Fans who have seen 'The Wall Live' and who read Brain Damage regularly are probably quite familiar with the name Simon Wimpenny. Simon has been a correspondent for Brain Damage for a number of years.
Before this year's leg of 'The Wall Live', Simon had sojourned through a mind-blowing 120 shows on the tour, starting in 2010, traversing the USA, Canada, Europe, and South America. Although his initial itinerary for this year's leg of the tour only included Berlin, Dusseldorf, and Manchester, Simon's blog, "Where ya Been, Where ya Going?" seems to indicate he's ventured out to a few more shows than that. With the end of the tour looming, we asked Simon - someone who's possibly seen more shows than some of the crew members - a few questions, to find out more about his memories and thoughts on what turned into a very extensive tour...
What was the first time you saw Pink Floyd live?
That would be Live 8 in 2005, I saw "Gilmour's Floyd" in '87 and '94.
Have you followed Roger Waters on previous tours?
Yes: 1999, Columbus; 2000, Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, and Las Vegas; 2002, the entire European tour; 2006, the entire North American tour; 2007, most of the European tour; 2008, all the US shows. Plus various one-off shows here and there around the world.
How long have you done correspondent work for Brain Damage?
I’ve known Matt (Johns, Brain Damage Editor) 10 years or so, we've seen shows together, had various meet-ups in London, and shared the odd hotel room here and there.
I've always said to all webmasters that anything on my blog, whether it be pictures, videos, text, etc. is there to be shared with anyone and everyone, and they can be copied onto any website with pleasure. One of the main reasons I started to blog was to bring the people that weren't able to see the shows "with me." I hoped the blog would give fans a visual of the shows and the meet-ups, the traveling, the people, and what goes on backstage. It was my way of trying to bring people along with me.
I've been very fortunate the last few years in the things I've been able to see and do and there's been, oh, so many times when I've thought "I wish 'X' was here to experience this with me" or "I wish 'Y' could see this too."
From the feedback I've received on the blog, I think I've managed to give fans that visceral sense successfully.
I've always been one to pass my good fortune on to other people: whether it's helping out with a ticket, giving someone a ride to a show, or even lending a hand so they can meet a band member. I get so much enjoyment from seeing other people's own…
How long has your blog "Where ya Been, Where ya Going?" been up?
I started the blog a couple of months before the start of the 2010 tour. In 2002, when I did the 'In the Flesh' European tour, computers were not as accessible as they are now and nowhere near as cheap! I kept a hand-written diary while I was on the road for eight weeks.
On the 'Dark Side' tours I did an e-mail blog that I just sent around to friends and people on Facebook. It had entries about my travels, along with a few pictures.
Your personal Facebook profile has a quote: "Calling 'The Wall' a concert is like calling the Bible a book": do you think someone out there is plotting a "Wall" or "Hammer" religion, kind of like those people that go around claiming to be "Jedi"?
I doubt it, but who knows, it's the internet! Did you know Elvis is still alive (laughs)?!
How do you think people will perceive "The Wall" 100 years from now?
Depends; I'm not sure about 100 years but in another 25 years, if you haven't/didn't see it, then it'll be just another "talked-about" show; if you saw it, then it'll be with you for the rest of your life and no amount of explaining, video clips, or pictures will ever convey not just the scale but the professionalism and the passion that was put into it and was projected back by the fans.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of 'The Wall Live'?
I think my favorite part is What Shall We Do Now; it's just so powerful and the song and imagery go together very well. I also love the second In the Flesh. I love watching Roger's mannerisms during Flesh, this is something a lot of people don't see as they are more bothered about watching the pig float around the arena! It's a lot more scripted now, but the 2010 shows had a lot more improvisation.
Run Like Hell used to be my favorite but, due to the amount of "scripting" it's just another track to me now. Gone are the days of Roger holding his machine gun in the air and, when fired down, seeing chicken feathers come out! That did really happen at one of the shows!
What is the best 'The Wall Live' show you've seen so far and why?
This is probably the most frequent question I get. I have shows that were great for the performance (especially the Florida, 2010 shows), some were great for the venue (Buenos Aires and Los Angeles, 2012), some because of the crowd (Croatia, 2011 was amazing) and some were great just because of the people I was attending the shows with (Buenos Aires, Milan, all the California shows in 2010, and many, many more). As some people know, I've met a LOT of friends since I started seeing the shows in 1999 and I've always kept in touch. Now I have some of the most amazing friends I could ever ask for.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing a show with a few friends around me; the performance and venue could be poor for all I care: it's the people you are with that make it a great show.
That also goes for the pre-show meet-ups that I enjoy organizing. The shows are great, but meeting and chatting to everyone before and after the shows and traveling around the world is what I enjoy the most.
