Jet City Blues Stories
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And the musician, what of their choices? If they are fortunate they will be invited to attend several of the festivals throughout the long summer season that we currently enjoy in the Northwest. And what of the enigma of being asked to perform at more than one festival over the course of the same weekend -- and to compound it, the same day?
On the weekend of June 16 & 17, 1995 a musician named Nick Vigarino an award winning, blues slide guitarist was offered five musical performance gigs. Starting on Friday and running through Sunday night, with locations in Bellingham, Port Townsend, Sun Banks in Grand Coulee, and finishing up in the town of Snohomish. He accepted, and attended them all! How, you might ask?
Nick pulled into Bellingham early Friday afternoon after staying up all night finishing up several song projects that needed to be completed before he left for the weekend. He arrived on time for his gig, an art opening in the Fairhaven district of Bellingham, with time to spare. The show went well, and he received an offer to play a wedding at a later date. Nick was off and running by 1:00 PM, heading south to Whidbey Island to catch the Keystone Ferry to Port Townsend. Traffic was backed up for miles when Nick arrived at 3:00 PM at the ferry terminal. With only one ferry running, the wait became longer, and longer. It wasn't until after 7:00 PM that Nick was able to get on the ferry and arrive in Port Townsend for the blues festival at 7:40 PM. With just enough time to set up all the equipment and do a sound check with all the band members, he struck the first chord right at 9:00 PM; Nick was on time!
Nick's adrenaline was flowing, or it could have been all the espressos that were keeping him going. Nick's band mates were not too happy with him. Nick opened the show with a blistering set that ignited the dance floor. Nick didn't give his band a rest until 2 hours and 10 minutes into the set. And then only taking a 20 minute break before starting the next music set. Nick was playing possessed and went right up until closing time just a few minutes before 2:00 AM.
Nick had to catch an early flight out of Seatac Airport to Wenatchee Airport, so Nick felt it would be a good idea not to sleep. So setting his alarm every 15 minutes he rested for an hour then got up and caught the Whislow ferry to Seattle and raced to Seatac and boarded a turbo prop plane on his way to the Sun Banks Third Annual Blues Festival. Nick had a 2:00 PM time slot which would leave him plenty of time to catch his flights and ferrys back to Port Townsend where he had to perform again that night. As the plane touched down in Wenatchee, Nick, again, was right on time. So with three guitars and luggage in hand, Nick made his way to the pick-up zone where the Sun Banks blues promoter had promised a car would be waiting for Nick to take him to the show.
No car! No Driver! Nick waited and waited. Finally it was evident that he was on his own. Nick had never missed a show in his life and wasn't going to start now. Nick found a map and started to devise a plan. Conversing with the Hertz Rental Car Agency folks, driving was ruled out, as it was too late to drive at this time. The only way he could make it on time, was by flying. But how? Nick called a small airport in the area and inquired about charting a small plane to Electric City that looked to be right next to the Sun Banks Resort. Nick was explaining over the phone how important it was to get there, and the folks at the airport kept telling Nick, " There is no way. We have only one pilot available, and the law requires two pilots on all passenger flights. It just can't be done!" Nick told the clerk on the other end, "I don't care if I have only one pilot." The clerk interrupts Nick, "It's the law. You have to have two unless you're taking a lesson. I am sorry but that's it!" and quietly hangs the phone down on Nicks hopes.
Nick narrows his eyes and starts muttering to himself, "Is that so!" Standing at the counter at Hertz Rental, using their phone, Nick calls back a second time. This time disguising his voice and asks to book a flight lesson as soon as possible. "Well how about in a half an hour? We have an opening." said the clerk. "Great, I will be right over." Nick told the clerk, and hung up the phone. Meanwhile, the three girls at the Hertz counter were bursting into laughter at Nick's disguised voice and victory at chartering a flight. They thought it was so funny that they offered Nick a ride for free over to the airport. They said it was the best entertainment they had in a long time.
As Nick arrived at the airport he knew he still had some hurdles to jump. He didn't need a lesson, just a ride to Electric City. Nick burst into the building in his full stage attire -- snake skin boots, a loud Indonesian silk shirt, and his long hair flying in the wind. With three guitars slung about like some guitar slinger he says with full confidence, " I'm here for my lesson!" An older gentleman with a kind and weathered face looks at Nick slowly, first up then down, and then sets his eyes on Nick's guitars and says, "Guitar Player, eh? I used to play when I was a lad... You any good on that thing? Nick replied, "Well I've been known to get a few people out of their chair and on to the dance floor. Now about that lesson..." The old man interrupts Nick and says, "Oh yes, we'll start over here, first..." Nick tells the old man that he didn't have time for that now, and couldn't we go over all this in the plane... and how about we take this lesson over to Electric City. The old man looked at Nick with a smile and said, "No problem, there's not much going on today and since you already paid, let's do it!"
