On Tour With Marah
A Travelog by Damien Smethurst
Wednesday 28th September
Today I am going to head out on my most ambitious trip for a long time. The main reason that it's ambitious is that I don't have the money to pay for it because my freelancing work suddenly dried up a couple of weeks ago. When I committed myself to the journey I was making decent money and knew there wouldn't be a problem financing the trip. But now, after two weeks of practically no work, things are different.
Still, flights and hostels are booked and the band are coming for their first tour in three years, so I have to head out and hope for the best.
Before I leave though I have some things I need to do. Mainly it's the usual pre-flight checklist; change money, pack, print off flight tickets, put credit on my phone, and so on. And I should have plenty of time to do what needs to be done before I go.
I almost forgot about my friends cats, who I have been making sure are fed and watered while said friends are on holiday. This means a trek across town to feed them before heading to the airport for my flight to Spain. It takes me 30 minutes to get to my friends flat, 10 minutes to do what needs to be done when I get there, and an hour to get to the airport. I have 90 minutes until check-in closes.
Something is going to have to give. Either that, or I am going to have to be exceptionally lucky with connections for buses, trams, and metro trains. Going off my track record of flying to Spain, chances are I'm going to miss my flight. I contemplate just going straight to the airport and letting the cats go a day without food.
But this is not really a viable solution because my friends wont be back for another couple of days, so the cats are already going to be short as it is. I have to head over there and hope I get lucky and make my flight.
As luck would have it, I make it to the bus stop just in time to get a bus to my friends place, so there is a chance I might still make the airport on time. Having done what needs to be done with the felines I race to the metro station, only to see a train pull away just as I get on the platform. It being a public holiday, this means that I will have to wait 8 minutes for the next train.
8 minutes might not seem like a long time, but realistically there is every chance it could be the difference between making or missing my flight. Having waited the requisite amount of time I board the next train for the required seven stops before changing lines and being fortunate enough to just make a train before it pulls away.
It's still 50-50 whether I'll make my flight or not, and it all depends on how long I have to wait for a bus at the final changeover. As it happens, I miss the normal airport bus by a matter of seconds, but an express bus is right behind it and I am able to get that instead of waiting for the next normal bus. I am now confident that I'll actually make it to the airport on time for my flight, even more so a few minutes later when we pass the bus I just missed.
I end up making it to the airport 10 minutes before my check-in closes, which is just as well because I am at the wrong terminal and have to hurry over to the correct one, constantly checking the time to see if I am going to actually get there on time or not.
In the end I make it to the check-in desk with almost a full minute to spare, and I begin to hope that this will break a run of awful luck I have been having when it comes to flying to Spain to watch this band. The plane takes off on time (always a pleasant surprise), and lands in Barcelona 15 minutes early. Things are looking up.
I have to say, of all the places I have ever been, Barcelona is one of my favourite cities. And within 45 minutes of my plane landing I am checked in at my favourite hostel in the world and ready for a few drinks to celebrate the smooth journey and prepare for tomorrows trip to Bilbao.
So that's exactly what I do, a few beers, a few games of pool, and a nice relaxing evening all round. In a rare fit of organisation, I even have the good sense to check the bus schedule so as to be certain I can actually make it to Bilbao before heading to bed for (what for me is) an early night at around 2am.
Thursday 29th September
I get up at 8am and make my way downstairs for breakfast before heading to the bus station. In a ridiculous display of over-punctuality I get to the station a full hour before my bus to Bilbao is due to depart, and once the ticket has been purchased I set about heading to a nearby bar for a pre-bus drink. I also pop into a shop to get some supplies for the 7 hour journey, said supplies mainly consisting of 10 cans of beer and a packet of crisps.
It's all about the priorities when I travel!
The bus journey passes by without any problems, except for the discovery when we are still 150 kilometers from Bilbao that the toilet on said bus is not in working order. This, as you can possibly imagine, causes a few issues, as having been disposing of the cans of beer steadily throughout the journey I am now in serious need of recycling some of the ingested liquid.
In desperation I decide to try to confuse my body by drinking more every time the urge to urinate becomes almost too great to hold in any longer. I consider using one of the empty cans as an emergency urinal, but the very attractive girl sat next to me means that I cannot in good conscience behave in such a manner.
Fortunately, I manage to stop myself from making a smelly mess of myself and anything else and hold on until the bus arrives in Bilbao, whereby I waste no time at all in heading to the toilet for one of the longest and most pleasant sessions of liquid offloading of my life.
I then make my way to the hostel I am booked into and check in, where I am told that my friend Paul has already arrived, although where he is at the moment is anyones guess. With nothing else to do, I head for a little walk around town as this is my first time in Bilbao.
During my walk around Bilbao, I send a message to another friend named Alec who is supposed to be coming over for the entire tour just like Paul and I are. I am really hoping he is going to make it, as I have budgeted for him driving from gig to gig, and if I have to actually make my own way around Spain I will run out of money very quickly.
He replies almost immediately to inform me that he is stuck in America due to having to attend to some business with his sister. While I completely understand why he had to stay at home, it causes me a serious issue as it means my already tight budget is now much, much worse than it was a few minutes ago.
On my way back to the hostel I head to a store and get a few beers, and once back at what will be base camp for the next 36 hours or so I find Paul lurking by the communal computers doing some work.
We spend a little while just catching up with one another as it's been three years since we were last in the same city, then decide to have another little walk around town to try and find the venue for the first gig of the tour tomorrow night. This doesn't take us too long and we both agree that it looks, from the outsde at least, like it could be a good place for a rock and roll gig. We are also encouraged by a poster on the door which indicates the gig is part of a free festival, as this greatly increases the chances of a decent crowd for the band.
