The Fan Experience : Wes O’Neill meets Joe
The Fan Experience – Wes O’Neill
Hey guys, we’ve opened up a new section The Fan Experience where you guys are talking about your personal experiences with Joe Satriani. For the first time he have the testimony of Wes O’Neill, a huge fan from the UK who recently met Joe on 8 Nov, 2015 in his town Bristol for one of the last shows of the Shockwave Supernova Tour 2015.
You can email us if you have a fan experience about Joe you want to share with all the fans! But first, Wes has something to say…
The first time I met Joe Satriani in 2013, I was a nervous wreck.
There had been much build up to the event around me and by no small part in my own head; the fact that I was finally going to meet my favourite guitar player of all time, friends and my brother asking what I would ask him, mulling over what to take to be signed, my girlfriend asking me 2 months prior if I had picked out what to wear and bizarrely a film crew on my street that tried to stop me getting in my flat after work to get ready to go…
And in this modern age, the cardinal sin; driving other friends insane on social media by posting a countdown of some description to said event every week or so.
C’mon now, give me a break, we all do it. Yes, you do, don’t deny it. We will all continue to do it for anything we feel a special event that we are enthralled about. We shouldn’t really make any apology for it as we are fans, an army of footsoldiers that are proud to support those who move us and inspire us. All is forgiven, as we are all just as guilty as each other of it. That being said, if you’re one of my friends reading this, I’m not apologising and neither should any of you, but can I be unblocked now please?
In the end due to the undeniable unstoppable momentum of overthinking such an opportunity, I was only able to ask how the tour was going, mumble a thank you for his music over the years, for meeting me and have him sign a backplate from my JS1000. I remember smiling awkwardly when having a picture taken with him. It was over in a flash, even faster than one of Joe’s famed pick tap passages.
It was great to finally meet him and shake his hand (I have the picture framed in my lounge and it was my social media profile picture for some time after) but I vowed to myself that the next time would be different and more memorable.
The first time I heard Joe was watching a VHS tape (remember those?) of his Seville Expo 92 set. I was instantly blown away and that initial feeling will never escape me. It’s like a pilot light on an old gas boiler, always burning, always on to ignite a larger flame. The way he played, how he got those sounds out of his guitar, his guitar and the jacket he wore with the metal ring holes, I wanted all of that. It was all so mythical, other worldly, exciting and gripped me. I eventually bought an Ibanez JS1000 BTB, but in hindsight it was a good thing I didn’t get the jacket as I have always lacked “fashion sense” even at the best of times.
November 8th 2015 at the Colston Hall in my hometown Bristol was the stage for the Meet and Greet once again. The format was to be different to my first one. On that occasion we had had a tour of the stage, I got to meet Joe’s tech Mike Manning (who jokingly asked for £5 for a photo with him – yet people starting getting their wallets out to pay!) and have a look around his guitars, pedalboard and amp set up. The first rule was that you weren’t allowed to touch any gear. Or borrow any. Or steal any for that matter as that would mean you had broken the first rule of Meet and Greet. This time, it was to be a straightforward wait patiently for your time to be called up whilst sat in a few rows of seats in the auditorium.
With just over 30 of us fans there, it feels a little strange. You are all there for the same reason and there is a palpable excited tension in the air. I chatted a little with a chap sat to the left of me who had not met Joe before but had met Steve Vai in Bristol a couple of years ago…with only 5 others at the meet and greet with Steve spending 45 minutes with them chatting and Steve answering questions. I made a mental note that I should do that in future.
Jay, who was to be the man introducing us to Joe, announced he was there to be the go between and when he returned he would be walking in with Joe. After a short time, Jay and Joe strolled into the auditorium. A large applause bounced around the room with Joe waving his hand, looking around and beaming a genuine smile at all of us as he walked relaxed but purposely down the aisle to the front of the stage. The time had come.
First up was a young teenage lad with spiky hair and his JS guitar to be signed. You could see how excited he was grinning away, yet he sat calmly playing his guitar before being called up. This instantly appealed the grumpy old man in me that the youth of today do have taste in music after all and what a good role model that young lad has in Joe. As it turned out, he was invited to watch the encore from the side of the stage and I was genuinely pleased for him. If that had been me at his age, I’m not sure I’d of been that cool. I’m sure he was just as enamoured by the experience as I was when I first saw Joe play on that VHS tape and that he’ll never forget it. After a few people and seeing others enjoy their meet, it was my turn.
