Sunday, September 18, 2011

Austin City Limits

Austin City Limits!  Deep in the heart of Texas, or at least what I’d imagine is the heart of Texas. I’m not really sure.  In any case, I had a great time!  We arrived arrived at the hotel, and headed off in search of some food.  Judith and I walked around town, spying painted cows everywhere!

Painted cow
Apparently, they’re painted and auctioned off as fundraisers for children’s hospitals.  So cute!  Walking back to the hotel, I noticed the beautiful sunset and had to take a photo.  No matter where, or how often I have the chance to watch a sunset, it never ceases to amaze me with its beauty.

Sunset in Austin
Time to go to the headliner shows on Friday night!  Judith, Lanesha and I walked out of the hotel and selected a pedi-cab to give us a ride to the festival.  We chose the best one!  Christopher (of Bike Pimps) not only is a very cool guy, but also had a boom box playing a killer setlist of funk, raggae and soul music.  We were rolling down the street, hair flying in the breeze, not worry or care in mind.  Ah!

Judith, Lanesha, Me
I’m a big fan of Coldplay, but also respect the work of Kanye West, though admittedly, I don’t know his music as well as I know Coldplay’s.  According to the schedule, Coldplay was supposed to go on first, with Kanye starting a while later.  Unfortunately, they both went on at about the same time, leaving me in the dilemma of making a choice!  Since I’d already had the chance to watch Coldplay perform when I was in Stockholm, Sweden, I decided to watch about 15 minutes of Coldplay and then head to Kanye West’s show.  They were both very good, but I wish I could have had a better view.  We were standing down by stage left, and could only see everything from an angle.  But the set, lights and dancers were amazing!

Cold play

Kayne West

Riding with Christopher back to the hotel

The next day, right before Stevie’s show, Cee Lo Green performed.  He has an all female band that was rocking hard!  Cee Lo was cool about having Stevie's band watch from backstage, but since we had to do hair and makeup, Judith and I went to get food first, and then came to Cee Lo's show about 30 minutes into it.  I did get to hear "Crazy" and "F You", so it was a fun show!

Cee Lo Green

As always, Stevie was brilliant, funky, beautiful, inspiring, heartwarming, etc.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have such a great job!

Stevie in the show

After the show

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Curaçao 2011

On Thursday, September 1, I flew to Los Angeles to meet up with the rest of the band for our travel to Curaçao. We had 2 guest musicians in the band for this show: Jesus Diaz, an amazing Cuban percussionist who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and incredible rising superstar singer/pianist/songwriter, Judith Hill (famous for her turn as background singer for the ill-fated Michael Jackson “This Is It” tour). Both very cool people!

The band departed for Curaçao early Friday morning, and spent the entire day in the air. We arrived at the hotel Friday night, greeted warmly by the staff with bottles of cool water. We all settled in and broke into our groups: everyone wanting to take advantage of the variety of musical performances of the night. Judith, Jesus and I headed to the venue to watch Earth, Wind and Fire. What a show! I sang along with the hits and built up a good sweat as I danced. After their show, we headed back stage to meet the stars, all of whom were gracious and kind. The next performer was Sting. He was walking around backstage, but as I never want to disrupt artists before they perform, I didn’t bother him. We all headed out to watch his show, and again I sang along and danced my heart out. After the show, I headed back to the hotel and went to bed.

Philip Bailey and me

Sting and Philip Bailey

Judith Hill, me and Ralph Johnson 

Me and Verdine White

Me and Branford Marsalis
The next morning I was awakened by Lanesha, calling to tell me that our lobby call was at noon. Generally we don't have lobby call until around 2:30 or 3pm, so I was still in bed at 11am. I rushed into the shower, threw on my workout clothes, headed down to eat some fruit at the tail end of the breakfast buffet, and then headed to the lobby to wait for the bus to the venue. As I stood waiting, I noticed that Sting was sitting in the lobby next to Lanesha. Given that I had not taken advantage of the chance to take a photo with him at the venue the night before, I walked over and asked him if I could take a photo with him. He said "yes, but only because you're pretty". Wow! Complimented by Sting!

After the photo, I sat next to him and casually moved into a conversation after having introduced myself, and reminding him that I’d played for him once before (Madison Square Garden in 2009 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert). He was very cool, and easy to talk to. I was thrilled to be having a conversation with one of my musical heroes!