We then head back towards the hostel, stopping off for a beer on the way, all the while speculating on the quite literally hundreds of teenagers sitting around all over the place on the street, quite clearly having some mass mid-teen street party for some reason.
We only have one drink and then head back to the hostel where Paul, after a short time spent watching cheesy movies dubbed in Spanish on TV, heads to bed while I stay up until around 5am writing, before I finally head to bed myself.
Friday 30th September
This is a day that Paul and I have both been looking forward to for several years. The day Marah, and more particularly the brothers Bielanko, are going to be reunited and kicking off their first tour of Spain for three years. I am up at 8am, curious about what kind of stuff is offered as breakfast in the hostel. Not much, as it happens, consisting of bread, jam, cereal, and nothing else.
Paul has some work to do on the computer so he gets on with that while I occupy myself with some light reading. Around 1pm we decide to head over to the venue to see if the band has shown up yet. We get there and manage to head inside for a look around, and we are both super excited by the look of the place. A good sized stage and room for around 400 people on the main floor, with extra space on balconies on two levels that go around the whole space.
We leave a note for the band welcoming them to Spain and then head back out. On the way back to the hostel we stop off for a bite to eat and a couple of beers, and the place we find has one of the best chickenburgers I have ever had the pleasure of eating. After that we just wander around aimlessly for a little while before going back to the hostal for a short nap.
I notice a store not too far from the hostel and tell Paul I am just going to go and grab a few beers for the bus journey we are going to be taking immediately after the show. The look on his face when I walk out of the store a few moments later with a slab of 24 cans of beer is priceless, but in my defence we hadn't noticed a bar in the gig venue and the bus journey we have planned is 10 hours long, so I don't think I am being too greedy.
I should point out at this point that Paul does not consume alcohol, ever, and so I have no doubt that he has real difficulty sometimes comprehending how I manage to function as well as I do with the amount that I drink!
When we get back to the hostel I check my emails and discovered that I have a few small proof-reading jobs to do, so I get on with that while Paul has a nap before heading back over to the venue to see if the band are around yet. He returns at around 8.30pm, and by 9pm I am done with work and ready to head out to the gig.
I am also down to 16 remaining beers, which does not bode well for my plans to actually have enough beer for the bus journey later.
We head over to the venue for the final time and have a brief chat with the band to say hello before they go on stage. The gig, as it always is with these guys, is immense. This is the first time I have seen them in over 3 years, and Martin and Mark, the new drummer and bass player respectively, are members of the band I have never met before, although they could have been with the band for ever as the wall of sound is so perfectly put together.
I should state for the record right now that as an individual I do not dance. Ever. Except one time in Barcelona watching the last night of a tour of Spain by Marah. And now I've danced twice, as by the time they start the third number I can't help myself any more and go crazy, all the while downing beers as though they were water.
By the end of the gig my 24 cans are gone and I am the happiest I can remember being for a very, very long time. Paul and I hang around and chat to the band for a little while after the show, but at around 1am we leave to head to the bus station for our 1.45am bus to Vigo, where tomorrows gig is going to happen.
Getting to the bus station is no problem, and we are soon en route to our next destination, a 10 hour bus ride to Vigo. So far my travels are all going according to plan, and I start to feel that the Marah curse on my Spanish trips is finally over.
I really should have known better.
Saturday 1st October
Things start to go wrong at around 5am when the bus pulls into a bus station somewhere and the driver announces a twenty minute break. At least, I am pretty certain he said 20 minutes, but as I don't speak Spanish I go to the front of the bus to check with him, and he confirms that he will be stopping here for the aforementioned length of time.
Paul is asleep so I leave him to it and go to use the facilities. This takes me less than 10 minutes, so you can imagine my surprise when I come back out to see my bus driving away without me. I check the time on my phone which confirms that the 20 minute stop has actually lasted for only 10. I am stranded and have no idea where I am. This is not good. Not good at all.
I go to enquire about tickets and am told that another bus ticket to Vigo will cost me 30 Euros on top of the 60 I already paid for the initial ticket. The next bus is at 3.30pm and will get to Vigo at 10.30pm. At this point in time I have no idea where I am as I had been having a nap immediately prior to the bus pulling into the stop, and so I feel I have no option other Bilbao passed without a hitch, clearly this was only because it wasn't on a Saturday, and I am now being bitten soundly on the ass by the usual Saturday Spanish Marah curse.
With nothing else to do for the next 10 hours or so I decide to head outside for some fresh air and to see if I can work out where the hell I am. At this point I realise that I should have actually made this decision before buying a ticket, because where I had assumed that we were at a random service station somewhere on the highway, in actual fact we are in the centre of a city, which I soon discover is Oviedo, and there is a train station just up the road.
I make my way up there and enquire about tickets to Vigo from here, and learn that I can take a train at 10.30 and get to Vigo by 8.30pm, and this will cost me 50 Euros. I think about it for a few minutes, as I know that having already paid for the bus, taking the train will leave my financial reserves pretty much null and void, but the chance to leave 5 hours earlier and arrive in Vigo at 8.30 instead of 10.30pm convinces me that it is worth the extra expense, as the last thing I want is to get to Vigo too late for the gig.
Having bought the ticket I have a walk around town looking for some WiFi to steal so I can email people and let them know where I am and whats going on. I initially post something on Facebook along the lines of being stranded in a strange town, and get a reply from Serge Bielanko, one of the two brothers that front the band, telling me that the band will come and try to find me if I can let them know where I am.