Jay asked where I was from and we talked about how the tour was going. He made fun at the Fender tee shirt I was wearing asking “What about Ibanez?” I explained that it’s a daily torture at home for my girlfriend as my preferred guitar is my JS and I play through a JVM410HJS Marshall head (so versatile!) to which he replied with a grin on his face “Well, in that case, you can stay and we won’t have to call security.”. Soon enough, by Jay’s fanfare “…and here’s Wes!”
This meeting is one that I remember in vivid and lucid detail unlike my first. My Father once told me in my early teenage years before I made a phone call to a girl I was attempting to woo, “You can’t plan any conversation as you never know how someone will respond to what you may say.” I didn’t listen to him then and made a trainwreck of a phone call.
“Hi Joe, it’s great to meet you again.” whilst we shook hands and Joe smiled, tilted his head slightly at me with a narrow glimmer of recognition in his eyes “Hi Wes. Ah, you were here 2 years ago, thanks for coming again, how you are you?”. The Joe that we’ve all seen in interviews over the years instantly shone through. The man that is humble, appreciative of fans and positive in all that he does. Any shred of nervousness I had was instantly washed away.
I had asked my Father prior to pick out a decent bottle of red wine for me as a gift to Joe with it being his 60th Birthday next year. Passing the gold package (yeah, I know it should’ve been silver, my bad) to Joe, “You’re 60 next year right?”… Now, some may think this was bold move, some will think that it’s a nice thing to do and I’m sure many more would be surprised he’s still at the top of his game at such an age, not that 60’s old Joe in case you read this. Some of you reading may also think it’s a bit weird, but to me it was the least I could do as a mark of respect to a man that has provided me with such joy, inspiration and fun over the last 23 years.
“Yeah it’s coming around the corner!” Fortunately, Joe nodded, laughed and smiled.
Passing the poorly chosen coloured package to Joe, “My Father was 60 last year and I had him pick this out for you by way of congratulations and thanks so this is an early present for you. A small way of saying thanks man.”. “Oh wow Wes! Thank you so much.” whilst pulling the bottle out of the package “Thank your Father for me too as this looks like a good one. I’ll enjoy this.” I jokingly apologised for my oversight of the packaging and assured him next time it’d be silver.
When you meet and talk with someone new or who you haven’t with much before, what do we talk about? I’m sure over the years Joe has been asked all the questions there are regarding gear, technique, playing et al. All of us guitar geeks have read all the articles and watched countless YouTube videos and know some of them by heart. In a split second I thought ‘F*** guitar talk Wes, we know people in common.’ Those of you who have studied psychology will know this to be a method to draw attention away from oneself when meeting people. Sure, that may have played some part, but as a result we had a normal conversation instead of me being shy, looking at the ground to not make eye contact and stumbling over my words as I did the first time.
In May of this year I had seen his support act Dan Patlansky play a local venue, The Thunderbolt (get out and support your small local venues as they’re the training ground for bigger gigs fair readers), so I mentioned this. For my fellow guitarists, if you haven’t heard of Dan, be afraid as he’s rather special. Joe was enthused at how well Dan had been received by the audiences on tour and that Dan was “Really great, killing it every night”.
In 2010 Simon McBride (again, fellow guitarists, you need this man’s music in your life and do catch him live as you’ll leave inspired by his playing and great band) supported Joe on tour. By way of me getting out to his gigs at venues across the country regularly, Simon has since become a friend and occasional teacher of mine. When I said this to Joe, “Ah cool! Simon’s a great guy, cool player, do give him best and say hey for me.”. I sent Simon a text message shortly after the meet to which he replied simply “Cool”. After all, he tends to speak more with his guitar as does our man Joe.
I had taken along my copy of Joe’s autobiography ‘Strange Beautiful Music’ to have signed. As a fan and Guitar Tutor at dBs Music college in Bristol, it’s far more an interesting read than the all too often cliched tales of debauchery, break ups, drug use and high jinx. It’s human and a real insight into Joe’s playing, recording of albums, tours, passion and career that reads as if he’s sat there in your lounge telling you in person over a beer. I had already passed this to Joe and he prised it open as I asked him to personalise it to me. I fortunately have several items signed by Joe around the house from the last meet and greet and other online competition wins, but this is now the one I treasure the most.
