Chris Vargas

Touring in Pakistan!

Last year (March 2012) I got a call by my buddy Shawn Dailey who plays bass for Courtney Love in HOLE. I've known Shawn for a couple years through a mutual friend and would always be amazed by his stories of touring the world and always hoped I would get that kind of opportunity one day. In the called he mentioned possibly having a tour that would go overseas for two weeks. I didn't even hesitate to ask any of the details and immediately said YES!! He said if it went through I'd be getting a call from the bands manager. I couldn't wait even though I had no idea where we were going!

A day later I got a call from the manager Rodney Afshari who had managed Glassjaw, the Used and other awesome bands! He said " OK bro, so Shawn told you all about this and you're sure you are in to it right? I said, "Well I was a little too excited when he mentioned traveling and since I have never been out of the country I didn't even ask where or anything." Rodney then said, "Here is the important part. The tour is actually in PAKISTAN." I thought he was joking. He wasn't..

A million thoughts were racing through my head in seconds after he mentioned that. Pakistan? I have never even been out of the country and when ever I though of going overseas I always thought Europe, Asia, South America... Anywhere but The Middle East.

Rodney explained that we would be doing five cities in two weeks. We would fly to Dubai for the day and then fly from Dubai to Pakistan. Pakistani Military police and Secret Service would escort us around the country and the Embassy assured us that they would be present during all parts of the tour as well. I thought about how bad I have wanted an opportunity like this and about how hard I have been working and practicing to try and make it happen. So without much hesitation I said, "YES!!"

Rodney came by the studio on the last day of rehearsals to fill us in with a few more details. He gave us out plane tickets and mentioned some guidelines set by the US Embassy. They said stay with your security guard, don’t go out alone, and when traveling always stay in your armored vehicle. What!!??

It finally came time to fly out. We totally got taken care of on the flight and flew the best airline to the Middle East. Everything was amazing from the free drinks to the amazing looking flight attendants. 16 hours later we landed in Dubai. When it came time to take the four-hour flight into Pakistan we headed to the proper gate and that when reality started to set in. As soon as we made it through security all attention was drawn to us. Good and bad. It was totally obvious that we were Americans and musicians since I was carrying on my snare and cymbals and the other guys had their Guitars. The older people were looking at us wondering what the heck we were doing flying into their country and the younger people couldn’t help but talk to us. They wanted to know what band we were in and what kind of music we played. The girls were shy and very standoff-ish but wanted autographs and the guys wanted pictures with us. Not only because we were in a band but mostly because we were Americans.

The first shows in Karachi were cancelled because of riots due to the assassination of 2 political figures. We ended up leaving for the capital of city of Islamabad after 3 days. This is where our largest show was supposed to take place. The venue was located less than 5 miles away from where they had just found Bin Laden.

The day of the show we went to sound check in this awesome arena out in the middle of this open field. The show was supposed to bring in over 3,500 people. This was by far going to be the largest show I played to date. The venue was surrounded by all kinds of security including snipers, dogs and Pakistani military. We got to meet the ambassador of Pakistan and had a huge press interviews with over 50 major news networks. The location of the show was announced one hour before to all the ticket holders in order to prevent any plots to attack the venue.

Once the doors opened there was a huge crowd that showed up. Over 5,000 people arrived at the venue. The crowd was a mix of young kids, boys and girls, some of their families, Pakistani politicians and US embassy staff. When we hit the stage it was amazing, the crowd went wild. It was so awesome to see the reactions. Some kids were even crying because they were so excited. Most of the audiences have never seen a live rock band, especially not one from the US. One of the most surreal parts was when a young girl in the crowd caught my eye. This girl was in full covering with nothing showing except her hands. You could barely see her eyes peeking through what is know as a burka. Although you couldn’t see any expression through the covering she had on you could tell that she was having the best time.

At the end of the show all the kids rushed the backstage area wanting pictures and autographs. Toward the back of the crowd I spotted this girl. She was a little more reserved than the rest of them. I made my way to her and said “thank you for coming, I hope you liked it”. She said, “I love Rock & Roll music”. I brought her to the table and had the band take a picture with her and her two friends. Then I reached in my stick bag pulled out a Vic Firth ex5b, signed it and gave it to her. She was so grateful to have received such a unique souvenir. When she looked at it she saw the small American flag and “American Hickory” printed on the side she said, “I love America, thank you very much sir”.

This was my game changing moment. At this moment I realized so many walls were broken down. We both made our own opinions about each other and our cultures and threw everything the media has taught us about one another out the window. She loved us because we were Americans. Our look and music expressed everything she has always wanted. FREEDOM. I was so inspired by her desire to be free and expressive, to be seen and known by her friends for the way she looks and the talents she might possess instead of being covered and quiet. I realized how inspirational our visit to Pakistan was to the youth and their perception of America and I’m proud to say that Vic Firth was there with me the whole trip.

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