|We all have done strange and unusual gigs
in our lives. (We would love
to hear your stories). Mine was recently on the
USS Enterprise. In case you aren't familiar with this
monstrosity, it's a 1000' long aircraft carrier. This
thing was built in the early 60's, which you can definitely
tell by it's appearance. It has seen a few makeovers since
then. The width of the flight deck has been expanded to
accommodate things like additional artillery and satellite
dishes. The dish that one sailor pointed out wasn't at
all top secret. Nope, it was for their TV. After all being
stuck on the high seas with 25' waves and higher that
crack over the side of the flight deck, you want to be
able to watch every football game there is.
The show was Garth Brooks - Coast to Coast, Live on CBS.
A one hour special on live TV the day before Thanksgiving.
The concept itself is a brilliant and exciting idea. A 1000'
runway with a stage right in the middle of it. The stage itself
was placed in front of the island ( the only structure that
stands on the flight, basically where you sail the ship from
). The reality of it was another story entirely. Ships like
this aren't made for concerts, so getting roadcases onto the
flight deck can be pretty trying. The load-in procedure was
unloading the gear from trucks onto a sea container, then
lifting the container onto the flight deck by crane. I'm sure
many of you readers who have a little knowledge of aircraft
carries will say,' what about the lift that carries the planes
to the flight deck?' Good idea, except the dang thing doesn't
go all the way to the pier. I must admit that this confuses
me. Material has to get loaded onto the ship like supplies
||Rigging went in on Saturday,
the lighting load-in started on the Sunday. The show was
completely exposed to the weather since Garth wanted the
fullest effect of being on a ship. There was no roof to
protect backline etc. Needless to say being on a ship
in Norfolk Virginia in November isn't exactly a holiday.
Day of the show, the temperature was 29 degrees Fahrenheit.
A great experience when you are stuck on a lighting console
with winds rocking your front of house position. The set
came in on the Monday, backline followed on a Tuesday,
with a rehearsal in the evening. Well, about a one song
rehearsal, when Garth and the band realized how cold it
was on that flight deck.
The crew was a combination of IATSE and Navy. All I can say
is that I really respect the young men and women of the armed
forces and what they are doing for us. Which is exactly why
they aren't stage hands. The Navy thought it would be a great
way to get a little extra cash in their pockets by volunteering
their general crew from the USS Truman. The enthusiasm was
about as exciting as a waitress at 3am in a Waffle House.
They worked hard once you got them something to do, which
wasn't necessarily easy as the whole rig consisted of nothing
but moving lights. Explaining the data path to an 18 year
old sailor who has been put on the ship because the judge
told him he had choice between jail or the Navy is no easy
contest. Thank god for the IA guys who were able to climb
and take a few blue souls with them on various projects on
On show day they brought up four planes from below which
was an amazing spectacle to watch. What was very interesting
was the way the high speed lift brought these million dollar
planes up from below. Even more amazing was that the lift
was only working at half speed for us.
Not only that, one sailor told me that when this beast was
in the gulf, temperatures would get up to 150F on the flight
deck. With a combination of hot weather and afterburners spouting
out fire, it must have been one heck of a sweatshop. The most
intriguing episode was walking to the ship in the morning.
You see some youngsters painting the ship with 12" rollers.
A 1000' ship being painted with 12" rollers. I later
found out that when you aren't at sea, you have to keep these
people busy. With around 5000 people to keep busy, a 12"
roller really makes sense.
The show was exclusively for Navy personnel. This lift I
mentioned earlier for planes became the entranceway for the
public. Hearing wooooos everytime it moved was excellent.
I kinda wish I got to go on it. The show went off without
a hitch, and the aerial shots from the helicopter were spectacular.
Everyone seemed pleased with the show in 29 degree weather.
We went off air at 11pm, and Garth played for another hour.
Load-out went extremely well, a mixture of Navy and IA guys
made the this thing come down at a great speed. On a lighting
standpoint we had a number of towers all over the deck, and
miles of cable runs, soaking in a lovely mixture of old oil
and diesel fuel. The whole thing came down in 41/2 hours.
Now we return to the concept of getting the gear off the ship.
In my mind there is fantasy and there is reality. Fantasy
we were told, we'll have 2 cranes to lift the gear off
the lift. These lifts can do a load a minute. Reality:
We have one crane that can lift about 8-12 roadcases per lift.
And it will only take 3-5 minutes per lift. Needless to say,
Thanksgiving at 10:30am is when the last truck door was closed.
The only thing left to do is laugh at this dismal situation.
Oh yeah, the IA stopped at 6am since they weren't fed after
8 hours. Well there are 2 sides to every story. Some people
consider hot dogs and nacho cheese placed out at 2 am a hot
meal. The Navy guys stopped at 6:30 because a new shift was
coming in a 7 am. Navy time that means 9:30.
Ah well, I suppose when one thinks of all the smooth
gigs, this is the one that balances the equation.