Vinnie Amico: Post-Mono, Pre-moe.down
Photo by Chris Paul
In late June, moe. surprised fans with the announcement that drummer Vinnie Amico would sit out a few shows due to illness. Longtime moe. percussionist Jim Loughlin, who had formerly manned the kit, did so again for a few dates. Then, word came down that the group would cancel the bulk of their July dates while Amico recovered (a situation that Loughlin addressed in a notable Phantasy Tour post). It was not until last week that he returned to the stage with the band. In the following conversation, Vinnie explains what happened and looks ahead to this weekend’s moe.down which is back at its original home in Turin, New York.
So for starters, can you walk us through your health situation and how things evolved?
We got ready to start summer tour, and I was doing my regular routine, which is, I do over-do everything. I’m home, I’m running around with the kids all the time and coaching softball, playing basketball, lifting weights, doing yard work. I’m busy. And four days before I’m going away I came back from basketball and I didn’t feel well. And that night I had a fever, and the next night I felt the same, and then the next night was a tribute to Levon Helm that we were doing, one of the bands around here, The Stone Revival Band, one of my side projects. And I felt fine, and come that Sunday night, the fever’s back, I’m feeling like crap, and I have to go on tour Tuesday.
So I go to the doctor Monday, and he’s like ‘yeah, you got a fever.’ My glands were all swollen and he thought I probably had a sinus infection. He’s like, ‘Here, take these antibiotics.’ And I go on the road, we start summer tour. moe. starts summer tour. Al picks me up, we stopped to get Jim and stayed the night at Jim’s house, and I woke up in a pool of sweat and with a fever. So we get on the road, do the first show with Mule, and I’m not feeling well. I don’t know if it’s lyme disease, I don’t know what I have. We get on the bus that night and I wake up in a pool of sweat. So, we do all the Mule dates, that was four dates, and every night the same thing: Fever, spending all day in bed.
In terms of the gigs themselves, was it tough to get into your zone?
Adreneline is a very powerful thing. It’s very strong, and it’s stronger than the illness itself. So, by showtime as long as I rested during the day, once the first couple tunes go, you just play and that’s that. It wasn’t so bad with the Mule shows because they were one-setters, but you know we do a couple shows and then we’re doing a weekend at Asbury Park and I’m not feeling any better. I call the doctor and say, ‘The antibiotics aren’t working,’ so he gives me a stronger one, and it’s not working.
So we do the show Sunday, the Hartford show with Mule, we have Monday off before Tuesday and Wednesday we’re doing the Beekman Beer Garden in New York. So, between Hartford and New York, I went home that night, went to the doctor the next day and I’m like, ‘This is almost two weeks of 102 fever, and I’m playing gigs, not sleeping well. I gotta figure out what’s going on and try to get better.’
Were you freaking out or did you figure this was something that could be remedied in some form?
I just figured I had some sort of virus, or cold or whatever it was. One of the nights in my feverish rage in my bunk, I couldn’t sleep, so I’m on the internet of course, and I could have AIDS, I could have cancer, so I’m starting to think the worst. But it’s like, ‘Do I really have something wrong with me?’ let’s find out. So I go back to the doctor, I don’t go to doctors, I’m usually pretty healthy, but I go back to the doctor and he runs a bunch of tests. Mono, Hepatitis, all this other stuff.
On Tuesday I go down to New York to do the shows at the Beekman. I get a call that afternoon from the doctor when I’m laying there taking my daily rest so I can get through the show, and he says ‘You got Mono.’ So I told the guys I have mono, and did the show do the show Tuesday night at the Beekman. That was the first show of the tour that I was doing that was a full show.
By the end of the second set I was definitely feeling it. It wasn’t the same as a one set thing. By the end I was pretty toast. And then I did the Wednesday show as well, and by the end of that show I was feeling even worse. So Deb, my wife, was actually the one who texted Skip and was like ‘Call a band meeting, I don’t want him to go back out on the road.’ She was down there with me so she could just take me home to rest this thing off. So after that show Wednesday night, we called a band meeting and it was decided that it would be best if I bowed out for the rest of the gigs. You know me Dean, that’s a bruise to my ego but it’s the right thing to do because I was pretty frickin’ sick even though it was just mono, but anyone who’s had mono knows that it kicks the shit out of you.
So I got off the road early, which was the smart thing to do, got through the weekend and then that Monday I went back to the doctor and I still didn’t feel any better. Now we’re three weeks in, 102 fever, and my throat is now pretty much swollen shut and hurts so bad I can’t swallow. So I went to the doctor and I’m like ‘Now what?’ and he says ‘You just got a tough case of mono, not much you can do about it.’ I said, ‘I need something, I can’t continue to go through this fever and I can’t continue to deal with this sore throat.’
So he puts me on Prendisone, which is a steroid, and he said ‘You’ll start feeling better almost immediately, but don’t get up and do anything because it’s a false sense of feeling better.’ So, got on the steroids, started feeling better immediately. The week was up and it’s time to go back on the road and it’s like, ‘Should I go out on the road with still having Mono and having to do 14 shows in 18 days in the lifestyle of the road?’ And I was talking to Topper [moe. manager Jon Topper] and we agreed the smart thing for me to do is to make sure I’m healthy and not go out on the road. Everybody thought that was the smart thing because if I’m out on the road sick I spread it to somebody else, that wouldn’t be good. And making sure we can give everybody the best possible show also, because Jim could’ve done those gigs, but would they have been 2012 moe. or would they have been a different moe.? Would they have been able to do all the songs in the repertoire or not? There were a lot of things and in the end it was decided that we should cancel and make sure I’m better and do the best shows we can do with me. So, that’s what we decided.
And then by the time you went back down south last week, you were feeling better?
I feel normal now. I’ve been off the steroids for a couple weeks and I feel completely normal. I don’t know if I have 100% of my stamina back. I mean, my strength is pretty much back. Can I go and play two hours of basketball and go to a gig or can I run five miles and go do a gig? Probably not. I ran three miles yesterday or the day before and mowed my lawn and felt pretty good. I did the gig in North Carolina last Tuesday. Got through it. It was a whole show. Did the night after, the Allman Brothers thing and that felt good. So, as far as that is concerned I’m good to go. Am I playing the golf tournament at moe.down? No. Because I don’t know if starting out with a five hour golf tournament and then a four hour moe. show and then doing that all weekend… I don’t want to test myself and fail: not have the stamina and be spent by Sunday or relapse or any of that. All in all I feel good.