Volcano Blues

Question: What happens when you combine the Icelandic volcano with a European jazz tour and a heavy metal festival in the Philippines?

Answer: A guitarist who has circumnavigated the globe.

In a matter of days, I have flown from New York to Europe, Europe to Asia, Asia to New York. Around the planet Earth, all because of a volcano. Welcome to my world.

I write this, I am resting comfortably at home in Brooklyn, NY while the two guys in my band, Alex Skolnick Trio, remain stuck in Europe. We were all supposed to fly back together, but the aftermath of the eruption, specifically the grounding of flights in Europe, changed all that.

It was just over two weeks ago we all flew from New York to Amsterdam to support the hugely popular acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela. Since the trio had yet to have made it to Europe, supporting Rod And Gab presented the perfect opportunity for us to debut overseas, before continuing with them in the US. But I never could have predicted how this run of the tour would end.

After the final French show, in Toulouse, I flew to the Philippines for a metal festival with my longtime band Testament and the popular metal group Lamb Of God. This show had been booked for a long time and marked the first time the group had ever been in the Philippines. I couldn’t let the bands or the Filipino fans down. I had to be there. Besides, it coincided with some festival dates that Rod and Gab were playing on their own, so the trio had the time off anyway.

It should have been a perfect scenario. The trio stays with friends of ours in Paris for a few days, then meets me in Luxembourg. I fly to Manila from Toulouse, play the gig, then fly back to Europe and play the last two shows with the trio and RodYGab in Luxembourg and Brussels, Belgium.

Ok, it was a little crazy, but I’ve done stuff like this before. And it would have worked out perfectly. Who could have predicted that a volcano would erupt in Iceland, creating a massive ash cloud that would engulf the continent and cause a complete shutdown of every major airport in Western Europe?

I flew to Manila with no issues, had a bleary eyed dinner and wine with my buddies in Lamb Of God and a great nights sleep. The next day, I met up with my band who had landed in the middle of the night. We played a successful show for 30,000 Filipino fans. The following morning, rides to the airport were organized.

When I checked on my flight, I realized that it and every other flight to Europe had been canceled. My heart sank as realized I would miss the last two shows of the trio/RyG tour. including a sold out concert at for 5,000 people in Brussels, Belgium.

There was nothing I could do except try and get home or risk getting stuck in Manila. I called my airline, Etihad Airways, but the best they could do was reissue the ticket at another date. That was no help at all. When else will I need a ticket from Manilla to Luxembourg?

I asked about transferring the flight towards purchase of a flight to the United States. I was told that would be an ‘additional’ $5,500. No thanks. Meanwhile flights to the US were being snatched up left and right by people in my situation: scheduled to fly from Asia to Europe but forced to fly home instead.

Fortunately I was helped by a couple sources. First, American Express came to the rescue. While I’ve sometimes questioned the high annual fee I pay for the my Platinum card, their premium travel service came in very handy that day. They found me flight for under a thousand dollars. This service, which I pay the high fee for, actually saved me a lot of money and trouble. (Forgive me if I sound like a commercial for AmEx). Also, the Filippino promoter, Vernon from Pulp Productions, was also extremely helpful and extended my hotel stay for an extra night. And his assistant Karen and her friend Ivan took me out for an impromptu evening of food and drink in Manilla. The next day I caught my flight and after nearly twenty hours of travel, made it home.

I am still sad about missing those last two shows, and worried about my guys. But I take some consolation that we had some great European gigs, the Netherlands, Zurich, Switzerland and three cities in France, Paris, Marseille and Tousouse. The highlight was the two sold out shows at the legendary theatre, L’Olympia, considered the “Radio City Music Hall” of Paris.

Next week we are scheduled to play the real Radio City here in New York City. That is, if my band can make it over here by then.

As I write this, the band is scheduled to fly home tomorrow from Amsterdam, but everything is up in the air, pun not intended. Flight restrictions continue to be lifted, then put back into effect. Their connection is through London Heathrow, the airport which has suffered the most from the aftermath and continued eruption of the Icelandic Volcano. Many fingers are crossed that they make it.

This is one of those situations that will only make our band stronger. When this is all over, we will have one heck of a story.

16 Responses to Volcano Blues

  1. No doubt this event was far reaching all over the world. I was in San Francisco (Actally Burlingame) the day flights were allowed return to Europe. Our hotel van was standing room only with mostly French passengers going to the airport. We were a little late getting there because the bus driver took so long trying to load all the suitcases. As we were riding to the airport, I could see a kind of a look of desperation on some of their faces. I was thinking to myself why all these people are in such a hurry to leave this beautiful California weather, but like the old saying goes, "There's no place like home."

    Mike m/

  2. Alex,
    Welcome home! Happy to hear you made it back to Brooklyn! Sounds like you had quite the adventure. Nothing like a volcano to screw with your travel plans.

    Understandably, you’re worried about Matt and Nathan. Keep the faith. (I am.) They too will be home soon.

    Sending you, Matt, and Nathan – angelic light, unconditional love, universal energy, prayers and Reiki. Whatever it takes to bring them home quickly and reunite you guys. May the winds change course, their plane take flight, and all arrive safely.

