Monday, March 06, 2006

The A-Ha experience

I'm back from Viña del Mar, after an exhausting 10 days of work. I got to work with the 80's band A-Ha. You know, the ones who sing "Take on me", "the sun always shines on TV" and many more. I'm too lazy to write about it all over again, so I'm gonna paste an e-mail I wrote to a dear friend of mine.
Here ya go.


I woke up at 4:00 AM. Quick trip to the airport. It was crazier than I thought. Morten Harket , the lead singer, had to come out from a different door but the press saw us (booking agent, 3 security guards, a producer and me, all of us with credentials) walking to the door and followed us. We had to wait, meanwhile the reporters and the fans are getting ready for some action. The doors hesitantly open, then close, then open, then close. A beat. The doors finally open and TADAAA: Morten himself. And he's one fine piece of 40-something ass! I was like: "YUMMYYYYYY!!!!" right before the guards, people from the TV station and myself formed a circle around him and tried to get out.

The reporters POUNCED on us, TV cameras, microphones, recorders, graphic cameras, cell phones, push and pull, all the while we're trying to get Morten out of the airport and into the van. The cables on the cameras got tangled and Morten kinda freaked out for a second, but played it out well. We FINALLY got him into the van and on his way to Viña del Mar while I stayed behind to get the musicians, the manager and the crew.

Now THAT was fucked up! We had to make 3 stops to 3 different hotels, all the while the luggage is on a truck that's 40 minutes behind, we get to the 2nd hotel and one of the technicians, Sven, wants to leave his handbag in his room to then get in the van again and go to the other hotel. Meanwhile the crew is waiting outside and no one is explaining them what's going on, they only speak Dutch and English, there's movement everywhere, Sven is taking forever to get back from his room. We finally get going to the third and final hotel with another producer set up to help me (he's nice and cute but speaks NO English). And the van has to make lots of turns because of the traffic and one of the guys of the crew asks me: "Is he lost?" I answered no, of course, because we weren't.

We get to the hotel, they check in, but one of the rooms won't be ready in an hour. This guy has no room and we can't give him a temporary room either because maintenance happens to be taking place at that exact moment, so no rooms are available, the others are asking for their luggage, Sven asks me to try to get him a room in this hotel and not in the Sheraton, the restaurant that was supposed to invite all 20 members of the A-Ha team for a free dinner said "no", everyone FINALLY gets their luggage except the guy with no room 'cause his bags are int he Sheraton and not in San Martín, his real, room-less hotel.

I finally get out of there with some other guys who were kind enough to give me a hand and I learn that one of the bands (Journey) cancelled their performance and the other band member of A-Ha who was supposed to be on his way to Viña missed his flight. We drive past a restaurant and Sven waves at us like crazy. We make a U turn about 4 blocks later, and Sven wants a ride to the Sheraton, while we're going to the Gala hotel. So we give him a ride to the Sheraton, all smiles and shit, we get to the Gala, I have my first piece of food in all day and I get a call from the booking agent. She needed me to confirm a van that would take her to Santiago again. Then I call her again 'cause I forgot to tell her every single restaurant passed on the free invitation. Her words were, and I quote: "Uh-oh..."

We meet after lunch and she tells me about every single thing I did wrong. I felt like crying. But she was right, I should've explained to the crew why it took us so long to get them to their hotel, made sure the luggage was properly dropped, blah, blah, blah. Now the booking agent is on her way to Santiago to get the second artist from A-Ha and his family. I'll have to go to Santiago tomorrow to get the third and last member.

Tonight is the festival's opening night (from Wednesday to Monday) and I probably won't be able to go because I have to stay available in case Sven or the manager needs me. You'll appreciate this: her name is Kleopatra. But she's blonde. Weird... Anyway, the booking agent, Rebecca, asked one of the hotel producers to get me some help with the musicians and crew while she takes care of the band. Still, I'll get to ride with Paul, the last band member, all by myself from Santiago to Viña. That is, if he wants to talk.

