GUEST BLOG: SHAWN MILKE ON FIVE MOMENTS IN ALESANA SPENT WISHING “WE (I) WERE (WAS) SOMEWHERE ELSE”
Sitting in: A stool in an empty bar at Station 4 in St. Paul, Minnesota
Listening to: “The Sun and The Moon” by Mae
Time of day: 3:16 p.m. central
Day of tour: 10
Hours left until I play: 5.5
Rock and roll, baby. Nothing in the world gets my adrenaline going more than those final seconds I spend waiting to walk out onto the stage; the smell of sweat, the sticky humidity of a packed venue, the murmur of anxious fans, the feel of my guitar resting in my hands. I shut my eyes and once again the pleasure strangles me. I hit the stage, the lights turn on, and I become a different person. Good day, bad day, none of that matters for the next 60 minutes.
During our set I am not Shawn Milke, but rather one piece of the greatest thing I have ever been a part of: Alesana. I feel like Leonardo DiCaprio (sexiest dude alive, by the way) in Titanic. I am the king of the world for one hour a night. Life feels perfect... Ahhh, if only every night played out like a beautiful fairytale. Oh, come on, 300 shows a year? Something is bound to go wrong once in a while, right? On that note, I give to you my list of the Top Five most embarrassing moments onstage in Alesana history. The clumsiness will haunt you...
5. Two Songs: One Band Virginia is for lovers. It also happens to be the site of Alesana embarrassing moment number five. This blunder takes us back all the way to 2005, when we were still a five-piece. In fact, the only current Alesana members in the band at the time were Patrick [Thompson, leed guitar], Dennis [Lee, vocals], and myself. I guess you could say this was before Alesana was truly Alesana. Nonetheless, this moment in time needs to be documented. We were playing a floor show somewhere in Virginia (my many attempts to erase this day from my memory have lead me to forget exactly which city we were in). The promoter of the show, as it turns out, did not like our band very much which probably explains why he made us start our set while our bass player was still using the restroom. So there we were, four guys instead of five, playing our first song. The problem was there were no monitors and our drummer was playing a completely different song than the rest of us were. We did not realize our mistake until our bass player finally made it out of the bathroom and told us to stop playing. Can you believe that not a single person bought an Alesana shirt that night? Shocking...
4. That Part Was Sick...Let’s Play It Again Austin, Texas, plays host to one of the coolest festivals in the country, South by Southwest. We were invited to play in 2009 at 2:00 in the afternoon and, at least by our standards, we thought the show went very well. We definitely had a reason to celebrate, and why not? Our work for the day was done, right? Wrong. Unbeknownst to us, we had been selected to play a second set later that evening; at midnight. Well, bad news was we did not find this information out until roughly 9:30 p.m. Allow me to be the first to tell you that “celebrating” all day and then having to play a show is not a good idea. I think we made our point when, during the first song, we managed to play the bridge not once, but twice. We somehow turned a four minute song into a five and a half minute medley. The good thing is I think most of the people in the crowd had been “celebrating” all day, too.
3. Umm...What? Tokyo, Japan, just might be the coolest place on earth. It’s big, it’s bright, it’s flat out awesome. The only thing that may be cooler than being in Tokyo is playing back-to-back sold-out shows in Tokyo. What better setting could there be for Alesana embarrassing moment number three? I had heard all about the potential nightmares of playing with backing tracks. Essentially, you are relying on an iPod or Pro Tools session to not have anything go wrong at any point during your set. Yeah, right. Something is bound to go wrong at some point during the course of the year. I guess the hard part to swallow was the fact that it happened to us for the first time during the first show that we had ever employed the tracks. Sigh, at least we got it out of the way early. My favorite part was how we all became so confused that we just stopped playing. What? Why on earth did we do that? We stared at each other like people do when someone asks if they remembered to let the dog back inside the house. I think it took us a solid 30 seconds to even realize that we had about 1,000 Japanese kids staring at us as we fumbled around the stage trying to fix the issue. It was like amateur hour at the karaoke bar.
2. I Am Here To Tell You A Story...I Am Here To Tell You A Story It was a sold-out show in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The room was electric, the kids were ready. The lights went down, the fog filled the room, and our intro featuring members of the string quartet Portland City Ensemble, Effesenden, poured out of the speakers. The roar of the crowd was deafening in anticipation of seeing Alesana walk through the curtain and out onto the stage. I bet it was amazing. I bet it was intense. Ahh, if only I had been there to see it; or any other member of the band, for that matter. Our staff had forgotten to get us from the dressing room before the intro started. Oh, it gets better. We decide the best plan is to just walk out on stage and restart the intro. The kids will surely get fired up once more. They sure did. Finally, some rock and roll. Nope. In the midst of trying to salvage the chaos that our set had become, someone kicked the cable out of our drummers in-ear monitors: He never heard the click to begin the set. We had successfully managed to have our two-minute intro play twice without ever starting the set. If only we had the two singing piano guys from Family Guy, then we could have just performed a little hat and cane dance and exited stage left.
1. Sweet Kick Flip, Brah Louisville, Kentucky, is home to the single most embarrassing moment of my life on a stage. It was 2006 and Alesana had landed on our first big tour ever. The kind gentlemen of From Autumn to Ashes (amazing band, go listen to them right now) had very kindly offered to take us out on there full U.S. headlining tour. Roughly two weeks into the tour, everything had been perfect. Kids were really digging our music and our performance was becoming more energetic with each passing show. We were the opening band on the tour so it was our job to get kids moving early to prep them for the bigger bands. One thing that I liked to do was as we entered the stage (keep in my mind we were the first band everyone saw each night) is run up to the monitor on my side of the stage, jump on top of it, and hoist my guitar into the air. Most nights my ploy was extremely successful because it caught kids off guard and they immediately became excited for the show. This is because most nights I didn’t completely miss the top of the monitor, slip, kick my feet into the air, and land straight on my rear end. Don’t worry though, my guitar landed straight on my face. We all have bad-hair days, morning breath, and, at least at some point in life, slept with a teddy bear. We all have tripped walking down the sidewalk with 50 people surrounding the scene, stood in front of a crowded classroom to give a presentation about something we do not even care about, and had the person we have a crush on catch us staring.
The moral of the story is that no matter how cool bands try to pretend they are, they are still human. Things go wrong. Sometimes they go very wrong. However, as long as you can look back at these horrible moments and laugh then you are headed down the right path in life and will ultimately come out stronger in the end. And by the way, I sleep with a stuffed bunny rabbit...every night.