MAY 24 - OVIEDO
We get to Oviedo after about 5 hours driving. The road north from Madrid takes us past the giant cross on the mountainside, where Franco is buried. I tell my Franco story:
Franco is on his death bed. His aides hover, attending to his last wishes, while an angry mob outside the palace is screaming insults and waving placards. As the crowd becomes more noisy and begins throwing things at the palace gates, Franco raises his head slightly and in a weak voice asks: "What are they saying?". His chief of staff leans over and says: "Your excellency, they are saying "Goodbye". Franco looks up and says "But where are they going?"
The road winds through the Mountains of the Moon, with their evocative and strange shapes. We speed past a beautiful clear blue lake without stopping.
In Oviedo, there is a medieval central zone where no vehicles are allowed. The club is in the center of this zone. The heavy flight cases have to be hauled up a steep cobblestone street. Finally after much effort all the gear is in the club. A lone skateboarder jumps rails in the central plaza, and gives us not a single glance. The club is painted with red and black dots.
After soundcheck Chris Masuak shows up with his Spanish wife Clara. We all go to dinner, which starts with a salty oily fish salad, goes through a pasta course, a mushroom omelette, and then roast pork and gravy with chips. I skip dessert, but have coffee.
After dinner, I go through the amp hauling routine again with Chris's Fender Vibro-King, which we haul into the club so that he can play with us. He ends up doing the last 5 or 6 songs, and the sound was huge. ChrIs plays the solo in Endzone. I gave him the nod to go ahead and take a solo at the end of New Race, too. The small crowd appreciated the rare event, and who knows if it will be the last time that we ever play together?
MAY 25 - BURGOS
We get in the van at noon and stop for coffee and petrol straight away. Interesting that petrol is only 1.45/L here, not much more than in Australia, and only double what it is in Montana. Not long ago it was multiples more, in all of Europe.
We stop about every 2 hours on the road, to stretch and relieve our bladders and get coffee. Kike Louie always gets a nonalcoholic beer. The twins always get some food. Sausages, tortillas, roast chicken, chocolate, nuts. Anne and I usually do not have breakfast until late afternoon, and then it's only to share something small… a tuna empanadillo or a salad perhaps.
In Burgos we go to soundcheck, then the ultramodern hotel and nap for an hour. Then to the dinner restaurant, called El Fogon De Jesuson. It means the Cooking Pot Of Jesuson. Jesuson is a huge guy with a chefs cap and cooking apron. He says there are three levels of food available. Great, super excellent, and musician level. We can get musician level food, but he requires an autographed CD. We say sure…. while waiting, we eat olives and drink vino tinto while the twins chat with a progressively noisy bunch of women at a nearby table outside. They are getting drunk, and Art and Steve, who speak fluent Spanish, are trading who knows what sort of comments with them. They tell us: "They're ready. But not quality!"
But the food IS quality. Start with Vietnamese rolls. Then japanese noodles with tuna flakes. The whole dish is actually moving. Somehow the dried bonito flakes create motion as they pick up the sauce, and it looks like a writhing plate of worms! Almost nauseating, but delicious if you don't look a it. The final dish is medallions of tenderloin with a special sauce which is mindblowingly delicious. Jesuson comes over and we are marveling at the sauce, and he shrugs and says "made from coca cola and onion soup"!
Estadio 27 is the name of the club. It's opposite a bull ring. We play. I am soaking wet. Even my boots are wet. I change completely into dry clothes backstage, then cautiously emerge. We sign stuff. We get drooled on by completely shitfaced slobbering drunken fans. We shake dozens of hands, and worry about getting sick from it. It takes me forever to get my stuff packed up, because I am constantly interrupted by fans who must get their photo taken with me. A guy there complains that we were not as tight or as professional sounding as the New Christs. I offer him his 10 euros back, but he doesn't take it. We load the gear out into the van and get back to the hotel around 3.30.
