Journey into Bottiworld

By Sophia Dilberakis © 2002

Emeryville, Calif . (May 17, 2002) óItís a little before 11 a.m., on this sunny Friday as we pull away from the San Francisco airport and make our way towards the Bay Bridge. I reach for my cell phone, quickly thinking back over the chain of events leading up to this afternoon.

About a month ago, Harvey Jones, Chris Bottiís keyboardist had come up with the idea to do a band interview. (Thatís a switch! Normally, itís we writers who harangue the band for time and access.) Harvey had heard that fans had been asking questions about the various Botti Band members and suggested the interview as a way to answer some of them and showcase individual personalities.

And thatís when I got the call.

To be honest, my first reaction wasnít a positive one. "Whaaaatt?!! You want me to interview five musicians simultaneously?! Thatís like going up in front of a firing squad. I rapid fired off a zillion logistical and technical reasons why it would be a colossal pain, before I settled into my more rational "let me think about this mode."

In a matter of hours, I decide, "no guts, no glory." Okay, Iíll do it, but it canít be a traditional interview. Weíre going to have to organize something fairly unorthodox to keep everyoneís interest for more than an hour. Not to mention, allow yours truly to keep her sanity. (There was a reason all those Beatles interviews disintegrated into mayhem and there were only four of them!)

We decide the Emeryville weekend "in residence" would be the ideal place to do it in a relaxed fashion. (The schedule called for three nights at Kimballís East with two sets per night. This meant only one load in and one sound check in a three-day period. Definitely less hassle for the band.) Via a couple of phone conversations, Chris and I confirm the time slot and all that is left is a simple little cross-country flight from Chicago for my 48-hours in Emeryville.

"Come at 2 p.m. for the sound check," he had said, "you can start talking to the band as they are setting up and then we can sit down and do the interview afterward."

Sounded simple enough, right? But to know Chris (in addition to "is to love him") is also to know that time in Bottiworld has a tendency to slip. Thatís why the first call I make upon landing is to the "band dad"óChris Roberts. (Roberts is Chris Bottiís tour manager, sound engineer and logistics guru. Not to mention, a honey of a guy. The group affectionately calls him the sixth band member.)

"Hi Chris [Roberts, not Botti]. Chris [Botti, not Roberts] told me to come to the sound check at 2 p.m., is that time still good?

Thereís a pause at the other end. From experience, I know what comes next. "You better make it three." A chuckle escapes my lips. My passport into Bottiworld has just been stamped. As Roberts and I exchange details, I hear my name being said in a singsong fashion in the background.

"Whoís that?" I want to know. "Itís Chris," says Roberts about Botti. I smile. "Tell him I said hi, and Iíll see him in a couple of hours."

Getting off the phone, I think, "great!" Sounds like Chris is in a fun mood today. But then again, being upbeat is his usual nature. By all accounts, the band had performed an outstanding gig the night before in Saratoga and it seemed like the high was carrying over. Odds were that the rest of the band would also be in the same mood. It was beginning to look like the odds were in my favor. This was shaping up to be a peach of a day.

Fast forward a couple of hours to just before three oíclock. I head out of the hotel to the parking lot for the short three-block drive to the venue. (Iíve got "stuff" to haul and itís not conducive to walking it over.) Lo and behold, thereís Chris Roberts in the flesh. After we exchange greetings, he gives me a timetable update with two critical pieces of information. The first is that they are doing a "gothic" load in at about 3:30 p.m. and that Chris has now decided he wants to get a little yoga in before the sound check. (If you hang around Bottiworld long enough, you come to know that "gothic" is a favorite expression. It is used in so many different contexts, but in this situation, we revert to Websterís second preferred definition of "uncouth or barbarous." In civilian speak, I interpret it to mean that todayís load in is somewhat fragmented.)

"Ummm. So, now when do you want me to come over?" I ask.

"Better make it three-thirty. You can start talking to the band then. Chris says heíll get there at about four."

