Weren't we just in Mexico? Almost back to the same spot less than two weeks later, we landed in Cozumel for a high dollar destination wedding reception.

Getting through customs is a hassle when bringing in a bunch of musical gear, and this trip proved to be no exception. Our shared story was that we were attending a friend's wedding, and brought our instruments along to play a few songs at the reception. Since we were not collecting any money at the gig, we were there as tourists, and not there on business. I had a few "worst case scenarios in my head" where I would be isolated in an empty room and quizzed on the bride and groom's names by a stern looking Mexican customs official. Maybe they're looking for taxable revenues, to maybe help defray the cost of the wall? I mean, it was January 20th, after all.

For me, it ended up somewhere between that and waltzing through--the customs guy asked what I had in my gig bags and my pelican (gear box), and I tried to be vague and go with his suggestions:

What is in this? A saxophone

And this? A guitar? Um, yes, a guitar

What is in this? Music stuff, guitar stuff

Push the button.

I'm not sure what pushing the button at the kiosk does, but Mexico won't let you in until you do it. Anyway, I was relieved to not have my gear personally inspected. I push the button and walked to freedom.

Everybody made it through except Kip, who was chosen to have his gear x-rayed and then inspected, and then he was questioned, and then he had to declare the monetary value (the customs guy checked it against Amazon's website for pricing!) of all of his gear was inventoried so that he couldn't sell it while we were here not working, and then he was instructed to return four hours before our flight out on Sunday so that they could look at it all again. All of that took about an hour.

After a forty-five minute taxi ride down the highway, we arrived at Azul Fives Hotel, our lodging for the next two days. Not too shabby!

We were divided into three suites--the three Marks, management plus Greg, and Kip, Zach, and me. Here's the room where I ended up.

Our suite had roof access.

what happens in this room?

 After naps and drinks, we moved over to the Thai place for food from this guy.

And that pretty much ended the evening. We were all pretty tired from a long day of traveling.

The next morning, I headed out in search of coffee. I encountered this little monster along the way.

The afternoon was devoted to setting up gear and making it through soundcheck. We were the second of three bands for the evening (though the first band set up off to the side of the stage), and so after band number three had sound checked, we had to move a bunch of gear around. With ten local stage hands, it should take no time at all! Uhhh...

Nice view from the stage! I had to take a break from set up--way too many people on stage at the same time.

So...I was mostly set up, and then the Nord (bottom keyboard) died. About half the local crew tried troubleshooting it, but nothing worked. Greeeeeaaaat (by the way, check of the aircraft carrier of a top keyboard that is! A weighted key Roland Fantom X8 that weighed probably a hundred pounds). The guy brought me a Korg CX3 combo, but that's not gonna work. What about the other Nord? Dude got on the phone and got it approved (by whom? Who cares). I ended up with a tiny sixty-one key Nord on the bottom and the Roland 747 wing precariously sitting up top. A little top heavy on the keyboard stand, but it all worked.

 We finally got started on checking our mixes, and I ended up with some kind of shitty in ear mix that sounded terrible (I had almost no sound coming out of it, even when I had it wide open). Even though we were eventually able to get my keyboard levels up to an ok volume, my whole mix remained pretty abysmal, so I left it to Zach to play with it when he got a second. After a few minutes, he figured out that I had a wonky receiver pack, and after swapping it out, things sounded pretty close to normal.

One dude painting the dance floor white, while another dude stands where he just painted

At some point in the afternoon, this goddamn trombone showed up in front of me on stage. I thought it belonged to some stupid trombone player playing after we finished soundcheck, so I ignored it (though I wanted to punt it across the dance floor). It was not used in either the band before us, or the band after us.

All set, and still the trombone remained.

We hit the stage right at 8 PM, just in time to discover that when the local crew switched the stage power from the venue to a generator, they scrambled something in Kip's front of house gear, and it wouldn't come back. Thanks! Kip and Zach switched it all over to run off of Zach's set up. We're lucky to have total pros working with us, because this could have been a disaster.

The gig turned out to be a piece of cake--we played an hour and a half, and then got out of the way so that the next band could get going. Early on, we played to nobody, but they found us eventually. No more gear problems in my part of the stage, either, for which I was infinitely thankful.

still here

We had a pretty generously late lobby call Sunday morning.

The highway back to the airport was lined with expensive resorts, each a walled fortress similar to our own.

The Cancun airport is nicer than some US airports, though it has some kind of Guy Fieri restaurant, so that's an automatic points deduction of some kind.

I lucked into the exit row seat that has no chair directly in front of me, but it also meant that I couldn't watch anything on the TV. If I'd brought the trombone back with me, I could've easily reached seventh position, though.

Forty-five minutes from the airport, we were informed that the last thirty minutes might get bumpy. Mark Dannells was NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT. Luckily, we probably only experienced ten minutes of bumps and drops, and landed safely on our home turf. Glad to be home.

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