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Published: 2009/06/28
by Jeff Garbaz

Going To Hell, Heaven And Back (Or A Trip To The Operating Room, Just Before The Big Gig)

Hello everyone! My name is Jeff Garbaz, I work in the music industry and I just went thru hell, heaven and back !
After 8 years in the music industry and hundreds of shows, my biggest gig, arguably ever, was this weekend. It didnt go as planned. In the past 72 hours, I have been through hell, heaven and back!
My company,, among other things offers video mixing and large screen visual services on LED boards, plasmas and projection screens. The skill I am known for is directing live cameras along with mixing imagery and visual effects to beat. Check out to get more information about my services and the people I have worked with in the industry.
For the last five years, I bid on this gig, and this year I was honest in telling the promoter, Rich Sherman, that he has been one of the bigger fish that has wiggled off my hook. This year, my bid was accepted. As sole proprietor of my company, I wear several hats. In other words, I do every aspect of the business myself; I cant afford to pay a marketing guy, a booking agent, an accountant, and so on. As many people in the field will tell you, those other aspects of the business take up better than half the work.
The line-up of this show presented me with the opportunity to work with a couple of artists I had not in the past, so I was thrilled with being awarded this business.
Brian Setzer, Derek Trucks, Elvin Bishop and the one and only BB King were on the docket at the Doheny Blues Festival in California. The setting is epic, right on the beach at Dana Point near Laguna Beach and Costa Mesa. In preparation for the gig, the head of production decides hire my camera crew. I have a very a solid team: Jeremy, my best guy out of Ohio, Todd, from North Carolina and finally my older and wiser brother Gary from Rochester, NY.
The day before I left? Holy fugging pain, batman. I’m in trouble. My stomach and just about everything down in that area is burning like someone has a hot knife and is swirling it around my insides. The pain is so intense I am puking up the pepto bismal and alka seltzer I took for my gas pain and now I am sweating and unable to walk. I get to the doctor and she thinks it may be kidney stones After the CT Scan, she tells me its your appendix, and you need to get to an Emergency Room right away to have it removed within the next few hours.
With a tear in my eye, I tell her my plight. I bid on this thing for 5 years. l couldn’t wait to show the fellow vid-e-its in La La land what a kid (yeah, 40s is still a kid, folks!) from Buffalo, NY could do with their jumbotron and plasmas. The doctor tells me, sympathetically, that there is no way I can go. The doctor had amazing bedside manner, and comforts me a bit by saying how lucky I am that I didnt get on that plane as the results would have been disastrous. It was one of the most important days in my career. Yall ever have one of those?
I tell anyone in the hospital that has the power to get me through this quickly my situation. Thank God I have my brother, and literally as I was waiting for the operating room to be prepped, I am writing on my wifes notebook some schematics for my brother to use on site. The makeshift plan is I can walk him thru set up on the phone Friday for the concert the following weekend. I am talking with the promoter about a video man I got a hold of that hired me in Jamaica that happens to be in San Diego this weekend that could fill in. Its all a blur.
They finally remove the thing on Thursday at 8:15pm, I dont remember much once they rolled me down the hall. The usual one hour operation takes three because the doc had problems fishing the thing thru my belly. He finishes up at 11:15pm. The next morning I awake in my room, groggy from the meds in my IV, and dressed in a fashionable hospital gown. I manage to walk up and down the hospital hall pushing my IV-on-wheels. As I walk, I see its about 6AM, and I am fantasizing about the scene in Whats Love Got to Do with It where Ike sneaks Tina Turner out of the hospital for a gig literally hours after she gives birth. My alter ego is telling me things like Go ahead rip that thing out of your arm and RUN TO THE AIRPORT!
But reality hits again, I have a wife (of 19 years) and 3 kids to take care of. Cant fuck around.
The things swirling around in my head are questions like Why is this happening? This must be going down for some reason. This is a test I calm down and try to stay positive, I Need a Miracle attitude sets in and not for nothin, things are out of my control at this point.