Opening night. It was SOOOOO good!!! Juan Luis Guerra opened, and he's one of my favorite artists. He plays merengue, so I danced until my ass fell (even more). I got to be next to him. He's the nicest, most quiet guy I've ever seen. The closing act was Miranda!, an Argentinean band that's really big here. Their style, as they define it, is "melodramatic electro-pop". Whatever, they rocked the house and I lost my voice while singing to them.


I went to the airport to pick up Pal Savoy, guitar player of A-Ha. Since he's not the front man and the journalists thought he arrived the day before there was no press to greet us. We get him to the hotel and Rebecca, the booking agent, calls me to tell me part of A-Ha's crew wants to go to the venue to check out the stage and the equipment. So I take them and when we're there Sven, the sound engineer I mentioned on my previous e-mail, calls me from his hotel to tell me he also wants to check out the place. I sent a van to pick him up and they all took a look around.

1st problem:

The sound table is behind the stage so there's no way the artist can look at the sound person and give them indications. It might sound minor, but it's a huge deal. That doesn't exist in any other part of the world, and Morten really needs to see Becky (the band's VERY British sound person) to give her indications. We struggled to find a solution and I came up with putting a camera in front of Morten to capture his every move and getting a TV on the sound cabin. Even if they didn't like it, they used it.

Then came the press conference. We had to get A-Ha (which is Morten, Magne and Pal) through the back door of the hotel and get them to the press room. They did the press conference, then we went two stories up to do a brief appearance in a TV show, then did 4 interviews and one interview for the radio. All the while there's a camera following us, and since I was by Morten's side all the time I was on TV during the evening news for a really long time. I didn't get to see it, though.

Afterwards we went to Kleo and Morten's hotel to hang out. I got to talk to them and we had a cup of coffee. They're really nice people, Morten is a bit of a Diva with the press, but when he's away from the cameras he's a really nice and down to earth guy. Everyone was going on and on about how great he looked, and when I asked him about it, he said, "I think when you're at peace with yourself it shows on your outside."

That same night the Swedes (A-Ha's musicians, all Swedish, very nice guys) and Kleo (manager) asked me to take them to the venue to see that night's show. Very well. I took them and got them in the lighting and second sound check cabin, facing the stage. Then a guy comes and tells me we can't stay there, so a lady offered me a private box fully equipped with food and drinks. I put them there and they really enjoyed themselves.

Then Kleo said something very reassuring to me that made me feel like for the first time I was doing my job right. She said: "I'm so glad you're working with us, I love how straightforward you are and how you get things done right away. It's very German." I felt like hugging her. "Good", I thought. I've always considered myself messy and a bit of a slacker, but apparently I work well under pressure.

Then Rebecca tells me Perr, A-Ha's light guy, wants to come later to learn how to use our light system. When the musicians and Cleo were ready to go, I put them in a van, send them to the hotel, and wait for Perr, who arrived at 2:45 in the morning. We had to wait till the show ended for him to use the lights. Long story short, I went to bed at 5:30, finally fell asleep at 6:00 and woke up at 7:00. I didn't even bother to change into my pj's, I just collapsed on the bed.


Big day. I had to take the crew to get the back line ready, which meant getting up at 7:00, pick them up at 8:30 and be on time for the back line at 9:00. They finished everything by 11:00, then came the mic check. Except mic check meant just plugging the mics, not sound check, and they already had that ready. Which of course meant getting them an extra hour of sound check (each band gets 2 hours): 1 hour to check mics and instruments, 1 hour for Morten, 1 hour for the entire band. It's impossible to get an extra hour, but we managed to get it. Okay, that was done.

I had a couple of hours to myself that I thought I could use to take a well-deserved nap, only I had to take care of a few things. Then my dad calls and tells me he's going to Santiago. I really wanted to see him, so I quickly dismissed the nap. There were a few misunderstandings concerning where we would meet but I finally got to him. He took one long look at me and said: "You need to sleep."

