Watershed Opens For Cheap Trick. (Again) by Colin Gawel

This piece - from October, 2014 - continues our Onslaught of Watershed Reprints Series

Watershed is performing at Ace of Cups, Columbus OH, Saturday, Aug 15th, 2015


Watershed Opens For Cheap Trick. (Again)

"Ok, Dave, before I ask you to join Watershed, I need to know: what you are expecting from this? Do you have any conditions such as money or time off or how long you are willing to stick this out?"

"Colin, I have two conditions. One, I want to be on TV. And two, I want to open for Cheap Trick."

"I don't know about number one, but opening for Cheap Trick is a done deal. Count on that!"

"Then count me in," Dave said.

Watershed Live Opening for Cheap Trick 2014

Watershed Live Opening for Cheap Trick 2014

That was in 1998. Finally, in October of 2014, Dave Masica got his wish and Watershed opened for Cheap Trick at the House Of Blues in Myrtle Beach, SC. 

At the time when Dave first asked, I was positive we would be opening again for Cheap Trick in the near future. Hell, we had opened for them three times in the past four years and with the way both bands toured, certainly we would be able to slide on a bill again sometime/somewhere.

But it just never worked out. Cheap Trick spent most of their time as hired guns opening for arena acts such as Aerosmith and Def Leppard or playing soft ticket "Wingfest" type shows. And as far as Watershed, well, our career sort of yo-yo's all over the place. One week we have juice to jump on a decent bill and the next week we can barely get a Tuesday night in Baltimore. 

Around 2002, we were actually scheduled to open for Cheap Trick outside Nationwide arena but we got bumped the week before the gig by the local promoter. Funny thing is, they kept promoting Watershed as the opener and our name still appears on that ticket. I went to the show anyway and everybody was asking why Watershed wasn't playing just as a huge thunderstorm washed out the entire show.

Bad karma and a lesson for other promoters: kick Watershed off of a Cheap Trick show at your own risk. Lose - Lose. It did give me the opportunity to drop off my first draft of "My Obsession - The Official Cheap Trick Song Rankings". With the show rained out the band had time to thumb through it on the bus, after which I received a voice mail where Bun E. Carlos said, "It was better than most."

We had another chance at the very end of the Hitless Wonder tour in 2012 to jump on a bill at the Taft Theater in Cincinnati but we had just finished a month of touring and just couldn't escape real life commitments we had been neglecting any longer. As much as it killed us to say no, it just wasn't good timing for us.

Fast forward to Biggie's front porch in the summer of 2014. "Huh, Cheap Trick  just announced they're playing House of Blues in Myrtle Beach October 3rd." "Geez, that's five minutes from Joe's house."

"Should we try to get the gig?"

All together…."HELL YEAH!"

So we called every single person we knew with a connection to Cheap Trick. Our manager Thomas O'Keefe knew the House of Blues folks and worked that side of it with one stipulation, "If we get the gig, you have to let me play with you." Thomas is as big a Trick fan as the rest of us and after 12 thankless years managing Watershed it seemed like the least we could do.

We got the show, and I have to admit, in my car, all by myself, when nobody was watching, I smiled and made a little fist pump. That's about as much of a celebration you get as a Watershed member. Don't want to jinx it. 

I was excited and people were excited for me, "Wow! That is so amazing. You are opening for your heroes. It's a dream come true."

I know people were being nice and I was happy to be on the bill with my heroes, but it was bittersweet. My dream was never to open a show for Cheap Trick in my middle age. My dream was to be in the same league as Cheap Trick. Maybe all the way at the end of the bench but still in the same league. We got close but it never happened. And that's OK. But lots and lots of bands open for Cheap Trick. It's nothing to brag about really.

In fact, after we got dropped  and I would go to see Cheap Trick I was too embarrassed to accept invitations to stop back stage and say "Hi" though the crew members were always very gracious. It was just too painful to go from the kid waiting by the Cheap Trick bus, to the guy on EPIC records, back to the fan hanging around backstage. I was ashamed.

But those days were long, long gone. One of the best things about growing up is learning to love what you have got and not worry about what you don't. Watershed made a bunch of great records, played a bunch of great shows and had tons of fun. But we hadn't come full circle to open another show for Cheap Trick….Until…..

We packed up the van Thursday morning and left straight to meet Joe and Thomas at Slim's Downtown in Raleigh. The plan, and we have always had a knack for plans, was to meet there and  play a happy hour show serving as a warm-up for the Cheap Trick gig the next night. Needless to say, it was a typical Slim's blowout and after the gig we headed straight down the highway to the palatial oceanfront condo we had rented for the weekend. 

