Gillioz Theater – Springfield, MO
(pic by Gary Brown for Shovelhead Studios)
In April of 2016, we were back in the bus and on arena and theater stages around the country with the Halestorm/Lita Ford/Dorothy tour. By all accounts, it was a hell of a show; three female-fronted bands, each with their own special vibe, and in their own unique place on their journey. Halestorm – currently on top of the hard rock heap – headlined, as they anchored a solid draw and delivered an enthralling, high-energy show nightly. We (Lita Ford) took the middle slot featuring L.F.F. as the iconic trailblazer, with her band of “veteran arena rockers,” I suppose. And ass-kicking newcomers, Dorothy, opened with a bang every night, featuring (as I heard someone say) an “Etta James fronting Black Sabbath” kind of flavor.
All in all, it was a great night of rock music, performed with a rare conviction by a cast of real-deal players. It was also an exceedingly harmonious endeavor, thanks mainly to the generous and professional tone set by the Halestorm camp. It didn’t take long for all three bands to merge as one nomadic pack of highway wanderers, with buses, trucks, and trailers rolling across the country like the Ringling Brothers on ritalin. We even got in a groove of doing a little “special guesting” during each others sets. (More on that shortly.)
Gotta love the road… especially when business is brisk, shit is selling out, and audiences are walking away happy. So let’s get behind the scenes, from this drummer’s perspective, and check out the highly-dense, uptempo slice of reality that is road life:
My partners in crime, L to R: Patrick Kennison, Lita Fucking Ford, and Marty O’Brien
(pic by Gary Brown for Shovelhead Studios)
pic by Kevin R Hatfield
pic by Gary Brown for Shovelhead Studios
The Cub-Man in the House!
My long-time drum tech, Cubby Hubschmitt, has done virtually every major tour I’ve done over the past 28 years – including the majority of my 900-plus drum clinics. He tried a “semi-retirement” up in Oregon for the past few years, but decided he wanted a bit more punishment. It was a pleasure to have my “main motherfucker” back on board for this tour. He remains one of the best in the business… and a loyal, lifelong friend.
Our home away from home; The Bus
(pic from the Marty O’Brien Collection)
Buses are a strange thing to call home, but you get used to it. And you better get used to sleeping on them, as well. We would usually travel through the night to the next city, so getting some sleep was imperative… especially since my daily training regimen would usually kick in sometime in the late morning. (More on that in a sec…)
Kickin’ it in the rear lounge… with black socks
A time-honored tradition I’ve established with virtually every band I’ve played with over the past 25 years is a pre-show ritual we call “Zenning.” This is simply a matter of getting everyone together about 5 minutes before showtime and taking a few seconds to let go of all mental clutter and get centered into the present. (Almost like a brief, group meditation.) It also gives all the bandmembers a chance to energetically “align” with one another right before hitting the stage, since we don’t always see much of each other during the day, and everyone is usually engaged in their own independent pre-show ritual every night.
We almost always do this in the privacy of our dressing room. However, we are sometimes forced to do a “quick zen” on the side of the stage, which the following photo captures. This is one of the only pics I’ve ever seen of “Zenning,” so I figured I would share it here:
Inaction – in action.
I Love Arenas
There are certain attributes about every kind of venue – from various sized clubs, to old school theaters, to pristine casino showrooms, to performing arts centers, to outdoor festivals, to cavernous hockey or basketball arenas – that make each one a unique playing experience. I love ’em all, actually… but I really love playing arenas. These are the venues where I probably feel most in my “natural environment,” as our bassist, Marty O’Brien, often jokes. Whenever I walk across one of those spacious stages before soundcheck, Marty says (with the tone and cadence of a narrator on one of those National Geographic specials): “Here we see Bobby Rock in his natural environment – the arena – getting ready to play his ass off tonight.” Pretty funny shit… but true. The vibe, the energy, the space, the sonics… and my long history with these venues, both as a young concert goer and longtime performer, all make them a sentimental fave. Fortunately, we had occasion to hit some cool arenas on this run. Always a blast.
Freedom Hall Civic Center – Johnson City, TN
No matter the venue, though, I’ve gotten in a habit of documenting many of the places we play with a “drummer’s perspective” pic, shot from behind the drums, usually during soundcheck, but sometimes during the show. Here are a few “perspectives” for you:
Santander Arena – Reading, PA
Later that night during “Close My Eyes Forever,” with smartphones ablaze
Taft Theater – Cincinnati, OH
Exchange Park Fairgrounds – Ladson, SC
Hard Rock Live – Biloxi, MS
Club Brady – Tulsa, OK
Mark C. Smith Concert Hall – Huntsville, AL
Fargo Civic Center – Fargo, ND
(Soundcheck and show perspectives)
Sometimes, just to be “cute,” I would take a showtime perspective shot during the drum solo, while playing some sort of double-bass/double hi-hat pattern with my feet. This prompted some folks to ask if I’m actually taking a photo, or just raising my iPhone for dramatic effect. Say what? Of course I’m taking a photo!