Nick and the old man boarded the plane, accompanied by two other older gentlemen that apparently were friends of the old man, and were all associated with a flying group called, Wings Over America. As they all touched down at Electric City airport, which consisted of one flag pole, a grass field that resembled a landing strip, and a whole lot of sage brush, Nick was still in the middle of nowhere, and still had not reached his destination, the stage. Nick made an agreement with the old man that he would wait for 90 minutes before taking off. There was a white house some 500 yards away so Nick grabbed his three guitars and set off running toward the house. As he approached the house, Nick noticed an old truck off to the side as he stepped on to the porch and gave a good sturdy knock on the door. An old fella answered the door, and Nick asked him if he knew where Electric City was. The old fella told him, "Sure, just over the hill." Within minutes Nick had thrown his three guitars into the back of the pick-up truck and the two were off. It looked as though Nick would be on time.
Nick was able to pull right to the back of the stage. He unloaded, and thanked the old fella for the ride as he went about his business. By the time Nick set up, he was only 15 minutes late. For a musician, let's call it right on time.
Back stage there was a commotion going on. It seemed there was some concern about money -- not enough to go around. Some bands were demanding to be paid up-front before they would play. Nick had worked too hard to get there. All he cared about was turning up the volume and giving the people who were there a good show, and he did!
Nick was thinking about the three older gentlemen waiting back at the plane. Time was running out, and Nick still had to catch that flight out of Wenatchee to Seatac, then catch the Seattle ferry to Winslow to make his gig in Port Townsend in time.
Nick managed to get a ride from an old friend that he ran into back stage. So, in went the guitars and off they went, looking for that needle in the haystack -- the sage brush and one flag pole that represented Electric City's Airport. As it turned out, this was not as easy as Nick had hoped it would be. After a few trys they spotted the three older gentlemen from Wings Over America sitting in the field waiting. Nick was late -- by some 30 minutes. Within minutes of Nick's arrival, Nick boarded the plane and they were off in a plume of dust. Nick asked, " Can we make Wenatchee in time?" The three older gentlemen answered, "No!" As determination set in on Nick's face as he was about to appeal, the pilot said, "Well, if we lean out the mixture and trim it out, we might be able to gain some air speed." The three older gentlemen from Wings Over America got their scratch paper out and calculated what they needed to do to achieve the extra air speed and they determined that they. in fact, could help Nick catch his connecting flight back to Sea Tac.
As they pulled into Wenatchee approaching the air strip, they spotted Nick's connecting flight taxing out on the runway, ready for take off. Nick yelled out in a panic, "That's my plane. Can you set me down next to it? The pilot replied that it was against federal regulations, and that he could not set it down on the air strip while another plane was there. But with a sly grin he told Nick, "How about if we set down on that grass strip in between the two airstrips." As they touched down on the grass strip, Nick ran out on to the air strip waving his hands and kicking up his legs, while the three older gentlemen took his three guitars through the metal detector. With no surprise, they halted the plane and proceeded to call security out on to the air strip. Meanwhile, the three older gentlemen were smooth-talking, or let's say they were standing down the sudden cause for alarm caused by all the activity on their air strip. The plane had stopped, and the two ladies at the counter, where the metal detector was positioned, were telling Nick there was no way he was getting on that plane. Nick continued to tell them his plight, while the three older gentlemen were looking at the two ladies at the counter with long sad faces. The two ladies looked at Nick, then at one another, then back at Nick, and they both shouted, "Well go ahead and go for it, if you think you can do it!" So, Nick grabbed his three guitars and ran out toward the plane, followed by the cheers from behind rooting him on. Nick knew he was going to be on time.
As Nick stepped up the steps and onto the plane, a slight tug-of-war with his guitars and the flight attendant began. Nick did not intend to surrender his guitars as the flight attendant reached out to secure Nick's guitars for take off. The two finally compromised and they stowed the guitars away. Catching a good tail-wind into Sea Tac Airport, the Captain announced over the speaker that they would indeed be on time. All heads turned toward Nick, knowing the urgency of his situation. Embarrassed about the circumstances, Nick slumped down in his chair, then thought to himself, I'm still on schedule, I'm going to make my ferry in time, and this whole escapade was really quite exciting.
Nick sped down the highway, en route to the waterfront in downtown Seattle to catch the Winslow ferry. As Nick looked behind him as he drove onto the ferry, the cut-off was four cars behind him. If he arrived just 5 minutes later he would have missed his show in Port Townsend. Nick, still riding on adrenalin and caffeine, had not a chance to replenish with beauty sleep. So, opting for several double lattes before he left the ferry, he was still on time. Pulling into Port Townsend at 8:45 PM, Nick had just enough time to change his clothes and splash some water on his face and head for the stage. He made it. He was on time.
After the show, Nick found himself up at Fort Warden, playing the piano with a group of harmonica players that were attending the workshop throughout the week. They were telling storys and singing, and when the light began to come up, Nick broke away and told the gang, "You Know, I've haven't had much sleep this weekend, and I have a show to do this afternoon, and I should get some sleep." Nick sauntered back down to town, back to his room and rested until 10:30 AM. At that time he went down to the club where he played the last two nights, and packed up his gear and headed out of town. Snohomish was his last destination for the weekend and Nick felt for the first time, this weekend, no pressure what so ever, he was going make the gig on time. You see, Nick only had one gig for that day, a piece of cake for a man that makes his live of living out of a suitcase bouncing across the country side. So next time you see Nick flying down the road, give him some room, he's probably in a hurry and possibly running late.
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