1996 Santana Tour

02020-09-24 | Memories | 9 comments

A few memories from the Santana tour:

On 26 September we performed at Compton Terrace in Chandler, Arizona, near Phoenix. There was a lunar eclipse that night, a Black Moon or Luna Negra, where the Earth’s shadow appeared on the moon at 6:30pm and grew until the moon was completely covered. Even better, the stage was set up so that we had a perfect view of the eclipse while we played!

After our soundcheck Santana’s guitar tech waved me over. He had finished setting up Carlos’s guitars and amps for the night. Everything was exactly how Santana liked it. The tech smiled and handed me that famous guitar. I thought back to that evening in 1975 when I saw Santana… and now I would play his guitar. Very exciting! I put the guitar strap around my neck and the tech handed me one of Carlos’s guitar picks. I played exactly one note… it was soooooo loud that I literally tried to duck to escape the sound that hit me. Of course there was no escape. I looked at the tech wide-eyed, turned off the sound on the guitar, and handed it back to him. Don’t you want to play a little, he asked? I can’t handle the volume, I replied, but thank you very very much. On the photo accompanying yesterday’s post you can see two guitar picks. The green one is the one I used to try to play the guitar and the other pick is the one Carlos actually used that evening.

Here is what I wrote the next day:

Last night in Chandler/Phoenix Carlos asks me wether we would record our show there… when i tell him that we are not, he asks wether we would let him record it and i say of course, knowing that Carlos has a huge collection of bootleg tapes: lots of Hendrix, Bob Marley etc… Carlos thinks the lunar eclipse might bring some special music out of all of us… and it is indeed incredibly special: when we start our set a little bit after 7pm, the moon is a shrinking sliver and during our second song it turns black… we all stare at the moon, which is right above the audience in front of us, while we are playing… La Luna Negra in Arizona… this may have been the only chance in our lifetime that we are performing on a stage that faces the moon during a lunar eclipse… a special moment with our namesake… then, after our songs with Santana, we drive to a hotel in Tucson, an unscheduled stop that became necessary because the air conditioning of the bus broke… during the drive to Tucson four of us finish a new bottle of Absolute Citron, listen to Indian Raga music, and discuss the hearing-loss we are getting from just the songs we are doing with Santana… today, Friday, the AC will get fixed or we will get a new bus…

On 28 September we performed at Tingley Coliseum. I remember walking out onto the stage at Tingley in Albuquerque and the roar from the crowd was so loud that I was sure that it couldn’t be just for us. I turned around to see whether Carlos was walking out with us… perhaps he wanted to address the audience for some reason. It was just us four walking out though and that roar was for us. Here is what I posted on 1996-09-28:

Tingley looks pretty frightening – like a hockey arena or a tractor pull location with big neon advertisements for beer and beef… the amount of concrete promises lots of slap-back echoes all over the place… our show at Tingley is the closest we have ever come to the taste of the Rock & Roll experience… when the lights go out and we walk on, the crowd roars in anticipation… there is a huge pit for people with general admission tickets and they holler and move… and we love every second of it… the reverberation in the big hall does sound like a propeller plane circling above or like a herd of cattle stampeding… it starts with the first note and ends half a minute after the last… we have a good time though, ’cause the audience is into the music… we go through the set smiling… oh yeah, and there was a bomb threat at 9pm as Santana was supposed to go on… but, since no bomb went off at 9:15pm as threatened, the Santana show started at 9:20pm… the songs we play with Carlos sounded good and rounded off the Tingley experience nicely

Santana’s set list for that night in Albuquerque can be found on their website, which has 175 pages of set lists from 1969 to the present. On page 76 we find the three songs we played together:

A week later, in San Antonio, a different Rock & Roll experience. An angry audience member didn’t think it was loud enough. Here is what I posted on 1996-10-05:

Last night’s show in San Antonio was almost shut down… 5 policemen and a couple of councilmen threatened Santana’s soundman Bruce to turn down the music or have the concert shut down…

hm, 5 cops against 5,000 fans, many of which had visited the Beer tents frequently… but, in the end, the sound was turned down and then one angry member of the audience, unhappy with the lack of volume, poured a whole big-gulp of beer into Santana’s mixing console… as a result the drums went silent until they were patched into our mixing board a few minutes later…

hm, the politics of Rock + Roll… seems to me that politicians should stay out of the concerts once they have been approved… we all know that Rock + Roll is loud… if you don’t want the concert, don’t rent the venue to a promoter for a rock band… but don’t allow the concert and then threaten the soundman and almost incite a riot…

Santana would routinely hit 120db during their shows. Too loud for me but apparently just right for many in the audience. I suspect they turned down the sound to 112 or 116db that night… not loud enough for the man with the beer.

Playing in front of 10,000-15,000 every night can be fun, but it’s also much more anonymous than performing in a theater or a club because the audience is quite far away. It reminded me of the movie Spinal Tap, because after a while you REALLY don’t know where you are unless you look at your tour book. Sheds mostly look very much alike. They are also outside of the urban areas, which means there isn’t anything to do nearby. Tourbus drives to venue, do soundcheck, have dinner at the venue, hang out on the tourbus, do a show, get back on the tourbus and drive to the next shed…

After this tour I started to perform barefoot. I was wearing boots during the Santana tour and one time my foot fell asleep after crossing my leg for an extended period. When I got up I nearly toppled off the stage… and those stages are about 8-12 feet off the ground.


  1. JaneParhamKatz

    Know what, Ottmar? I felt an awesome excitement that day I found out you are living right here in Santa Fe, right where I am living and where my dreams are coming true.

  2. Dave Kirschner

    Like Spinal Tap, maybe you should have pods on stage for you guys to come out of! ;-)

  3. Luz

    To this day I still regret not making it out the performance at Cynthia Woods. It had been pouring rain and there was flooding all around the city so I didn’t want to chance it. Two college mates did make it to the performance and absolutely RAVED how great that concert was. :-(

  4. Nacy

    That is so cool that you were performing on the night of a total lunar eclipse. I am sure it was a special night. I have never had the pleasure of seeing Santana live. But I did go to a Grateful Dead concert and had front row seats. It was so loud it nearly blew me out of my seat, and they played for six hours. My ears rang for days. :)

  5. Victor H.

    Thanks for sharing this Ottmar! :) Sounds like a special time and a wild ride.

  6. Steve

    Carlos Santana was known for Mesa-Boogie amps … I think he is actually responsible for part of the name of the company.

    (Anecdote has it that after hearing the Mark 1 he said, ” …Man, this thing really Boogies …”)

    I wonder if the amp you played through was the same Mesa-Boogie he used to play Cal Jam 2 (1978) … Carlos was one of the first guys that seemed to treat the electric guitar AND the amp as one instrument.

    • ottmar

      In 1996 Carlos used multiple amps on stage that he selected with foot switches. I think there was Mesa among them.

      When I arrived in New York in 1979 I bought a Mesa Boogie amp that I used for many years. Eventually I sold it. When I started working on my album three-oh-five I tried a lot of different amps and ended up buying another Mesa Boogie, one with a 10” speaker.

      They are great amps. And yes, I agree with your last sentence. What a recognizable tone!

      • Steve

        Yeah … looks like he also uses Dumble amps. I was unaware of this.

  7. Carolynn

    I was in that audience in Tingley. While your performance was great, the evening as a whole was not. I even wrote you a letter complaining about the rude audience members who talked through your set and spilled beer on us. I wasn’t there to see Carlos, I was there for you, but the rude people behind us didn’t know who you were and didn’t care. I was really disappointed. But you wrote me back and sent me an autographed photo for my trouble. :) By the way, I thought Carlos was TOO loud, too. My ears rang for days.


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