I begin to hear Pink Floyd songs playin in my head. This happens to me whenever something heavy happens to me in my life, like some kind of morbid psychedelic soundtrack to what is happening to me. When my dad died, it was Dark Side of the Moon but today, as I lay in the bed trying to eat chicken broth and orange Jello, it is the ever-so soft harmonies at the end of The Show Must Go On from The Wall. Quite frankly, it was mildly disturbing and freaking me out.
The doctor interrupts my mental concert at 9:30 and tells me everything looks good. I press my luck and ask if travelling to California immediately after surgery is in the cards. I couldnt believe my ears when he says, Yes, if you can just sit and mix and get rest in between sets. You gotta do what you gotta do were his words. After profusely promising the doctor (and my wife) that I would just sit mix at my station and get rest in the medical tent between sets, my crazy ass staggers on a plane from Buffalo, NY to Orange County at 1PM . After an insane plane ride, I make it to the beach front gig just in time to direct the set up from a chair, telling my brother what to plug in and what cables to run, etc. etc.
The production manager for the festival, Pamela, is like an angel. She is kind and is checks up on me all the time, offering me a spot in her comfy production RV in between sets. I get thru 1st day and Brian Setzer is red hot. Surf-rockabilly-blues on the beach with over 100 surfers on the ocean doin their thang. As each band performs, I check em off the schedule I have posted on the walls of the canopy I am working under. In my head, I count them down as they exit the main stage, 4 down 4 to go mofos! We are gonna DO THIS!!!!"
Derek Trucks is second last on Sunday … and as usual, my favorite artist to work with in the world melts my face with his guitar. Then he has Elvin Bishop join him, followed by Eric Krasno from Soulive. Some treat for me. Anyone that knows me knows I love those guys … for example I talked my best buddy Eric Crittenden to enlist Kraz to play on his last record. Derek plays his ass off. Trucks steals the show and the mix was about as good as I have done … not one error. (live mixing can give you some moments you cant avoid; I had none of those moments this time around) The promoter, Rich, comes over and blows some sunshine up my ass. He looks me in the eye and smiles "great mix" I used some light psychedelic graphics on top of the live imagery and it came out nice. I couldn’t blush, but it felt soooo good. They start talking about next year sweeeeeeet! Mission accomplished. Wait, not yet.
It’s 6:45 Sunday evening … 7 down and 1 to go. Coming up is a legend that I was supposed to mix in Telluride, Colorado in 05, but the weather got in the way. Not this time, we are in Cali where the weather is perfect!
BB King headlines, and has a 70 minute set beginning at 7:10. He goes on a little early and plays his set. If you have ever seen this 82 year old performer, you know that while his music may fly, he does not move about too much and mixing the camera angles is a breeze and time flies.
Even though working with BB is an absolute honor, my enjoyment is dampened by the major pain I am in at this point. I literally just wanted to get thru the gig. So while Derek’s set and Rich’s compliments energize and fire me up mentally, on the physical side I am weak, I have had very little sleep, and the sleep I did get, sucked.
BB plays deep into his set and I look at my watch and its 8:20 with no signs he is stopping, holy cow the 82 year old is going over his time! I thought he may end right on time or even quit 5 minutes early … but alas, I look at the watch and now it’s 8:34, hes about 15-20 minutes over but I can see he is now wrapping it up and playing his last notes, they lead him off stage and at exactly 8:36 I flip the screens over to sponsor logos. A huge relief comes over me I made it.
Right then, one more wild and crazy thing happens like Zeus from the heavens zapping me us more time, a few seconds later at exactly 8:37PM, a 4.7 earthquake hits, with the epicentre about 20 miles down the road in Long Beach. They felt it in Mexico 100 miles away. Un-freakin-believable! Real, Hand-of-God, stuff.
I couldnt imagine a more fitting ending for my personal wildest, wackiest gig, ever. The first flight I could get home on was the red-eye that leaves at 12:30 eastern … fly all night to get home today.
This weekend was one of the rare times where you are living in the moment so much that I felt like I was eating life. Thanks for letting me share my experience like Forrests mother always said sometimes life IS like a box of chocolates.
Im here to tell ya that, today, for me, the candy tastes good.
Make sure to say hi if you see me on the road this summer!

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