singingMarty (guitar/vocals), Slick Aguilar (lead guitar/vocals), Joe Lalla (percussion) and Charlie DeChant (keyboards/sax/flute). The band makes the most out of a small lineup and Slick fills a lot of space with his guitar, varying styles and tones to fit the mix of material. They had one of Jerry’s client’s kids play drums with them on Volunteers and that helped kick up the intensity a notch.

Overall, it was a very successful party. From what I observed everyone had a great time. For me, it was a great experience. I had gone expecting to see some music and meet a great artist. Instead, I had the satisfaction of playing a part in making the show possible.