Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Graves Brothers and Me - Travels In Spain, Part Two

(Originally posted on MySpace on Sunday, February 17, 2008)

The first part of the story of this tour was posted last week. Look for it if you haven't read it yet. You missed stories of San Sebastian, Bilbao, Gijon, and Vigo and all that went on in-between. And without any further comment, here's part two:

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We had a show in Madrid the next evening at a club called Gruta 77. I had been in Madrid once before with the Young Fresh Fellows and that show was insane, with people swinging from the rafters going crazy, so I was really looking forward to this show. Unfortunately, it was the worst show of the tour. Only a few people showed up and we spent the night getting different excuses about it from different people involved. The band seemed to take it in stride, but I was seriously bummed out and disappointed.

We didn't have time to stew in it for long, as the next morning we were up early again because we had a good drive south to our next show that night in Granada. This was about the time that tensions between Drew and I started to boil over a bit and I remember some tense dialog while trying to get him ready and in the van with the rest of us. I also recall that he was pretty testy during that whole trip south. But hey, it's part of my job to deal with stuff like that and I didn't let it get me down.

The trip south was pretty amazing. There was one part where we traveled up a winding, very narrow road and then twisted and turned back down again. The view was awesome, but it was also teeth clenching tense, as people drove rather crazy and one wrong move would send you over the edge and certainly to your death. It was beautiful, but I was glad when we got back down out of those mountains and into the valleys of non-stop olive trees that led to Granada.

I wasn't sure about Granada. Remember, this was just a little over a month after 9/11 and Granada was the one stronghold for the Muslim religion in Spain. I have to admit that I was a bit worried about what our reception would be in that city. Not cancelling the tour turned out to be a good decision. Americans, including American bands, were panicking and cancelling any tour or vacation plans. So while most of the shows had been modestly attended, those people who did attend were extremely appreciative that we braved terrorism to perform for them. There were few Americans around and we were having a great time traveling around the country. But Granada was different and as we approached, I found myself wishing that it would have been the one show we would have cancelled.

Silly me! If I ever get the chance to live in Spain, I would choose Granada as my new home. It was a wonderful place, with the friendliest people and some of the most beautiful and exciting sights I visited in Spain.

We found the club rather easily and checked in. The promoter showed us to our hotel and then had us meet him a few blocks away for an early dinner. As I said, the Spanish tend to eat late and the restaurant was deserted except for our party. But it was delicious and afterwards we went back to the club to relax and wait for the show. The show was a good one that night, with a good amount of enthusiastic people. Afterwards, we stuck around to talk and drink. Our hotel was just a block away, so we didn't have to wait for the other band members to go back. I think I turned in early that night as the next day was a day off in Granada and I had a busy day of sightseeing planned.

I woke up the next morning and had my usual breakfast of Spanish tortilla and chocolate with churros. About this time, Willie met up with me and we decided on a route that would take us to several prominent churches and then up to the Alhambra. It's a beautiful castle on top of a hill overlooking Granada. It was constructed over a long period and housed many Arabic Sultans, who ruled the area from that perch. It was room after room of wonder and was one of my favorite places I've ever seen worldwide. While there, I noticed a series of tiles that ran around several of the rooms in Arabic script. I asked someone there what it said and he told me that it said, "Allah Is The Conqueror Of All"!

Now, I'm a big collector of tourist crap. I have a Leaning Tower of Pisa TV lamp and a bronze flying penis from Pompeii, amongst many other knick-knacks I've collected on my travels. (I also have a Russian Army Medal Of Honor, but that's a whole different story.) So I decided that there MUST be a tourist booth somewhere that was selling a replica of that tile and that launched an hour or so search while I dragged poor Willie around so that I could find one. And I finally did and it still has a place of honor on my wall here at home.

(I was terrified bringing it through customs into this country. It was wrapped and boxed, but I could just see an agent take it out and suddenly I would find myself being tortured in some CIA stronghold. In the end, they didn't even look at it.)

After that great find, Willie and I wandered through The AlbaicĂ­n, which is the old Arabic quarter of town, before making our way back to our hotel to have dinner and get back to the club we played the night before. We were going there to see a trio of Spanish bands who were signed to Munster Records. Some of the Muster people would be there and a party was promised.