However, I don't get this message until some time later, by which time I have already taken the first leg of the train journey from Oviedo to a place called Leon. From Leon I can get a train direct to Vigo, and once there I just have to find the venue for the gig. I have also sent Paul an SMS in the hope that he can rescue my bag from the bus once it arrives in Vigo, as otherwise I will be stuck with just the clothes I am wearing for the duration of the tour.
Fortunately I have my passport and wallet with me, and I keep my laptop and camera in my trouser pockets, so the expensive items are safe at least.
There is a 90 minute layover in Leon, so I head into town for a quick beer and check my emails, which is where I see the message from Serge telling me the band will make a detour to come and get me if neccessary. I reply to him to tell him that I have sorted things out and will be in Vigo at around 8.30pm, and he responds by telling me that the gig is at 11pm so there will be no problem. All I will have to do is find my way from the train station to the venue once I arrive, although if I'd taken the bus it could have been much more difficult.
Arriving in Vigo my first task is to find somewhere that I can check my emails and charge my laptop as the battery has died on me. I also need to check a map and find out where I am in relation to the venue for the gig. It takes me half an hour or so to find a bar with WiFi, and so I head in there and have a few beers, check to see if I have had any work come through, and look to see where I am. I find that I am only a short distance from the gig venue and so head round there at around 10pm.
There is no sign of anyone I know when I arrive so I head into the nearest bar for a quick beer. At 10.20 I head back outside and go up the street to wait for people to arrive. The band get there first, and are clearly happy to see that I have arrived in one piece. They are kind of used to my crazy adventures to see them, as three years ago I ended up paying 500 Euros for a taxi from Alicante to Zaragoza after my bus broke down on the way to the airport causing me to miss my flight.
They also have a film crew with them who are supposed to be shooting a tour documentary, so I said hello to all of them while I waited for Paul to arrive. After a brief chat with Paul, during which I explained why I had gotten off the bus and he informs me that he managed to rescue my bag from the bus, and had apparently been kicked awake by half of the passengers as the bus left without me, only to have the driver refuse to go back for me, and then we go inside for the second gig of the tour.
I have my camera with me so decide to try and film a few songs. The camera can only record 7 and a half minutes of footage as I don't have a memory card for it, so my plan is to record one song during the first set, download it onto my laptop during the interval the band are having on this tour to allow people to have a cigarette, and then record a second song during the second half of the show.
It's another kick-ass show, and there are around a couple of hundred people here to see it. As is normal at a Marah show, we hang around after the gig and chat with the band before Paul and I head to the hostal that we're checked in at for a few hours sleep. We need to be on a bus again at 8am for the next leg of the tour, but I also need to check my emails. The WiFi in the hostal isn't working, so I head back out to try to find some somewhere else. By the time I manage to find some that I can steal and check my emails I am completely lost and have no idea where I am in relation to the hostal, so I then have to find more WiFi to steal so that I can check the map and find my way back!
I get back to the hostal at around 5am, and at 7 Paul and I get up and head to the bus station for the bus to Gijon which is the next stop on the tour.
Sunday 2nd October
There is a bus direct to Gijon at 8am, but when we get to the bus station we find that this bus doesn't have any free seats. This causes us a bit of a problem, and the only way we can get to Gijon will be to take three buses. This means that our predicted 5 hour bus journey will in fact be much longer, as we are due to get the first bus at 8.30am and arrive in Gijon at 10.30pm.
After around 18 hours traveling yesterday I am not really in the mood for another 14 hours today, but there is no other option so we take the tickets and prepare ourselves for a long day and hope that the gig wont start before we arrive.
The first leg of the journey takes us to a small place called Santiago de Compostela. We have a three hour wait here for the next bus, so while Paul decides to have a nap on a bench outside the station I head into town to look for a supermarket so I can buy some supplies for the rest of the journey. Supplies in this case being something like bread and cheese so we have something to eat, as it suddenly occurs to me that I haven't eaten for a couple of days.
It takes about 15 minutes to walk into the town centre, where I find that they are having a medieval festival which basically consists of stalls set up in the town square selling sausages and so on. As it's only 11am, I'm not really interested in having anything to eat at the moment, although I know this is going to change as the day goes on, so I continue on my way in search of a supermarket.
The first one I find is closed, which I find kind of strange, as is the second and the third. By the time I find a fourth closed supermarket I am ready to give up the search for the day. I do manage to find a bakery that also sells a few packets of cooked meats so decide to get a few french sticks and a packet of ham before heading back to the station to meet Paul and wait for our next bus. I also buy a six-pack of beer, just to make sure I don't get dehydrated on the bus.
At around 1.30pm we head out of Santiago on the second bus of the day. This is annoying as we were hoping to be in Gijon by now, but there is nothing we can do about it. It's around 3 and a half hours on the bus to our next stop, which is a place called Ponferrada, and here we have another wait of a few hours before getting the third bus of the day which will take us to Gijon.
There is little to do in Ponferrada other than sit down and wait, so that's what we do. We head into the cafe at one point for a beer, but mostly it's just sitting there doing nothing, which is annoying as hell because we just want to be on the road and traveling, but we have no real choice in the matter.
We finally arrive in Gijon at around 10.30pm and both of us are feeling pretty tired, but we need to find the venue and watch the gig. The problem is that we don't know how to get there, and it takes a while before we can find a taxi, only to have the driver say he doesn't know where the venue is but he can take us to the street.
