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On the road to Cleveland

Wherein your site admin reports on traveling to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to see Stewart!

By sockii (Nicole Pellegrini)

May 4, 2005 (originally posted to the Ask Uncle Ian messageboard.)

My great Cleveland-in-three-days-or-bust trip began Monday, just a little before noon, when I boarded the train to Pittsburgh (7 hours). Though long, it was actually a fascinating ride across a state I've lived in for over ten years but never really seen much of outside of Philadelphia and its suburbs. Riding through Lancaster county and the Amish farms; heading through the mountains and into old industrial and coal-mining towns, it was quite an interesting experience. Much more interesting than cooling my heels five hours in Pittsburgh waiting for my connecting train, although some of the other characters hanging around the train station provided a fair amount of entertainment as well.

From Pittsburgh to Cleveland was another three hours or so, and it was 3am Tuesday morning when I finally staggered bleary-eyed into the lobby of the Hyatt. Part of a late-1800's shopping arcade, the building was very cool and the room an absolute steal! I'm not sure I ever looked forward to collapsing into a bed for a few hours as much as I did that night.

Conroy's flight was due in around noon so I cooled my heels around the hotel that morning, then we met up and had a quick bite for lunch before heading over to the Hall of Fame Museum. I really had no idea what to expect but the museum is quite overwhelming and could easily take several days to explore completely. Lots of old stage costumes, instruments, lyric notes...even old report cards! of everyone from Elvis to Devo. I paid my respects to a somehow surviving set of Keith Moon's "Patent British Exploding Drummer" tom toms; flashed back to my Duranie years in front of a large Duran Duran display; and we both laughed like crazy over a truly surreal Michael Jackson display where the legendary sequenced glove rotated around in a sealed plastic cylinder. (Unfortunately the guards were too close to try to get a picture of it!)

About 4 pm we headed back to the hotel for a quick break and a terrific meal at Frank and Pauly's--one of those old fashioned Italian joints where the portions are inhumanly huge, yet miraculously the food's actually quite good, too. After that the walk back to the museum was truly necessary to avoid falling into a food-induced coma, and we managed to get there just in time for the doors to reopen and secure a place at the front of the entry line. We noticed a table set up across the hallway from the auditorium and found out then that there would be an autograph session after the event. Could things get any better?

Seating was general admission, and we were able to get front-row center being at the front of the line. The auditorium seated around two-hundred people and it looked to be about half-full by the time 7 o'clock rolled along. I'm afraid I never caught the name of the host of the event, but basically this is an ongoing series of "Conversation" events they've been hosting with Hall of Fame inductees and those who have worked with them closely. The entire event was filmed, but I have no idea what they plan on doing with all of the footage--perhaps eventually make it available for viewing to museum visitors, or at least work it into their exhibits someday?

Anyway, he introduced Stewart, who came out on stage to be greeted very enthusiastically by the crowd. What followed was a nearly two hour discussion, about two-thirds of it led by questions from the host and the rest by questions from the audience. It would be impossible for me to summarize everything that was discussed, but it was terrific because the format and the amount of time allowed for much more insight and information than any magazine article or tv-interview "sound byte" ever could. Stewart talked a lot about the process of film/tv-scoring, and all of the behind-the-scenes work with everyone from the directors to the orchestras and the differences between working in that field and working within a band; there was a fair amount of discussion of The Police, Oysterhead, Animal Logic, and everything in between. It was all entirely fascinating and sometimes downright hysterical.

The audience was definitely made up of knowledgeable, enthusiastic fans who had good questions to ask. My question about the Police-Incubus hybrid ended up bringing on a rather lengthy and "energetic", shall we say, response from Stewart about the whole Hall of Fame itself, and the difference between when he, Andy and Sting played at the Induction ceremony versus playing at the Incubus gig. But in the end, he did say "All five of [Incubus] don't add up to one Sting."

He also talked enthusiastically about both his official and unofficial websites when someone asked about finding some of his hard-to-get releases and music. (Conroy and I helped him out with recalling the URL for Wombat's site, he he! So there might be some new folks checking out the site in the coming days.)

As the event drew to a close, Stewart got a standing ovation from the crowd, and then it was time to line up for autographs! They had a limited number of copies of Orchestralli available--the U.S. release which I believe is finally due out next month in the stores. Even though I have my Italian release version I decided to be a completist and get the U.S. release as well--and that way I had two things to get autographed, the cd and my Police purse (the one Conroy shot that lovely video of back in February in New York.)

The signing line moved along quickly but not unduly so--unlike many of the conventions and autograph events I've been to in my time, they allowed everyone enough time to say a few words with Stewart, get a photograph or two, and everything was very low-key and relaxed. Conroy and I were wearing our Dares t-shirt, which he had spotted during the talk on stage, so when it was my turn in the line Stewart asked for my on-line "handle" on the boards. Which he ended up recognizing because of my "dancing Police" avatar, of all things! The Hall of Fame photographer had to get a picture of my purse--I guess that means it's a part of fannish history now! Conroy and I swapped cameras for a few pictures, and I do hope I got at least one decent shot for Conroy considering my hands were a bit shaky from excitement (I think I look like I'm ready to explode with glee in my pictures.) We talked a little bit about his tour blogs and entries that he's posted on AUI and encouraged him that he really ought to consider collecting them all in a book someday, they make for such fun reading.

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On the way out, Conroy and I ended up talking with another fan, a woman who had made the trip from Detroit to see Stewart and was still literally shaking with excitement. "I've waited twenty-five years for this!" she said, and I could totally understand the way she felt. It's been near twenty years that I've been a fan of Stewart's, and for most of that all I'd ever hoped for was the chance to get to see him performing live someday. In a way, this evening was even more special--just a small group of "real fans" (and I don't mean that in a snobbish way, just in the sense that I think most folks there were there out of true love for Stewart's work and not just casual listeners) getting a chance to spend a few hours in conversation with one of our "heroes". It was well worth all the effort and last-minute frenzy to get there.

Anyway, it was around ten-thirty when all was said and done and Conroy and I returned to the hotel. My train was scheduled to leave at 12:45 in the morning, so I just grabbed a cab and headed over to the train station to try to "decompress." Of course, it ended up being 2am before the train actually arrived, and 4pm on Wednesday before I was back at home in Philadelphia. All told, over fifty hours on the road for a few hours seeing Stewart, but I definitely don't regret a thing! I'm just glad I decided to go for it, because who knows when something like this might happen again?

So thanks again Conroy for the company, and many thanks to Stewart for taking part in this event.

Have we got contact, you and me?

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