“Make it to Wes, spelt the same as Wes Montgomery?” to which I grinned “Absolutely man.”. The inside is now scribed ‘To Wes. Thank you!’ and signed off with his inimitable squiggle. As we were turning around for the obligatory photo to be taken, I asked a question which us fans are keen to know but never get the answer we want to hear. “So, what’s the word on Chickenfoot…” to which Joe laughed with a confused look on his face and shrugged “Sorry man, I’m sure you’ve been asked that a lot!”. Joe laughed again, nodded and with his beaming smile again…
“I don’t know man, we sure would love to get it going again.”
“I saw you guys at Brixton a few years ago – my girlfriend, best buddy and I were right up front. Was such a cool and crazy gig, like a big party man, really glad we got to see you guys, one of the best gigs I’ve been to.”
“Yeah, Brixton was probably the coolest gig we’ve played, great crowd and vibe all night. And I’m not saying that ‘cos you were there. We all remember that one.” This gives me some hope that the mighty Chickenfoot will return to stomp their authority down once again with their big foot on the gas.
Before you meet Joe, you pass your camera/phone to one of his team who take a few pictures of you together. As mentioned earlier, I have a framed picture of the first time we met, but the picture from this occasion I far prefer. I put this down to being far more relaxed and that it was taken in front of the stage…Joe was also not wearing his trademark Oakleys this time.
Saying thanks once again and shaking Joe’s hand I wished him well for the last couple of nights where Joe put his hand on my shoulder “Thanks again for coming, good to see you again Wes. Take care.”. Picking up my bag one of Joe’s team had put aside for me whilst meeting him, I walked away with a huge grin on my face. I felt light footed and an instant satisfaction that I had spent a few bars of quality time with Joe. Happy that I hadn’t made a fool of myself, but crucially more content that we had had a conversation which to me felt like we knew each other a little and still does when I look back on it.
Needless to say when I met my friends in a pub after, I was bouncing around like a kid who had just been given the best present for all Christmas’s combined. My friends were all stoked for me as I regaled them with the tale and showed them my VIP laminate which I wore proudly all evening and Joe had also signed as it hung around my neck. The picture of Joe and I was put onto social media without delay with the comment ‘Cool to meet and chat with this cat again.’. As all good friends do, they ribbed me for being a “fan boy” but very much understood what meeting Joe again meant to me.
As for the gig, there are plenty of reviews of it out there for you to read. It was a very strong yet balanced mix of new tracks from Shockwave Supernova, fan favourites and a couple of very cool rarely performed songs thrown in. Joe and the band were on fire for just over 2 hours and the amount of energy they had 2 nights towards the end of the European tour was superhuman. True talented professionals intent on on providing an incendiary show. It was clear they were all enjoying themselves as much as the audience were. As you can see from the pictures, I had bought the Ultimate Meet and Greet VIP Package so I had a seat in the front row, right in the middle. Right by where Joe and I had chatted before.
I had seen Joe play 5 times before, but never this close. Tantalisingly close that I could immerse myself, study, taste and feel every bend, trill, whammy bar dive and blur of fingers racing up and down the neck. I’m glad I took along my Planet Waves ear protection and I recommend anyone who is seeing him at forthcoming gigs to do so as these cats are LOUD! All too quickly the show was over and I walked out with my friends wholly satisfied having gotten my buzz on. Sat at my kitchen table writing this a week on, wearing the venue specific tee shirt that was part of the package and sipping coffee from a non official Joe Satriani emblazoned mug I bought on eBay 10 years ago, it has sent shivers down my spine and made me smile a great deal.
For those of you wondering if it’s worth the money to meet the man? Absolutely. Is the experience one that you’ll never forget? Very much so. But having met him twice, would I do it again?
Yes. In a heartbeat.
In fact, faster than Joe can play on a bad day…and should he have one, the audience would never know.
And you, have you also have a fan experience with Joe you want to tell to all fans? Submit your story!