Nels Cline meets George Benson

May 9, 2007

I was thinking back on the past summer, and one story that didn't make this blog (probably beacuse it happened in early May, when I didn't even have a blog) was the day I introduced Nels Cline to George Benson.

I was in Chicago with GB to do a show with the Chicago Symphony - a bit of a perk for their big donors. Nels was there rehearsing for the Wilco tour and had the evening off, so we made a plan. Symphony gigs with GB are always a little ungainly, mostly due to the extra 90-100 persons chained to the band. But there are always culture clashes too, between the symphonic minsdset and the rock and roll touring mindset, as to how things are to proceed the day of the show.

First of all, the idea of a PA and monitors and a drumset and electric guitars on stage is anathema to the average symphonic musician. Therefore a lot of the time the regular musicians in the orchestra will send a sub to these lowly "Pops" shows, generally degrading the quality of the orchestra to some degree. There are major Union issues too, not only with the stagehands but the orchestra as well, pertaining to the length of the show (its' really hard to get GB to stick to a set list, which can potentially be a problem when you're trying to communicate on the fly in the middle of a show to 100 musicians just what's coming next), when the musicians get a break during the rehearsal during the day, stage volume levels, and the list goes on. In this case, I was most impressed with the musicians and the management of the Chicago Symphony - first class all the way.

The concert went well, nobody got hurt, and Nels made it backstage, where he was just beaming. I didn't realise what a huge influence George had been on him at some point along the way. GB never phones a gig in, and Nels was loving how he just went OFF on some thing during one of the last tunes in the show. I brought him back to GB's dressing room for a quick chat, and he was quite stoked to have met the man.