Whilst at the BDS Crewe show, I came across Dom Berard, a French fan whom I'd previously heard of from the BÖC J&A board. I was told that he'd enjoyed BDS so much in Paris that he'd decided to come over to England to see the rest of their UK shows.
When I heard that he had not only organised the Paris show, but also acted as roadie, driver, gig announcer and entertainments officer, I thought I'd see if he'd consider jotting down some of his experiences for this site.
Luckily, he said OK and so without further ado - here's Dom's story...
First of all thanks to Hot Rails To Hull and Des UK to have asked me to write a little (well in fact this is gonna be long one) diary about about my few days with BDS.
I started being in contact with Joe Bouchard thanks to a letter I had sent him about Solid Citizen, the X-Bros CD. I wrote what I thought about his album. Roughly I said it was terrific, that "Pearl" deserved its name very well but that the drum machine on some tracks was bringing the tracks down. Joe answered me a 2 page letter (at the time of X-Bros CD, I wasn't online yet). I thought "Waaaaoo" - that guy is great to answer a fan letter like this.
When I was at university, I was working as a technician for several big French acts (it means that I was pushing fucking heavy flight cases !), then I've been working as a promotor for a couple of venues for about 5 years and I've been guitarist in a metal band that never made it but in which I had a lot of fun time gigging before 30 people ;) or 100 at most.
Then I started booking gigs for French and American guitarist. I've started to have a good knowledge of the live music business.
The very 1st music magazine I bought was about Alice Cooper, it was also the first big gig I have ever attended (I was 16). Then I've been into classic rock but also, and mainly, Thrash, Heavy and Death metal stuff (from Exodus to Napalm Death, Motorhead to Prong and Morbid Angel). Then I've got myself BÖC's 1st LP and thought "That IS what I wanted to hear, the guy wrote that record for me - even though I was still I wasn't born at the time (I'll be 29 on the 27th of december: send me some gifts, thanks).
As a matter of fact, BDS is the embodiment of my only 2 special super-groups for me.
I've read, on the J&A board maybe, that BDS wanted to tour the UK. I've emailed Joe and said: " You can't play UK without coming to France, I can help ". Joe gave me the contact of their UK agent of fortune (Hi Mike) and I met him in London while I was gonna follow BÖC on their 2002 UK tour. He gave me the CD. A French fan told me it wasn't a good CD but Bolle told me that the band is so good live that it makes you love the CD.
I returned to France after having aborted half of my BÖC tour because I was very disappointed with the band's setlist (not enough new songs !!!) and played the BDS CD, and I loved it (except There was a girl).
Skip forward: I found a gig for the Band in Le Plan, the Mecca of classic rock in France and then I had to fetch the guys at Paris Airport. I had to wake up at 5 o'clock. No other band could get me to do that I tell you ! I hadn't been able to sleep the night before their arrival because I was too Xited. Was I going to panic, crash on the motorway or even cry when I see the guys ? They arrived 2 hours late, I was very tired and when I eventually saw them it was just a plain " Hi, please to meet you " ! We drove to the hotel. 2 hours for 30 miles. I love traffic jams.
Joe, Dennis and I had a good lunch at the hotel while Neal was sleeping a bit. Then I left the band 4 hours to rest and came back to bring them to Pigalle (red district, central Paris) for an interview session I had tried my best to organized. We had the basement floor of a Hard Rock bar for us and the journalists. Not many showed up, even "Hard'n'Heavy" wasn't there even though they had confirmed their presence: bastards.
A web TV was there nonetheless and I'll soon be able to tell you how to see the interview and another freelance journalist. Some fans had managed to know about that BDS interview session in Pigalle and were taking pictures of the band. I was impressed. I left the guys on their own (after gaving them enough drinks to make sure they won't go away) to fetch some BDS stuff I had designed for them to sell on the tour (I'm a shitty graphist so it's the BDS logo + Back from Hell printed but it looks terrific).
Then I came back to the band (1h for 4 miles: I love that) and we went to a nice restaurant in Montmartre, taking pictures and chatting about BÖC, Alice Cooper but mainly food.
I returned home tired but very cool.
The 26th of october was the gig date. I took Neal from his hotel and we went to the Venue for soundcheck. Fan were already there. That was a bit scary since it wasn't lunch time yet and the concert was to start at 21:30. We've been waiting for over an hour for the Pearl Drum Kit I had hired for Neal. When it arrived at last, I was able to see Neil Smith working on it. And he had work because it was a nice big double kit (9 toms + cymbals). I went to fetch the other to BDS. Joe plays on 2 Marshall amps - combos. One of them was mine. I've hired him for a beer, and I was very proud to hear my dear old amp giving all it could to satisfy Joe. I had hired a nice Ampeg SVTII pro series with a big cabinet for Dennis. I was there at their soundcheck. In fact it isn't much of a soundcheck, it's more like a rehearsal: 3 guys having fun making music.
The concert started with a French act. OK. Then BDS time. I DID THE ANNOUNCEMENT ! Arrrrgh egoist pleasure, I was showing off like someone who would have tasted Pamela Anderson after having blasted Britney Spear off.
