The life of a touring musician is one that is often full of bizarre and surreal encounters. Between hanging out with methed-out truckers while you eat pancakes during 4am pit stops, to the VIP events you attend because you're "in a band", traveling around the world and playing music will supply you with plenty of crazy stories to tell your grandkids (and blog readers). Often times, these encounters include rubbing elbows with the most random of celebrities in even more random situations. Like my drunken 4th of July in Malibu with Don Johnson and Anthony Kiedis or having Maria Sharapova turn up at my gig at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. Out of all of the crazy and unexpected things that have taken place while on the road, a certain night in San Francisco remains the most incongruous.
It was 2006 and my band, The Rinse, was in the middle of a West Coast tour. We were scheduled to play San Fransisco on a Friday night and our manager, Peter Asher, decided that he'd fly up from LA for the weekend to attend the show and stay with his good friend who lived in the city. Well, it turns out Peter's good friend was comedic legend, Robin Williams.
As we were soundchecking for that show, my cell phone rang and it was Peter, telling us that Robin wanted to come out to the gig and asked if we could also put him on the guest list. Sure. NO BIG DEAL. Now, it's not like we were playing The Fillmore and could reserve some box seats for Robin and Peter. We were playing a rather intimate (small and disgusting) hipster/rock club in the seedier side of San Fran. A place that made the bathrooms at CBGBs seem like they belonged in The Four Seasons. I walked up to the heavily tattooed door guy and told him to jot down those two names on the guest list. At first he laughed at me. "Robin Williams? Coming to this shit hole on a Friday night??" I assured him it was true.
Fast forward six hours later. I hit the final crash of our encore and stumbled off the stage, a sweaty mess, looking for the nearest bottle of water (or beer). As I entered the green room, I saw Peter and another man whom I never thought I'd meet, let alone be shaking hands with in a dingy club. "Ryan, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Robin." Like he needed to tell me his name. He told me that he enjoyed the show and said he hadn't been to a club like this in years. We continued to chat for a few minutes until we were interrupted by the stage manager. "The DJ needs to set up his turntables. Can you move the drums off of the stage?" Apparently this rock club turned into a dance club at the stroke of midnight.
Before I could answer, Robin transformed into a character that I had never seen on TV or in his movies. It wasn't "Mork", or "Mrs. Doubtfire", or even "Garp". It was "Ryan's British Roadie". Picking up a nearby flashlight and suddenly developing a thick, Cockney accent, Robin leapt into action, breaking down all of my hardware and taking the cymbals off of their stands. I stood in amazement, watching this Oscar-winning actor play the part of someone who would normally be hauling road cases for Iron Maiden. Before I had a chance to process all of it, my drums were off of the stage and Robin was back to his normal self, saying goodbye to me and the band.