    Take comfort in this quiet moment – cause, when they get back… Oh yeah, they’ll be a few stories to tell and tell and tell. (Then you may need a quiet moment, but not find one. ; – ) )

  3. So… The Alex Skolnick Trio, minus Alex Skolnick… That is going to be a interesting story for the duo to tell, lol!

  4. If you have a credit card and some money on account no problem: you will go to hotel and wait the worse to pass… making a fast calculate, is more expensive to buy a emergency fly that wait in some hotel for some 2 3 days. The volcano create not a colapse on airports only, but in other parts too. The europe lived a "rush day" in your trains !!!!

    Portugal seems a better way to fly back at home, and more security too.

  5. That's insane!!

    Eeek, I've been hearing all these things about airlines and stuff lately… and I'm leaving on a plane in less than a week. *sigh* I don't travel that way much, obviously.

    That is a hell of a story.

    – M

  6. WOW-HOO! I was hoping you would pen this experience. Could "Volcano Blues" be the beginning of a series of stories on traveling without moving? Hummm…
    Very pleased you pointed out that its growing potential between you & your band mates, THAT, is an awesome thing. But you guys really did have an amazing run, hope it becomes a trend. Salud!!!

  7. Volcano blues and weary shoes. You and many others became part of history with this event that made a mess of ash and ass. Irritated and uncomfortable ones stranded and struggling for flight and landing. Change is constant and when unexpected can cause sudden severe disappointment too. (Sorry about your missed gigs yet marvel at ones made) You rallied circumvent and made the best of the situation to find your way and re-connect back home from your exciting whirlwind excursion, drained I'm sure.Rest. Good to have wings of hope for winds of change that can challenge patient perseverence and strong resolve, like metals force that slices through to a good outcome. May the force be with the rest and carry them along safe passage )))

  8. This is incredible Journeys of the Alex Skolnick :). It is sounds really impressive – flying across the Earth several times in such short period from one country to another, from city to city, playing jazz, after that playing metal, and jazz again. This is what many people call as active lifetime.

    Yeah, this volcano ashes interrupted or delayed plans of many people. Unfortunately, there is nothing that man can do, only to wait.
    I believe that Matt and Nathan will get home soon and everything will be fine. And the Alex Skolnick Trio will shine again from the scene, amazing listeners with their beautiful music.

  9. Hey Alex !
    Sorry to hear you had to cancel the last shows in Europe…
    When I came back from the Marseille show, I took the 'Transformation' CD from the shelf and was amused to see the title 'No Fly Zone'…

  10. It just goes to show how powerful nature is. A single volcano eruption shutting down the European Airspace. But, as everything in life, there's always a positive side to every story. At least we Aircraft Engineers had some time to repair some pending defects due to the extensive ground time.
    I'm sure it must have been quite an adventure to make it back home!!! I sure hope you'll enjoy your concert at the RCMH at the end of the month, it is indeed a great venue. Matt and Nathan might try to reach Portugal by train and then fly to NYC. Best of luck.

  11. Thanks everyone. Your comments and positive thoughts are appreciated.

    Latest update- I've received a recorded phone message with 'my' flight status (the computer system still thinks I'm going to be on that flight). It appears both flights, Amsterdam-London-NY, are scheduled for on-time departure.

    So its looking good for the trio guys and my luggage, which is still with them (I'd left with an overnight bag, thinking that was all I needed). That also means Rod and Gab will make it back to North America on time as well.

    Assuming this is the case, Saturday, I'll fly to Mexico City by myself to sit in with RodYGab at the Viva Latino Fest with them, the Deftones and others. Then next week, we have the trio/RodYGab run, then I fly back to Europe for a few metal fests with Testament in Switzerland, Czech Republic etc…

    In other words, its back to normal (if you can call it that, lol). Let's hope for no more strange, unforeseen events.

  12. You are lucky to come back home under that chaotic situation.
    Hope everything goes well for the further tour and events.
    I was also lucky to fly back home before the Volcano Blues but was very, very unlucky to miss AST concerts…

    I'm reading Kichen Confidential, very intresting.thank you.

  13. Fear of flying?…Sometimes we are reminded by lifes big events, how small we are. Few things can stop the Rock and ROll, your perseverance shows that it's still alive and well in you. Worries about your guys, was shared by all of us, but it was more than that, the what ifs are always there. I appreciate the updates, but the valor in your writing- still pales to the feeling of loosing another(musician, artist, friend) person, from the airplane. The realization, that this-is just apart of the job,changes everthing. Alex- good blesssings of more safe travel.

    take care Rockin-Jazz man.

  14. wow – that's crazy.

    I don't know how you do it – fly all over the world to play! I love to play drums but I am such a "home body"…I would NEVER make it.

    Alex, please get in touch with me as I have some really great LIVE photos from 1988 of you while in Testament that I would like to share with you.

    I also interviewed the band for Demolish magazine and now I am posting all of that late 80's stuff on my blog now.

    Peep it here:

    http://www.demolishmag.wordpress.com

    Rock on!

    Curt King
    Demolish HQ
    Chicago

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