Snapping a shot during the drum solo
(The Egyptian Room – Indianapolis, IN)
Drum Solos R Us!
Speaking of drumming and drum solos, this was a great tour for drummers. Dorothy’s drummer, Zac Morris, would give his kit a sound thrashing every night to get things going, as he laid down a heavy pocket with their set. Then I would do my thing with Lita, which would always include a solo spot. Then Arejay Hale would play his ass off during the Halestorm set, while keeping “the art of the drum solo” alive for a new generation of drummers with a show-stopping, super-entertaining solo every night.
With Arejay Hale, my “little brother from another mother”
One gratifying, reoccurring theme of this tour was running into various drummers who had been affected by some of my earlier educational work (books, vids, drum clinics), namely my first book/vid, “Metalmorphosis.” I did that project untold years ago, but it’s really nice to see that the residual effects of the work have reverberated through a generation (or two!) of drummers since. To my surprise, it turns out that a young Arejay Hale was influenced by “Metalmorphosis” way back in the early days of his development, and he always made a big fuss about it to everyone – audiences included! – which I thought was extremely gracious of him.
Arejay and me with Stuart Whitten, who showed up in Johnson City with an original edition of
“The Metalmorphosis Workbook,” which was released with the video way back in the day
Around show #3, Arejay asked if I wanted to join him for a “duet” during his solo. Well, of course I did! So we got together at soundcheck and Arejay suggested a basic solo structure that we would work from every night, starting with him on the marching tenors and me on his kit, then him joining me on the kit to “double-drum” it. So we just ran it down a couple times that afternoon, then never really discussed it again; I would just show up during his solo every night for the rest of the tour and we would let that shit unfold. We had a blast playing together, and the audiences seemed to really dig it, as well.
Here’s a clip of our duet from the Fargo, ND show:
Honorable mention must go to Zac Morris, drummer for Dorothy. This guy can really fucking play, and it was always cool to catch some of the Dorothy set. In fact, Arejay even invited Zac to join us in our drum solo segment for the last week-and-a-half of the tour. He slayed it.
Dorothy’s Zac Morris had a tendency to bust open a knuckle or two
some nights, which turned his kit into a scene out of
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” That’s rock, people!
All in the Family
I spoke earlier about the indelible bond between all the bands that took place during this tour. So in addition to Zac and I joining Arejay during his solo, and Dorothy Martin joining Halestorm for a version of the classic “I Just Wanna Make Love To You,” Lita brought both Dorothy Martin and Lzzy Hale to the stage with us during several shows to jam. We would usually do The Runaways’ classic, “Cherry Bomb,” with both of the girls. And then Lzzy would throw on her double-neck and do “Close My Eyes Forever” with us, handling Ozzy’s vocal part. Epic shit!
Lzzy and Lita: The double, double-neck effect!
(pic courtesy of Livewire)
Lzzy Hale, Lita Ford, and Dorothy Martin, throwin’ that shit down
(pic courtesy of Livewire)
Here’s a clip from Webster Hall in New York of all of us jamming on “Cherry Bomb.”
Halestorm always delivered the goods with their set. I also liked how they changed their setlist around nightly. This is one smokin’-ass band…
Joe Hottinger (gtr), Lzzy, Arejay, and Josh Smith (bass)
We had a world-class crew with us on this run, that’s for damn sure. In addition to the Cub – as mentioned at the top of this post – we had Tom Winch taking care of both tour manager and soundman duties, and the incomparable Takumi Suetsugu handling guitars and bass. A killer crew, indeed…
Lita with our fearless ringleader, Tom Winch
(pic by Gary Brown for Shovelhead Studios)
Takumi, with Lita’s babies, Churrito (left) and Rascal (right)
(pic from the Marty O’Brien Collection)
Churrito, filling in for our regular driver, Big James Cooper…
A Bit More About the Drums
Most of the touring I’ve done with Lita Ford over the past few years has been what we call “fly dates.” This means we fly into a given city for a show and rely on gear provided for us by the promoter, based on a meticulously detailed rider. It’s part of the new economics of touring these days and, generally, it works out okay.
However, when you’re back on a bus, that means you get to drag all of your own shit around the country and play on your own gear every night. This is preferred! And this also warranted a new kit from my longtime friends and colleagues at DW. Basic black and chrome badness, with a custom rack reinforced with cold, steel chains.
My custom “chain-drive” rack system enabled me to knock over various sections of the kit at will…
without my precious drums actually having to face injury from high-velocity stage contact!
This tour also warranted a new touring set of Sabian cymbals, as this year marks my 30th anniversary as an endorser for the world’s greatest cymbal manufacturer. We topped things off with fresh rounds of heads from the gang at Aquarian, and plenty of Bobby Rock model sticks from my friends at Pro Mark. I proudly have well over 25 years with both of those companies, as well. (More details about the drums and cymbals in a future “gear-head” post.)