The venue that we are looking for is supposed to be called The Monkey Lounge and a few minutes later we pass a bar called The Monkey Bar. They are advertising a band tonight, but it isn't Marah, so while Paul is convinced that this is the place we are looking for, I'm not so sure. We stay in the cab for a few more minutes discussing it, all the while getting further away from the potential venue, but eventually we decide to get out of the cab and go and find the place ourselves,
Paul instantly starts marching back towards the place we saw in the cab while I try to find some WiFi to steal in order to call up a map and check where we should be going. Paul is going far too fast for me to try and get a signal though so I give up and follow him, thinking that once we get to the venue and find out it's the wrong place he will calm down long enough for me to look it up properly.
Of course, Paul turns out to be right and the place we are marching to is the place the gig is happening after all. When we get in the band are already playing, and from the sound of it we have missed the first couple of songs. The crowd is small, only maybe 60 people or so, which is a shame, but apparently this is because Gijon are playing Barcelona tonight so everyone is at the football.
Despite the small crowd the band still play an awesome gig, and afterward Paul and I talk to the guys and tell them about our crazy journey for the day. The venue closes shortly after the gig ends, and we leave Dave and Christine at the bar trying to get some drinks to take back to their hotel. Serge is also ready to go back to his hotel so he can talk to his wife and kids on Skype, as this is the first time he has been away from home since his son and daughter were born.
Mark and Martin, however, are up for going for a few beers, so Paul and I go with them in search of a bar that's open. It is getting close to 2am, but it doesn't take us long to spot a bar with a few people sat at tables outside, so we head there to see if they are still open.
The woman behind the bar tells us that we can have one beer and then she is closing, but then Mark and Martin get talking to her and before we know it we are on the second drink, and the third, and the fourth, and then the doors are closed and we're locked in.
It turns out that the woman behind the bar is the owner, and she is called Isabel. Most of the other people in the bar are musicians of one kind or another, and when I play a few of the clips from the show in Vigo on my laptop Isabel looks online to find some Marah music to play for everyone. She then plays a few songs from one of the other guys in the bar, before playing a song from her own band, at which point we realise that she is an amazing singer.
After a few more beers she decides that she is closing the bar. In true Spanish style, she informs us of this by turning off the lights and and heading to the door, telling us that she is going to take us to another bar around the corner. Of course there is no argument from any of us, and it's only when we've been in the other bar for twenty minutes that we realise that she didn't charge us for our beers!
My Spanish bartender freebies are kicking into play again, and after the debacle of yesterday and the state of my finances as a result, this is something I am most certainly not going to complain about.
The other bar Isabel takes us to is also full of musicians, which is kind of bizarre, but also really cool. There is an Australian guy in the place who is wearing a Glasgow Rangers football shirt. It must have been the shirt, as most Aussies that I have met over the years are really laid back and relaxed, but this guy is really full on and agressive and in peoples faces. Mark especially is quite intimidated by him, but after a while he calms down a little and switches from trying to pick a fight to offering to go home and bring back beans and sausages and cook up a breakfast for everyone!
He eventually leaves as his friends want him to give them a ride home. The guy is so drunk he can hardly stand up, but he's planning on driving home anyway. This is something that really pisses me off, as one of the few things I am categorically opposed to is drunk-driving, but there is no point trying to talk him into getting a cab and off he goes.
The atmosphere in the bar improves markedly the moment he leaves and we all get on with the important business of drinking for a little while longer. At around 6am Mark and Martin decide they want to head back to the hotel, so Paul and I leave with them to make sure they find it okay.
We don't have anywhere booked for the night and decide to just find a bench somewhere to have a nap before finding somewhere to stay at around 9am, meaning that we only have to pay for a room for one night. Tomorrow is a day off for the band, although they have to do a radio interview at around 2pm, so everyone is staying in Gijon for the day before heading to the next stop on the tour, Burgos, on Tuesday morning.
Monday 3rd October
At around 9am Paul and I go in search of Wifi for me to steal with the intention of me going online and finding somewhere we can stay. We find a bench where I can access the internet and while I look for hotels Paul disappears and comes back a few minutes later with a bag full of what I assume to be food of some description.
I can only find one hotel online, but it has very unfavourable reviews. It is cheap, however, so we decide to try and find it and have a look for it so we can make a decision when we see it ourselves. I ask Paul for the name of the street we are on so I can check the map to see how close we are, only to find that we are not only on the same street as the hotel, but it is actually literally right behind us.
We take this as a sign and head across the road to check in immediately. The price is good, the room is big, there is free WiFi, and we are checked in and in bed by 9.15am, meaning we can have a few hours sleep before heading out to meet the band at their hotel at 12.30 to go to the radio interview.
Paul sleeps while I, as usual, check my emails, hoping to find work but with no luck. We head back out at 12.20 and meet Serge at the front of the hotel. The radio interview is meant to happen at 2pm, and Martin comes down just after we arrive looking fine, but Mark has told him in no uncertain terms that he is staying in bed for a few more hours.
Of Dave and Christine there is no sign, however, and this could potentially constitute a problem if we can't find them. The general consensus is that if they are awake they will be at the nearest place where they can sit outside and drink coffee, and the tour manager goes around the corner to a cafe looking for them.
They are not there, but Paul spots Dave at the top of the street, sat, as predicted, outside a cafe drinking coffee, and so we head up there to join him. He tells us that Christine is in the hotel room, and as we get closer to the time of the interview Dave goes to try and make sure she is awake. A few minutes later Serge goes back as well, and suddenly it's 15 minutes before the radio interview is due to start and the only band member we have is the drummer!
