I have to beg of your understanding for not putting up "Part 2" of this story right away like I had promised...
Here it is! What you've been waiting for the...finally, the experience in writing...I have read over what I wrote before an added some more thoughts to it as I've had some time now to let it sink in more....wow was it ever an amazing day...
To recap from before...
“When the cab pulled up to the security gate and I got out, I saw the stage...it was one of the most magnificent things I had ever seen.” .....
And then I reminded myself that I would be PLAYING on that great thing of magnificence! So I made my way to the production office where I found Nikki Shibou and Ron Chamberlain, who are collectively “9ine Management” a show production team out of Calgary. Those two, were the ones responsible for making this amazing dream a reality for me. The backstage area was still being sorted out at that point…it was kind of like opening up the back of a wrist-watch and watching it work, all the little bits working together to make from the simplest thing to the biggest thing run without error.
After visiting with Nikki for a little while, Ron said “So buddy? Wanna go see the stage? Bring your camera” … so we went over and I met Hutch, the stage manager. Hutch is this huge tall Australian man who if you didn’t know him could scare the (fill in the blank) out of you if he wanted/needed, but is to the very core the nicest possible person you could ever meet…and has the softest heart ever. He’s also the best stage manager I've ever seen, everything you would want in a good one…calm, collected, gets the job done, and makes everyone who walks up on that stage feel like the most important person in the place. (I promised him that if that stage is ever mine one day...he's got a job J)
So…Ron and I walked up to the stage, my eyes wandering everywhere looking at every single little detail, trying to count speakers and checking out all of the monitor boards…then I walked on to the stage and it hit me…I, me, Sierra, was going to be playing here. If you look in my photos you’ll see the one of the mic and the open field…I stood there for a couple of minutes trying to imagine that empty field packed with 60,000 people…and now I know that it’s absolutely impossible to imagine it until you’ve seen it with your own eyes. It’s breathtaking. I had been on some very large stages before, but set up’s like that are a completely different animal. The coordination with the whole production team, down to the things that seem so small and unimportant...everything running smoothly together, again, like clockwork…all to put on a 9 hour event.
So can I cut to show day? I know that’s what you're here to read about…
So, I woke up, texted Jordan McConnell, one of my favourite guitar players ever and one of my favourite people on the planet – I couldn’t think of anyone better to come share that stage with. Then I texted my mom, she confirmed that she, Chris Burke-Gaffney, his son, and my best friend since I was 5, Kevin, were all on their way as well. So I got up, had a shower, got ready, had some breakfast in my room…my main goal was to try to relax and stay calm. But not even a great breakfast could do that! I was literally pacing my room, and then I was “jump-pacing” (yes, your mental image is correct) around the room…
Finally they all arrived. I was so happy to see all of my family and friends there, it was absolutely a blessing to be able to have them out there…thank you to a certain person who I will remain nameless for that, from the bottom of my heart.
Jordan and I started running over some things, just to make sure that there was absolutely no chance we could lose track of each other in the songs on stage. And it sounded awesome J most of my nerves went away as soon as everyone got there, but especially once we started playing. We were about 2 songs in when the phone rang, it was Hutch, “you gotta get down here as soon as you can for soundcheck!" Yikes…pack ‘er up and goooo!
So we got to the Commons for sound check, and it all became very real. We had to wait for a while for the other bands to finish up their sound checks but me, my mom, and Jordan were just enjoying soaking this experience up and taking it all in.
It came to be around 3:30pm and Hutch gave us the go ahead to sound check. We got up the center stage, I put my fiddle case to the left of the mic as usual, stood up and looked out in front of me and said “I cannot ever let myself forget this moment…I have to remember this forever”…I was watching hundreds and thousands of people rush in like water out of flood gates crashing into the barriers in front of the stage. They had just opened the doors to the show, and I got to watch it…for a minute it kind of felt like they were all there for me, haha, maybe one day J
We got all the levels and eq set, and started off a song to see how it all sounded together. We played the first half of “Last Ones Standing”, and were watching the crowd for their reaction (gauging how nervous we should be for the real deal), and we saw a sea of people just smiling, and kind of swaying to the happy-sounding, easy-going groove of the song…they liked it, they liked us, Woo!
