"I'm with the band"—or how do you eat a steak n' cheese after 1 am?

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The man.  

In the years this site has been running, I've had many highlights. From beginning as graphic support and handed the reigns (still grateful for that Jim!), to developing a working relationship and friendship with Judy (soon to be referred to as Schemer 1) and then Billy. Going from a fan site to the official site when someone asked B to make another and he answered "I already have a site." Then seeing Billy's interest in the site grow to the point where he began contributing to it himself and giving me more responsibilities to tackle. It's been a series of highs for this fanboy–hooked ever since hearing the opening riff to Lonely Is The Night at age 11…back when radio stations played more than what was in the standard rotation.

Late last year, when word of a new tour came up, aside from being ecstatic at the possibility of seeing Billy rock again live, I asked if I could submit a design idea for a t-shirt. Shortly after getting an affirmative, I had knots in my stomach when I sent off my submission. After getting a reply of "Actually, I think this is...REALLY COOL!…It's a very unique idea (to me anyway)…This is definitely worth pursuing.", I was elated and, in March, work began in earnest to design Billy's tour merchandise. With many iterations and ideas back and forth…and new products seeming to come weekly, I didn't think it could get any better. I had a blast working on each design trying to come up with things Billy would like and what would be cool to see for me as a fan. With each new positive comment, my heart just leapt. This was the most fun design-wise I've had in years. That it also coincided with a busy time at my regular job where some good items were also being produced in which I was getting accolades was icing on the cake…even if it was chaotic from time to time.

Back to Schemer 1…and now Schemer 2 (also known as my wife). After giving much playful grief of there not being a more local show, I resigned myself to going to Atlantic City once again to see Billy, as we did for the Ringo shows, since this was the closest he'd be. Like many other fans, keeping my fingers crossed that he'd add more shows closer, I began to think about plans to go back to the Jersey shore…not knowing that plots had been developing behind my back since April.

I got a call from Judy on Wednesday, July 9th and for some stupid reason thought it was about a package I'd just sent out to her that morning. After it dawned on me that it was too quick for that call, it started to sink in what she was actually telling me and I was FLOORED! I had emailed her earlier in the week to see if any plans for the show had been solidified as I was anticipating Schemer 2 to start asking me questions regarding the trip. I being a 'go with the flow' kinda guy naturally married an "Anal Planner" and was surprised that she hadn't started asking about it yet. So I guess after that exchange it was decided to let the cat out of the bag.

As a thanks for all the work I'd put in over the last few months, Schemer 1 and 2 had arranged with my work for me to be off on Friday (unbeknownst to me) so that I could travel up to Big Flats, NY for that show. Better yet, once the show was over, I was to go with the band on the tour bus down to Atlantic City where I would then meet up with Schemer 2 again and enjoy a second show! All the while, I was given full access to be able to take as many photos for site (and other) uses as I could! Needless to say, as I waited in airports for flights to get me to Big Flats, the whole thing was still sinking in. All the while my schemer was proud that I never caught wind of any of this planning.

Anyways, enough with the rambling. Following are some notes from the weekend's events:

July 10, 2009
After a morning of airports and puddle jumpers…

Pre-show, had a nice chat with Billy. Proved to be sometimes comical as he was wearing noise reducing ear plugs. (Won't go into the why as to not offend anyone.)

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Final bow at Big Flats, NY.  

The show starts gearing up as the opening act ends. Various songs play through the sound system, including When She Comes To Me and Somebody Loves You. A few times I hear "Who's on in 15 minutes." At first I'm thinking its an Abbott and Costello 'Who's on first' type of act…hey it had been a long day. The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" starts playing through the speakers and the guys gear up to go on stage. The trek is made to the back stage area and they break off in groups to chat as the song winds down. Billy jogs a bit to get worked up. I take a few photos then go out front to get ready. There's a barricade between the front row of seats and the stage. Making it easy for me to shoot the band, but putting the crowd…mostly those not in a small seated section…back a distance. The opening drum beat to All Night Long starts and the band comes out. Billy starts out with the opening strings to my all-time favorite, Lonely Is The Night. I half expect him to launch into another song as has been his habit in shows through the years. I was delighted that he went into singing it and forgot to start shooting pics for a minute.

After the show, the guys had a band meeting, unwound then started to make their way over to the bus. Billy stated that he hoped I wasn't disillusioned by the reality of it. How could I be?! I was just happy to be soaking it all in. Before boarding, he handed me a cup, apologized that it was a bit watered down and stated that it was his summer drink and I was welcome to finish it off as he went over to sign autographs for about 30 fans who'd waited. One girl wanted him to sign her butt. He declined.

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"Dinner" on the bus.  
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Marc demonstrates how to eat in the early morning hours.  

Crack of dawn–July 11, 2009
The bus pulled in to the Hilton Hotel as the sun was rising. I stirred as it stopped and Billy and Mark were making their way forward. Billy stated "there's life in the bottom bunk" as I was getting out. Room assignments were slow-coming from the hotel but we eventually made into the hotel, seeing the advertisement for Billy's show right next to the main desk. I spent the morning resting up, getting breakfast, walking the boardwalk and beach…and waiting for Schemer 2. My wife got stuck in traffic, turning the normal 3-hour drive into 6! So I hung around until sound check and decided to go on over to see if it had started. As I left the lobby, low and behold, there she was chatting with the valet! Good timing. So we hurriedly took her bags up and made our way over to the theater. It was great to have her on board sharing the fun, even if it was later than planned.

After sound check, the Mrs. and I headed back up to the room to chill a bit before show time. We go back down with time to chat some more, meet Billy's agent and observe as some VIP ticket holders come back for their meet and greet. After a bit, we head out around the theater, the wife sits at the mixing board, I start to get ready, scouting positions for photos as the venue's seating is right up to the stage, it'll take more planning on my part to get shots. The music plays over the sound system and we await The Who.

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Who's on…ready for the intro.  

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"Mark's view" from stage right.  

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Chillin' after the show.  

Stayed around a bit after the show, Billy worried about Schemer 2 who was showing the effects of a long day in traffic followed by an exhilarating evening. The price you pay for keeping secrets…KIDDING honey! Billy signed a poster for the kids which they loved, but of course wanted a couple more things…order forthcoming. ;-)

Long after the crack of dawn–July 12, 2009
We took our time getting up and about on Sunday morning. It'd been an long weekend for the both of us. Housekeeping tried to come in twice while we were lounging around. Before we went out, we had one more visit with the gang.

To end, I'd just like to express my thanks to Billy and the boys, Schemers 1 and 2, the crew…all made me feel welcome and helped with a weekend I won't soon forget! It was a grand time, more than I could've thought. And don't worry Billy, I was far from 'disillusioned.' Thanks again.


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Schemer 2, B, and me (wearing a pretty cool t-shirt if I do say so myself).