MAY 26 - MADRID
We looped around to the east of Madrid to visit friends of Kike. Marcelo and his wife Christina had invited us over for afternoon lunch. They live in a new complex, a "city of the future" sort of affair. All the apartment buildings are identical. All the landscaping, the yards, playgrounds, little parks, street infrastructure … it is all very upper middle class anglo-suburban in style but all modular and exactly the same, making the overall impact unsettling and weird. It would be sort of like being in the grounds of a giant mental institution, if those still existed. (They dont. The protective walls of sheltering community facilities, where mentally ill people would often get better after a short stay, without drugs, have been replaced by the inner imprisoning chemical walls of modern psychiatric 'treatment': Risperdal, Klonopin, Geodon, venlafaxine, and so on)
Marcelo was cooking BBQ in the tiny back yard. Blood sausage, pork sausage, and big fat steaks smoked and sizzled on the grill. We opened some red wine, which was charmingly labelled "Canteburro" (singing donkey). They have an 11 year old girl named Maya, who was wearing a t-shirt that said "I AM A ROCK STAR". Maya wouldnt say anything, being shy. The parents tried to get Maya to speak english to us, since she is learning it in school. No way was she going to utter a word, but instead cutely practiced eye rolling and pouting. As soon as she finished her plate, she ducked back in the flat to get on the internet. They had a Dalmation dog too, named Lula, who was exceedingly well behaved given the overwhelming temptation of the heaped platters.
We headed on in to Madrid. We stayed in modern but cheap apartments in an industrial area on the outskirts, right by the "Bimbo" bread factory. Again, enticing smells … but no ambience of beautiful exciting Madrid. No shops or cafes or bars or anything even remotely within walking distance, just a sterile and bland cafeteria attached to the complex, full of german and scandinavian tourists.
We rested up a little, trying to sleep off some of the giant lunch, then went into town to the Rock Palace for sound check. It's near the center. Too far to go back to the accom, we hung out until stage time which was around midnight. The support band was "The Government". They were big fans, stayed in the front row for all of our set. It was hot and sweat drenched, and went over well with a couple of encores.
We packed up the gear, then went back to the apartments to change guitar stings and shower and eventually fell asleep, as the sun began to lighten the eastern sky.
MAY 27 - VIGO
It was a long drive to the west coast, up through mountains and vast emptiness, more like Montana than Europe.
In the van, Art and Steve told their stories of Dave Dude. He's a friend of theirs from Texas who was a roadie for The Reverend Horton Heat. No one knows his last name, but he is called Dave Dude because he uses the word "Dude" all the time, in every sentence.
Once Dave Dude was balancing a handstand atop a plastic rubbish bin outside a venue. The bin, full of glass bottles, collapsed and Dave fell in it. He got up from sitting in the pile of rubbish, and said "Hey, dude, I'm OK. Not even hurt." That's when they noticed blood running out of his pants leg and pooling on the parking lot pavement. A broken bottle had exactly cored out his rectum! They said, "Holy shit, Dave, we better take you to the hospital." He was taken to surgery for exploration of the wound. The circular cut had missed vital structures by a hairs breadth. Dave said the doctor told him (paraphrased no doubt) "Dude, if it had been a quarter inch either side, you'd have had to wear a butt sack!"
Another time, the car broke down on the road. Dave Dude was under the bonnet, trying to pry a valve cover or something off the engine. He had his head down, pulling hard on a screwdriver. It gave way suddenly, and the screwdriver flew up and poked into his eye socket. He stood up, and everybody was shocked to see the screwdriver handle sticking out of his eye. He said "Oh, man, dudes, this sucks." At the hospital, the eye surgeon found that the screwdriver shaft had penetrated through the upper lid, and had slid exactly between the eyeball and the bone of the orbital rim, barely missing the essential nerves, all the tiny muscles that control eye movement, and the globe itself. The screwdriver was pulled out, the wound cleaned, stitched, and Dave Dude walked out of the hospital without a care in the world.
Most hilarious was the time Dave Dude went surfing. He got pounded by wave after wave but kept trying to paddle out. Exhausted, and finally stopping to rest, he was lying on his back on the beach. He had a habit of using his tongue to flick a false front tooth. He would pop the tooth out, and then catch it. He flicked the tooth out. Before he could catch it, a seagull swooped down from the sky, grabbed the tooth in midair, and flew off over the Pacific Ocean with it. Dave cried out. "Dude! My tooth!!"
We stopped at a place called, enigmatically "HOTEL" . The letters spelling HOTEL were huge, six feet tall, bright red letters, by the side of the road. We had to go in. It was full of people eating. We all got roast chicken and chips. Kike watched a formula-one car race on the tv. Then we got in the van, headed across the coastal ranges which bristle with ugly German-made wind turbines, more than half of which don't turn.
