Well Vai academy is over, and I've had time to let it all sink in. I figured I would write down my thoughs and feelings and such.
It started off as a hectic weekend. I had final exams for a whole week, and that weekend before that Monday was even more hectic. I had rehearsal for a show Saturday, then a concert at the Count Basie that Sunday (I had to pack In between that) and that Monday was my last final exam. I had to rush through the exam to have my dad pick me up early, and we were on the road by 12. It took 3 and 1/2 hours to get there, meanwhile I'm anxious as fuck because I know in a short hours I'm going to be with Steve and the campers and a TON of other stuff. I had not mentally prepared myself, I had only found out four days before that Monday that I was going and I only had a few hours of non busy thought to think about it. So the car ride there was HELL. I was going to meet Steve, I was going to meet Steve, I was going to JAM with Steve, I was going to talk to Steve, I was going to talk to 150+ other people. I was going to talk to Steve.
Eventually, an hour away from Gideon Putnam, I finally calmed myself down and was peaceful because I realized it was only going to be fun and exciting. I was there to learn and absorb the advice and knowledge that all the artists had, and that's what I took with me. I had brought my friend with me, and we were going to meet up with another friend while there.
So we arrive at the
Gideon Putnam and I'm confused about how everything is going to work (it was magnificent by the way, beautiful and surrounded by nature). As I walked in, I saw this huge line of people all looking confused in a way, and my friend and I found our other friend and joined the line. I met a lot of people in the line from the Academy Attendees Facebook page. While standing in the line we were all talking and stuff, and I had convinced myself that I was calm, and was just going to let the universe decide everything... Until Steve walked by. He walked by fast and I had my back turned and nobody noticed. I just took that time to turn around to say something to someone about a guitar and he was a foot away from me. It hit me like a train and all I could (well scream) was "OH MY GOD". He walked by and I don't even think he heard it, most people didn't even see him, and I was so pissed at myself for being a little fan girl and being so shocked like that. He just looked so... Wierd. It's kind of hard to describe. After so long of watching interviews and videos and such, and four years of him having been my guitar hero, I was just so suprised to just see him. He's such a tall guy and no video can capture what it's like to have Steve standing next to you. Anyway, I got my goodie bag, checked in, got my lanyard, and went to my friends room to put my bag and two guitars there. I then walked by myself down to a large room set up with a bunch of chairs, cameras, and a big stage thing with a couch and a table. On the way there, I saw guthrie holding some shit (probably his guitar) and walking in the same direction (I then saw guthrie like 10 more times in various hallways and never got to say anything because I was always going places, I did eventually catch him in front of the entrance where I said hi and got a picture). Guthrie is a funny story- literally the most diverse guitarist that ever lived, the most technically advanced and accomplished player, and it's very awkward for him when people say anything nice about him, to him. Like, he's so humble that when I said that he is such a good player and that I love his music, he just shook his head smiled like he didn't know what to say. GREAT guitar played, even greater guy! Anyway, We sat down in the room, ten minutes later, Billy the director comes in and introduces himself, and tells us what will be going on. 5 mins later, Steve walks in with his iphone recording, and the room explodes. The rest is a blur until he sits down on the couch and explains what we will be doing the week. Then he answers some questions (some from my friend about quantum harmonic vibrations, to which Steve said to him "son, you've been watching too much internet porn"). After the questions he exits, I went with my friends back to the room to grab my guitar, and went back outside the doors to the room with the chairs. I met a lot of cool kids there, some from other countries and such, and we were all sharing our guitars and such. Then we saw a pair of open doors at the end of the hall, so we went down to find... A big room with a stage, Steve's rig, and guthrie sound checking with Thomas Nordegg taking a video. I had a major bitch attack realizing that Thomas Nordegg was there, along with Steve's guitars. Then we left the room because we didn't want to be annoying lol. Somewhere in between all of that, Steve walked by and I finally said in a cool and calm, passing voice "hi Steve" and he goes oh hi Kyle, and walked away. I nearly had a heart attack because I had never introduced myself. I had no notation of my name anywhere, maybe the fact that I had sent him a letter and had talked to him a week earlier on a chat at Vai.com (when I said I would probably be going to Vai academy, and I also asked him why he didn't play FLO anymore, which may have been the reason he brought it in the first place, because he realized he didn't use it much).
