Playing Italy is always a pleasure, but when it's a very well run festival and your 'special guest' is Snowy White then what is there to complain about? Absolutely nothing.
We flew into Bologna and got to our hotel close to midnight. Everything had been taken care of (including steaming hot Italian coffee and sandwiches) and they even had a printout already of all the rooms we were in. That's something we always do ourselves because you never know when you need to talk to one of the guys about something and it's handy to have a list of the rooms. There was a Terence White listed as well but I thought nothing of it at that time.
As is the usual routine if we arrive late, we have a few beers and sit around and talk a bit before going to bed. I think most of us eventually went to bed around 2.30am. We got up for breakfast the next morning but in a way we didn't really need to as we also had a lunch call for midday. We were sitting outside ready to go when there was a phone call for me. It was Mr. Terence White - better known as Snowy of course. He was wondering where I was, if we were going to lunch and if we shouldn't meet up after that and make a plan. Wow, sounded good to me. I like organised guys!
Lunch was a lovely affair - typical Italian (or Southern European) - lots of people sitting around a big table laden down with lots and lots of great food. It was also a chance to talk to Snowy a bit and he's a really easy guy to talk to. We talked a bit about Lizzy of course.
After lunch I grabbed my guitar and headed over to his room to go through a few things. Snowy had already sent through via e-mail some songs he wanted to play. We talked about those and then worked through a few I thought might be suitable for him to play on. The idea was that he'd come on after we'd played a few songs, he'd do a couple of his songs and then I'd come back on and we'd do a few together. He could stick around for the rest of the gig if he wanted (and he did finish out the gig with us).
The 'venue' itself was a beautiful setting - right down on the town square. They had a bunch of lovely amps for us to try out and the soundcheck went really, really fast. It still amazes me sometimes when you play with someone new yet it feels like you've been playing with them for ages. That was the case here. Maybe it's the Peter Green influence. Snowy already had a lovely tone off his guitar & amp. He was using a pick up guitar as all his own stuff was already packed for a show he was going to do in St. Petersburg, Russia the following week with Roger Waters. They were going to do The Wall show for the good people of St. Petersburg.
So, after the soundcheck we went back to the hotel, made a setlist (I normally don't but on occasions like this it's safer to do so), had a short rest and basically got ready for the show. We decided to go back down to the festival shortly before our own set. Waiting around can get to you sometimes so if it's possible it's better to arrive and just go on. We missed the first band's set and Ana Popovic was rounding off her set when we arrived. Changeover was fast and boom, we were on.
As happens sometimes on festival occasions - everything gets changed soundwise from soundcheck to show - so it took us a wee while to get readjusted. Also, my wireless unit started giving me problems (suddenly dropping out) so it was harder work to get going than expected. There was a problem with the DI on the bass amp and so there was no bass out front for at least half of the first song. However, you're there to do the best you can so you sort things out as you go along and just try to dig deep, get into the music and let it carry you.
One of the festival organisers had mailed us prior to the show pleading with us to play "Sweet Little Angel". I hadn't played that song in ages but we decided to do it anyway (Rudy played on the original and the other guys are real quick studies) and it went well. Strange sensation - to play one of your own songs so long after writing it and not having played it in years. You have to try and remember your own stuff!
Next up was Snowy with his set. He started off with "I Loved Another Woman" - the old Peter Green/Fleetwood Mac song and he nailed it straight away. It sounded fantastic, his guitar tone was a killer and I just sat backstage listening to him and really enjoying it. He played a song called "Working Blues" next - a jazzy-blues type song and he really cut loose on this one. What a player - and he makes it look so easy. He finished up with "Lovin' Man", which to me sounded a bit again like a Peter Green song. The crowd loved it. It was a blues festival after all and here was some great, great blues guitar-playing from a great, great blues guitarist.
Snowy took it right down at times during his set so everything was really steady by the time I got back up. He had decided earlier he wasn't really going to do any solos during the second half of the set but as my unit was falling in and out I asked him if he'd mind giving me a bit of a hand and he said sure. I'm glad he did because he continued to play some wicked guitar and of course the crowd liked that a lot.
We finished up and it was obvious we'd have to go back on and do some more. Just before I went back out the woman from the first band asked me what song we were going to do in the 'jam session' . I had heard a mention earlier about the idea of a jam session but wasn't sure if that was something firm or not. Anyway, we went out and did "Bye Bye Johnny" with Snowy supplying some fine rock 'n' roll riffs. We finished that one and headed off again but we weren't going to get away. I walked into the backstage area and there was Ana Popovic and the guys from the James Cotton Band all lined up with their guitars. OK, looks like we've got a jam session on our hands. I just said to them all - ok, let's go, let's just do it! I had no idea what we were going to play but a blues shuffle is always good and just as I walked on stage I got the idea to do "Move It On Over". Again, I hadn't played it in ages but it has a nice groove and at least I could try to lead the session by singing something I was fairly familiar with.
We kicked it off and it sounded strong with that many great players on board. The little lady with the harmonica took the first solo and then I thought it best to just give everyone a solo starting from one side of the stage and ending up on the other, so the guitarist closest to me (one of James Cotton's guitarists) took the first solo, then the guy from the Albert Ray Band, Ana took a slide solo and finally the other guitarist from the James Cotton Band. It actually sounded quite organised (which is quite a feat in itself - as jam session can get out of hand quite fast sometimes).
...and that was it! The Castel San Pietro In Blues Festival for 2008 was over. I think everyone had a good time - on stage, off stage, etc. I had to go to the merchandise table and sign CD's and stuff and it was lovely to talk to all those happy, enthusiastic people.
We all trooped off to get something to eat. I don't really like to eat that late but as everyone was going I thought I'd at least tag along. It was nice to just sit around, have a cool beer, eat a little and talk to various people about the show. There was a nice atmosphere between all the musicians and I always like that. I think Snowy was the first to leave and I and some others left shortly after that. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I think we offered the people a nice show, a nice variety of music and I can't wait to be back in Italy again.
P.S. - go to the 'photos' section of the website and then click on 'concert photos' on the top of the page to view photos of this gig.