Okay, fine. Not bad under the circumstances. Only another 30 minutes to kill. I bide my time by going back into the hotel and catching up on a few emails.

Finally itís show timeónot for them, but for me. I walk into the venue and am greeted by the bandóeach of whom are in various stages of setting up their instruments. Jon Ossman is actually on the stage waving an incense stick around to get rid of any negative energy that might have filtered in. I try to picture one of my corporate clients doing the same thing. Somehow the imagery doesnít work.

It had been a couple of months since our last encounter and it was good to see the band face-to-face again. I do a mental checklist as I look at each of them. (Note: check the individual band member bios for additional details.)

Harvey Jones on keyboards and atmospherics. One of the interesting pieces of Harvey music trivia is that he learned how to play trumpet before switching to the keyboard. Harvey has an outgoing personality with a fantastic dry sense of humor (heís British, after all). He is also Chrisí comedic sidekick. The bits he and Chris do during every show are witty and funny. They constantly update them to keep them fresh. And on the musical side of things, when he and Chris duet on Easter Parade , itís time to bring out the hankies. Powerful stuff.

Then thereís Jon Ossman on bass. Originally from New York State, he now calls Venice Beach, California his home. Jon has one of the most expression-filled faces I have ever seen when he plays the bass. I think he actually becomes the bass. On top of that, he is a fantastic mimic, insuring that you will absolutely bust a gut if he allows himself to let loose in your presence.

The other transplanted Brit in the group is Shane Fontayne. Heís lived in California for years and has a musical resume that wraps itself around the block more than once. You may know him from his stint with Lone Justice or from touring with Springsteen in the early Ď90s. Your initial impression is that he is sweet, quiet and somewhat shy. He chooses to do his talking via his guitar. Trust me, when itís his turn to solo, you are transported. Chris refers to him as "The Ambassador." And if you are lucky enough to get a smile from him, youíll notice he has a killer set of dimples.

And then we have the youngest member of the group, Jerusalem-born Karen Teperberg.  Her drum playing throughout this tour has earned her attention and accolades across the board. A recent graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Karen currently makes New York her home. Her musical past includes performances, recordings and production work for some of Israel's top pop stars. Sheís also toured Germany and Switzerland and performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1997 with the successful all-women band Bella Donna.  On a personal note, she admits to being a chocoholic which makes me like her instantly.

They continue their set up as I begin mine. The venue is great for music, but it ainít exactly a boardroom. Time to get inventive.

We quickly clear the place settings off of a couple of the banquettes and turn them into places for the band to sit. I position a small cabaret round in front of them, bandleader style, to set up my laptop for note taking. And then we bring out the most important component for a great interviewóan edible bribe. Bottled water, chocolate chip cookies, trail mix and other munchies. Bringing body fuel to musicians is always a good idea.

I look around and notice that Karen has walked off the stage and is sitting to one side reading a book. I quickly walk over to my first victim.

"Hi Karen. Can I interrupt you? Do you mind taking a few moments to fill out a band bio questionnaire. I thought maybe we could get this out of the way ahead of time and not waste time asking the Ďusualí questions during the interview."

With Karen busy at work on her sheet of paper, I then pounce on Harvey and Shane and ask them to do the same. Jon had completed the assignment via email and had already sent it to me, so there was no need to chase him around the venue. Harvey had been unable to open the email attachment send a few days earlier and Shane had completed the bio, but had left it at home. Surprisingly, no oneís dog ate the homework. No biggie. There was plenty of time to take care of the band bios now.

With the band busy plugging in personal and professional details, I am vaguely aware that the four oíclock hour had come and gone. And suddenly, I hear, "Thereís Chris!" I look up to see that familiar blond head with its beaming smile come bounding down the side aisle. The ubiquitous trumpet case is slung over his shoulder. "Hi! Sorry, Iím late," he says, as he envelops me with his usual hug and kiss. But this time, I notice that he has just hugged me a little more gingerly than usual. I pull back and look into his eyes. "I hurt my back doing yoga. Iím in real pain." I am tempted to utter my own personal mantra out loud. "Chocolate is good. Yoga is bad." But somehow now is not the right time.

