Tour Diaries: The Highs, the Lows, the Ass-Grabs

Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb. His sports column on runs every Wednesday.
Loaded have been over here in Europe for the June rock festivals. We have done this a few times before, so now we have been moved up a few notches on the time slots. It's a good feeling for a band trying to make its name.

A band like ours has to play every single night--or as close to it as we can--to make it all work out financially. Often we will play a show and then do a "runner" (bail the stage and take straight off to the next city, dripping wet and all).

We played the Download Festival again, but this time we were on the mainstage instead of the second stage that is in a tent. Loaded has gone "big time" . . . sorta.

I have now played Download on five separate occasions. The first time was with GNR in 1988--when it was still called Donington. (If you have ever seen the video for "Paradise City," the black-and-white portion of it was filmed there.) I have played there twice with Velvet Revolver and now twice with Loaded. It has become a second home to me of sorts, and playing the mainstage meant a LOT to me and the band. And we KILLED it, quite frankly.

But we did have to pull a runner . . .

So coming off that stage, in front of some 40,000 people, the band was pretty stoked. But we had to get in a van and rush headlong back down to Heathrow Airport, some 140 miles away, to catch a flight to Prague.

That's all fine and dandy, but we were running late, and now it was looking like we wouldn't make our flight . . . that means not playing our gig in Prague the next day . . . and that would have killed this tour on a financial level. So there we were . . . stressing BIG-time, and telling the driver to please go over the speed limit--without seeming like assholes--proved to be a challenge.

So we make it to Heathrow and RUN with all of our guitars and whatnot . . . we have 45 minutes until this flight takes off. Will they accept our baggage this late? Can we even make this flight? Do I smell as bad as I think I do? Ah, the highs from that Donington gig are starting to wear off.

We make it through security, and then to our gate. Ahhh, we are all good. Stressed a bit, for sure, but all good.

We get on the plane and they shut the doors, and then the pilot gets on the PA system and announces that we will be sitting here for an hour . . . with no power on. The heat on the plane is oppressive, and I start to get claustrophobic (a plight that has plagued me for years). To add to this, there is a Japanese soccer team in the back of the plane, and they are all hacking their lungs out. My pores are open, and my immune system is run-down. Fuck.

The highs from the Donington gig, just a few short hours earlier, are officially gone. And this, my friends, is basically how it goes on a rock tour.

The next day in Prague, we played a gig with the Misfits. For a punk-rock dude like me, that was pretty all right. But I DID get sick from those dudes on our plane. REALLY sick. Nothin' you can do but forge on. The day after that, we played the Nova Rock festival in Vienna, Austria, with Danzig this time. Again, pretty fucking cool for me.

The virus I got from that soccer team finally passed through.

This week, we are playing a string of gigs with my new most-favorite band, DOWN. Phil Anselmo turned me on to a Swedish band called GHOST, who wear masks and hide their real identities--AND blindfold their interviewers when they take them to do a interview. Cool. I dig that kind of stuff. The majesty and hilarity of rock is still alive and well in Sweden, I guess.

My wife comes out to join me in a couple of days. I will definitely have to take a bath and clean some of my clothes . . . and curb my language. Actually, she is a pretty damn good "road dog" herself. She may even spit and try to grab my butt . . . just like the guys in my band do! Well, hopefully, anyhow?

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