The very first tour I did with The Mars Volta was opening up for the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their US arena tour. With just two shows (The Troubadour, Coachella) under my belt, I found myself in the Midwest opening for a band that was a huge part of my Los Angeles upbringing. I had seen the RHCP a few times, the first being in San Francisco at the Warfield Theater in the late 1980’s. That show made a huge impression on me and I saw them several times throughout the 90’s in Los Angeles.
It’s never easy opening for such a huge and beloved band like RHCP because they have a history of having great bands open up for them. Whether it was PJ Harvey or Fishbone, they always had some of the best artists on tour with them; being chosen is a huge and profound honor. So it was without hesitation that we said, “yes!” when they asked ZAVALAZ to do a couple of shows with them in Alaska last week.
Tour prep was a little different for us since Nate Walcott, our keyboardist, couldn’t make the dates so Josh Klinghoffer, the RHCP‘s guitarist, filled in for him. We only rehearsed with Josh once, but after that rehearsal, we knew we would sound great. Josh is an absolutely amazing musician whether he is on keyboards, guitar, drums or singing. He’s a natural, and since he heard our songs every night for two weeks on our ZAVALAZ/DOT HACKER tour, the gig was an easy one for him.
The shows in Anchorage were awesome; the first being a little nerve-racking since ZAVALAZ had not played in front of that many people and we had only a very quick sound check. However, within the first song, it was pretty apparent we were going to sound good. I am always in awe of Cedric and Dan’s vocals when we play- the way they harmonize the songs sounds so effortless and natural. Greg was so comfortable behind his kit on that big stage that it freed me up to really take it all in. Josh sounded great, almost as if he had been playing with us for a long time. I don’t think we could have sounded better and with a great second day soundcheck, we were better night on night 2.
I saw Flea from sidestage during their first show. His youngest daughter was on the side stairs to the stage, watching her dad play…it was so damn cute. Flea noticed me on the side, came over and gave me a hug in between songs and I just told him he sounded amazing, which he did. The new basslines he put down on the new songs reminded me of 80’s new wave ala Peter Hook or PiL’s Jah Wobble. Flea is always evolving as a musician, working on multiple projects, including Atoms For Peace. He is truly a legend and the entire band played and sounded fantastic.
Let’s switch to a little gear talk now. I was fortunate enough to have a pedalboard built for me by the mighty Henry Trejo. Henry works for RHCP now but he had been a part of the TMV crew since its inception, and we always hung out on and off tour. Henry, being the great friend that he is, saw the condition of my fly-gig pedalboard and offered to tighten up my game. Here is a before and after shot:
This pedalboard rebuild was done by Henry within minutes of tearing the old one apart. He is a true master of his craft and I could not have had a more reliable pedalboard. It gave me the confidence that my gear was going to be solid for both shows. Shout out to Mono for hooking us us with gig bags for our gear and Ampeg for coming through for me as well with an SVT-VR head and 8×10 cab!