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Traveling, the Middle East, and the Zac Brown Band, Day 2

Thursday, May 13, 2010
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The first day of travel got me from San Diego to the Radisson Hotel in Kuwait City. This place was nice, with good food, plenty of space, and a nice room. It barely seemed like I was away from home, which is pleasant and makes things easier while one takes the first step into a new time zone and country. Our group arrived in varying conditions, some of us having slept on the plane, some not; some of us having traveled before, and some having their first experience outside the U.S.

What I like about the Zac Brown Band is that the members are older than most bands that make it big. In the music industry, it appears that you won’t go platinum for the first time unless you’re young. That’s another topic, but it’s nice to be hanging with guys who are in their 30s when stardom befalls their lives. They have a good perspective. But for most of them, this is their first time out of the United States, and when you think about it, it makes sense. I mean, if a person has spent their life being a musician, where do the time and money come from to travel? These guys have been playing in bars around Atlanta for their whole lives. Then, all of a sudden they’re stars and are being swooped off. But during this week, the week of the ACM awards, where they are nominated for several awards, they’d rather be in Iraq playing to our troops, which is another reason I dig these guys.

 

We mustered in the lobby at 9 a.m. and loaded a bus for a 90-minute ride to Camp Buehring. Arriving there, we were met by soldiers who briefed us on the day and thanked us for thinking of them and coming this great distance for their benefit. We all responded that the pleasure and benefit was all ours. It was a sentiment that was to grow stronger with each passing day.

Zac brought a film crew with him to document the tour, and their first job was to make a video for the ACMs, greeting the viewers from the Middle East. This was being shot the whole day long, with a couple hours dedicated to getting some cool shots in a Black Hawk helicopter.

We were fortunate to have a cool spell in the area, with temperatures in the 80s, so as the day lingered and we passed from one activity to another, our jetlag wasn’t exacerbated by heat. There was a quick, unplugged concert in a hangar, and by now we’d all been making friends. The Army helped with the video shoot by bringing in some awesome vehicles for the backdrop.

Before long, the soldiers who played guitar were hanging around me. Turns out a couple of them are making electric guitars in their spare time. This is a bit of a challenge without having any parts, materials or tools, but by the day’s end they’d brought over a couple guitars they’d made, one literally out of a cigar box. We’ll be hooking up via email, and I’ll send them a care package of parts for the current guitars. It helps pass the time; not that they don’t work, but they do have some free time each week.

Our first big concert was held on this base in the evening, and the crowd went nuts. It’s a big deal for them, especially since Zac is big on the charts right now and he’s here in Kuwait.

The band signed autographs through the 10:00 hour, and eventually we were on the bus for the ride back to the hotel. At 12:30 a.m., we arrived like zombies back at the hotel. Everyone went their own way with high hopes of sleeping, on this second night of a new time zone.

I’ve met a lot of people in my life through situations like this. On two occasions I headed into the sand dunes of the Sahara with people I’d just met that day. We hooked up with the idea that it would be safer to travel together. It’s always weird at first because you just don’t know them. But each time I’ve forged a rewarding friendship.

 

Today I’ve started to have a few little conversations with Zac’s bandmates and am starting to figure out who is who. Plus, I began to get to know Darren Doane and Peter King, who are shooting the videos. All these guys have a better gift of gab than me. Mostly I hang back and learn who’s who, as it seems like they’ve known each other forever, but I’m not sure that’s the case. I think they’re just better at engaging than I am. Nevertheless, Darren and Peter are shooting like pros, and I’m seeing peeks of the video as Darren edits it. I must say, it’s good.

The video was nearly complete, being edited as the day wore on. Tomorrow it will be done, and Alfred will get on a plane and personally take it back to Las Vegas, where it could be used for the ACMs on Sunday. All in all, it appeared as though the mission for the day was accomplished, short of sleep, and that would only be known in the morning.

I’m with a bunch of guys who like to eat. I don’t know when the newness of a big buffet will wear off for these guys. It hasn’t for me.  There were several high-fives exchanged today based on food alone.

I’m dragging my little GS along wherever we go. It’s easy to take, and it’s a little friend maker. People are coming up to it one by one and having a go at it. They’re all probably trying to figure out if I’m a good guy. We don’t know each other yet. In my experience, that will change very soon.

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