‘Letters From The Field’ by Dave Seaman
Published in MixMag Update Magazine -December 14th 1998
One of the reasons I moved to New York was for a bit of a sabbatical. You know, a nice ‘clean break’. The kind of rehabilitation you promise your body every Monday morning after another heavy weekend. The thing is, it’s not been going according to plan. Yesterday morning I was up at 7am for a flight to Miami, all blurry eyes and shit-for-brains largely due to an office Christmas party hangover, complete with vague recollections of an embarassingly unsuccessful attempt to gatecrash some private party by tagging on to Kevin Costner’s entourage. The shame.
Today hasn’t fared much better. I ‘came round’ amidst a contorted array of unconscious bodies strewn across the demolition site that was the promoter’s living room. My two hours’ sleep feel more like two minutes and once again my memory is somewhat hazy. I do know that I played at the Shadow Lounge in South Beach, where I’ve been holding a monthly residency. I do remember Oliver Stone pissing me off as he staggered around the DJ booth with some floozy on his arm spilling her martini everywhere. Still, it was Oliver Stone! I suppose I can forgive him after Platoon and The Doors – besides which, he was bigger than me. It seems I’m not the only one suffering from a bout of self inflicted amnesia though. My DJ partner for the evening, Shem Macauley of Slacker fame rang me from Dallas airport to say ‘goodbye’ when I swear we’d done that three times already!
Anyway, fast forward to 10pm and I’m in my hotel room in Lafayette, Louisiana – the Deep South- and with a few hours to spare before my next turntable appointment (sic) I’m about to drift off for a 40 winks to the strains of Jerry Springer’s ‘Mud wrestling lesbian vicar slept with my third cousin removed’s 12 year old transvestite school quarterback’ special. It’s quite an episode.
It’s a rude awakening from a rather loud phone. I’m late. My lift is already here in reception, ready to take me to what turns out to be one of the most eye opening and sobering gigs of late. In fact, it feels like I’ve been transported into an episode of The X Files and a particularly scary one at that. Picture this: 1500 Deep South ravers in all their gas masked, glow sticked, ‘big fish, little fish, cardboard box’ glory going crazy in a ramshackle corrugated iron shack in the middle of nowhere to music from a sound system that sounds like the speakers have been dumped in a dustbin for that full-on muffled rattling effect. To add insult to injury, the fire alarm goes off at the mere whiff of a Marlboro Light. It’s going to be a long two hour shift behind the decks.
But if all this sounds like a tough evening, the best (or worst as the case may be) is yet to come. As soon as I’m relieved of my DJing duties I’m whisked off to Lafayette Airport to embark on a rather gruelling journey to Buenos Aires which includes three flights via Houston and Mexico and a schedule so tight that not even a liberally greased credit card could influence. You see, being a small minded Brit (in a geographical sense of course), travelling from the southern most point of the USA to Argentina sounds relatively easy doesn’t it? How naive.
At 6am, I board a ten-seater propeller plane with an unusual feeling of apprehension. You see, I actually enjoy flying. Sitting there watching movies a mile in the sky, where the phones don’t ring, being fed and watered by attentive young ladies is in my opinion, quite literally, a little closer to Heaven. Me time. But there is something decidedly dodgy about proper planes. I just don’t trust ‘em. Maybe it’s the kamikaze tendencies of the model versions I had when I was a kid. They just never worked like it claimed on the packaging. Anyway, my nerves are short-lived. Still suffering from sleep deprivation, I don’t even remember taking off and the next thing I know, I wake up dribbling on the shoulder of the man sitting next to me in 6B as we bounce onto the Houston runway. It’s here that things take a turn for the worse. My next flight to Cancun, Mexico is delayed by one hour and then, to make matters even more unfavourable, due to bad weather, we have to take a longer route. In fact, it’s fair to say only drug dealers could cut it any finer.
We land on the tarmac at Cancun at 11.29am precisely, giving me exactly 31 minutes to disembark, clear immigration, pick up my luggage, clear customs, change terminal, check in, pass through security and get to the next plane. Needless to say, I’m none too optimistic. This calls for desperate measures. Leaving my polite English etiquette on the plane, I take on a new bolshy Amercian style persona and head straight to the front of a growling queue at Immigration. I can feel a hundred pairs of eyes burning holes in the back of my head but by this point, I’m past caring and just growl back twice as ferociously. It’s now 11.39 and my chances are looking even slimmer as I wait for my luggage to start coming out on carousel number 5. Time for a new plan of attack. I find a Mexican airline representative and explain my predicament which went something like.. “It’s your bloody fault I’m in this mess so you better help me before I cause a huge scene” Strangely enough, this seems to be the language he understands and we’re off, through customs, although our trolley is confiscated as “this is the law” apparently. Bloody jobsworth. So it’s a mad dash out into the scorching Mexican midday sun to the international terminal carrying what seems like the heaviest box of vinyl in the history of turntable culture (that’ll teach me to carry too many acetates) whilst my new found friend races off in front with my rather more manageable suitcase on wheels.
It’s 11.52 as we arrive at check-in for the last flight of the day to Buenos Aires. Gasping for breath, I shout “Listen”, I shout in Spanish at the woman behind the counter with the kind of confidence that suggests I have some sort of command of the language. At this point however, I’m forced to admit I have nothing of the sort and if it was left to me to explain the situation the plane would be half way across Bolivia before I’d even established my name and the fact that I’m very late, so I leave it to my man who seems to have taken up my cause with some gusto and is shouting at the poor woman with the kind of contempt usually reserved for Manchester United fans.
Anyway, whatever he says works. Well, sort of. She gives us a security pass so we can run to the gate and make a last ditch attempt. Great. More running. I make a lunge for the suitcase trying to fob the record box off onto my New Mexican mate but he’s having none of it so we agree on the compromise of one handle each and we’re off again. Typically, the gate is at the furthest most point of the airport away from where we first started and my legs are starting to give way. By the time we make it to the gate I’m sweating so much I look like an extra from WaterWorld but I think this may have just worked in my advantage as the steward, who’s on the verge of closing the aircraft door, gives me a pitying look, finds his inner Mother Theresa and agrees to let me on. I flop into my seat, spraying the woman next to me like some shaggy sheepdog who’s just gotten out of a swimming pool and once again, I don’t remember taking off. So much for this Jetset lifestyle.
Oh, and just in case you were wondering of it was all worth it, I can confirm that the gig in Buenos Aires more than made up for every last minute of that 15 hour journey – so you only can imagine just how brilliant it was. So roll on next weekend. San Francisco and Vancouver beckon – sounds like a piece of piss in comparison. I’m off to count my airmiles and ponder just where my sabbatical went wrong.More news