Vigo is on an ocean harbour and looks sort of like Geveva. The Iguana Club is a semifamous gig. It has the usual motif of large breasted women in devil suits with tassles or tiny stars on their nipples. This motif of minxy naked or seminaked girls, mixed in with late 60's Detroit muscle cars, is ubiquitous in Scandinavia but also popular across Europe wherever so-called "Garage-Punk" bands play. The Iguana Club had multiple levels, and was mostly red and black. Many infamous bands have played there. It looks quite good, in a funky, carnivale-esque way.
We soundchecked, got a few minutes rest at the Hotel Panton, then went back to the club.
After the show we were ravenous. We found an open restaurant we could walk to, and ate dinner at about 2am. We drank a couple of bottles of wine, and topped it off with the Spanish equivalent of good armagnac, which is called Lepanto. I knew about it, already, because Pip gave me a bottle of it once.
MAY 29 - ORIEHUELA
We drove all day, heading south, ending up at the Mediterranean coast. We arrived outside the club, "La Gramola". It was closed and no one was there to meet us. While we waited, we bought fruit at a store. I used the pocket knife I bought at the petrol station earlier, to cut up a melon. Finally we loaded the gear in to the tiny club. It had a silver curtain behind the little stage. We checked the sound, then went off to eat.
The restaurant was called La Cantina. It sat on the corner, by the rail line, and we got a table outside so we could watch the trains go by. We got a paella … fantastic, with a dry rose wine. The restaurant owner had been in a band himself in the 60's called the Black Shadows. He went in the back and got an old photo of himself with the band, brought it out to show us. We took a photo with him.
After eating, we went to the hotel for about 20 minutes. It was a really nice hotel … the best of the tour. Deluxe!! And a lovely view!! We had an early wakeup the next day. There is a law of the road, which seems inviolate. The quality of the hotel is inversely related to the time one is able to spend in it.
We got in the van and drove back to the gig. Again, a small but overexcited crowd. I broke an A-string in Lets Go, then the D-string in Hand of Law. A lesson re-learned: never go more than 2 shows without changing strings.
There was a blonde Russian lady there who was aggressively trying to get … well, someone … anyone … for the night. She was about 35, kind of nondescript looking, hair sort of yellowish, like the van. Super drunk. Drooling drunk. She got right up in my face. I made it clear that I was unavalable. But Art and Steve were cornered by her for quite a while. I wondered if they might actually accomodate her, since they hadn't made out with any women at all since we arrived in Europe.
We assembled at the van to pack up.
Art: "She wanted a twin sandwich".
Steve: "Yeah, but she was a pile"
Art: "Theres no way we're goin' for that"
Steve: "Her breath smelled like vomit"
Art "Yeah, or like she was eating dog shit"
Me, wondering: "Have you ever actually had sex with a woman at the same time?"
Steve: "Yeah, we've done it. But only with really super tall chicks where if you are at the head end you can be about 4 feet away from the action at the tail end."
They recalled one such encounter in detail.
Then we went back to the hotel.
MAY 30 - BARCELONA
We drove into Barcelona, finding Club RockSound. It's so easy these days with GPS. Before GPS, to find the club, it would take hours of driving in circles around weird cities, guessing, finally asking people, getting bogus directions due to language barriers. Tempers would flare after long drives in the van. Now you just drive straight to the soundcheck. No more vicious group attacks on the piteous band member or driver who haplessly got us lost and made us LATE. And God help that individual if the band missed dinner because of it!
Soundcheck was notable for a completely inoperative monitor. The sound guy, a nice but fearsome looking fellow, had to go out and get another speaker wedge. We went for coffee at a strange American restaurant with sports themes. It looked really good, with all these baseball, football, and boxing artifacts from the previous century. Someone had spent a lot, and went to a lot of trouble to make it look like American sports culture. But they got everything wrong, like banners for teams which do not exist (Boston Redskins) and events which didnt happen (Super Bowl XVI in 1935!)
Finally hours later, got done with soundcheck but it was too late to eat.
The gig was really spectacular and we had the best merch sales yet on the tour. After the show, we were not lucky as the restaurant we wanted to go to had closed. Only the hapless American one was still open. We walked in but it was annoyingly loud and raucous, and we were in no mood for it. We walked out.
