1996 Santana Tour

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:
1996-09-27

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:
4. CONCIERTO DE ARANJUEZ/ EL MAR/ SAMBA PA TI

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.

On This Day…

On this day in 1975 I went to a concert with my friends. This was my very first concert and I was very excited. We went to see Santana who was on a monster tour around the world. Like many stars of the day he had chartered a plane, which was depicted in the booklet for the triple-LP Lotus, recorded live in Japan in 1974.
Santana
I knew nothing about Santana’s opening act. Then the lights went out and in the complete darkness a booming voice incanted “Earth, Wind and Fire” and when he chanted the last word two columns of fire rose from the dark stage… then the music began. Most of the band was using wireless technology (in 1975!!!) and frequently the whole band, except for the drummers, ran around the stage… exiting on one side, running behind the stage and reappearing on the other side. Never again have I seen an opening act get three encores. After the third encore all of the hall lights went on to calm down the audience.

Then Santana started playing. They were very good, of course, but we were under the Earth, Wind & Fire SPELL! Toward the end of Santana’s customarily long set, several E,W & F musicians came back onto the stage, among them the guitarist. He took a solo and after his solo we noticed a shift in Carlos’ presence. He started glowing and when he played he threw his head back and magic happened. An unforgettable evening. That evening may very well be responsible for me becoming a musician. I received Lotus as a gift and wore out those LPs! I learned several of the melodies by ear, among them, of course, Samba Pa Ti!

Fast forward to 1991: we are in the studio recording our first album for Epic Records, to be called Solo Para Ti. I wanted to record Santana’s Samba Pa Ti and talked to my product manager at Epic, Al Masocco, about how I could ask Carlos to play guitar on the song. At the time Santana was under contract at Columbia Records and both Epic and Columbia were under the umbrella of Sony Music. Introductions were made and Carlos agreed to play the solo. A few weeks later I drove to the Bay Area to record Carlos, who wanted to work in a recording studio in Sausalito that he was familiar with and with an engineer he knew. In addition to the solo on Samba Pa Ti Carlos also played on my composition Reaching Out 2 U. The latter is a truly amazing solo I have listened to countless times!

In 1996 Santana asked me to open for their US tour. Luna Negra was a quartet at the time, with Jon, of course, Carl Coletti (drums) and Ron Wagner (tablas + dumbek). We would perform for about 40′, then Santana would take to the stage to a song by Miles Davis (perhaps from the album doo-bop?) and play for half an hour. At that point the four of us would join the Santana band on stage and play several songs with them. Samba Pa Ti, of course, but also a tune called El Mar from George Benson’s White Rabbit, and a melody from the Concierto de Aranjuez. There may have been more, but that’s what I remember. We played together for a half hour, maybe. Santana’s long performances are legendary and most nights we were in our bus, driving to another city while he was still playing.

Tomorrow… a few memories from that tour.