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Aragon Ballroom - Chicago, September 16, 2002
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Topic: Backstage at the Nashville Show 11-25-02 Return to archive
11-28-02 05:49 AM
Keefness Sun Nov 24

A friend of mine calls me up & asks if I'm goin' to the Stones tomorrow.."well, yeah, of course."
"Wanna see them soundcheck? One of best friends is the keyboard tech." [Hmmm..lemme think..]well, yeah, of course."

(Time out for dancin' after I hung up the phone.)

Fast foreward to Mon afternoon 4:30 pm & I'm backstage at a Stones gig. Unfakkin-believable. I start lookin' around trying to take it all in..racks with Keef's guitars. All those Telecasters strung up 5 string tuned in open G and capoed for different keys..the Gibson Melody Maker for 'Midnight Rambler'..the Gibson 335's, one black one red..the little accoustic he uses for 'The Worst' I notice instrument noises coming from the stage up the stairs from where I'm standing..there's Chawlie's drum kit right there &..Jeezis! That's Charlie right there noodleing on his snare drum. I focus on what I'm seeing & there's Keith & Mick in front of the drum kit close talking face to was so real, I didn't even recognize them at first. This was a viewpoint that Annie Liebowitz would've clicked her shudders on. (I wasn't expecting them to be there right then..I was told the crew soundchecks the gear first). Keef & Ronnie started 'Rocks Off'..note for note perfect..just the first two bars or so. Our more than gratious host Pete (Chuck Levell's keyboard tech) then led us out front.

There's a few rules: nobody sits in floor seats during soundcheck, so we were shown to 1st row seats in the stands down by B stage. "This will be good, when they sound check B stage." Pete told us. We heard 'Rocks Off', 'Lovin' Cup', 'Sweet Virginia' & 'The Worst'..B stage check was 'It's Only RnR'.

Other highlights: After soundcheck, met Ron Wood as he came down the stairs..Mick looked me straight in the eye as he came down the backstage stairs..Had dinner in the hospitality room with Pete & Pierre (Keith's guitar tech since '89). Met Lisa Fisher & said hello. Darrel Jones was there having the evening gruel too..After dinner, back of the stage again, checked out more guitars..Ronnie's rack with the '52 sunburst Strat, the 'Faces' guitar..looks like an overgrown Tele with the circle on it, the red ESP B-bender Tele, the Gibson Firebird..& Mick's were there too.

Crystal Talifaro (vocals, guitar, sax on Springsteen's 'fake band' tour '92/'93 as well as having worked with John can see her in the video, 'A Vision Shared: Tribute To Woody Guthrie & Lead Belly') came backstage with her Mom & someone else...I tried to say hello but she ended up on her cell phone..John Hiatt walked by too, but I missed him while I was studyin' guitars.

Pete ran us through alot of technical things about how the keyboards are set up & stage monitors..he showed us the computer that starts 'Sympathy', Mick's quick change room & then took us onstage to show us Ronnie's guitar rig & trap table with cigs, drinks, towels, picks etc.

(Wait a minute!!Lemme git this straight..15 mins before show I was standing on The Rolling Stones' stage next to Charlie's drum kit. Ok, just pinch me, somebody!..remain calm..)

There's a trap table there too, bottle of water & a bottle of some kinda pink fruit juice. The most interesting thing was 4 guitar picks with different Stones logos. "Charlie arranges them there every show," Pete told us, "He likes the colors. Charlie's a very artistic guy. He's the one that approves all the artwork on everything."
After pondering this one, I think it's some kind of gig ritual..The 4 picks are the 4 Stones. Kind of like Keith kissing his guitar at some point of the show. Just speculation on my part.

The kick drum head hasn't been changed since 1978. And several of the cymbals are filthy & if my studying of photos of these guys over the years has done me any good, I'd guess most of them have been on tour since '75 when Charlie got these natural wood finish Gretsch drums. Pete & Johnny (Ronnie's guitar tech) told us that Charlie says the dirt doesn't affect tone, just decay time.

Saw the road case behind Keef's amps with 'The Bar' in one of the drawers. Also a cooler with drinks & that's where two fifths of Stolie's Vodka go on ice about an hour before show. Keef's cups are red, Mick is blue (water only), and Ronnie's are yellow..they didn't say what goes in those, but it's true he's offa da sauce. Bill Wyman's were green.

