Reality checks / by Ahmed Gallab


The “Mars” album cycle was full of so many reality checks. I found myself dealing with a new set of issues that didn’t exist when I was a hired gun. Everything became my responsibility. The band wasn’t making any money either which made everything much more stressful. 

After a very fun tour with @toroymoi we headed to SXSW. This was my first time playing and I was beyond stoked. My excitement lasted until the beginning of our first day there. 8 shows in 1 day with very little time between each. We’d get to the show and hear the same thing, “You got 45 mins. That includes set up.” So, we’d maybe get through 2 songs before we had to head to the next place. It takes a special kind of musician to enjoy SXSW. 

My agent woke me up one morning. “Usher is here and wants to perform with you.” I hung up the phone. He called again. “No seriously. He’s doing a surprise performance with The Afghan Whigs and wants to do Runnin with you! A car is gonna pick you up at noon to head to the rehearsal.” Clockwork: the car came at noon. Took me and @kevandyd to the rehearsal and, lo and behold, Usher singing with The Afghan Whigs. He and Greg Dulli introduced themselves and we rehearsed “Runnin” a few times. 

Kevin and I walked out of the building, looked at each other and just started laughing hysterically. That was SO random! 

Backstage felt like a movie. Future, School Boy Q, Pharrell, and Solange were all hanging out. I don’t get nervous at shows but, on this day, I was scared shitless. The show started and no one knew that Usher was there so, when he came on stage, everyone went bonkers. I stood next to the stage next to Pharrell. I couldn’t take my sunglasses off because I was crying. Then, as Usher started to announce me, Pharrell pointed me up to the stage. 

The performance was... Character building. I had no idea what I was doing. I was completely out of my depth. Let’s just keep it at that. Being a good entertainer isn’t easy. That night I realized that Usher is a very good entertainer and I was definitely not. I met Krist Novoselic right after that. 📸 1 & 2 @phil_difiore, 3 @jesselirola