N.B. musician remembers the time he helped Neil Peart get ready to play

A Fredericton musician is remembering the time he helped set up Neil Peart's drum kit.

Peart, an influential musician and lyricist for the Canadian band Rush, died Tuesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He had brain cancer.

Bruce Hughes was a teenager in the spring of 1976 when Rush played in Fredericton. For Hughes, it was his first gig as a roadie at the Aitken Centre. 

Hughes said he spent most of the night moving gear after he set up the lights. 

"One of the assignments I ended up being on was lugging drums and stuff and watching Neil Peart set them all up and do the soundcheck," Hughes recalled.

Hughes said he was a big fan of the band and couldn't believe he was part of setting up for the show. 

CBC

Peart joined Rush in 1974. Hughes remembers not knowing what to expect from the new drummer when the rock band rolled through town in 1976.

"So then there was the debate — well who is this new guy?" Hughes laughed.

"This was our first chance to really get to know this new drummer, and he just blew us all away." 

Massive drum kit

Helping to set up Peart's massive drum kit gave Hughes a chance to get acquainted with the new drummer.

"Such a huge kit even back then, it was just amazing with all the stuff he had," Hughes said.

"Sure enough, he used every piece that was in that kit. Like it was just amazing."

Hughes said he wasn't allowed to touch any of the drums, but assisted the drum techs. 

"You just keep your mouth shut and hand them what they want, right, and just kinda watch and learn."

Hughes said it took about 2½ hours to get the drum kit set up and checked, which seemed like a long time to him. 

"I had never seen anybody take that long to set up, but the amount of gear he has, you know."

Part of the gig meant Hughes got to have dinner with the band before the show. He remembered Peart kept to himself more than the others.

Hughes said he's been thinking about that night since he heard Peart had died. He is glad to have that memory. 

"They were not only Canadian icons, but great musicians — love them or not."