No one except band & crew is allowed on or immediately backstage during show..not even wives or girlfriends "They're weird about it" I was told. So, off we go to watch the gig from inside the fence of B Stage. I'm thinkin' this will be the best seat in the house when they come out here, but during 'Can't you Hear Me Knockin', the yellow jackets came to remove us..we showed our passes but they might as well have been a $2 bill. Turned out it was a safety issue as the confetti machines would have been a little dangerous to be standing next to. Also Stones security goons were everywhere alla-da-sudden. BIG Muh-Fuggas with radio mics & ear pieces. So we watched the B Stage set from inside the soundboard corral. Good place to be nonetheless.

As the set ended, I realized that the band was gonna exit the back of the arena..Keef was the first one off & was headed straight by me. No goons coverin' him up just Keef. I held my hand out & he grabbed it, not a slap 5, but a good solid handshake, looked me straight in the eye & gave me the Keef/Demon smile. Keefness. This is a man that has influenced & affected millions ("We don't need your petty morals"). Changed & influenced one of the biggest communicators in history: Rock'n'Roll Music. A lot of jokes are made about his age & lifestyle (Dave Barry: "Keith's idea of taking care of his body is to play an entire song without having a cigarette.."), but, ya know what? I don't care what all those folks say. I dig him. Keefness.

I didn't see Charlie go, Ronnie was covered up by goons & Mick stayed away from fencing & didn't make any eye contact. All ok wid me, as I'd put so much info in my Stones-Fan memory banks that night to last a while.

Everyone I met was gracious, friendly & more than happy to make us feel welcome. Johnny, Ronnie's guitar tech, joined us for beers later & a few guys who had figured out he was with the Stones came around..all handled excellently & kindly. Johnny told a few stories & knew exactly the kind of stuff those guys wanted to hear...No technical jargon for civilian fans & nothing arrogent or condescending. Ever. They ALL talk of Keith with big respect & always positive. Excellent PR even that far down the mountain. Jagger is mighty smart for hiring people like Pete & Johnny. These guys were complete pro's & love their gig. I would too, I must say. A night I will not forget, for sure.

"Darling, this is bigger than the both of us."-Keith Richards
11-28-02 06:00 AM
RubyFriday Great story ! congrats !
11-28-02 08:43 AM
J.J.Flash Fantastic!
11-28-02 09:53 AM
*ginda Well done, Keefness. I really appreciated the details you remembered in what must have been an excited state. It was, in fact, so very good that I am going to read it again.
11-28-02 09:53 AM
MannishBoy We saw you guys on the stage that night over by the keyboards and were wondering who you were! (you were with a blonde?)
Awesome tale.
11-28-02 06:37 PM
mandrack Really great!!!
Like in dreams!!
11-28-02 07:31 PM
plumpit Thanks Keefness, that was better than the turkey and stuffing too.
11-28-02 11:32 PM
JaggaRichards Great story!
11-29-02 12:11 AM
Keefness Yes, Mannish boy, that was us..I was with a very short blonde (That's Lauren who is a rippin' blues guitarist who just released her 2nd CD.. )and I was wearing a long green overcoat. It was an amazing night..I'm still buzzin'. Once again, he crew guys Pete & Johnny were the best.

Somethin' else that was a little surreal..the next night I went over to Lauren's flat to do some playin' & Pete was still in town as he didn't have leave for Vegas till this morning. So we jammed a few blues tunes & Pete played bass with us. Lauren is a major talent & could make Bonnie Raitt have a seat with her slide blues guitar slingin'. But it was bizaar to sit there pickin' with Pete who's just having a few days off from his 'day job' as it were. Wow.
11-29-02 03:04 PM
Martha My gawd Keefness...your story made my day..hell made my holiday weekend. With no tickets in hand for another show (yet) on the horizon I am dependent entirely on those of you with wonderful stories to impart as you go to shows that I cannot afford to make. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and I am impressed by your vast knowledge of guitars. I could actually imagine being right there with you you described things so vividly! I needed that boost today..especially *today.

You rock!


*George Harrison
February 1943 ~ November 29,2001
11-29-02 03:37 PM
parmeda Yes Martha...Keefness' experience was not only jaw-dropping...but nerve tingling! What a lucky's moments like those that leave an impression that last a life-time. lucky dog! Congratulations on being able to score what most of us would give an arm for.
12-01-02 10:55 PM
Keefness back to the top, just so's I can relive it some more...
12-02-02 07:38 AM
Zack Oh man, I've had dreams that are just about like that. Incredible.