After the cocktail party was dinner, and I went for five minutes and ate abhorrently fast. In the line for food I spotted Thomas Nordegg and I asked for a picture- it was the wrong thing to do because I had a guitar and plate in both hands, so I tried to get my phone and Thomas took my plate of noodles so I could get my camera lol. I took probably the most awkward photo of Thomas' career. I then thanked him, and ran off to get back to the performance room to get prime standing spots for the the jams. The doors were closed and I walked in and there was only one guy there, I asked if I could come in and he goes yeah why not. I walk in and saw two of Steve's guitars, FLO III, and one I didn't recognize sitting on a chair. I couldn't tell what guitar it was, so I kept looking knowing it wasn't evo, and it was no other backup, until it hit me that it was FLO. Now, FLO is my favorite Vai guitar and I had wanted to play it forever. So I had another bitch moment. I asked Thomas when he walked in if I could get on the stage to just take a picture and not touch anything.
More people start coming in and I became extremely excited. I got a front spot on the left side of the stage (when looking at it). Steve comes in, played racing the world, and had people jam at the end (my friend was first, and he has an Afro so Steve was making pick jokes the whole time). He jammed with more people, stopping to give us lessons about quieting the mind, and he would play one chord and have us just listen, and see how many times the mind would enter and start judging. Anyway, two hours in he asks what song we want to hear, and I immidiatley knew people were going to want building the church.
Now I had an idea before I even walked through that door, to ask Steve to play building the church at some point. So people start changing building the church and I'm two feet away from Steve so I go "hey Steve, I can play it". So he goes "ok come on up, do you know the rhythm part". To which I said "no, it's down tuned and I don't know it" so he said "ok just play along". He goes "do you want to play one of my guitars" and he said "oh wait you'll probably want FLO ( in the video him asking me was cut out, originally I got FLO III but he then got me FLO, he knows me so well
)" Meanwhile, I was playing through an amp that was maybe 5 watts with hardly any gain, and literally no sustain. So Steve starts playing the song... And so do I. Being up there an playing it, I can't even remember what happened. So flos strap is do far down I can barely play, and there was no gain, and somehow I managed to play most of the right notes. I remember just looking back at him and feeling this rush of like "I'm playing with Steve vai". Looking back on the video I have of it, at all the times a hard part of the song came he would look at me and I wouldn't even notice, and I would play it right, and he would smile and like shake his head or he would look all suprised and stuff. That was apparently a good first impression (I hope)
So the song ends, and we jam around to the ending of BTC, and I can't remember what happened after that. Halfway through the first day nothing felt real, I was jus drifting mentally confused at where I was and what I was doing. Steve Vai is his own form of drug guys
After the jams Steve goes "I'm gonna stop playing now and let the jams ensue, I'll stay around and listen". So he takes his guitar off everyone started talking and I jump up to the stage (everyone was hopping up into the stage at various times, it was in no way something you weren't supposed to do. Something Steve said was that this was very casual, and to feel at home and calm) and I asked him if I could play his guitar and rig and he says "oh if course" so the band and my friends break out into hey joe and here I am playing through Steve's rig. You can see the video of my solo here, it was wierd improvising knowing Steve was watching somewhere. After the jam I took off his guitar and walked off the stage and went up to Steve and just gave him a handshake which said everything I couldn't say because I was smiling like an idiot, and he said something I couldn't hear but it was probably good because he was smiling too (I hope). Anyway, after all the jams it's about 11 and my friend and I are going back up to the room because my dad was coming to get me (I was staying at another hotel) and we were waiting by the elevator, then Steve walks over and is just waiting there. So he said that I was really good and that he was really impressed, meanwhile I must have had the biggest fucking grin you've ever seen. So we took the elevator up with Steve and he's joking around and pretending to trip and stuff for the minute we were in that elevator lol. He gets off at his spot and we said bye, I got my guitar and my friend and I talked all deep and shit because it was just in the air. I get my guitars and such, and went back to the performance room because I had left a guitar there. Jams are still happening on the stage and I got up and played steves rig again, this time for voodoo child. I gave a very emotional solo but I didn't get a recording of it though. Funny thing is though, Thomas Nordegg had been up since like 7 and it was about 12 at night, and he was still there rocking along with us and watching. During my solo, I was playing fast and being a douche on FLO III, and Thomas takes his phone and started recording me. Then I broke out into a round of the "windmills" which is the circle thing you do with the whammy bar with the sustainer on. Then the song ended, and I had to leave. That night I was so euphoric I just fell asleep with the greatest happiness ever.
Over the next few days, there were sessions of many different curriculums, all if which I don't want to detail because it was very personalized, and it feels almost like a special private thing all is attendees hold with us. When it came to writing a song, there's still a bit of a secret with it. Anyway, we got to see Steve in the greatest moments. He really opened up. He told us stories (funny ones but you didn't pay for it, so you can't hear them
) and he showed us his iphone and all the singing he does into it when he has an idea. He showed us the first incarnation if cream sickle sunset. Anyway, he writes the song, and then he gets the band to get it right. He beat Jeremy over the head, it took about three hours for it to be built and the bands parts recorded. Steve's writing is hell on Jeremy, adding and subtracting stuff. They all messed up so many times (including Steve, he messed up a lot, which is almost the most inspiring thing about it, he's just a normal guy). Anyway it's finally recorded, and we then started the parts he made for us.
