Tuesday night the 7th of July 7:45 pm Orlando ballroom, The Hilton Orlando, Florida USA. Backstage in the green room the band begins to gather. 24 musicians from 11 countries, spanning over the 5 main continents of the globe, make this band, truly global. A mix of nervousness and both excitement fills the atmosphere. Tension is rising. Just a few more minutes and where on. Bottles of water , tea , coffee or soda are consumed at great haste softening the vocal folds or just to get it in. By the end of the night we will all be sweating. I down a cup of ginger tea and chew on my last throat gum. Trying to ease my vocal folds, which I over stressed 2 days before during practice.
After 7 months of hard work we are here. The day that we have to do it. A deadline as hard as a brick wall, unmovable and inevitable. It is now or nothing. There is no second try. There is only this one shot and it must hit it’s mark. If it doesn’t this could be the end of Global Jam. If it does at another gig will come.
We have come a long way October last year we started out. Calmly, at ease we all picked the songs we liked to perform. Then at the end of the December the voting began. By the end of January the song-list was there. Practicing at home in the car or wherever, we learned our parts, wrote sheets and scrutinized the songs until we all new what to play. Conferencing on sunday, each 2 weeks about our progress with the group and in smaller groups about individual songs. Skype, Youtube, Wiki, chat, etc. All collaborative tools available were used to get us working together and making sure we all knew our parts. 2 days ago we all met again. face to face. For some it was the first time, to others it was a most welcome reunion of friends and family. Global Jam is family in it’s own way. It’s family because of this, here and now. The gig! knowing our limited rehearsing time before the gig we started Sunday 10am. Our practice room in a remote corner at the conferencing center of the hotel started to fill.
After the cacophony of sounds you get from tuning instruments and testing them we started. Song after song after song. Only stopping for a quick bite. until late in the evening. Blisters formed, muscles ached, blood flewed from swollen lips and throats hurted. We literally played until we couldn’t play no more. 2 days of intense rehearsal. We are up against what most musicians will think off as being impossible. Getting a gig together with 2 and a half days worth of practice time. Most bands will tell you it is not possible. But we know it is possible. We did it before and we will do it again.
7:55 pm Bill goes to the stage. This is it. We’re on. A few words of comfort, a soft yell, a few high fives follow. After the short blinding effect of the stage lights we see our crowd. over a thousand of our companies colleagues, clients and partners gaze upon us. The introduction. Quickly the people not on the first song go backstage again. tick, tick, tick the sound of the drummers sticks tick the first beat. one, two, three, four and the train starts. Global Jam 201o is a go. The first notes of Mustang Sally sound through the speakers. 34 songs to go. As we watch our colleagues on the back of the projector screens from backstage we await our own appearances on stage.
I’m up on the fourth song. Disco inferno. I test my voice which still feels a little soar. I will just have to do extra. Blue suede shoes follows Mustang Sally and then Tin tho a Vietnamese song. We deliberately added these foreign songs to exclaim our global nature. A few minutes later I stand next to Detlef my German co worker, dressed up all in black with only a white tie and white shoes to uncover my rebellious nature. We ‘re backing up on this song. As the baseline of Disco inferno is played by my Australian colleague Bill. We count for our cue. ‘Burn baby burn’ , we go. The first sound of your voice over the stage monitors is always a bit awkward. As if somehow startled by your own voice. But there is ample time to cope. ‘Burn baby burn!’, ‘Burn baby burn!,”Burn baby burn!’. It has to be on count to work. As the song ends I experience the applause for the first time this night. But there is no time to enjoy it. There is a lot more work to be done.
I quickly grab my D harp out of my harp case and clam it and my hands around the green bullet( a harmonica’s microphone). 1 the first beat of the bass drum goes. 2 the guitar kicks in. 3. the rest of the instruments now. 4. the intro. As the drummer does his first riff into the first chorus I wail my harp making it sound like a train horn ready to depart and where off ‘Call me the Breeze!’, Joe sings. The wail liberated me. What first felt like as reservation is now gone. As I let the music get into my bones I harp a lick or 2 here and there. I feel great. a few more notes and a grand chord exits the song. Now I need to be fast. In order to play my clarinet on baker street I have to switch Marks trombone mike and adjust it for my woodwind. There is only the time of the next song to do it. 30 seconds later I slip past Julian who’s going at it with his saxophone. I quickly drink some water and when the song ends I follow some others back on.
Now this is a hard part for me . My first ever performance playing the clarinet. I would not have dreamed about it before 1 day ago. We started rehearsing Baker street. I knew there was a clarinet on it so I secretly studied it. And when we started rehearsing I tagged along. But now I had to do it in front of all those people. I must admit I had a slight fear over there. Not being able to play the Artissimo notes on the intro before yesterday. But they went smooth as a whistle. I can only imagine the smile on my face after that song. Here we go! Suddenly a short shriek. Standing to close to the monitors can cause resonance which causes a terrible shriek. Manu our stage sound guy. Cuts the mike to my clarinet. As I back away from the monitor he turns it up again. The song goes by in what feels like seconds. Next Superstition. Vivek is made for these songs. We watch him back stage. Hitting every note. Brilliant.
The next song for me is on lead vocal. We will rock you! company style. As I clear my throath Bill heads up next to me. Clap! Clap! Thud! Clap Clap THUD! Oh man this is so great. We should do this every day I think. The lyrics are sung according to the song and then, ‘ HIT IT!!!!’. Charles Kicks in with a guitar solo. The crowd goes wild! Now comes official part. As the song ends we are ordered to introduce ourselves. Most of us hate this part. We just want to play! luckilly this is over fast. We’re on a tight schedule here.
Next the beautiful Brasilian Elaine sings Girl from Ipanima. As she sings it she moves just like the girl from Ipanima sensual and on count. You can feel how she catches the crowd. As the song finishes and she comes backstage again we cheer for her. This was her first time. Song after song pass by Chan Chan, by Axel and David, As with its massive choir part. Taking care of business and before you know it there are only 6 songs left on the setlist. Summertime. Some of the musicians have been looking forward to this. With Lem on lead guitar You never know what will happen so it is jam time. Stretching the song to over 6 minutes we play and all do our solo parts. terrific that was fun. Then it is time to end it. As we finish our last song we tell the crowd that this is it. We want more, we want more it sounds. Of course! We always save a few songs for the encore. Love shack starts. Sung perfectly by Jill and Seth 2 veterans on the band. With everyone on stage for the last 2 songs it is pretty crowded. Peopl not playing or singing just dance. As we play our last song Picking up the Pieces Jeroen steps down the catwalk and plays his trombone In the middle of all the people. Then on the final chord. It becomes sillent. We are engulfed in thunderous applause and cheers! as we thank our audience. We did it. We did it again. As we come back stage we hug and kiss each other over the success we just had. All engulfed in this wonderful feeling of fulfillment. We quickly stow away our instruments and head off.
Time for a beer!
P.S.: I want to thank all my fellow band mates and our company to making this thing possible. You’re great guys (and Galls) I love you all!