The twins disappear for a while "looking for ass".
Next day, we went to the car rental place and switched our big ponderous and ugly white Iveco for a smaller van, as we now had less gear to haul. We are getting other gear in Italy. We took off driving in our new silver van which is much sportier. It's a Citroen with the hilarious name "Jumpy".
We lobbied Kike to take us to the Dali museum in Figueras, which is more or less on the way. On the outside it looks like a giant Fantasy Castle with huge eggs on the roof and gold figure standing around naked. Then you pay 12 euros and go inside. The Dali paintings and sculptures are far more impressive in person than in the books we marveled at in our university days. There are no words for it. The works are fantastic to see up close and "live". All that cool stuff was there, that I had marveled at in books when in high school and university … the sheer amount and variety of work he created is incomprehensible to the human mind.
Going outside, into the cool breeze and bright mediterranean sunshine, I am seeing things differently. Trees, streetlights, cars, the sky, all take on a hallucinatory aspect. I have surrealist eyes, as we leave that amazing place. We get coffee. We get back in the little Jumpy Van and head across the French border, rocketing east on Autoroutes du Sud, at 160 kms/hr.
MAY 31 - SETE - FRANCE
I am still thinking about the Dali museum in Figueras. I have to go back to it. The body of work is impossible to comprehend. How could one man do it? He does everything, everything, and in every style, and then some. He gets down to the molecular level … into the heart of the DNA of it …Looking at the work I was both inspired and humbled. Some regrets begin to build. If only I had started as a classically trained painter as a child, and went on from there painting 10 hours a day for the next 50 years I wonder if I might have achieved a fraction of this!
We arrived in the port town of Sete. The canals lined with boats are achingly beautiful and impressionistic. I sense that I'm still seeing things through that art lens. We ascend the hill in the van, coming close to scraping the sides on the houses that line these narrow streets that were not originally made for cars, but for carts drawn by donkeys and horses. The writer George Brassens lived here. The street we are on is named after him.
We rang Tony Truant , who met us in the square a few minutes later on his motorcycle. He drives up with long curly Bob Dylan-ish hair, a loud shirt, lot's of jewelry, big black shades. He is as thin as a switchblade. Tony is a friend of Anne's, who was in the French rock and roll band The Dogs. Tony is in multiple music projects and is always going to or coming from a gig or a recording session. We follow in the van to Tony's house. He has a big house on the hill full of great posters, thousands of cool records, and weird guitars and amps. It's an old French house, funky, bohemian, run down in a good way. We sit in the back yard.
Tony: "What would you lak? Some wine?"
Art: "We don't drink."
Tony: "'Ow about some ash?"
Steve: "No, but we'll take some pussy if you have any of that!"
Tony: "I don't know about zees sings."
Deniz: "I'll have some wine."
Tony is from Beaune. He knows about wine. He opens a bottle of red.
He says: "Eet's may bee … ahhhh…not zo … bad ah." It is actually great. He makes a pot of green tea for the twins and we drink the wine. Tony brings out a tielle, the local specialty of Sete: spicy octopus pie. We all have a slice. The twins love it.
Tony explains: "Ay am drinking ze green tea all ze day and at night ay am wiz ze wine and smoke ze ash". This proves to be correct.
We head over to my friend Rauky's place. Rauky was in the band Tabasko and Sonic Assassin, and is now in Little Green Fairy. He is famous as a one armed guitarist, having lost his right upper limb in a motorcycle crash. He simply turns the amp up loud enough to feed back spontaneously and plays that with the left hand, and sings. We have more wine and snacks. Then we head out to eat. There is a little restaurant right on the beach in the middle of nowhere. No other buildings are near. The tables are all outside facing the water. The edge of La Belle Bleu is only a few meters away. The bright sunshine is turning to blue gray dusk with a pink rim.
We sit around for hours, until way late, drinking wine and eating. We eat something called Xinxin. It's sort of like a satay chicken curry. The lights of Sete and Montpellier twinkle like stars in the far distance, as the coast curves in a sweeping arc to the southeast.
Back at Tony's, we drink and play guitars till very late, then …. oblivion until the sun beats us awake with its magical headache rays.