Sting left and we all soon boarded the bus for the venue. After sound check, I returned to the hotel and took a nap, got dressed and then back to the venue for dinner. As I stood in line, I noticed a tall man whom I immediately recognized as Chucho Valdes.  Wow!  I asked Jesus to take a photo and then turned my attention to dinner.
Me and Chucho Valdes
The food was not good, so I ended up eating an apple and a few chips. Not enough to last all night, but it was something.  Ignoring my growling, belly, I prepared myself for the show in my usual manner: played through a few tunes from memory (I never really know what Stevie will choose to perform), apply my make up, dramatize my hair and don a sexy dress!

Photos from the show

Me, Judith, Lanesha, Aisha
We started this show with Stevie's rendition of "How Sweet It Is", and then dove right into a series of Stevie hits. We were also joined by musical legends Dionne Warwick (performing "That's What Friends are For") and Philip Bailey (performing "Love's Holiday" and "Shining Star"). It was a fun night! After the show, we all enjoyed a delicious meal (thank GOD) and the company of friends at a late night beach party. I didn't go to bed until 7am, but given that Sunday was an off day, I didn't mind brutally shifting my sleep clock.

The next day, I slept until 1:30pm! I didn't have a real plan for the day, but I never worry about such things, given my close relationship with Serendipity (check out my Greek blog for more on that!). I did some yoga, took a shower, ate an apple and an energy bar and headed downstairs with the intention of going for a walk around the hotel grounds. Upon exiting the elevator, I ran into Fausto and he invited me to come along to a birthday party where I could swim. Perfect timing! I ran back up to my room, threw on my bikini under my workout clothes and zipped into the car with a couple of band members. We drove for about 30 minutes towards a beach - which one? I have no idea! We stopped along the way for a snack. I ate a tuna empanada and a bottle of ice-cold water. Unfortunately, that was just about all of the water I had for the day. Bad decision that I paid for later.

We arrived at the party, and immediately were met with warm smiles, music, dancing and delicious food. It was a party for local bass player, Ernesto Paz, and many of the guests were musicians. Drums and drummers were most highly represented – divine! After about an hour of listening, singing and dancing, some folks started heading into the water. Cue the scary strings and chromatic diminished chords! Let me explain: the house was on a cliff, and the only way into the water was to either jump from an elevated ledge, or to climb down a ladder. Not exactly the kind of swimming I'd envisioned!

I've never been a good swimmer, and I do realize that it's completely in my mind - some kind of mental block that I'm now determined to overcome - so I was apprehensive about getting into the very deep water. But Errol and Fausto and several other people were having such a great time...and it was painfully hot in the sunshine...and I was wearing my bikini...and it did look I went for it! Oh no! I didn't jump! I climbed down the ladder, step by careful step, and splash! I joined the party – wearing my little floaty toy around my bikini. Since I didn’t have to work as hard as everyone else, I stayed in the water a long, long time. It was heavenly.

Ernesto and the ladies!

Tamara Nivillac and me
The diving platform

Me and Taco van Dijk

Amazingly clear water


Jumping into the water!

Climbing into the water!
Here I am in the water!  I did it!

Sunset ... wow!

Good times...

Me and Maruja Bogaard
After finally coming out of the water, I danced some more and started to feel fatigue. So, I headed back to the hotel (thanks to Maruja Bogaard and her family) and went to bed. Lobby call was horribly early, so I only slept about 4 hours, skipped breakfast, didn’t drink enough water and boarded the flight to Miami. I usually fall asleep very easily on airplanes and this was no exception. However, after about an hour in the air, I woke up with a jolt. I couldn’t breathe well, I was sweating profusely, my heart was racing and I started to feel terribly dizzy. Then I noticed that my vision was narrowing, closing into a dark haze in the shape of a collapsing circle. I had no idea what was going on. It was absolutely terrifying.

Thankfully, I’m a long time practitioner of yoga and know how to focus my breathing to eliminate stress. I close my eyes and started regulating my breathing, thinking that a relaxed flow of oxygen could only help. It did. It took about 5 minutes, but my vision finally starting normalizing and I was able to get up and walk to the back of the airplane and tell the flight attendants. One of the women looked at me and immediately asked if I’d eaten anything. I said no. She swiftly sat me down and calmly served me cup after cup of orange juice, and insisted that I eat 2 boxes of raisins, a bunch of crackers and some cheese. She said that I was showing clear signs of low blood sugar. Apparently, by staying in the water, exposing my head to the intense sun (which I was blissfully unaware of since the water was cool), and not drinking enough water and skipping breakfast and lunch, I’d set myself up for both dehydration and low blood sugar. Not a fun combination. I do not recommend it! I didn’t feel totally normal again for at least 5 hours. Lesson learned. Ah, Curaçao…