"You know," he says, his eyes all earnest, "during the Sting tour we were in South Africa for a gig. I hurt my back so badly doing yoga that all I could do was lie on the floor. I didnít think I was going to be able to go on stage. It was just minutes before we were supposed to go on that I managed to stand up."

Thankfully, todayís asanas do not reduce him to a similar state of immobilization. And all thoughts of scolding him for being two hours late escape as every maternal instinct in my DNA suddenly feels sorry that he has twisted his body into oblivion. Time to take his mind off of the pain by showing him a few fun things Iíve stored on my laptop, as we kill a few minutes waiting for the band.

"Have you heard Sail on Sailor , Stingís new duet with Lulu," I ask. He shakes his head no. "Iíve got a clip downloaded onto my laptop. Want to hear it? Sting really belts it out!"

He eagerly comes over to my cabaret table as I play the latest release from one of his musical mentors. The band and he like what they hear. Shane continues humming the tune after the MP3 has stopped playing.

"So Chris, tell me about your new house ," I say to him. The hot personal Botti news of the week is that he has just ended his three-year homeless streak by renting a guesthouse in the Hollywood Hills.

His face lights up and he gets animated as he begins to describe the views.

"The house has several decks. You should see the views! They are absolutely spectacular."

He is positively beaming and I am thrilled for him, as I never understood how anybody could live out of hotels and the trunk of a car for three years.

"When did you move in?"

"Well, I saw it Friday and I moved in on Saturday," he says grinning. "I got to sleep there two nights before I had to leave again."

And then, as if anticipating my next question, he says, "But, Iím not going to get a phone line. Iím just going to use my cell phone."

I shake my head and laugh. In Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, the usual top ranking includes air, food and water. In Bottiworld, the cell phone becomes part of that cluster. I donít know how to break it to him that the nightly chocolate square is about to stop appearing on his pillow.

"Chris. I have another surprise for you. This one had to wait until we were face-to-face. Dominic [Miller, guitarist for Stingís band] emailed me something pertaining to you a few months ago."

Chris immediately starts laughing. Just the mere mention of Dominicís name and "he sent something" alerts Chris to the fact that something wicked is about to happen.

"What is it? A caricature of me?" You should only be so lucky, I think to myself. I open a jpeg and turn the laptop screen toward Chris. He gazes upon the image and belts out a laugh. Dominic has struck again. Itís a candid shot of Chris taken backstage by Dominic during the Sting tour. Letís just say some items of clothing are missing.

Iím showing him a few other jpegs sent by friends, as one by one, the band begins to walk over, handing me their completed bios. Itís the sign weíve been waiting for. Itís just about five oíclock and the interview is about to officially begin. Everybody finds a spot on one of two banquettes, except for Shane who pulls up a chair on the tier above one of them.

Several times, I attempt to explain the interview format, but the musicians seated in front of me arenít in a mood to settle down quite yet. My voice is quickly drowned out with funny one-liners, comebacks and the like. I throw a pleading look toward Karen who has been patiently sitting there, not contributing to the mayhem. She tries to help me out.

Finally, they are quiet and give me a chance to speak. I now have five pairs of eyes on me. They appear to reflect looks ranging from, "deer caught in the headlights" to "I would rather be having root canal." I am more than aware that they have never done a group interview before as the Botti Band. I begin to silently praying to the patron saint of reporters that it goes well. I take a deep breath and plunge in by explaining the unorthodox format.

"Todayís interview is going to take place in segments. Iíve tried to design it in such a way that it ends up being a fun experience for all of you and that it gives the fans some additional insight into the anatomy of the band."

"Think of the first round of questions as a cross between the Newlywed Game and the Match Game. Iím going to ask you a question and you have to answer it in the way you think Chris will answer it."