I warned the band that we had a long drive the next morning and I would be waking everyone very early. I expected to be ignored. What I didn't expect was to ignore my own advice. I had a blast that night. The bands were good and I spent most of the night afterwards sitting in the bar flirting with the extremely handsome Spanish bartender. I was very drunk and having the time of my life. I remember Stoo coming up to me to remind me that I had said we had an early wakeup call, but I just waved him away and continued to flirt. Fill me with alcohol and I can become the worst dog ever. But the evening finally came to a close and I carefully made my way back to the hotel to hit the sack.

I don't think I got any more than two or three hours of sleep that night. My alarm went off and I woke up with a horrible hangover, but as is the case with me, business took over and I got the band up and ready and after a quick breakfast with lots of coffee, we were off to the next gig.

That was in Castellon (http://www.aboutcastellon.com/), which is just north east of Valencia, on the coast. But to get there, we had to drive through the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. It was one of the most beautiful drives I've ever experienced in Europe. We passed through an area; I believe it's called Los Galayos de Dilar, which was used for many of the Western Cowboy movies made in Europe way back when. It looked like an exaggerated version of what Europeans thought of the American West, all craggy peaks and beautiful towering rocks. I tried to wake the band up to see this sight, but they were only interested in sleep. I've marked it as a place I need to go back to someday and really see it up close.

We finally pulled into Castellon, which seemed to be a nice coastal town. Our hotel was close to the ocean, so we drove down there first to check in. I was excited because my friend, Don Snowden (http://www.rocksbackpages.com/writer.html?WriterID=snowden) was supposed to meet me at the club. He was an original member of the Gun Club and wrote for the "LA Weekly" before giving up on Los Angeles and America and moving to Spain a few years earlier. I was envious about that and eager to see him again so I could ask him about his life there in Spain.

I don't remember a thing about the show that night. I remember Don and his girlfriend meeting us at the hotel. We went out for a light meal and talked. Then they came to the show. They seemed to like the band a lot, but since they lived in Valencia, they had to leave after the show to catch the train. But it was great to see him again. (He still lives there and seems to be doing well. I'm still envious about it all.)

We went back to the hotel and decided to go out to get something to eat. Just a few doors down was a restaurant that specialized in seafood, so we decided to eat there. It was late and there were lots of people walking along the beach. I don't think I'd ever get used to seeing families walking around together after midnight, but it was a normal occasion there in Spain.

The restaurant was amazing. We had squid and cuttlefish and a whole lot of other fishy good things that had been pulled out of the ocean just hours before. We finally had to beg the owners to stop bringing us food. And when the bill came, it was so cheap we were shocked. It was some of the best seafood I've ever had and I wish I could eat like that every day.

I think we wandered the beach that night for awhile before making our way back to the hotel for a good night's sleep. We had another drive the next day.

So, the next morning, we piled into the van and headed back towards Madrid. Actually, we were heading to a town that had now become a suburb of Madrid called Guadalajara (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guadalajara,_Spain). It was the last show of the tour and we weren't expecting much considering how bad the Madrid show had gone. Both Stoo and I were excited though because our friend from London, Andy Bean, aka, the-man-who-made-touring-England-with-Thin-White-Rope-so-much-easier, was coming to visit us, and when Andy's around, we always have a great time.

(Here's a quick story about Andy. During one of TWR's tours of England, Andy & I decided to go see this band called Salad at the Camden Palace in London. When we arrived, the lead singer had broken her arm and the band had cancelled. There was a new band named Jesus Jones playing instead and since we were there, we decided to go on in and check them out. After all, the doorman told us that if we liked Salad, we would like Jesus Jones. We had decided not to drink that evening as we had had several heavy drinking sessions in a row already, but when Jesus Jones hit the stage, they were so awful that drinking heavily seemed to be the only recourse. I just remember Andy walking up to me with a sad look on his face and saying "Pissed again" unhappily. Perhaps you had to be there, but that memory always cracks me up. One of these days, I'll have to do a whole blog of stories about Andy that crack me up.)

We arrived to find a quant, old Spanish town and a punk rock, hole-in-the-wall club. After unloading our equipment and doing a quick soundcheck, we headed out on the town to see what we could see, but just as I walked out the door of the club, I heard an English accent speaking and turned to see Andy walking down the road.