Fortunately, they all reappear just in time, and the radio station is only around the corner so we all head round there so they can do the interview. The band are put in a small studio with no air conditioning and told that they are going to be interviewed by someone in Madrid. The interview will be conducted in Spanish, which is a bit of an issue as the band only speak a small amount of said language, so one of the documentary crew is roped in to act as an interpreter.
The band play three songs during the interview and I record all three on my camera. Once the interview is done we all decide to have a little walk around town and see what it has to offer. We head down towards the beach where I get a great picture of the band and Paul leaning over the railing staring at the ocean. At this point Dave and Christine head back to the hotel as Dave has a broken toe having dropped a guitar amp on his foot just before the tour started, while the rest of us have a walk up the hill where we just sit and chill for a little while as Serge talks about a concert that is going on in his head that involves Simply Red playing on a floating stage out in the bay.
Martin also confesses at this point that of the top ten romantic places he has ever been to around the world, he has been to every single one of them with guys!
We relax for a little while, and then the band decide they want to go and have a siesta. I want to do some writing so head back to the hotel too, while Paul decides to go and have a walk along the beach for a bit. We all make plans to meet up at 8pm to go and get something to eat and have a few beers before heading our seperate ways.
I end up spending the time talking to my friend in Korea on Skype, and I don't get any writing done before heading out to meet everyone at the pre-arranged time. We then have a walk around trying to find somewhere that can fit the whole group in for a meal. Paul and I decide that we are not going to eat as neither of us are hungry, so while the band and crew sit and have a meal, we go looking for a couple of bars Paul went to the last time he was in town with another band. We only manage to find one of the two bars, and it's closed anyway, so we go back to the restaurant where we left the band to meet up with them.
They are just finishing up their meal and we decide to all head to Isabel's bar from the night before for a few beers before having an early night. When we get there Serge decides to bail and goes back to his hotel, and a few minutes later Isabel arrives and instantly grabs Martin and takes him into a place across the street.
This turns out to be a private musicians union bar with all kinds of instruments lying around, including a harp. Christine has never played a harp before so she asks for permission to have a go with this one, and this is the start of a bizarre night which dissolves into a jam session involving most of the band at various stages, Isabel singing, and random people joining in with whatever instruments are available.
One guy turns up with some weird kind of sea-food that he has been and caught himself, evidently some animal that lives in the cracks of rocks along the coast. This, he claims, is the rarest form of sea-food on the planet and is worth around 500 Euros a kilo, but he is quite happy to donate it for free to the band.
The proposed early night gets forgotten about, and it's around 4am before we finally leave there and head back to the hotel to get a little sleep, having all had a great night.
Tuesday 4th October
This is another early start, an 8am bus, although fortunately there's no issue with the bus being full and us having to take a major diversion. The journey is a little over 4 hours, meaning we get to Burgos by lunch-time. Things are starting to get back on track with our journey, and all we have to do now is find the venue for tonights gig.
We debate for a while whether or not to get a hotel, and in the end decide that we might as well as it will mean we can get a few hours sleep before the gig and another few hours afterwards. The plan is to sleep today and not book anywhere tomorrow in Madrid, as it's much more likely that the band will want to go out drinking there than here.
We initially have a walk around town looking for somewhere to stay, and I have a moment of panic when Paul suddenly turns around and starts talking to a couple of young girls he has overheard having a conversation in English. The last time this happened was in Brno in the Czech Republic, and the girls in question turned out to be ultra religious and tried to talk us into going to their Christian Rock gig instead of that nights Marah show.
The discussion we had on that particular occasion lasted quite a while, and in fairness to myself and Paul we almost managed to convert two of the girls to the dark side and get them to abandon their faith in favour of the best rock and roll gig in the world. But there was a third God-botherer with them who ran off for reinforcements when it looked like we were getting the other two girls to question their faith.
This time round though there is no such complication. It turns out the two girls Paul has heard talking are from an American dance troupe that are in town for a show tomorrow. They seem really keen on the idea of coming to the Marah gig when we talk to them about it, but as neither of us have the venue information on us we can only give them rough details and hope they can make it.
Once this is done we sort out a hotel and then grab a few hours sleep. Our plan is to head to the venue at around 8pm to listen to the sound-check, and so at 7.30 we leave the hotel and go looking for a taxi. I've looked up the address on the bands website online and it's clear that getting to tonights venue is going to be a bit of a trek, so a taxi is the best option.
It doesn't take us long to find a cab and he's happy to take us to the address we give him. However, when we get there we discover a problem. The address on the website is someones private flat, not a club where a rock and roll gig is likely to take place. We're fucked. And the chance of the American dancers turning up for the show is now looking pretty unlikely.
The only chance we really have is to try and find some WiFi to steal so I can send a message to the tour manager on facebook as we stupidly don't have a phone number for anyone involved in the tour. The problem is that we're pretty much out in the middle of nowhere so WiFi isn't easy to find.
So we take a taxi back to the center of town and I look online for the venue website. This gives me a completely different address, which is also close to where we are, so we go to check it out only to find the address given for the venue on their own website is a jewellers store.
This is not looking good.
Paul starts to accost people at random in the street, asking them if they have any idea where the place is, and he finally manages to find someone that knows it. The venue is part of a football stadium we passed on our way out of and back into town, and so we take a third taxi back up the road and finally find it about 10 minutes before the band show up at 10pm.
