Last week, I set sail on the seas of asphalt for some guitar tech dates out of town.

As stated in my last column, “If you are reading this currently, I’m in a van that smells worse than it should, headed to my next gig.”

Thankfully, it didn’t this time. I’ve had the pleasure of filling in for Last in Line. The group is comprised of four former members of the band Dio: Vinny Appice and Vivian Campbell, who are joined by Andrew Freeman on vocals and bassist Phil Soussan. This line-up formed, following the passing of original Dio bassist Jimmy Bain, in 2016.

Many people get to see the finished product of a concert, but few get to experience how it’s put together. Here is a small excerpt of our journey from one location to another.

1/30/19

8:04 p.m.

en route to Phoenix from Los Angeles

Stars here are close to Zion National Park, which is like having the universe hanging above your head. The reflection of civilization borders the landscape on our stretch of highway. It’s the only thing taking me out of this moment. You can’t put a border on the universe. Almost seems like another foolish idea of man. The highway makes it look like a mirrored image, except it’s clear who is trying too hard.

We’re listening to stand up comedy on our long drive to Phoenix. Drum Tech/Tour Manager Jeff Collier, suggested Dane Cook next, so he could “feel 18 again.” Haven’t heard “Retaliation” (Dane’s breakout album) since my middle school, maybe high school, days. It’s an interesting perspective. I’ve almost got an insight as to how my sense of humor worked back then. We are doing a weekend run of shows from Scottsdale to the Whisky a Go Go, then the Majestic Theatre in Ventura.

We just stopped at a gas station in Blythe that looked like the setting for a horror movie waiting to happen. It wasn’t particularly disgusting, but the ambiance was the right level of creepiness. There was a young woman working the register who must have been about my age. I felt bad for her.

Who knows what kind of degenerate animals wander into that establishment when least expected. It’s almost like the vultures can sense when you’ve put your guard down.

Just waiting to swoop down to give you a memorable night. Scenes like this fascinate me and oddly enough, I almost feel lucky to see them.

Three cars in a row getting towed on the highway. Deja vu? Glitch in the matrix? Been in the van too long?

2/01/19

1:14 a.m.

Red Lion Inn, Scottsdale, AZ.

Lying in bed with Jeff next to me. The hotel gave us one king room instead of two queens by mistake. I didn’t care though. Not the first time I’ve shared a bed with another man on tour. And it’s a nice room, at least. Our gig was at BLK Live tonight. The club was great to us, as usual.

Dave Ellefson from Megadeth was in town and we heard he was coming out to see Vinny and company. During the opening band’s set, I was curled up in a ball on the green room couch with my hoodie up.

Right as I was falling asleep, I hear the club manager say “Do you know Jesse?” Startled, I jump up, disheveled, and make eye contact with Dave and they both laugh and he gives me the “sorry” wave.

The gig went well until the Arizona sky opened a torrential downpour on us. We scrambled like mad to cover the gear during the last song, “We Rock.” Literally one drop. Two drops, then it poured. We had to nearly sprint to the green room for stage towels, then run across a slick stage to cover all the gear we could.

The band powered through it and seemed happy with how we handled it. As I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off, some lady asked if she could have a guitar pick. Some people literally have no clue. It was a cool moment for the audience, but hell for us.

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