The dudes in the fourth row

Skid-Row-b_w-2013 Before I boarded the plane, while I sat daydreaming about someone beautiful who’d recently flown into my orbit, I saw them. They looked like musicians without a doubt. You know, the ones who fly economy to perform at little gigs, with low ticket prices, across the land.

Half an hour before I’d changed my seat selection at the last minute to be in the fourth row. As close to the front of the plane as possible – even though statistically you’re more likely to die if the planes crashes – but I’m getting much better at not imagining my imminent demise every time I board a flight these days.

Anyway, my aforementioned fantasising meant I boarded late. I didn’t even look to see who I was seated next to until after I’d safely stowed my bright yellow cabin baggage. It was then I realised that I was to be seated in-between two of the earlier-spied musicians. One of whom was wearing a heavy leather jacket in the hot Queensland autumn. The only thing that Queensland has in common with autumn in many countries around the world is that we too call it autumn. There the similarities end because autumn should not continue to feature weather in which one can sweat from walking only slightly too briskly, just saying.

So I tapped the leather-clad muso seated in the aisle on the shoulder and pointed to the empty seat beside him. He smiled and stood. The other guy by the window remained transfixed by his iPad as he attempted to download the in-flight entertainment app whilst wearing sunglasses inside and a black bandana.

I made myself comfortable and looked around. I realised I was in the midst of about 10 equally devious-looking musicians – most with American accents. The man to my left was still struggling to download the app so I helpfully told him that you needed to do it before boarding the plane. He smiled weakly, tiredly even, and then laid his head against the wall and fell fitfully asleep.

About 15 minutes later, after we were safely at cruising altitude, my curiosity – and my journalistic instinct – got the better of me. To the leather-laden man on my right, I stated the fairly obvious. “So you’re in a band?” “Yes,” he replied. “Are you on tour?” I asked. “Yes, we just played last night,” he said. “What sort of music do you play?” I asked. I was expecting him to say death metal but he said “hard rock” instead.  I was wearing my favourite brown hipster flared cords, and a paisley-looking top so stating the bloody obvious yet again, I said “I’m more into folk.” Then I innocently asked, “What band are you in? I probably won’t know it.”

“Skid Row,” he replied.  I wasn’t expecting that. Not in the slightest. And I did know that band. But unlike one of their famous songs (so I was to learn) clearly I didn’t remember them at all.

So it came to be that I spent time on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney talking to the drummer from Skid Row. A very nice bloke called Rob Hammersmith (that’s him on the right) who lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and child. We talked about the music industry in the 21st Century, about the band, about living a creative life and about Australia.  I came to understand his touring schedule and why they fly economy and end up seated next to nosey journalists who don’t have a clue who they are.

I ordered a cup of tea while he drank water. He offered to put my name on the door of their Sydney show that night. I thanked him for the offer, but said it probably wouldn’t be my scene while also pointing to my flares which would likely be the polar opposite styling to what the rest of their audience would be wearing.

As a journalist we’re trained to treat everyone we interview the same. This goes for the prime minister or the cleaner. Each of these people has a valid story to tell and we have the privilege of listening to, and interpreting, it. That is something of which I will never tire.

As the plane taxied to the terminal, we finished our hour-long chat and bid each other a safe, happy journey. We were just two people of a similar age trying to live a creative life. Sure one of us was in a famous band, but when it came down to it we both were committed to making our passion our livelihood – with or without the international superstardom.

Postscript: I learned that the man asleep by the window was seemingly the singer and quite famous. One of my friends pointed out that in times gone by, perhaps even today still, girls would’ve crawled over broken glass to get near him. But I guess even famous dudes have trouble with apps sometimes.

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