Sandworms of Dune

Friday, August 3, 2007


The Concert Experience 

On the Monday after Comic Con, we had a (very brief) chance to unwind. Early in the morning, after trotting back to our room with Starbucks for Rebecca and myself, I worked on the laptop editing THE ASHES OF WORLDS (almost finished -- but it's very hard to maintain concentration in a complex grand finale of a seven-book series when I'm running off to the convention every hour or so). Then I took my new digital tape recorder and went for a long walk along the beautiful San Diego harbor to dictate one more chapter in PAUL OF DUNE. On the way back I stopped to tour two marvelous sailing ships permanently docked in the harbor, the Star of India and the Surprise. Preliminary research for TERRA INCOGNITA -- always thinking ahead.

We ate lunch in one of Rebecca's favorite Greek restaurants, then we arranged to rent a car to take us out to the Coors Amphitheater for that evening's Rush concert, about a 15-mile drive from where we were staying. Neil Peart, the band's drummer and lyricist, has been a friend of mine since the publication of my first novel, RESURRECTION, INC. (inspired by their album "Grace Under Pressure"), and I've been a guest at the last eight tours. This year, when Rush is playing near my home in Denver, I'll be off on my SANDWORMS OF DUNE tour, so we had to plot our separate travel paths to see where they intersected. Fortunately, Rebecca and I were in San Diego for Comic Con the night before they were playing the venue. So, our scheme was set.

After following the confusing signs (or lack thereof) to the backstage gate, with instructions that our name would be on the list with the guard there. The guard, a very earnest and earnestly unhelpful man, told us he had no "list" and that we should go away. Apparently he had plenty of experience with crazy fans insisting they were friends of the band. We tried several other entrances and each time were directed back to the Earnest Guard. Finally, we convinced him to call somebody with the band -- Neil's bus driver -- who said "They're OK, let them in." The guard's demeanor instantly changed.

We met Neil at the bus, alongside which was parked his beloved motorcycle, while his security dude and riding partner Michael got us our tickets and VIP badges to avoid further hassles, and we hung out in the bus for a while. I had brought Neil a map of the Denver area on which I had marked my favorite off-the-beaten-path roads (Neil loves to ride on his days, or hours, off). Later, Rebecca and I enjoyed the backstage "mini concert" as the band did their sound check (the "back side of music" sounds the same as the front side). Then another relaxing, but brief, chat with Neil in his dressing room, before we went out to have dinner with the crew, listened to Neil do his energetic warm-up on the drums in his dressing room, with the thunderous percussion booming through the walls. (It reminded me of an apartment neighbor I once had.)

Finally, as the crowds began to wander into the amphitheater, Rebecca and I said our goodbyes and Neil was off in the whirlwind of the performance -- and we were off to enjoy the show. Great seats, five rows up from the stage, and an incredible concert -- as usual.

Takeaway image for the night: Two guys in the row next to us, moving to the music, singing along, playing air-guitar with their left hands -- while holding illuminated Blackberries in their right hands, text-messaging throughout the concert.

Each time I see such a great performance, I come away inspired and fired up to jump into my own writing. Knowing the energy and standards of excellence Neil imposes on his work (both his drumming and his writing), makes me raise the bar on my creativity. And THE ASHES OF WORLDS was just waiting to be finished. . . .

-- KJA


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