I've been fortunate to see the show from many different vantage points, in different venues: one of my favourites was seeing the show from behind the wall in Chicago, in 2010. You can read about it here and see some great pictures from an angle that isn’t seen very often.
What has been the best venue for 'The Wall Live' so far, i.e., which venue do you think served the production best in terms of architecture, acoustics, etc.?
Well, first off I prefer the outdoor stadium shows to the indoor ones. I thought the US ballparks in 2012 lent themselves very well to the production but nothing can beat the stadium in Buenos Aires for me. It was the first time I'd seen an outdoor show and seeing the wall as far as the eye can see left or right was fantastic.
I went to all nine Argentina shows with my now-fiancée, Kamilla. Neither of us had seen a stadium show yet, so we felt that for our first time we would sit right at the back, on the top tier, probably close to a 1/4 mile away from the stage! We enjoyed it so much that we sat in the exact, same place the second night! Again, anyone that knows me will know there's only ever one place for me at the shows and that’s in the first 10 rows. These shows were different though.
What stood out most in Buenos Aires?
The first thing we noticed was the surround sound: it was incredible, totally blew me away. Then there were things like the distance the plane had to "fly" at the end of the first Flesh. We sat right beneath the plane on the first night and it took a good 25 seconds (at least) for it to hit the stage. The pyrotechnic work was another thing that made the show what it was. Launching pyros from the roof of the stage and the pyros going half-way down the wall sides… it all made the show a much bigger production than I had seen in the indoor arenas.
So I guess your answer is: the Buenos Aires stadium was my favorite for the sound, atmosphere, and sheer scale of it all. I'll always remember when I got back home from the stadium shows, Matt (Brain Damage editor) sent me a picture of the Manchester Arena show from 2011 with a message – just to remind me how small the wall was originally. I looked at it for ages not being able to comprehend just how small it looked, it was tiny compared to what I'd just come back from seeing.
If you could change anything about the current 'The Wall Live' production, what would it be?
I'd have banners hanging in the venues like they did on the original tour, I know these were for acoustic reasons but I think it would look great. I'd get rid of the pig! This takes people's attention away from what's happening onstage. I'd also like to see the wall fall like it used to in the early shows in 2010. It's a lot more controlled now and certain parts of the wall are anchored down so some bricks don't fall. This all started at the Nassau show in 2010:
Nassau 2010 was an arena show. At that point, the wall would still fall from right around the edges. Well, there were people sitting about four rows away from the wall and after the wall had fallen I looked over to my right and saw a mass of bricks in the seats, with people's arms fighting through them! It wasn't the sort of thing that was going to cause harm but I'm sure health and safety had something to say.
Since that show, the "Wall Fall" has been a lot more controlled. Even the way if falls in the front row isn't like it used to be. There were many times I'd be on the front rail for the end of the show and as the wall fell I'd have to reach out to push the flying bricks back and stop them from hitting people, it was fantastic! This was where I coined the term "Wall Wind;" it's what occurred if you were in the front as the wall fell: you could feel the air rush past your face as the bricks came down!
I'd also add a few crew people into the audience: to pull audience members picked out by the spotlight during Run Like Hell. I'd have the guys dressed in the guard uniforms lead them to the front of the stage! It probably wouldn't happen, but it would be a nice touch and it's certainly not a "dumb idea."
I'd like the bricks to NOT fit as well together; again, like in the 1980's shows, where the light would come through the cracks between the bricks a little.
One thing I'd do for sure though would be to add When the Tigers Broke Free to the opening of the show. It would be a fantastic opening track and a great addition.
What is the oddest thing that has ever happened to you while following 'The Wall Live'?
The oddest thing has to be an "event" in Paris in 2011: I had had a little too much to drink (which if you know me, is very unlike me) and ended up fighting a curtain, naked! There's more to it but that's enough for a public website!
Do you have weird dreams as a result of the large, and sometimes consistent amount of 'The Wall Live' shows you've seen (can you describe one)?
I have to admit I've had a few! The most recent one was with my dad onstage playing guitar in place of Dave Kilminster and ripping up "Young Lust"! My dad was there in designer jeans and cowboy boots! I know I'm not the only one to have these dreams too (laughs).
What is the most dangerous situation you've ever faced while traveling to see The Wall?
To be honest, I haven't had any dangerous situations. Before I leave for a tour I know everything there is to know: where I'm staying, how I'm getting there, who I'll be with… every hotel, plane, car, and train is pre-booked and I have an itinerary similar to what the band have that has all my confirmation numbers, dates, and travel details.
When you're away from home for three months and have so many plans and places to be, you have to have it all planned out. I was always told to "plan your work and work your plan"; if you do this, then there's not a lot that can go wrong.