Sound check. Everything is going fine but problems quickly pile up. We're behind schedule, this isn't working, this is wrong, this isn't good enough, blah, blah, blah. I had only slept 3 and a half hours in 3 days and I was so tired I could cry. And I did a little at the venue. Then I got to my hotel and one of the other producers walks up to me and tells me I don't have to be afraid of asking for help, that we're all a team, that there will always be someone to give us an extra hand, that I shouldn't over-stress myself. She's telling me this and I answer her and tears roll down my cheeks. We hugged and I tell her between tears and giggles: "I really needed a hug."

I'm going up to my room thinking, "okay, we still have 2 hours before I have to get everyone to the show, I should sleep," but I was so worked up and stressed; sleeping wasn't a possibility. So instead I stayed in my room with Soledad, "Sole", a girl doing the same job as I, and we talked and smoked a couple of cigarettes.

It's time and I go pick up the musicians and crew (2 hotels). I put them in their dressing rooms when I get the word that A-Ha is near. I go to the basement to receive them and take them to the dressing room. Soon enough it's showtime. I take them up to the stage and they ROCK THE FREAKING HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!! More so, after they played people started to leave. They weren't interested in any other acts or bands, they just wanted to see A-Ha. The ones that did stay booed everyone else off the stage until the closing act, Chancho En Piedra (Chilean band). They played and gave the audience what they'd been waiting all night to hear.

After the show part of the crew, the Swedes, Pal, Rebecca and I went off to have a well-deserved dinner. During dinner we started organizing the hotel check-out and the vans that would take the band and crew to the airport, but Rebecca said: "You've done an excellent job. You will sleep late tomorrow." You cannot imagine how helpful feedback is for someone doing my job. I thought Rebecca was unpleased with me and my work, but it was the other way around. I was the only one she could count on for sure.

Good things.


I woke up at 3:00 with a very soar throat. I hat to take Morten to the airport, so I call Rebecca and tell her I'm not sure I can do it because I don't want him to catch anything with me coughing and blowing my nose on the backseat. She tells me to get to the hotel quickly so we can discuss it, because the ride to the airport is already late.

I meet Rebecca and Kleo there and I tell them what's going on. Kleo thinks the best person to discuss this with is Morten, so we go see him and Jan (his Reiki teacher), who are having lunch in the hotel's restaurant. I tell Morten what's wrong with me and he says, "Let Jan see if it's too bad. I appreciate your concern." Jan takes one look at me, says something to Morten in dutch or whatever language they speak in Norway and Morten says: "He says it's not bad and that he'll treat you on our way to the airport." WTF??

Turn out Morten didn't want to leave until someone (me) took him to the airport. I only realized this later.

So we're on the car on our way to the airport, fans tap the car window, Jan gives some pills to Morten, who then gives them to me and says "take 6 of this every day, 2 on every meal, and get some fluids in you." Whatever, I took them and during the ride to the airport while I talk on the cell phone and between my conversations with Morten, Jan barely speaks.

We get to the airport and Morten wants to downgrade his ticket from first class to business so he can fly next to Jan (those 2 are always together). We get it done but there's a problem: he wants a ticket for the value of the money he saved from changing his ticket so he can use it in the future as payment for another ticket. The thing is the airline doesn't do that, but they did it when Morten flew from Frankfurt to Santiago, so they should do it again.

We spend about 40 minutes trying to fix this until they give us something resembling that document. Jan asks me if I'm feeling better and I realize that I do, my throat doesn't feel that soar. The guy healed me!!!!! So we get them to the VIP customs and we say good-bye. I hugged Jan and for the first time I saw him smiling. Then I hugged Morten (what a nice piece of man, he is...) and he wished me the best. I was the envy of every girl in the airport.