We proceed to hand out a pile of 5- x 8-inch index cards and a Sharpieģ to each band member. Shane says quietly that he doesnít need the index cards. Desperate for buy in, I say to him, "Trust me. Youíll need the index cards." He takes them, but you can tell that he isnít liking any of this.

"Okay. Are we ready? Iím going to give you the first question and each of you write down the answer on the first index card."

Jon says, "Can we just use one index card to write down all the answers?"

Deep sigh. "No, I need you to write each answer on a separate index card."

Within a matter of a few seconds, Shane hates my index cards and Jon thinks Iím a tree killer. Harvey is looking at me with amusement, Karen is probably thinking she should have continued reading her book and Chris wants to know why I am handing out school supplies. I have definitely lost control. Correction. I never had it to begin with.

There is only one thing left to do. Plunge forward.

The questions have been designed with varying degree of difficultyómost of which can be answered by those who are serious Chris fans. I am curious to see if those closest to him, will be able to do the same.

"Okay. First question. Are you ready? Letís go! Where was Chris born?"

One by one, the band holds up their cards reflecting the correct answeróPortland. The interview is officially underway.

"Question number two. When is Chrisí birthday?"

I figure remembering birthdays is more of a female vs. a male thing, so Iím curious to see how the band does. This is the first hint of the laughter that is about to follow:

Karen: 1962

Harvey: November Ď61

Jon: October 12, 1962 (the correct answer)

Shane: Oct. 7 inches

The band starts rolling around the banquettes with Shaneís answer. I join in on the laughter. Like the bridal shower party game where you have to end every sentence with the phrase "in bed," Shane decides that it would be fun to add "inches" to some of his answers. I see for the first time that just below the surface, quiet, sweet Shane is also wicked, twisted Shane. This is good.

"Question number three. What brand of aftershave does Chris wear?"

Karen: None

Harvey: Dunno

Jon: He wears aftershave? Could have fooled me.

Shane: Eau de [the next word is deleted to protect the guilty]

Correct answer is Issey Miyake for Men. However, my corneas are blinded by the way Chris has spelled it on the card. "Correct my spelling, will you?" Right now my problem isnít Chrisí spelling. Itís getting enough oxygen into my lungs. We are all laughing wildly, as each card gets hoisted up.

"Question number four. Name Chrisí favorite restaurant in London."

Karen: I donít know

Harvey: Mary Louís House of Pain

Shane: Whimpyís

Jon: Chaya Venice

Correct answer is Nobu. By now everyone is writhing around the banquettes in such laughter that I begin to think that I should have brought adult incontinence products instead of trail mix to the interview.

"Question number five. What name is etched on Chrisí trumpet mouthpiece?"

Harvey: "Property of Rick Braun"

Shane: Lisa [making an additional amusing reference to one of Chrisí ex-girlfriends]

Jon: Mommy

Correct answer is Vincent Bach. But clever Harvey has just destroyed us with his reference to another trumpet player. Jon and Shane are just simply out of their minds.

"Question number six. What high school did Chris go to?"

Harvey: One in Portland

Shane: Gothic High

Jon: Sisters of Private Mysteries

Correct answer is Crescent Valley High. By now we are all screaming. I feel my tears commingling with my mascara. I am glad there is no mirror around. I am convinced I have started to look like Bobo the Clown.

Now we get to the bonus questions. Iíve given up all hope of adding up the scores. This has long since stopped being about correct answers and has become all about making each other laugh. We proceed.

"On average, how many autographs does Chris sign per gig?"

Karen: 21

Harvey: 53

Shane: 57 inches

Jon: 120

Chris guesses 50. But, again, no one cares. We are refocused on Shaneís unit of measure obsession.  This once again brings on the waterworks and the banging of hands against the tabletops. We know that this will only encourage him to continue.

"Okay, hereís the final question in this round. On average, how many hours per day does Chris spend on his cell phone?"

