Syracuse, NY – Another minute and it would not happen.
As one of the biggest men of the season in St. Louis.
The band was stuck on a runway at JFK airport, plunged by a stubborn nebula that would not lift. It was 20:19 and the pilot did not get a dismissal for the start. It was impossible as they were doing it at Syracuse for the show.
The organizers of the amphitheater then planned the communications. They asked the band to record a video, apologizing for not being able to reach it. They have created messages for the people, they are struggling with a tough question: How do we tell 15,000 boozy, honest fans to turn around and go home?
Even Dave Grohl, the hard-hitting frontman whose name is synonymous with Rock ‘n Roll, seems ready to go.
“We sat on that track for four f *** hours,” he said. “And we’re like, ‘maybe the show will not happen tonight.’ “
Grohl said the band had set a deadline: If they were not on their way to Syracuse at 8:20 p.m., the show would not happen.
8:15 rolled around. Then 8:16. 8:17. 8:18.
At 20:19, Grohl got word from the pilot.
“They said, ok, we’re going to Syracuse,” he said. “We have a rock show.”
The drama of the delay and the will-si-si-not-si tension left people on the edge for hours, eventually drinking a rollickend, rockend two Hours Set by one of Rock’s most acclaimed bands.
It was the stuff of rock ‘n roll legends.
Hours before Grohl and his company finally took the stage, the organizers performed at the Amphitheater in St. Petersburg.
Brian Donnelly, deputy Onondaga County executive, said that as people flocked to the parking lot, organizers learned that the band was not yet in Syracuse.
They had to make a decision early in the evening: Do we open the doors and start letting people in, even if the band is hanging on the carpet in New York City? Or do we throw in the towel now?
That was around 18:10 They decided the show had to continue.
“All we knew was that they were late, no one knew if they were going to make it,” Donnelly said. “So we opened the doors.”
Around 19:30 thousands of people were on site, picking up, sitting, ordering drinks, buying goods. But the Foo Fighters were still on a track at JFK, drinking champagne, asking if they could come here.
As the evening wore on, it seemed more and more likely that the band would not make it. Donnelly said he would get as many people into the doors as possible if they had to send people home. The last thing the organizers wanted was for the traffic to collide: thousands of people were still trying to get in, while thousands of others were trying to get out.
By 8 p.m., then, the lawns and bark were full. And the organizers have made a plan to send everyone home.
Onondaga County executive Ryan McMahon said Live Nation officials spoke to the band, asking them to record a video apologizing that they would not reach it. That could play on the big screens in the amphitheater and cushion the blow a bit.
The logistics staff at the amphitheater worked to rearrange the entrance “Chutes” to get people out of the place, not in. They also discussed messaging: What do we say to everyone?
McMahon – who said he was in Albany for a meeting but distracted with frequent updates about the show – said organizers were a minute away from the announcement.
Then came the call. The Foo Fighters were wheels up.
“We’ve made the preparations for the artist to record a video, somehow excuse ourselves and get ready to play it and start preparing logistical stuff for safety,” McMahon said. “Right when [that announcement] was doing, they got the green light.
So the show went on. Opener Bambara takes the stage at 8:30 pm – about 90 minutes ahead of schedule. An announcer suggested her set with the first official word to fans about the band’s delay. The Foo Fighters were held at JFK, he said, but they were in the air and on their way.
While playing Bambara, Scramble began to get the Foo Fighters into the location.
“There was massive relief but even you still had a lot of arrangements,” Donnelly said. “You’re on pin and nails.”
McMahon said his office would have to decide how late the band could play. There is a noisy airport that typically starts at 11pm The band would not even land in Syracuse until after 9am.
“The question our call was to make is how late they play,” McMahon said. “The team has made the right call: they can play as late as they want and we will deal with the impact later.”
At least two sheriff’s deputies parked on the tarmac at Hancock International Airport were waiting for some private jets en route downstate.
A Gulf Stream and a Cessna attacked shortly after 9:20 p.m. According to CNYCentral’s Michael Benny, an air traffic controller greets the aircraft with a question:
“Is there a chance you have a band on board that is late for a concert?”
The parade of vehicles and flashing lights zoom down on Interstate 81 and turn right into the amphitheater in the scenery.
After four hours on the JFK sidewalk, a sprint of a flight and a crazy stroke into the amphitheater, the band’s music drove behind the scenes in a parade of twinkling lights. That was 9:46 pm The fans erupted.
Grohl said he got out of the car, put on a fresh pair of shoes and jumped on stage.
It was 9:56 a.m. – just the beginning of a show that dampened local airports, lasting until midnight.
“You know we almost did not come here tonight!” he blew on people before he released the lyrics to the opening song:
“There are times like these, you learn to live again.”