Something has to be said for 37 amps playing the same part at the same time. There is no way to describe it. It sounded so amazing, it was the most filling, overwhelming sound, it's literally an orchestra that invades your mind and hits you with it's brilliance. The parts were recorded over 2 hours of work, and it was a lot of work to try to get everyone to play it right. I don't want to give too much away! You'll hear it.
I just want to take a minute to talk about Thomas Nordegg. This man is the most dedicated, energetic, amazing person who ever lived. He was up from 7 in the morning until 1 in the morning, constantly doing something and working. He was so eager to talk to me about anything or answer any questions, he let me touch and play vais guitars, he would even show me new stuff he had been looking at (including the new antaris equipped guitar on his laptop, videos and pictures never before seen of Steve playing it). I hung around his station probably 30% of the time I was there. He was always so energetic and polite. I was practically friends with him by the time Vai academy was over, he gave me his number and email so well be keeping in touch. Funnily enough, Many times I was with Thomas and someone would put their hands on my back trying to get by and I would be like, " what the fuck, who the hell do you think you are, who grabs peoples backs and practically massages them with they're big ass hands... Wait..." aaaaaaaand there's Steve Vai trying to get to behind the stage, always smiling, always smiling. Often times I would just be like "oh, uh hey Steve". I'm glad I didn't say anything while I didn't know it was Steve, and it happened like 5 times and I never learned, but it sure was a shock to see him right there.
I just have to mention Ruta Sepetys, I won't get Into what she said because I'll butcher any amount if personality her words held, but she was almost the most inspirational thing there. Here personality and the energy she gave off was internally enlightening, I've learned a lot about her. I remember she was just sitting in a room with a bunch of attendees cheering and screaming over the World Cup on TV (this was before her presentation and I was like "isn't that Ruta Sepetys, Steve's old manager?") and I thought "wow she seems like a great person". She was. I sent her an email, so hopefully I'll be able to ask her some questions that I had but wasn't able to ask due to time.
It was so emotional. We became such good friends with eachother as the participants and every moment was inspired, we felt like the only people in the world. I saw Steve maybe 50+ times in hallways and stuff, and it just became so normal. I didn't bother him, I didn't have any need to. There was such a peace and euphoric sense that I couldn't think about anything. Everything just made sense. Anyway, last day, were all feeling kind of sad. The days went by so fast, yet so slow at the same time. Thinking back to the first day was like thinking back a year before, yet thinking back to how fast they went by felt like no time.
We all got a time to line up during the middle of the last day to get stuff signed and a picture, and I go up to the table and I just thanked Steve for having the camp and giving so much knowledge, And for allowing me and all of us to be a part if the human condition and I meant it all. Then Steve said something to me about me I don't exactly understand yet so I'll keep that to myself until I do understand it, but I just know on my way back to the performance room I almost broke down in tears because it was kind of overwhelming. I'll think about it some more and a lot, and it will probably stay with me forever.
The last day, Steve was obviously sad about leaving too, he was extremely genuine and emotional here , I think he feels like we were all friends in the end. The last jam was sad yet elated. Steve gave his closing comments and it was very emotional, we were all feeling it in our chests and then an attendee presented him with a guitar- signed by all of us and with a few comments. He looked so touched and said it was probably the most charming guitar he's seen in a while. That gave him a burst of energy to play he audience is listening and then whispering a prayer... And then play for three and a half more hours jamming (poor Jeremy and Phil). Steve was finally done, and we all cheered and screamed and gave him an ovation. After, we were all hanging out and people started going to the bar. I played FLO and FLO III one last time and said my farewells (to the guitars
) I hung out with Thomas and offered to help pack stuff up with him. After that, I left and went to the bar with the guys (don't worry I didn't drink anything
) and we hung out outside by a fire and talked until like 4 in the morning
I will post pictures and stuff and links to vids if me jamming with Steve, just give me a few days to do it.
Overall- you'll be able to buy the DVD they shot if it, and definitely go next year if you can- it's amazing and worth it. And this is half of my paycheck for the summer, so I'm not just saying that. Alright thanks guys!
I didn't say much about the actual classes, or about the other artists, because it was really something I would butcher and my commentary on it would compromise any integrity to you that seeing it on the DVD may have. I talked a lot about myself and talked a lot about Steve because anything else like the classes themselves seems wrong to talk about.