I'm literally walking to the door when I see Rebecca walk in with Pal. She asks me to stay around to help them. Okay. Another problem: since Pal changed his ticket from Sunday to Saturday, the travel agency forgot to validate the new ticket and the airline doesn't have the authority to do it. Pal has to wait and we can't get him into the VIP lounge until his ticket is valid. Rebecca and I go to the travel agency's stand in the airport. Nobody's there. We call Javiera, the TV station's producer in charge of every flight, who's in Viña del Mar, and she tries to get in touch with the woman from the travel agency. Pal is still waiting. Javiera finally reaches the travel agent and I have to run to the other end of the airport (literally: I was on the corner of first level and had to run to the third level on the other end) with the phone on my ear to get to the lady doing the VIP check in.

Problem solved. After 1 hour Pal checks in. It's 7:50 and I have to get to Viña and be on Kleo's hotel at 9:15 to take her, the Swedes, Becky and another guy from the crew to the venue 'cause they want to see Kansas play on the show. We were running a little late, but that didn't keep me from making a stop in the highway's McDonald's for a bite. It was my first and only meal of the day.

We finally get to Viña, I'm 15 minutes late and Kleo is nowhere in sight. I looked all around the lobby for her, I called to her room. No answer. I waited a little more but I had to leave to the venue and see if they needed me, so I left Kleo a note with one of the guards telling her I was late and my phone number. I left and I was three blocks away from the venue when I get a call. It's Kleo. The guys were having dinner. I picked them up. We're walking into the venue and Kleo once again tells me how happy she is with me working with them. "If it was anybody else I'd be so nervous, but I trust you and I know you'll get things done." Relief! I asked her for a couple of A-Ha's new CDs and she said no problem, that she would give them to me the next day.

There were no private boxes available, but the same lady that gave me the box the first time I took them there let me have another one that was being used by some of the people that worked at the venue. I melted with "thank yous". Then the crew guy opens the refrigerator and immediately says: "We're gonna need more beer." Whatever...

Rebecca gets in the box and notices the crew guy and Becky are a little drunk and they're not being very nice to me. Before things got too tense we put them in a van and sent them back to the hotel. Rebecca stayed in the venue with me and said I didn't have to take shit from a crew guy and that I did more than I was supposed to do. Once again she said I'd done an amazing job, and that I really stood out from the rest of the production crew.

Yo mamma!!!!


I got up late again but not as late as the previous day. That day I started working with Daddy Yankee. First I had to get Kleo the ticket with Morten's downgrade money. Problem: the TV station paid for every ticket, and what they offered was a first class ticket, NOT the worth of the ticket. Meaning: if the ticket costs 100 bucks you get the ticket, not the 100 bucks. So I was the messenger. I met Kleo in her hotel, she was kinda in a rush, so I explained the situation really quickly to her. She wasn't pleased. She said "I'll talk to Rebecca." This people wanted to get the money and they couldn't. I said good-bye to Kleo and she gave me a quick, cold hug accompanied by a "thanks for all your help." That was it. No CDs, no smiles, nothing. When money gets in the way you see people's true colors. Maybe Kleo had a point, but she didn't have to take it out on me. Hate the message, not the messenger!

I was taking Daddy Yankee's people to the venue for their sound check when I get a call. I have to take the remaining crew from A-Ha to the airport. I said no fucking way. I told my producer, he learned they had been a little mean to me, and I asked him if it was really necessary for me to take them to Santiago. He said: "no fucking way."


I'm at the sound check, everything is going great, when I get a call from Kleo. She tells me the van went to the two other hotels and was already on her way to Santiago and it didn't pick her up. The driver was already turning to get her, but she just wanted me to know. I call the driver, ask him about the situation and he confirms: he's driving back to get her. A couple of hours later I get a call from the airport coordinator and she tells me everyone has checked in. I hung up, I raised my arms to the air, I threw my head back and screamed: "A-HA IS GONE!!" I got a round of applause.

Anyway, that was my experience with A-Ha.