That show turned out to be a great send-off. It was packed and the audience was crazy. The band put on a great show. I found myself drunk and flirting again, this time with some young, Spanish punk rocker who didn't speak any English. (Marco later pulled a trick on me. While we were driving away, he told me that the kid had told him that he was madly in love with me. I was drunk enough to fall for it and fell into a fast depression before realizing that it was all a cruel joke. Once again, silly me.)

Madrid wasn't far away, so we just drove back to our hotel there, located in downtown. Andy came with us and we spent the next day or so, sightseeing, eating wonderful paellas (my favorite was a seafood one blackened with squid ink) and generally having a great time before Andy had to return to his life in London.

The last thing I did with the band was a TV appearance for a program called Radio 3 in TVE, which is the Spanish version of the BBC. We were a bit worried about it, but it turned out to be a rather fun thing to do. We showed up, loaded in and finished our soundcheck just in time for siesta. Most of the crew had a couple of beers and then took a nap while we wandered around and talked. After siesta was over, a busload of high school students were let in and filming began. The band played a great set, despite the crowd of perplexed students who seemed to be hoping for an appearance by Madonna rather than the scruffy American indie-rock band they were forced to endure. After the show, a few of the students came up to talk, but most of them fled rapidly in terror and perhaps a bit of boredom. Oh well, it was fun anyways and it made for some great TV.

There was talk of the band doing a Halloween show, but I decided that it was time for me to leave. This had actually been a pretty easy tour to work. There had been no major equipment or van problems and no real problems with the guys, except for the little tension between Drew and me. I was getting a perdium, but it wasn't enough to really keep me afloat and I found myself spending too much of my own money on stuff. I was also getting tired of sharing a hotel room. I loved those guys, but Stoo had a cold and was snoring horribly and I just grew tired of dealing with it. And to tell the truth, I was missing home and Skip since it had been almost three weeks. There was a time when none of this would have bothered me, or if it did, I just ignored it. But like I said, I was getting tired of life on the road and I just didn't want to do it any more. At least, not with a band. (I say that now, but I know deep down that if a band called and ask me to tour with them, I'd be packed and out the door before they hung up the phone.) Anyways, I moved up my departure date with the airline and decided to leave the next day. If the band had a Halloween show, they'd just have to handle it themselves.

On my last night there, the Munster guys decided to take us out to a typical, home-style Spanish restaurant. I ordered what I was told was a five course meal that was just like what the general public ate at home. As with everything, I was eager to try all the typical Spanish things to do, including eating. I think it was the third course that was just a pile of steaming blackness. All the Spanish guys started screaming that it was pure death. Turned out it was a blood pudding. They all loved it, but didn't expect an American to eat any of it. I took a taste and found I loved it as well. The rest of the band wouldn't touch it, so I devoured the whole thing, much to the amazement of our Spanish hosts. And the rest of the meal was great as well. I explained that when I was out-and-about, I thought it was rude to refuse food that others put in front of me. I've always eaten everything served to me and have found many favorite foods because of it that I never thought I would have eaten otherwise. I don't go to another country to eat like I do at home. I want to experience that country the way the locals do and that includes the food. One reason I started touring was because it was a great way to do just that.

So, the next morning, I packed up and left. One of the Munster crew took me to the airport and Spain became just a fond memory. But several days after getting home I received a letter from Francisco telling me how much of a pleasure it was working with me and how great it was that I threw myself into the Spanish experience with abandon. He said he's met few Americans that would do that with such eagerness and without complaint. That made me feel very good.

I loved Spain and I hope to be able to afford to go back again. The next time I'll take Skip. I think he would love it as well. But until that day, it will have to remain a great memory. I thank Stoo and the Graves Brothers Deluxe for giving me that experience. It's something I'll never forget.

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And I finally finished after promising these stories for months!

2 comments:

  1. When you come to Granada and need a comfortable and cozy place do not forget to discover White Nest hostel. A hostel that offers good location and good quality service for an unforgettable experience in Granada. The best tapas bars, the best entertainment, the best entertainment and the spectacular Alhambra are at your fingertrips. Granada Hostels Hostels Granada

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  2. HEY... I'm guessing you'll never read this... but I am THAT Francisco and I am still alive! Weird that I hardly remember shit about most of this! Saludos desde Madrid Michael!
    Francisco

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