The only "hiccup" I nearly had was the flight from LA to the final show in Seattle on the Dark Side tour. As I had booked the flight as part of another section of travel and not used one of the earlier flights on that section, Delta airlines saw it fit to cancel my flights! I spoke with them in the UK before I left; confirming that I would be ok not taking a section of the plan and they said it was fine. I had to pay $50 and they put me back on the flight when I got to the check-in desk.
If you had to make a bet: will Waters extend the tour beyond this 2013 European leg?
I'd give you odds of 99-to-1 against! Feel free to take me up on it!
Do you think 'The Wall Live' should go back to Australia and South America?
I think if there's enough call for it then there's no reason not to.
You've made many friends along this tour: what are the things that you feel they all have most in common besides their love for Pink Floyd and Roger Waters' music?
Their passion for Roger's music and the show is the main one, but I think, secondly, is their love to travel. I have a lot of friends who I've met up with all around the world, Kamilla and I have been in ever so many cities and bumped into friends that we didn't know were coming or had just decided a week before to come out. There's a certain type of fan that, when you tell them Roger is touring, they don't ask how much tickets are or what show he's doing or anything like that: they just want to know where and when so they can be there. You may say they are fan boys, fanatics, or other crazed "stalkerish" things, but it’s more to do with a passion. You either get it or you don't, and it's pointless trying to explain it to someone who doesn't get it because they never will.
As I've mentioned, most of my friends are people I've known since the early 2000 tours. I've been best man at their weddings, invited to their families' houses for dinner, been on vacations with them etc., etc.. This isn't just about the shows - it's a lot about friendship.
What are examples of the two most radically different fans you've met, that 'The Wall Live' has brought together, i.e., are there any two polar opposite people you've gotten to know, in terms of careers, personalities, etc., that became "two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl" as a result of 'The Wall Live' and Pink Floyd in general?
I don't think music chooses people and there's certainly no religion, faith, colour, career, etc. that is specific to Roger's music. I've seen white, black, and people of every other colour at the shows. I know of lawyers, electricians, and unemployed who have attended the shows. It's the same with age: I've seen four-year-olds on their parents' shoulders at shows, enjoying the gig. I took my father to the show in Manchester: he's nearly 70 and the last gig he had gone to was The Beatles, in my home town, in 1963! Most of the band knew he was coming and he got to meet them before the show; he was blown away by how nice they were. He enjoyed the show immensely and said to me afterwards "that guitarist (Dave Kilminster) can play, cant he?" and "that singer (Robbie Wyckoff) can hold a tune on his own!" He still didn't get the whole "seeing-lots-of-shows" thing I've been doing though!
What is the most surprising or shocking thing you've ever seen in the audience at any 'The Wall Live' show?
Most shocking was a man walking around in a suit covered in light bulbs at the show in San Francisco in 2012! Most surprising was sitting next to Marilyn Manson at one of the LA shows and seeing him cry during Mother! He was such a nice guy.
Did you think Roger Waters and the rest of Pink Floyd would reunite as they did at Live 8 or was it a surprise to you?
Nope, not in a million years! I remember being in the car and hearing on the radio that the deal had been sealed. I was blown away. I was fortunate to be able to secure nearly 20 tickets for Live 8 and shared these among friends from the US, Canada, and the rest of Europe. It was a very special event and the people that were there will tell you the same.
Does Roger Waters speak good French?
I've no idea; he does like to do various accents though! I've seen a few rehearsals with him putting on a Yorkshire and Irish accent!
What other bands or music do you listen to?
None, I can’t afford to! I'm a HUGE fan of guitarist Michael Schenker and any bands he has played with: UFO, Scorpions, and MSG… I grew up listening to Iron Maiden while getting ready for school in the mornings, along with AC/DC, April Wine, and many other Hard Rock groups. I still have my ticket stub from Maiden in 1983: the grand sum of £3.50 ($5.00)!
What's your most surreal travel moment?
I arrived in Detroit, right off a flight: the whole three-months-tour involved me taking 16 domestic flights, eight car rentals, and countless hotel rooms. As I got off the plane and was walking to pick up my baggage at the arrivals hall I was trying to remember where I had just flown from! I couldn't actually remember! I got to the luggage carousels and looked at the airport monitors for at least 30 seconds and for the life of me I just could not remember which city I had come from only a few hours ago. I sat on a seat in the luggage area and tried to remember… I just kept looking at the list of cities on the monitor. After what seemed like 20 minutes (but was probably only three or four!) I remembered the show the night before, and it was Columbus, OH. I then remembered driving to Pittsburgh and flying out! This was the only time this happened, however, I've lost count of the amount of times I've woken up in a hotel room and for the first 30 seconds had no idea where in the world I was!
You can follow Simon's 'The Wall Live' sojourn at"Where Ya Been, Where Ya Going?"which is a fascinating look at life travelling around, following Roger's tour.