I'm still a little overwhelmed as write this. It's the 9th of June, and I'm on somewhat of a come down.
You see, in 2016, a band that I count as friends and as seriously talented bastards rolled into town (London). I first saw them in 2011 when I was 13 (maybe 14, I'm unsure?). I got hooked, and so every time they've played London, I've been there; first in line and first at the front, normally being the last to leave.
Before 2016, what interaction I had with the band members was fleeting - maybe I caught them at the merch desk after the show where it was a quick picture, a hand shake and a goodbye. They were awesome, making time for each and everyone, but they're not superheroes and they had places to be. I'd normally try and tell them I was in a band and that I painted (I even gave Nalle one of my guitar picks and traded it for one of his), but this was lost in the thousands of people that saw them.
Over the years, I watched as they opened for The Who, ACDC, Bon Jovi - anyone and everyone. I thought soon that maybe those days of chatting after the show might dwindle.
Until I messaged Ty, the enigmatic, charismatic, kickass frontman in 2016. "Ty," I said, "I want to paint you."
And so I did - he sent me a few new demos of his for inspiration, and I built up a great rapport with the guy and his incredible family (they've all supported me since, and for that I thank them.) I took the painting down before the show and we hung out for a while, whilst I watched soundcheck. I thanked them, returned out front and queued as normal.
Earlier in 2017, I messaged Nalle, the guitarist - now this guy is the epitome of cool, mysterious guitar hero. Like, seriously, I've studied this guy's guitar playing since I started. In fact, the first song I ever learnt by ear was his solo in a cracking track by the band called Run Outta You. I began working on my latest portrait.
I checked with him, and he said to arrive in the afternoon. "Great," I thought, "I get to hang out during soundcheck again!"
I arrived at about 3:10pm, introduced myself and stepped into the foyer. Obviously a hairy guy with a big piece of canvas in bubble-wrap unnerved the security guards (they were awesome, and only doing their jobs), and as 3:30 rolled around they wondered why I hadn't been greeted yet. I pretended to phone Nalle, and in a lucky stroke, he waltzed into the foyer, and gave me a hug.
We walked upstairs, and he asked how school was going, how the band were, how my Mum was. We got to the dressing room; Brian on keys was chilling, Rich was on his laptop, but broke this to comment on him and me being 'hippy fuckers!' with our hair.
After cracking open a beer, we got chatting again. We discussed the tour, and every great thing that has happened to the band over the last 12 months since I last saw them. Ty and Rick came and went, with Ty pretending not to remember me, before hugging me and asking how I was (the bastard!)
Nalle got to showing me his Telecaster - as a guitar shop employee, I held my own in discussing gear and we nerded out pretty hard. I had a play on it, and Nalle commented on how my cover video I had made a few months ago of their song, Run Outta You kicked ass. I should leave out the fact that he had totally forgot how to play it, and so my claim to fame is teaching him his own song, but alas...
We got talking about Stevie Ray Vaughan, and all these great musicians who have influenced us. We also talked about Spain, I'm unsure how we got to that, but Nalle talked about working there over summer as a teenager and how being the only blonde guy in the city was even more rock 'n' roll than being in a band.
I tried out a Gibson acoustic that they loaned the band for this tour, and showed him a couple of my own songs. Before we could resume jamming, we went and scouted out the venue (I totally got to try Nalle's SG and his number two Les Paul.)
Around 5:45pm, we went down to the stage and I watched soundcheck for 45 minutes. The band practiced a few new songs, and I got to see how this band got so tight; they practiced the same part five or six times until it was dead on beat.
Briefly, I did what I came to do - Nalle unwrapped the painting and he was pleased. Like...really pleased. He hugged me, constantly remarking on the painting and showing anybody that came in, including Robert Plant's agent. We got a photo with it.
The next time I saw the band was just as Brian announced their entrance on stage, where I wished them a good show. I had been hanging out with Jesse Hoff and Rob Blackham, where we practiced for a shot that Rob had been pining for for months. Both were convinced that I was going to 'make it big,' and Rich returned briefly to gawk at the painting and awe at the fact that I am just 19.
I used the AAA pass that Toad had slapped on me to get a good view, and I met up with a few longtime VT fans and good friends of mine once Laurence Jones had started, and then ultimately, Vintage Trouble had taken to the stage.
Between Laurence and VT, I met up with LJ and we caught up a little. We tried navigating through the crowd to find his friends, but quickly decided the press was too much. We went to his room, where his entourage had been all along, and got a photo and negotiated a portrait of him in return for free tickets to his show with Walter Trout later this year. (Holding you to it, brother!)
After the killer show, which was a lot of new material, tied in with classics, we returned to the dressing room for a quick afterparty. Tequila, beer, a smooth-ass Texan dude kissing the hand of a gorgeous Russian friend of the band - it was pretty sweet. Nalle introduced me as a 'great artist and insanely talented guitar player' to anyone who would listen, and as I was leaving, told me that he was there if I ever needed him, and that LA was always open for me. "Thank you for a beautiful day, brother," he said as I left.