They performed the "Back From Hell" album, Xept "There Was A Girl", in the same order than on the CD.
Before "I love you to Much ", I was holding some towels to Joe and he told the audience " Dominique ! That man is responsible for having us here ! He worked his arse off to bring us here ! Beautifull... " Er, what can I say ? I was very happy to put it mildly, and I needed some Kleenex.
I was very impressed with how the band was articulating their set. They must have really been working on every detail to make their live set so cool. They would emphasis some bits of the songs to reach some climax or on the contrary, they would play more "soft" to get everybody down and relax before rerturning to raw power and provide the audience with many aural orgasms...
They divide their set. The 1st one is the "Back from Hell" CD then Dennis come alone on stage do a bass solo from Alice Cooper stuff and then Neal come to sing and Joe plays the Luth. Arr, the guitar I meant.
Dennis had written some light instruction for the light engineer. I've been lucky enough to read it. It's was cool, on what song it says "Give all you got", on another "Aurora Borealis". The Light Chief in Le Plan did a great Job providing each songs a different mood and the sound man was fabulous: no larsen of course, but intelligible voice all through the set, strong sound but yet clear. That was what made the French date better than the English ones.
I would say that the Crewe concert was maybe better musically-wise because they've played longer (2h30 in Crewe, " only 2h20 "In Paris) and because the crowd was more important (I would say around 300 in Crewe for only 150 in Paris) but none of the English dates as such an excellent sound, light and backline equipement than in France. Yeah, I know I'm French but you can believe me !
I can't tell much of the second Paris set because I was in the office for half an hour dealing with the money with the boss of the venue and then I raised up the merchandising tables. I've nonetheless seen Astronomy (if I had missed that I would have killed some people). As some posted on the BÖC BB, it blows up Long Day's Night version without any problem: Dennis said on stage "I like that Song" and they went into it. The audience was having so much pleasure that I thought I should get away from it when Joe would take the lead for I was fearing beeing drawn into an overwhelming wave of sperm.
What was also terrific is that on each concert the band was so happy to play. It is getting seldom this days.
I've forgotten to mention, Joe broke 3 strings during the concert. I went backstage to try and fix a new string. I've been a guitarist for over 10 years and I couldn't. I was important. I was shaking so much that I couldn't put it in the hole ! I was talking to myself "Take it easy, it's only Joe Bouchard's guitar" and of course it was getting worse !
Skip forward again: after the show, BDS stayed an hour signing and talking to fans: that was very cool.
Then we drove to the hotel, had some Champagne and some other stuff in Joe's room, and then went for a little sleep.
The day after, I drove them to the Euro Star. The French BDS assault was over. I drove home, and slept a lot.
I was feeling so cool after that gig, and so proud... I thought: "I've been to UK to follow BÖC and it was no good. Why shouldn't I go to UK to follow BDS?" "Because you're jobless and broke " said a little voice - that sounded like my wife.
On the morning of the London date, I gave a phone call to BDS' UK agent asking: "Would there be a spare seat in the van - I can help you carrying equipment ?" he said "Yes", I called Des UK to check if he could drive me from Dover to London, he said " Yes ". And I've called Gil Blanco (Jack) and told him him "I'm sleeping in your house tonight " (I didn't wanna ask him if I could stay because that bastard would have said no, so I gatecrashed). I called my wife and she was so happy to have a few days on her own that she said " Oui ".
I drove to Calais, found a boat, arrived late in Dover, Des was there, we arrived late in London (Traffic jams, my fav') had some Chinese food and went to the BDS gig. The band was happy to see me, I was happy to see them eventhough if the concert was short (60mns).
After the London Concert, it was Stourbridge. There was a lot of reverb and the soundcheck was not good. The venue is a former bowling thing. I was very worried for the concert. But I should have worried about a food instead: I ordered a double fish burger. The worst burger of my life. I love England.
It was halloween night. The opening act was a Nirvana tribute. They played too long but 200 people or more came for them.
When BDS jumped on stage, Nirvana fans were gone. It was late and there were about 50-70 to listen to BDS. They Rocked just like if we were 500 ! The sound was more than acceptable.
It was so nice to see the fans enjoying themselves ! After the show, everybody had been sweating a lot and having a nice big smile from one hear to the other, like a big successful orgy.
We returned to the hotel, a very nice one, and we went in Joe suite to talk. After an hour and a half, Mike, Joe and I were still talking about BÖC, BDS and music generally speaking: awesome.
By the way, I had room 18 and I like it.
We left Stourbridge for Crewe around mid-day and after a long drive with the usual traffic jams (have I already told you I love them?) arrived at the hotel to meet the SickCon people. They took us to the local BBC radio for a BDS interview.
We left the hotel and after a 15 mins drive, we arrived at the very same hotel... Hum, eventually, we've found our way through the country side to discover than the radio was not very far from Stourbridge ! That was Spinal Tapian somehow but very cool and fun.
