>Excellent job, guys! I’m a friend of Mark Weinstein’s (the original vai.com webmaster), and I do have to thank Mark for one of the best nights of my life. I attended the May ’96 Z-Rock show in Detroit, the one Mark broadcast over the Net, after which Mark, my friend & I all hooked up. He was able to get us passes for the “meet & greet” thing after the show, which was nice, but I was really hoping (with Mark’s connections) to just sit and hang out with Steve. But, I took what I could get, right? We were going to grab a bite, so we followed Mark back to the Doubletree Hotel where they were all staying. My friend & I waited in the lounge while Mark went to change.
Sitting in the lounge was Chris Frazier (Steve’s drummer at the time). We struck up a conversation until Mark arrived. Soon afterward, a couple of the other guys from the band joined us, and finally Mr. Vai entered the room. Now, I have been awestruck by this man for the last 13 years – I’ve read every article about him, played as many of his tunes as possible in high school bands (even the Alcatrazz stuff), plastered my room with photos – you know, the whole neurotic fan thing – and here he was standing right next to me! Mark introduced us, and I did my best NOT to act like the “neurotic fan”. The left side of my brain was saying “Don’t bug him, he just got off stage, let him unwind and hang with his friends, he has heard a million times before how awesome he is, he’s just another guy, don’t embarrass yourself.” But, the right side of my brain was racing “OH MY GOD, I’M SITTING HERE WITH STEVE VAI, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, I HAVE TO PEE”. As he does onstage, offstage he commands attention. He’s just got this way about him that makes you feel comfortable and long for the next word that escapes his mouth. He broke into stories about the last time he drank a certain brand of whiskey, and how he and David Lee Roth were projectile vomiting all over the back of a limousine. We were in stitches. Then he asks who’s going out to eat. Of course we responded. A big group of us went over to Greek Town in downtown Detroit. I live in northern Michigan, and try not to go downtown (because I’m afraid of bullets), but Steve just walked confidently down the street. That always stuck out in my mind, like “wow, this guy is untouchable”.
Anyway, we get to the restaurant, and I was playing musical chairs in my head. Willing to use physical force if needed, I was going to sit right across from Steve. As it turned out, I didn’t need to hurt anyone. I sat there for about 2 hours, right across the table from my idol, while he told tour stories in a very animated manner. Now, there have been many article written about Steve, suggesting he is “out there” or “lager than life” – sort of inaccessible like a Michael Jackson figure – but I found him to be one of the nicest, most generous, down to earth people I’ve met. Heck, he paid for my dinner. I kept pretty quiet through out dinner and let him talk, until he started talking about the Alcatrazz days. He was talking about how none of the fans knew that Yngwie had been replaced. So, while he was waiting at the side of the stage at the first gig, the whole crowd is chanting “Yngwie, Yngwie!”. He said “So, I walk out (this little twig) and nobody clapped, but nobody left”. That’s when I spoke up and said – “Well, that was probably the first time anyone saw somebody tap out arpeggios” – Steve got this confused look on his face, and said “How did you know about that?”. That’s when I divulged how big of a fan I was. I told him that I saw it in the live Alcatrazz video. He said “No kidding, you have that!”. I said “Oh yeah! And I’ve got this, and this….” It was so cool. After dinner, we all walked back to the hotel. Steve and I talked about gear the whole way back. We walked by a parked car, and the alarm went off – Steve looks at me and starts waving his hand over his butt (like he cut one and it set the alarm off). (You had to be there!) We got back to the hotel and said our goodbyes.
If you’re reading this Steve – I want to thank you so much for that night. You probably don’t realize what that night meant to me, but if you remember how you felt the first time you met Frank – that is the same gift you gave to me that night. Thank you. You are not only an amazing guitarist, but an amazing man as well. Keep up with the inner journey.
PS: How much do I owe you for dinner?