We finished up quickly got off the stage, and I was just floating. To musicians who have played on stages like that many times this will seem silly, but it was the first time that I had a “guitar tech” haha. Andy, the guitar tech, took my guitar on stage, plugged it in, put it on a stand, he offered to take it and tune it but I needed it to rehearse with Jordy in the trailer. Now I even feel silly writing that, but it was cool. Everything was so cool!
We went straight back to the trailer and started playing through stuff, over and over, getting more and more anxious and excited. I just kept hugging Jordy, so happy that he was able to be there.
My friend Kevin was there too, we have been best friends since we were 5 years old. It was an amazingly special time for us to be able to spend together as he is leaving to serve in the Canadian Military in Afghanistan this fall. No, it’s not easy to think about, but I’m so proud of him and will support him forever. I love you Kev.
So we went straight to the trailer to run through the songs and tunes we were going to play on the show.
Can we skip over the rehearsal? Yeah…it went well, got it down, everything sounding stellar as it always does with Jordy…Rich (my agent) helped us out by copying out our set lists.
Hutch had come in earlier and told us that he’d come get us 10 minutes before show time, so we were awaiting his arrival. Soon enough, he came, and it was go time!
There’s a really great series of photos that my mom took of all of us getting out of the trailer…Hutch with my guitar in hand…me, Rich, Jordy…and then my favourite photo from that whole day is of me and Jordy marching over to the stage one arm around one another…focused, ready to rock.
We get to the stage, Bubbles (yes, Bubbles from The Trailer Park Boys) is back there with us…why?...because he introduced me!!! My GOD that was cool! haha
Bubbles walks on stage, (now switch the voice in your head that’s reading this to “the bubbles voice”) “I’m so EXCITED! I’m losin’ it up here, hehehehe…alright so we’re gonna get right into it here with the first performer, this girl here she’s been playin’ music since she was a little kid, and she’s won all sorts of awards ya know like music awards and humanitarian type stuff, she faaaantastic, alright so give a great big Halifax welcome, to Winnipeg’s, Sierra Noble…”
I ran on stage, hearing this crowd…unbelievable. I realized in that moment that even though I had played in front of that many people before…that it was absolutely totally different…this was a concert crowd…not only that, but a PAUL McCARTNEY concert crowd! haha it was ridiculous! Amazing! The energy exuding from that group of thousands of people was just…gah!
So we started with “Last Ones Standing”, went into “Coming Home To Say Goodbye”, into “Possibility”, and ended it with a medley of fiddle tunes (we knew that would go over well in Halifax). Just as we finished the last tune, Hutch ran up and said “do one more, do one more!” ...so I let the crowd decide what they wanted…fiddle, or another song…I guessed right, being in Halifax…they wanted fiddle, and we gave them fiddle alright!
Everyone was up dancing, jumping around, screaming, clapping along…I was on such a high. We finished the last tune, walked off the stage, Hutch was standing there and gave me a big hug of approval, my mom was standing right there waiting with a hug, Kevin, Rich, Ron…and officially…it was the most amazing musical experience of my life.
People for the past month since the show have all been asking me “what was it like to open for Paul McCartney?” and I tell them all the same thing, “It was amazing…that’s all I can say…because I really don’t think I’ll have a better answer for another 10 years when this actually sinks in. I’ll be able to look back at that when I’m 29, 30 years old and say ‘I can’t believe I opened for Paul McCartney when I was 19…how in the world was I that lucky?”
I don’t think there is any huger honour as a musician, especially as a solo artist than to open for someone like him. He’s it. There is no one bigger who is alive than Sir Paul McCartney. Like he said himself “it’s a really crazy thought…but I think of it often…there are only 4 people in history, in the world, who can say that they were in The Beatles…and I’m one of them.”
He’s 68 years old, and put on a 3 hour non-stop powerhouse performance, sang like he’s 25, rocked out like he was 18…I hope I’ll still be able to do that at his age.
So here I am with a memory permanently engraved in my mind of me, 19 years old, opening for one of the Beatles.
A woman came up to me tonight saying how much she wished she could have seen it, how proud she was being a Winnipegger herself, she said “oh well, I’ll have to come see you when you open for…um…” trying to think of someone bigger than Sir Paul…”I donno” she said “when you open for God?” haha. I guess that’s about it right?
I guess I’m just left waiting to see what will happen next. And I can’t wait
Love you guys,