Training on the Road
My workout regimen changes very little when I’m touring. I basically train every day, grabbing the occasional day off when unfavorable logistics win out, or if I feel like my body can use a rest day…
Hittin’ the weights with Arejay by day, so we can pound some drums at night…
Contrary to the way it was back in the old days, many musicians actually try to stay in shape on the road these days. This was certainly the case for some of my Halestorm/Dorothy tour-mates. Candice Rukes (Dorothy’s tour manager) would scout out – and get us passes to – a good place to train near the venue, then she would text us the details. Then, depending on everyone’s schedule that day, we might train together, or separately. Either way, a good workout was generally “right around the corner.”
Post workout with the gang
L to R: Candice Rukes (Dorothy TM); DJ Black (Dorothy gtr.); Arejay; me;
Gregg Cash (Dorothy bassist); and club host, Big Jay Eaton
I also love to run, especially on tour. We so often get in a rut of airport-hotel-venue-hotel-airport, or in the case of a bus tour, this venue-to that venue. Going on a local run gives you a chance to experience other aspects of a city, and I almost always “run across” cool shit wherever we go. Trails, public parks, riverfront paths, or even interesting residential or downtown areas… there’s a lot of beauty out there. And the double-whammy of cardio conditioning and fresh-air head-clearing that running offers is essential in keeping both your mind and body together while touring. (Each run is usually between five and seven miles… which is plenty long to scope out a bunch of cool shit.)
Two sides of Tulsa, near the gig:
Riverfront trails and old school streets…
Eating on the Road
I’ve been vegan since the early-90s, so people are always wondering how I fare on the road with such a “limited” eating regimen. As usual, I say, “no problemo.” While avoiding all animal products (yes, this also means no fish, dairy or eggs) can be a bit of a challenge at times, with a little advanced planning, it’s never an issue.
Stocking up before an extended tour
When you’re away from home for a solid month, you’ve gotta stock up on the killer vegan food and supplement rations. Of special note here are the four canisters of “custom blend” nutritional powder, which I tap into twice daily: 2 scoops in the AM with my morning fruit smoothie; then 1 scoop with various fruits and vegetables after the show…. all blended together with my trusty NutriBullet. (My Vita-Mix at home is still the preferred tool for this kind of thing, but these NutriBullets do the trick very well on the road.)
Supps include digestive enzymes, multi-antioxidant tabs, and a big bag of spirulina pills. (Can’t get too much of that super-green power.) The rice and soup are for throw-together meals, and the vegan jerky is for a little extra protein when there’s not much else around but vegetables and rice or pasta.
The variety of Cliff bars, whole-grain cereal, and trail mix round things out for snacks throughout the day. Fresh fruits and veggies, of course, are provided at the gig every day. And in most cases, a very generous and talented chef will prepare a special vegan meal for me at the gig. This is always appreciated! Otherwise, there is usually some kind of pasta, rice, or bean-based dish in catering that I can have for dinner.
And because people ask me all the time, let me say this: you cannot only maintain muscle mass and enjoy peak performance capability with this regimen, but you can make gains, as well. Been doing things this way since 1993. The only catch? Make sure you get enough calories to support the desired bodyweight. No need for protein from animal sources. Your body will absolutely thrive from a plant-based diet, if you do it right…
A welcomed site on tour! Time to stock up…
Wow… this has been one long-ass post! Just imagine what it was like out there – in it – every day. Life on the road offers an unparalleled density, as so much happens in such a compressed period of time. Can’t wait for the next bus tour. Until then, it’s time to fly…
For the record, here was our itinerary for the month:
Halestorm /Lita Ford/Dorothy Tour
Apr 1 – Reading, PA – Santander Arena
Apr 2 – Hampton Beach, NH – Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
Apr 3 – Hampton Beach, NH – Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom (*2nd show added)
Apr 5 – Huntington, WV – Big Sandy Superstore Arena
Apr 6 – Lexington, KY – Singletary Center for the Arts
Apr 7 – Raleigh, NC – Ritz Raleigh
Apr 9 – Biloxi, MS – Hard Rock Live Biloxi
Apr 11 – Springfield, MO – Gillioz Theatre
Apr 12 – Tulsa, OK – Club Brady
Apr 13 – Wichita, KS – Cotillion Ballroom
Apr 15 – Fargo, ND – Fargo Civic Center
Apr 16 – Sioux City, IA – Hard Rock Live ‘Sioux City’
Apr 17 – Dubuque, IA – Diamond Jo Casino
Apr 19 – Huntsville, AL – Mark C. Smith Concert Hall
Apr 20 – Spartanburg, SC -Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium
Apr 21 – Johnson City, TN – Freedom Hall Civic Center Freedom Hall Civic Center
Apr 23 – St Petersburg, FL at State Theatre
Apr 24 – Ladson, SC at Exchange Park Fairgrounds (WYBB RockFest – Breaking Benjamin, Halestorm and many others…)
Apr 25 – Norfolk, VA at NorVa Theatre
Apr 27 – New York, NY at Webster Hall
Apr 29 – Cincinnati, OH at Taft Theatre
Apr 30 – Indianapolis, IN at The Egyptian Room
A Few More Shots…