Leonard Cohen Tour Diary — How did you get the gig?

Via WordPress, one by name of Seil asked to hear of my tale in joining the ranks of UHTC. For this I am thankful; as you may have already inferred, I am running out of steam when it comes to talking of men with vans, breakfasts, showers and everyday weather. With Seil’s permission, I shall get to it.

One must first acquaint one’s self with Joey Carenza; Joey is currently the UHTC Band Road Manager, and has been since 2008. Joey is the linchpin around which my record of entry into the ranks of UHTC spins, and so it is with the meeting of Joey and I which must needs be mentioned, lest the larger wheel come to a faltering stop.

With the help of a tour diary I wrote in 2003 (I can’t believe I’ve kept it all this time) I can say on the 17th of May, 2003, I was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was a guitar tech with a band named Ash; I have worked with Ash, on and off, since 1995. In fact, the members of Ash and myself all used to live in and around a little town called Downpatrick, in County Down, Northern Ireland. I still work for Ash occasionally. Joey was hired to be the band’s tour manager, and on that 17th of May, we were first introduced at the beginning (or near enough the beginning) of a U.S. Tour on which Ash were embarking.

This 2003 tour could in no possible way hold a foot with a Leonard Cohen tour. If you can imagine eight (occasionally nine) people practically living in a van, pulling a spine-injuring trailer, for thirty days, with no time off, except for a few hours of an evening in Springfield, Virginia, it was like that. Now imagine everywhere is as hot as the sun, always. You are approaching the imagined hell of just one uncomfortable tour like many Joey and I have worked, together and separately, as roadie-folk.

Nearly five years later, in the opening months of 2008, while living in Toronto, I receive an email from Joey, asking if I was available to work with a guy called Leonard Cohen; I didn’t know who the guy was. Professionally, I was busy, looking at offers of work from a couple of bands, one of whom being a Swedish artist by the name of Robyn. Since I had never heard of LC, and since my memories of Joey entailed working together on low-budget tours, I had no idea of the truth in his words when he told me, “Trust me, you want this gig.”

Having suffered for years, the crests and troughs of self-employment, one learns never to blindly accept a job offer that seems too good to be true, especially when looking for the all-important confirmation. After all, there may have been a flurry of guitar techs who wanted the job — there’s never a guarantee that being in the running ensures money in the bank. For all one knows, the gig which pays the least might be the only gig that comes through with the promises.

So I went about my business, having months to fill before the Leonard Cohen tour began, but as time went by and my wife did some research on LC, even she was prodding me to get the gig. ‘Do you have any idea who this guy is?’ she asked me in surprise.

I shook my head, tucking my upper lip beneath the lower, as I usually do; ‘Show me the money,’ I might have said.

While touring with Robyn in Australia, on the 5th of April 2008, I announced on my blog I would be working with LC. The blog was a horridly-written, self-indulgent record of spiritual confusion, yet priceless in its proof of my body’s placement in the physical world. A few days later, travelling a probable 27 hours, I was back in Toronto, and a short time later, I spoke on the phone with the then Production Manager, Steve. After a ten-minute chat, I got my precious confirmation. I still chuckle inwardly at the casual manner in which I was hired into a position that I was at first, nervous of entering.

Due to a dating inconsistency with the old blog, it could have been the 15th or 16th of April 2008, that I first flew to Los Angeles to meet with the UHTC bunch; I want to say the 15th. As time passed, I discovered that my transition from the insular sphere of low-budget touring into vastly staffed, anything goes logistics, high-pressure situations and stifling, politically charged environments in which one dares not open one’s mouth in a certain field of professionalism lest he be chided as an interloper, was not the mountainous gradient of challenge that I feared. To be sure, there are some red-faced moments of memory, but without those, one never learns the real reasons why Tab A does not always fit into Slot C.

There is a great truth in the old saying: It’s all about who you know; that’s not to say I was hired on a whim — after all, I’m still here, and there are those who have come and gone from UHTC. It remains to be said that I feel as if I have learned from them all.


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I hate blogs and bloggers.
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4 Responses to Leonard Cohen Tour Diary — How did you get the gig?

  1. Seil says:

    I love a good story of connecting the dots! Thanks for taking the time to share it.
    In life, many times all we need is someone to open the door for us and give us a chance to prove ourselves.
    UHTC’s door was opened by Joey Carenza, you are still in the house in your own talent.
    From your writings UHTC seems like a big warm family. I wonder if that’s really so..
    Enjoy your time at home.

  2. dragonhelm says:

    Thanks Seil. Like any family, there’s always something going on, but the train keeps rolling.

  3. Liz says:

    Leif, what a small world, the Wheelers (Tim) are long time friends of our family, was chatting to Rosiland just a few days ago. Liz

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