We aren't really expecting much in the way of a crowd because of where the venue is, but we're all pleasantly surprised when a few hundred people showed up. There are only so many times I can say that the gig was amazing before it becomes kind of boring and repetitive, so I think for the rest of the tour you can just assume, unless I state otherwise, that the gig was just as good as if not better than the previous ones.
I again manage to get some good footage, and because I'm pretty much out of cash by now I'm literally filming a song and downloading it onto my laptop before the next one starts to distract me from the fact I'm not drinking. I manage to get most of the gig recorded, but by now I am getting pissed off at this 7 and a half minute recording limit and considering buying a memory card.
After the show we all stand outside talking and mixing with people, and there is a totally surreal moment when some guy randomly asks Dave if he likes cheese, then goes and produces a whole wheel of said dairy produce when he recieves an answer in the affirmative. The general consensus amongst the band members is that this is some of the best cheese they've ever tried.
Paul and I then get talking to a few young girls who walk with us to the bands hotel, where we have a little scout around looking for a nearby bar in the hope that we might catch them having a few post-gig beers, but the search proves fruitless and so Paul and I retire to our hotel to get some sleep as we know we won't be getting any in Madrid tomorrow night.
Wednesday 5th October
This is a day where we actually get a late start as we had decided, due to it being a short distance to Madrid, to get a bus at 2.45pm. We know it's scheduled to be an early gig in Madrid, with the band on stage around 8.30pm, but this is fine as it's only a 3 hour bus ride. Our issues with full buses and getting lost seem to be behind us, but I am now having my own little problem.
Which is money. I'd sent a message a few days ago to my boss to request payment for the few jobs that I'd done which I hadn't been paid for yet, and the money is due to clear in my account today. But I keep trying banks and finding no money there. This means one of two things. Either my money hasn't cleared yet or my card isn't working in Spain. Either one is possible, as although my card had worked in Germany recently I had not been able to use it when I was in Austria at the start of the year.
Either way, I'm down to my last few Euros, so something needs to be sorted out. The first thing I do is send a message to a friend in Prague who can access my bank account online and tell me the balance. He does this and confirms that my money is there, which just means that I have to find a way to access it.
I spend a while trying to think of a way to make things work, and in the end decide to send an email to a friend called Amanda who is going to be coming over for the final gig of the tour to see if it would be possible for her to send me the money, and then I can send is straight back to her from my account.
All this time, I keep trying different banks, all to no avail. We have to get the bus before I get a reply, and a few hours later we arrive in Madrid. More out of pointless hope than expectation I try the first cash machine I see, and am shocked when it actually gives me money! I withdrew most of the money I have in the account and hope that it will be enough for the rest of the tour, but leave a little in reserve just in case.
It doesn't take us long to get to the venue, where we do the usual pre-gig chat with the band backstage before heading out front for the show. I again film a few songs, but for the most part this show is about just having fun, as for the first time on the tour I have a bit of cash in my wallet. This, of course, means that I feel compelled to dispose of said cash as rapidly as possible, but having discovered that a small beer is 5 Euros at the bar I decide to utilise the emergency supplies of cans that I had picked up earlier when nobody was looking.
After the show, we go back to the bands hotel with them and then head to a nearby bar for a few drinks. Which rapidly become a few more drinks. And then some more. Followed by a couple of beers. And then the bar closes. So Paul and I, being the only two still going as the band have long since gone to bed, go in search of another bar.
I should make something clear by the way. Paul doesn't drink. At all. He steals leftover food from the bands rider, but he never touches alcohol. So his task in Madrid is to try and ensure I don't get into too much trouble as I am finally cutting loose for the first time on the tour.
I manage to find, in Paul's words, a Spanish gay biker bar, where I sit and have a few more beers before we decide to head to the bus station and wait for tomorrows bus. Or so I have been told. By all accounts, by this time I can barely stand up, but Paul somehow gets me somewhere close to the bus station and I immediately proceed to going to sleep underneath a bench.
While I'm sleeping, Paul finds himself in conversation with a guy who has been traveling around working in various places and has found himself down on his luck trying to get from Guinea to Lille in France. The guy has apparently not eaten anything in days, so it's lucky that he bumped into Paul as he had very recently purloined the bands leftover rider food, which he gives to the poor guy in the hope it will be enough to sustain him until he gets somewhere that he can earn some money.
Me? I slept under the bench for a little while longer.
Thursday 6th October
At 7am we are on yet another bus, todays destination being Pamplona. I spend most of the journey catching up on sleep, as I haven't had much in the last few days and drank a little bit more than I should have in Madrid. By the time we get to Pamplona, I'm suitably refreshed and ready for a bit of fun.
First up on the agenda once we arrive is to find somewhere to stay. A quick check online gives details of a hostal which, according to my map, is quite close to the venue for tonights show. It's also reasonably priced, so Paul and I jump into a taxi and head straight there.
As we're checking in we notice that there's a board listing local events next to the reception desk, and at the bottom of the list is tonights Marah show. You know a band are truly making waves in the rock 'n' roll world when they are being promoted in backpackers hostels! I ask the guy on reception for directions to the venue, and at this point it becomes clear that, just like in Burgos, the internet can lie to you sometimes.
It turns out the gig is not actually in Pamplona, but is instead in a small village about 10 kilometers away. Getting there shouldn't be too difficult, as there is a regular bus service that will at least take us to the right area. Getting back after the show, however, could be much more difficult. This is something we can deal with later though. For now, as we have the time to spare we decide to go for a walk around and explore Pamplona a little.