Being Ohio guys there is NO way we aren't going to hit the beach and milk it for all it is worth even if it is in the middle of the night. Ricki C. and I took turns keeping an eye on Dave Masica swimming in the ocean at 2 am while I took turns swigging various bottles with Thomas and Biggie.

I woke up the next morning in the pitch-black condo room I was sharing with Ricki, opened the door and there was the blue ocean lit by a sun so bright I almost fell backwards as I covered my eyes.

it was a perfect day. The sort of day where you can fall into a deep sleep outside on a beach chair to the sound of the waves. And I did just that after taking a long walk and listening  to the song "Fall in Love" by Phantogram over and over. 

At 4 pm Biggie pulled the van around and we drove the 3 miles to the HOB. The last time we played this venue was opening for the Insane Clown Posse, so it was nice to get another shot with less Faygo being sprayed everywhere.

We loaded our gear on that big checkered stage where Cheap Trick's stuff was already set up and I…. got….nervous. I never get nervous. I could barely say a word. It was like trying to talk to a pretty girl or take an 8th French class oral exam all wrapped into one. I just clammed up and stared at Rick's guitars. I thought, "I would have driven all the way here just to load on this stage and then off." I was in heaven. I wanted to take a picture but that would have been so uncool. So I just stood in front of Tom's bass amps and stared at them, burning them into my brain's permanent hard drive. Move over sexy one-night stand memory, got some Cheap Trick memories coming in. Make way for Rick's checkerboard wah-wah pedal image.

We shot the shit with some crew members and one said he ran sound for us at the Ryan's Ballroom gig made famous in the book Hitless Wonder. Small world. Eventually we retreated to our dressing room when somebody started kicking our door yelling, "Keep it down in there, Watershed , a man can't here himself sing out here."

The door flung open and the real life Robin Zander walked in to ask how we had been doing. He was wearing a custom-fit three piece suit and looked like 25 million dollars. And I'm talking up close and with no stage lights or makeup. He was talking but I was mostly just staring. As usual, he was super cool. Humble. Friendly.

As he left, Thomas, who has worked with all kinds of big-shot rock stars said, "You guys don't understand, NOBODY of his stature does that. Nobody walks out of their way to say hello to a one-night opener. Nobody."

Our pal Bill stopped by and said, "I'm not sure if Rick is going to want to say hello but if he does it's usually about 7 or 7:30, so be around just in case If you want to chat."

We can do that.

Sure enough, around 7:30, Bill said, "Let's go." We walked into the private backstage area and there were 70 or so VIP types waiting to meet & greet with the band, who were a good 25 yards away taking pictures with the various people waiting their turn in line. 

We were minding our own business, letting everybody press the flesh when a guitar pick flicked off the side of my face and Rick Nielsen yelled, "Hey look everybody, it's Colin from Watershed." Dings me through a crowd with a pick from 30 yards out. The dude is a superhero. Eventually, as it gets closer to showtime, Rick says, "Let's get Watershed up here, they have to go on soon." Once again, just being so cool. 

So we glad-hand and pass out some copies of Hitless Wonder and pose for a picture and as we were wrapping up, Rick says, "Hold on, I want a shot of just Colin and me. Everybody out of the picture except Colin and me. You too, Robin." It meant a lot to me for Rick to do that.  Then once the photo was snapped he turned  and  said, "Tell the guys about the Hall of Fame thing or whatever." 

So, a little sheepishly I explained to Cheap Trick how I had started a band called Why Isn't Cheap Trick in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame? and how we play a free show every year in Cleveland on the night of the induction ceremonies, and so on and so forth.

Basically, I was admitting to being a super-psycho Cheap Trick fan in front of Cheap Trick but I supposed by now they probably had some inkling that was the case.

Anyway, they seemed to get a kick out of the whole idea and I left to get ready to open the show and they went back to being Cheap Trick. It was a magical night, and as Slim Dunlap of The Replacements told me many times when I was a young man, "Musicians get gifts too, you just have to learn to appreciate them." What a gift.

Colin Gawel plays in the band Watershed and founded the group Why Isn't Cheap Trick in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? 

For further reading on this show, click here for "Strange Tales from the Cheap Trick Merch Table"


                                                                                                               My Two Favorite Bands                   (left to right - Dave Masica, Daxx Nielsen, Robin Zander, Joe Oestreich, Rick Nielsen, Colin Gawel, Tom Petersson, Thomas O'Keefe)

                                                                                                               My Two Favorite Bands

                 (left to right - Dave Masica, Daxx Nielsen, Robin Zander, Joe Oestreich, Rick Nielsen, Colin Gawel, Tom Petersson, Thomas O'Keefe)