Karen: 1 Ĺ

Harvey: 24

Shane: 7 inches

Jon: 3 Ĺ hours

Chris answers 2 Ĺ hours. And even though both Karen and Jon are one hour off in either direction of Chrisí guess, I award the 25 bonus points to Harvey, just for his deadpan delivery and humor value. (In the interest of full disclosure, Chris has turned off his cell phone for the duration of our visit. Iíve put a gold star in his permanent record.)

With this round over itís time to go on to the second segment. The band suddenly reverts back to silence as they watch me reach for a small container.

"Whatís that?!" says Chris.

"Tupperwareģ," I answer. I could go on to explain that itís a 20-year old Tupperwareģ container that has survived several moves and lifestyle changes, but I donít think thatís what he means by the question.

They stare intently as the lid is lifted and they notice small folded pieces of paper. "What we are going to do in this round is that each of you have to reach in a pick a piece of paper. And then you have to answer the question you get."

Everyone settles into their places and plucks out a folded piece. The mood has quickly changed from riotous to thoughtful.

Describe the perfect vacation

Karen: "This might sound a little corny. But right now itís going to Israel for two weeks and doing nothing with my parents."

We all nod in understanding. Not corny at all in this day and age of political unrest.

When youíre on the road and youíve suddenly discovered youíve run out of something, which one of your band mates is likely to have what youíre looking for?

Harvey: "Chris Roberts! Heís the band dad. Heís likely to have whatever toiletries Iím looking for."

If you couldnít be a musician what would you do for a living?

Shane: "I was going to be a guard on the [London] Underground [public transport system]. Now I would be a lady of leisure."

If you were being sent to a desert island and could only take three things with you, what would they be?

Jon: "Sun block, a pen and a journal."

Whatís the one personal item you always bring on the road with you and why?

Chris: "Cell phone. And a chess set. Iíve got one thatís been signed by Garry Kasparov [Kasparov is a Chess Grand Master and was the youngest person to earn the title of World Chess Champion in 1985 at the age of 22. Chris played against him in Times Square on June 29, 2000 in a simultaneous chess match with Sting and band mates Dominic Miller and Jason Rebello.] I play a little with Shane and Harvey."

"Okay, for the third segment, each of you will get to interview one of your band mates." Out comes the Tupperwareģ container again, this time bearing a band memberís name on a folded piece of paper. Instructions are "pick one and make sure it doesnít have your own name on it."

(Karen) You used to be a professional tennis player while in your teens. Do you play much these days? Have you ever played tennis with any of your band mates, and if so, how badly did you beat them?

Karen answers the first part of the questionódo you play much these daysówith a "no." But, before she is able to continue, Chris and the rest of the band give her a stunned look. "You used to play tennis professionally?!!!" It becomes apparent that no one in the band knows this about Karenís past. I am witness to a band moment. Clearly, it also answers part two of the question. Both Chris and Shane volunteer, "Iíll play with you!"

She adds detail by explaining that she used to travel to the U.S. when she was eight or nine to play in professional tournaments. "Thereís lots of similarity between playing tennis and hitting the sticks. Itís all about the head," she says pointing to her own.

(Jon) One of your early gigs was playing sitar in an Indian restaurant. How does a boy from Nyack, NY end up playing sitar?

"Although I was born in Nyack, my family ended up moving to New Paltz, NY which was a neo-hippie college town. I first heard the sitar at a friendís houseóa Ravi Shankar record. I was mesmerized. Then I moved down to New York to study with a teacher and thatís how I got into it."

(Shane) In the early Ď90s, you toured with Bruce Springsteen. Can you share a few highlights of that experience?

"Itís kind of hard to just pick one out. I guess the first time I met him, would be one of them. I was the only person he brought in to audition for guitar. The meeting was very high energy. From the first moment he made me feel at home. He is surrounded by sweet people who help facilitate his way of doing things. He is a very low key, very generous man."

(Harvey) Tell us about the documentary, "Into the Body," and the soundtrack you composed for it.

