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  • J.A.Willoughby

TO ABSENT FRIENDS...


I never seem to be short on stories to tell. Most of what I write is fiction which is based on life lessons or social commentary – allegories – much like Rod Serling did years ago with his Twilight Zone television series. Charlie Brooker does much the same thing today with the tech-heavy Netflix series, Black Mirror, a most remarkable and thought-provoking viewing experience and a favorite in this household.

Following the old “truth is stranger than fiction” adage, I have had a few encounters like that along the way, as well. My last book, THIS SIDE OF CENTER / ENCORE, includes two non-fiction tales; “The Last Laugh,” a true story about my fear of general anesthesia and what happened in a surgical suite two minutes before a scheduled procedure. And the second, “Synchronicity,” is a very short story about a freaky occurrence on the road during my time as touring rock musician. The following story is of the latter type.

Note: I wrote the following article in 1990 for (what never came to be) the last Hybrid Ice issue of our newsletter. Keeping with the times, the group moved to an email list and a Yahoo group page and later to a website, abandoning the printed newsletter. This story was never published. The title is a word play on the popularity, at the time, of the rock group, Guns & Roses. The content is as it was written then, except for updates on the road crew members at the end of the story.

“GUNS & ROADIES”

January 15, 1990

At the end of the first leg of their Midwest tour, Hybrid Ice road crew members Chris Stutz (sound), Keith “Schmitty” Smith, (spotlight and stage) and light tech Kevin “Angus” Sinex got a little extra added excitement they weren't counting on.

On Sunday January 15th, 1990 after completing a gig at Loose Ends in St. Paul Minnesota, the road crew was performing their usual tasks of tearing down and loading equipment into the truck, looking forward to their first day off on the tour. Everything was as usual with the band members going back to their hotel rooms a short time before. The crew was tearing down with the minimum compliment of club personnel on hand, and socializing. Just before the completing the “load out”, Angus performed the usual last check around the club which included an area downstairs. It was dark and closed down since earlier in the evening.

On his way down the steps, he noticed a movement at the corner of his eye. Being an experienced roadie and a little suspicious, he went back upstairs and asked the manager if anyone else was supposed to be in the club. The manager, Debbie, aware of a rash of burglaries at clubs in recent weeks, went to the safe in the office and produced a .357 Magnum. Recruiting the rest of the road crew and remaining club bouncers they carefully went back downstairs turning lights on as they went. After a check of the main room and restrooms produced nothing, one area remained - a storage area under the stairs. And the lock was broken.

Pointing her weapon at the door Debbie yelled, “Okay, you! Out of there!”

Suddenly, a man dressed in a trench coat and Halloween mask walked out of the closet, reached in his pocket and produced a gun of his own, waving it wildly and warning them all to “back off”. Upon seeing how many people he had to deal with, the startled intruder quickly ran up the stairs and out of the building.

The police were summoned and a description was given. During the course of the questioning, a call came into the club informing the officer that the suspect had been apprehended. After examining the clothing and mask that were found in the would-be robber’s car, the crime busting road crew determined that it was the same person they had “met” earlier. With no one the worse for wear the crew proceeded with their usual boring job of loading the truck. Later, the band was informed they had actually been instrumental in breaking up a burglary ring that have been preying on clubs after they closed and also robbing bands of their money in the parking lot after their gigs.

So, the next time you see a band and all the applause has died, don't forget the crew. Give them a smile, a pat on the back, buy them a drink, and tell him what a good job they've done. They work hard – and sometimes go above and beyond – to produce what you see on the stage. ~

L-R Chris Stutz, Kevin Sinex, Keith Smith - 1990

Update 2016: On a much sadder note, two of the three road crew members mentioned in the above story met an untimely demise in later years.

On June 28, 1994, Schmitty was found dead in his home in Allentown, Pennsylvania. You can find his obituary of June 29, 1994, here in The Morning Call. It is a very tragic story.

And, on June, 8, 2008, Angus died in a fall at an event where he was the lighting director. There is a website memorial set up in his honor and a video slide show memorial on YouTube.

There is also a video there of Angus at a wedding and in “rare form”. It’s a wedding, so no holds barred. I hadn’t seen either of these until this past week. I never thought I’d hear that voice again. I must say, he made me laugh out loud one last time.

The band members had great times and many, many laughs with these two. They are gone now but their stories and our memories of them will live on.

Kevin L. Sinex / March 23, 1963-June 8, 2008

Keith W. Smith / August 26, 1960–June 28, 1994

As the last remaining member of this crew, Chris Stutz is now working as a photographer at Chris Stutz Custom Photography in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He continues to mix sound for Hybrid Ice when they take part in their Legends Of Rock Cruises. ~ JW

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