Joe was interviewed first. I listened to that in the entrance of the radio were there was a nice sofa to relax on. The interview started with Soft White Underbelly/Stalk Forrest Group question. That was a bit disappointing to me since Joe wasn't in the band at the time and I was excepting the journalist to speak about BDS ! Well, it was an English journalist.
They've chosen to broadcast BÖC's "Fallen Angel" which was a good choice and then "White Flag" ! What a strange choice... But I went to the loo to take a pee so that title was adequate. Anyway, then Neal and Dennis went in for their question time: questions about the Spiders and everything... And then questions about Welcome to my Nightmare ! Very professional questions since they weren't in Alice Cooper any more. Neal didn't have any gun or axe in his bad so he just send a nice incendiary sentence to the journalist who then decided to speak a bit about BDS.
We slowly drove back to Crewe (slowly, because one car had problems with its lights) and went to eat some Indian food. We also have a few drinks and a fan came to the boyz with a picture of the ACG and Frank Zappa ! Both Neal and Dennis were struck by that pix. They didn't know that some pics had been taken and that brought them back to some good memories. Fantastic !
Return to the Hotel. Michael Bruce was there: 3 original ACG in the same lounge: the fans were so happy and just kept on getting some pics like mad. The hotel was full. I slept on the floor with the UK agent and the technicians of BDS.
On the Convention Day we arrived at the venue and I dealt with the merchandising, to help the crew a bit. I was busy and didn't pay much attention to the crew - who left. I stayed a couple of hours on my own, selling BDS and Alice Cooper stuff (Tees, CDs, Pictures...).
I was able to meet many fans. Some BB members told me that they were surprised to see me like this: they thought I would be different. My posts on the BB had led them to think that I was a bit of an asshole, in other words. Glad that meeting me made them change their mind !
There was a meet & greet thing in the afternoon. A lot of ACG questions of course but also some BÖC ones, thanks to some BB onliners and some others. I took my chance and asked one ; it was: "Joe, don't you think that if Buck Dharma would join BDS it would be the best BÖC line-up ever?!". The man said "No". I was happy to have asked a question in front of 300 Brits (well, there was 3 other French and an American also - Hi George) and got myself understood.
Then they went for a couple of hours of signing and then Joe did an acoustic set. I was with Neal and Dennis because that was there that the food was. We listened to his songs and thought it was very cool. Among other stuff he played Hot Rails which was more of a gift to the fans than a terrific tune in itself (I mean that the original version is fantastic and that it can't rock very well alone on an accoustic) and then Nosferatu and THAT was a terrrific thing to hear.
I was thinking "Waaooo, I am in the dressing room with Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway, listening to Joe's Nosferatu after having spent about a week with them... I was much rewarded for all the sins I've been performing my best for nearly 3 decades ". I'm looking forward to do some new nasty ones.
There was a couple of actors in between each band appearance. They would introduce the forthcoming events in an Alice Cooperian style: they were terrific, talented and kept the day busy very well. I have been talking to them to discover that they were as good comedians as human beings: cool !
Then there was the charity auction which drove me mad: Joe gave away an embroidered BÖC/Joe Bouchard Ampex jacket from the 70s and my credit card wouldn't work. It went away for only £65. I was upset offered £80 or more to the guy who got it but he kept it. I was very sad.
I've been drinking with onliners and other fans during the opening act in order to forget that and was a bit depressed. Well, very depressed. Si, one of the Trio who raised that terrific Sick Con came to me and tried to push me up. Nice guy, very much into music, drinkin' and sex.
The band started their concert and gave all they could. It was once again awesome. I thought: 4 guys showed up at every dates of that mini-tour: Joe, Dennis, Neal and me. I was very proud fo having managed to be a part of what Joe called "a one in a life time event" (published in Blue Pearl Newsletter - French BÖC F.C). And I was really " having the time of my life ".
There is a SickCon website open [ no longer online: http://www.tophatevents.co.uk/sickcon.html ] so I won't say more about that event. To sum it up I would use one world: "PERFECT".
We returned to the hotel, Dennis told me I could sleep in his bedroom because there were two beds. I turned his proposal down because I didn't want to disturb but his offer was much much appreciated !
It was already very late (1 or 2:00) but the band wouldn't go to bed and stayed in the lounge of the hotel with the fans. Drinking and talking, and drinking and talking a bit less , and then drinking and trying to talk and then drinking and going to bed - at last.
I met a couple of French fans who where at Paris gig and I asked them if they could drive me back to Dover in the morning, they said "oui". So I decided not to go to sleep and I kept drinking and speaking and eating with fans. I was enjoying myself very much despite of a terrific throat ache.
The band woke up at 5 or 6 to go to Manchester to fly home. I helped with luggage, we said a few kind words (that I keep for me as a personal treasure) on the parking of the hotel. Then they left. I had kept Dennis key so I went to his room to sleep a couple of hours. Then the Frenchies drove me back to Dover, then boat, and I drove home.
Before going to bed I took Joe and Dennis picks out of my trousers to look at them a bit again...
I knew I would never forget that. Since then, I'm feeling upgrated with Roooooooooooooooock'n'Rooooooooooooll !!!
Dom, France, December the 7th 2002