"Into the Body was a film about emerging technology. It examined the things that are now outside our body and projected that within ten years they would be inside our bodies. They were looking for a Ďtechí soundtrack. We worked very hard on it, but the film was never released."

(Chris) What makes you happy?

"Iíve known what Iíve wanted to do since I was a kid. I get to play music with great musicians throughout the course of my career and I get to make a living at it. Itís the gratification of knowing that I started out to do it when I was eight. It takes you on a journey.

Secondly, on a more immediate levelóhumor! All forms of humor are a great release."

As the band settles into their reflective mood, itís time to take them into the fourth and final segment of the interview. These are the group questions. The directive is that anyone or everyone can answer them.

Do you practice playing your instrument in your hotel room while on the road. If so, does anyone ever complain? Any anecdotes?

Karen: Sometimes. No one complains.

Chris: Traveling with this band, I put a mute in when I practice. When I was traveling on Stingís tour we were staying at nicer hotels with great soundproofing, so there never was a problem.

What has been the most fun aspect about this tour?

Chris: All the stuff that happens when we arenít playing. The humor that is driven by these guys.

Whatís the toughest thing about being on the road?

Chris: No tour bus. Airplanes and how difficult it is to travel these days.

Karen: I miss my home a lot. Itís hard to put down roots.

What is your favorite song to perform and why?

Karen: Alone in the City . You get this certain feeling from this song. Itís not physically that demanding and it is easy to relate to how it feels.

Harvey: Caught . Itís spacey and different every time. I think itís great that we end a high-energy show with something spare. Most of the time we get the audience into a hypnotized state.

Chris: Alone in the City and Easter Parade . When the sound is perfect itís Easter Parade. I like Shaneís guitar solo in Alone in the City . The funky stuff is fun but not as personal as the ballads.

Shane: I donít think Iím going to pick one. I really enjoy everything in the set in its own way.

Chris: We take a lot of risks within the confines of being harmonically connected. And we catch this wind. Itís fantastic, but it doesnít mean that the next day it will be the same. Karen and Jon have parts they need to play. Just like most rock bands playing their parts. Sometimes itís great and some nights we can fall on our face.

Jon: I have to agree with Shane. I canít just pick one. Chris requires me to perform a job, but he has always left it up to me to do it in the way I choose to do it. The amount of freedom I have as a bass player with Chris is greater than anywhere else. I love playing the ballads. Chris is like "go!" And that to me is very jazz. Some nights itís great and some nights itís gothic. The show itself is what I enjoy.

What do you observe when you look out at the audience while you are performing?

Harvey: I donít look out. Ever.

Karen: My face and eyes are open. Itís always about giving and receiving. I feel that when I have a good night, I get a lot of energy back.

Shane: I look for someone to key off ofóif you can find someone who can give you feedback to energize things. Probably their eyes. You can tell when someone is into it. Usually, itís a moment. Itís so gratifying to see someone in that flow and to be enjoying it.

Jon. It varies from show to show. If Iím feeling very solid about my corner of the ring, I feel very vulnerable on stage. I canít really explain why. I like to engage in eye contact with people. I almost feel when I am playing that I am connecting with someone. If feel that when I look into someoneís eye, you create a weird vulnerability. I will almost always pick a dude and stare there.

Chris: My whole thing is to walk out and make eye contact. I did an orchestral show in London many years ago with John Barry. I had to walk out in front of an orchestra and play. The first night was horrible. The second night we played Royal Albert Hall, there was an attractive woman in the audience with a positive vibe. Ever since then it has been my mantra. It comes from the eyes and the connection.

Whatís the strangest thing thatís happened during a gig?

Chris: "A few years ago, we had a heckler in the audience who said he was a drummer. So we decided to bring him up to play. It turns out that he was a left-handed drummer so we actually took the time to change the position of the snare drum. It turned out that the guy wasnít that bad. The whole point is to make some comedy out of it.