Before we can leave, however, we get talking to a young couple from Australia who are backpacking around Europe working on organic farms for bed and board. They seem like a cool couple, and we would undoubtedly have no trouble persuading them to come to tonights gig if it wasn't for the fact that they're waiting for a bus to their next destination. Our time talking to them is far too brief, as almost as soon as I start to play them a clip from last nights gig their bus arrives and they have to leave.
We head down to the old part of town, where I find a camera shop and buy a memory card for my camera. I am fed up of only being able to record a short amount of footage. I also look for a light that I can attach to the camera, as some of the venues have been quite dark, and there is one song in particular where Serge goes walkabout in the crowd. I would love to film this, but it tends to be far too dark to get any kind of decent footage.
Paul and I walk around for a while looking in different shops but there is nowhere that sells the kind of light that I'm looking for. This is a little disappointing, but there is nothing much I can do about it so we give up and head back to the hostel for a little while.
At about 8pm we decide it's time to try and find the venue, and so we leave the hostel and head for the bus stop. This is where the journey could get interesting, as the only directions I have been given by the hostel receptionist are to get off the bus before it turns right and the venue is on the other side of an industrial estate. This is the reason that we're leaving to look for it so early.
The bus part of the journey is easy enough, but I'm already not looking forward to us having to find our way back to the hostel after the gig. It's a 10 kilometer bus ride, and I really don't feel like walking that distance at 1am in a city I don't know. Yes, it's a straight road, so there's no chance of us getting lost, but I'm quite lazy and Paul isn't really built for hiking, so it wont be a fun trip back.
All we can hope is that the band are staying somewhere in the center and we can hitch a ride back into town with them.
Once we get off the bus we are instantly hit with difficulties, as we have been told that the venue is on the other side of the industrial estate, but there is no sign of any such place. Instead, it's all residential houses and normal shops. We walk around aimlessly for a little while, me trying to find somewhere that I can grab WiFi so I can get my bearings and sort out a route, and Paul walking off trying to use his inbuilt music finding sat-nav to lead us to the venue, but before long we are back where we started and Paul allows me to actually use my computer to try and find out where we should be going.
It only takes me a few minutes to hijack some WiFi and work out where we are in relation to the venue, and then it's a 10 minute walk to actually get there. As is often the case, we arrive early and Paul manages to talk our way into the venue, even though there is no sign of anyone else yet.
We were warned by someone we met in Burgos that tonights gig could be a disaster, as the venue is big but the people of Pamplona have a track record of not turning out for live music. Apparently the New York Dolls played in the same venue a few weeks earlier on a Saturday night and only 20 people showed up.
As this is Marah's first tour of Spain for three years, and as they have never played in Pamplona before, the chances of there being nobody at the show are quite high.
Paul and I hang out with the band for a while before the show, with none of us having any idea what is happening in the venue. The set-up is strange, in that to get to the dressing rooms from the front of the stage you actually have to go back out of the building at the rear and come in through a different entrance. Either that, or just walk over the stage.
As it gets towards show-time, Paul and I are faced with the problem of having to get out front, and it's decided that the best option for us is to just go across the stage rather than mess about trying to find one of the security people to lead us around.
Coming out of the dressing room area onto the stage there is a moment of trepidation as I wonder whether there will be any people here or not. Fortunately, my fears are unfounded as there are at least a hundred people already here and more people showing up by the minute. It looks like we'll have a good crowd after all, and hopefully they'll all enjoy the show as much as I've enjoyed every show on the tour so far.
By the time the band come on stage about ten minutes later there were about 150 people in the venue. It's a strange atmosphere though because the stage is about 7 feet high, and so everyone's stood at least 10-15 feet back from the stage so they can watch the band play. Anyone who has ever seen Marah play before will know that they feed off the energy of the crowd and vice versa, but in this case there is no energy coming from the crowd at all.
Don't get me wrong, they all seem to be appreciating the band well enough, but for some reason they aren't getting into the music and dancing as people usually do at Marah gigs. Towards the end of the first set, the band go into Dishwashers Dream, the song where Serge likes to get up close and personal with the crowd.
This presents a bit of a problem, as due to the height of the stage there is a real chance he might injure himself getting down, and then of course he will have to actually try and get the crowd involved in what he's doing anyway.
The first of these problems is solved by Paul and one of the guys from the official documentary crew following the band (more on them later) helping Serge down off the stage. Serge, a keen fisherman, then solves the second problem by casting an imaginary fishing line into the crowd and drawing them in towards him before going crazy in his usual style once he's surrounded.
Once this is done, the only other problem he has is getting back on stage towards the end of the number, and to do this he ends up having to use the steps at the side of the stage as it's just too high for him to get up any other way.
The band then take a break to allow everyone (including themselves) to go and have a cigarette, before coming back out and rocking the place with their second set. The crowd are a little closer to the stage in the second set, but still not as close as a normal Marah crowd would be, although with such a high stage it's difficult to criticize them for staying a little bit back.
This means that the crowd don't feed off the energy of the band as much as at most gigs though, and vice versa, which is a shame as the band are giving it everything they have to seeming indifference from the audience.
This is demonstrated at the end of the gig when the band walk off stage, and rather than shout for an encore the crowd just start making their way out of the building right away. All in all it's been a bizarre night, and I'm about to discover that the strangeness is actually only just beginning.
Once the gig's over a guy called Oscar, who we met in Burgos and was the person who had warned us not to expect much of a crowd tonight, asks if anyone wants to go drinking with him. The band disappear quite rapidly back to their hotel, but Paul, myself, and the film crew decide to head to Oscar's local bar for a drink, and from there Paul and I can work out how we're going to get back to Pamplona for the night.
