Photo by Henrik Thorburn/Creative CommonsBy Clive Young.
New York (April 19, 2010)—Airborne ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano has ground air travel in the UK and Europe to a halt, affecting millions of travelers and companies, including live sound providers in North America.
Since its eruption on April 14, the volcano has steadily released a plume of ash and microscopic glass particles that have made flying throughout the UK and parts of Europe impossible. Air travelers who needed to fly to or through those areas have been stranded around the globe--and since pop stars and their crews are not immune to the whims of Mother Nature, they, too, are affected.
Jack Boessneck, executive vice president of Eighth Day Sound (Highland Heights, OH), rattled off the ways his company had been hindered: “The crew for Tom Jones can’t get home, the president of Eighth Day is still stuck in the UK, and we have Whitney Houston taking public transportation to get to Dublin!”
Stalwart crooner Jones recently finished a UK tour, and while his band is from England, his production manager and audio crew members were foiled from returning home to Las Vegas and Cleveland, respectively. “It’s not life-threatening,” said Boessneck. “No one’s whining or moaning; it’s one of those weird things that you just have to laugh about. They were talking about flying ‘backwards’ around the globe last I talked to them.”
Meanwhile, Eighth Day president Tom Arko had recently gone overseas for the start of Houston’s “Nothing But Love” world tour UK leg, and is now unable to return. The singer made headlines this past weekend when she took a public car ferry with her production across the Irish Sea to make a run of dates at the Dublin O2 Arena on April 17, 18 and 20. With no end in sight to the volcano plume and the rest of her month-long arena tour booked in the UK, the diva may likely wind up returning via boat as well.
Eighth Day was not the only North American sound company affected; Greg Smith, senior account manager at Clair (Lititz, PA), confirmed, “It’s the biggest air travel stoppage since 9/11, so crew logistics have been a challenge. We’ve had to postpone preps and rearrange some schedules. As a policy, we always fly people to a prep, so we had people from the UK and Europe coming here, and people here going overseas. Fortunately, there was enough time in some of these preps that it’s OK. We didn’t miss any tour starts.”
Tour audio equipment tends to go overseas via container ships, but the professionals needed to run that gear remain dependent on air travel; while sending a crew across the Irish Sea is one thing, the Atlantic Ocean is quite another. “Alternative transportation isn’t an alternative,” said Smith. “It’s not fast enough. There’s no ‘Hey man, you can’t fly so we’re gonna Love Boat you.’ No, we’re just waiting it out.”
Eighth Day Sound