This was a trip that (like most of our trips this tour) almost didn't happen. But there we were, rolling up to the PAX terminal on base in Qatar at 5AM, bags packed and ready to go to play gigs at a few "undisclosed locations," for a week. We knew where we were going, but were strictly informed when we arrived that this is a truly undisclosed place that cannot be mentioned on any type of social media. As soon as we landed, we were able to get our pallet of gear off of the C130 we flew on, to where we would be playing the next day. All of the Airmen here were a HUGE help, making sure we got where we needed to go around the base. We spent most of the day getting settled into our tents. Yup, TENTS! These aren't your average camping style, pitched tents, but rather large, fully climate controlled units with bunk beds. As I write this, we are getting ready to set up for our first gig tonight, in a big insulated, hanger-type bulding. A nice size stage, and a great little bar with LOCAL BEER. WHAT?
Unfortunately, I don't have many pictures from the gig, but it was great! It seemed like the majority of the base came out and had a great time with us. We played two killing sets with alot of energy that night, and musically we are starting to stretch some things in some fun directions. Elle King's "Ex's and Oh's" has a keyboard solo that goes into a burning double time swing for our guitarist Matt, to blow over. We try to make sure that things don't get too out of hand, but those little moments keep all of us sane, playing many of the same tunes day after day here. For those who don't know, there was big news for the Air Force Band last week, when congresswoman Martha McSally (a retired AF Colonel) called us out as a career field, saying that "we need people to put down the tuba, and pick up a gun. We have hundreds of people playing tuba and clarinet," as she complained about the air force manning levels. Throughout this deployment so far, I have played well over 40 gigs; for local school kids, servicemen and women of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines, radio and TV, building and continuing our bond with our allies through music. All the while we have over 400 musicians in the Air Force bands on the homefront playing a combined 1,000 gigs a year for our own communities and veterans. And you want to tell me that we aren't needed? Food for thought...
Here is the link to the article if you are interested: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style/wp/2016/03/25/auto-draft
After the gig, we were able to take a tour of some "top secret" stuff around the base. If I could talk about it I would, but I will tell you that the men and women over here work around the clock to fight the bad guys and I got to see first hand some of the ways they do their "job." A once in a lifetime opprotunity to see what we saw. Sorry to be such a tease! A few days into our stay, we left our first location to trave a few hours by car to a second place, where we were to play a few gigs. Driving through the country, I noticed that it is very different from any country we have visited so far. One particular note is that we drove past a "refugee camp" where people have come to from a neighboring country that is in great turmoil right now. Add that to this list of "things I never though i'd see on the way to a gig."
Like I've mentioned before, part of our mission out here is to go into different offices and workplaces to play some music for those folks. A pretty cool one was for the EOD people. Explosive Ordnance Disposal is pretty much the Air Force version of a bomb squad, that handles un-detonated explosives using robots. We played a few songs for them, which they loved! They were kind enough to give us some insight into what they do, and we even got to play with the robots! Too cool.
Overall, a nice trip to a place I've never been. We are getting to the home stretch of this thing! As I write this, we are a few weeks out from when the next band arrives and we are on our way home.
Until next time!