Also, earlier this year, we were introduced as Michael Franks, which was pretty funny. [Indianapolis, February 13, 2002]

And the other incident occurred when a woman walked up to me and asked me to autograph the front of her T-shirt. I told her that the only way Iíd do it, is if everyone in the band could do it do." (Laughing, Chris proceeds to demonstrate Shaneís T-shirt autograph signing technique.)

We hear you are having a new trumpet made for you. Can you tell us about it?

Chris: "It is a custom-made gold trumpet that David Monette is making for me. He makes Wynton Marsalisí trumpets. Iím picking it up in two weeks. It will be beautiful looking. The sound will be a little warmer, a little more buttery. Itís brushed gold, beautiful and tasteful."

Weíve also heard that you are going to be releasing your first Christmas album. What can you tell us about that?

"My friend, Bobby Colomby, is going to be producing it. We are still working out the details so weíll have to save that for another interview."

Your old label GRP/Verve has announced that it is going to be releasing a "best of" Chris Botti CD this summer. Do you have any comments about that release?

It is the first time all afternoon, that Chrisí eyes cloud over. He pauses for a second to choose his words. "The records I have done in the past, Iím still very close to. This new Ďbest ofí album is being put out without any input from me. That includes the artwork, the selections, and so on. They [the fans] should know that I have had no input at all. If people really want to check out my music, they should look at the previously-released individual albums [ First Wish , Midnight Without You , Slowing Down the World , Night Sessions ]. A bunch of singles strewn together is not what Iím about. Each of my albums have their own little vibe.

And just as quickly as the cloud appeared, it passes. I take a quick glance at my watch and notice that itís just past six oíclock and a little more than an hour has elapsed. And even though I have a few more questions for the band, I notice that they are starting to get a little fidgety. I am aware that they still need to finish the sound check for the 8 p.m. show. I decide that itís time to end the interview while spirits are high and everyone appears to have had a good time.

We exchange hugs and handshakes. And although the formal part is over, the interview takes on a life of its own. I am staying for the weekend and there are four Botti shows ahead of me. Not to mention several more opportunities to talk to the band.

What becomes abundantly clear as we chat in between sets or after the show, is the genuine respect and affection this band has for each other and for their bandleader.  Several of them mention privately, how amazingly generous Chris is musically. Chris himself has commented to me earlier in the day that "the worse thing is to have a front person and a backing band."

In this ensemble, every performer has the opportunity to shine. Each have solos that have been incorporated into the set and Chris makes a point of pointing out their fine work at every juncture.

Harvey tells me during one of the breaks, "You know, itís not like some bands where you might say to another band member after the showÖletís go back to the hotel and talk about the drummer, for example. We donít have any of that in this band." He uses another example to illustrate their generosity with each other, "When we go out to dinner and throw our money on the table, with this band there always seems to be $100 extra."

I need no convincing. Iíve seen it for myself and Iím a believer.

As the hours tick away and the final show on Saturday night ends, itís time for me to say my official goodbyes. Karen, Jon, Harvey and I have already done so but then I spot Shane. He is loaded up with soft-sided guitar cases, ready to make his move. Before I can let him escape, I have to tell him about the dream I had the night before. In the dream, I am having a normal conversation with the other band members. When it comes time for Shane and I to communicate, we do it by holding up index cards. We share a final laugh while saying goodbye.

And then itís time to say goodnight to Chris. Again, the hug has to be executed carefully because the back is still tender. I am cognizant of the blueness of his eyes and the softness of his cheek. I make a mental note to ask him about moisturizer some day. But for now a simple thank you for everything and "until next time" will have to do.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Margie Maddox for her invaluable assistance and to Chris Roberts for helping make it happen. Also to the band and their leader: Chris, Harvey, Jon, Shane and Karen for their generosity.

© Sophia Dilberakis, May 2002.

This article cannot be reproduced without the expressed written permission of the author.

Last Edited January 12, 2003 Copyright © 2002-03 Bottiology All RIghts Reserved