The bar Oscar takes us to is a short walk from the venue, and evidently has officially closed for the evening. This doesn't prevent Oscar from knocking on the door until someone comes along and opens it though, and before we know it we're part of a late-night lock-in, something which I have become very familiar over the years.
As I may have mentioned earlier, Paul doesn't drink, and nobody in the film crew seems interested in having a beer either. Which means that there are 6 of us in the group (me, Paul, and four filmographers), and one person drinking. While I avail myself of a few nice cold beers, Paul is negotiating with the other guys and they offer to give us a lift back into Pamplona in exchange for an interview about the band for their documentary.
This request is not exactly unexpected, as Dave has spent the last couple of days talking about how the documentary should be about me and Paul rather than his band. This is seemingly because the guys are getting a bit of a reputation as the world's worst film crew.
On the surface of things, this seemed quite a harsh thing to call them. They are all really nice guys for a start, and are certainly keen to do the best they could. But they have managed to get lost a couple of times, have blown up a car on one of the journeys between cities, lost a really expensive camera lens, and seem to have an amazing knack to turn up to places about five minutes after something worth documenting happens.
Anyway, faced with a 10 kilometer trek back into town or a lift in exchange for a few minutes on camera, it isn't a difficult decision, and so we leave the bar and head back towards the venue, as they have left their car there. My only other stipulation to the interview is that we have to find a bar in the center of Pamplona as I'm not going to appear on camera without a beer in my hand.
As we walk back to the venue it occurs to the three film crew members that are with us that their friend, who has already gone back to the hotel, has the car keys. So they tell Paul and I to head to the venue and wait by the car while they go to get the keys. They describe the car to us and we head there while all three of them go together to take possession of a set of car keys.
Paul and I speculate that they either have an extremely heavy set of keys that necessitates the need for all three of them to carry them, or they're ditching us because they don't want to drive us into town after all. We get to the venue and there's no sign of the car they described. So we go around to the other side and find that it isn't there either. At this point, we think it might be a good idea to head back to where we'd parted from the guys so we can wait for them there,
We don't have to wait long for them to arrive, but our information that their car is not where they claim to have left it is met with incredulity. So we walk back around again, only to find a few minutes later that Paul and I are completely correct. The car is not where they left it.
This sparks a few moments of panic amongst them as they realize that all of the footage they have shot during the tour is in the car. This means they have spent the last week and a bit of their lives shooting a movie, and it was a complete waste of time. The car is a rental (after the aforementioned car being blown up incident), so there's no need to worry about insurance. But they are completely screwed on so many other fronts.
It's Paul who thinks to ask them to check with the other member of their group to see if he might have moved the car. After all, he had the keys and left the bar before anyone else. Maybe he didn't want to leave the car there overnight with all of their film stock behind a club in the middle of an industrial estate. A quick call to him reveals that he did actually move the car and it's back at the hotel.
That would be the same hotel that the other three guys have just been to in order to get the keys. Clearly it didn't occur to him to mention to his friends that the car was actually downstairs, and not half a mile away where they were expecting to find it. This level of communication makes it suddenly much clearer where the title of 'world's worst film crew' is coming from.
After a walk back to the hotel we all jump into the car and head back to the center of town, dropping Paul off at the hostel first before the film crew and I go looking for a bar. It takes us about twenty minutes to find somewhere open in the old town area, and the first bar we find, while cool with me, is not good for the worlds worst film crew as there is a live band playing so interviewing me isn't really an option.
I have one drink here, then we go to a place across the road. This place is quiet, at least when we walk in, but is too dark to actually get any decent film footage in, so again the film crew are screwed. By now the fact that I am walking around Pamplona at 3am with my own film crew is starting to attract a bit of attention, and people are wanting to know what we're doing.
So I make up a story on the spot about me being a famous porn star from England who is looking for a girl or two for a shoot and tell the guys to pass it around, as obviously my Spanish hasn't improved much in the last few days. We eventually decide that the best course of action is for me to take a drink outside with me and sit on some steps around the corner while the crew interview me for their documentary.
It takes a few minutes to get things set up with regards lighting and making sure the sound is good, and then we proceed with the interview. The questions are the kind of stock questions you might expect from someone conducting their first ever interview, and once the interview is over I point out to the guys that they really should have asked better and more insightful questions if they wanted to get some good footage.
Maybe asking me about the ridiculous journeys I have taken to watch this band would be a good place to start, but instead they just ask me why I like the band.
There is a moment of excitement in the middle of the interview when a group of guys walks past us up the steps. This, in itself, is not all that exciting. But when they get to the top of the steps one of them turns around and throws a beer glass at my head. Fortunately for the glass, it misses me completely, and flies over my shoulder to smash to the ground between two of the film crew guys.
They have a moment of panic wondering what the hell just happened. As for me, I don't even react, and sit there drinking a little more beer while I wait for the guys to calm down a little bit so we can continue. I try to explain to the film crew that after 20 years of working in bars I'm used to having stuff thrown at me, but I'm not sure if they really understand why I don't feel the need to react.
Interview over, we have a couple more beers each and then head back to the hostel. I go inside and the film crew head back to their hotel. Next stop Valencia.
Friday 7th October
I get about two hours sleep before Paul is up and moving around. We are going to part ways here, as he has to head to Barcelona to meet Amanda who is arriving later today and is disabled so not able to get around on her own all that well. His bus to Barcelona leaves about 90 minutes before my bus to Valencia, so we wish each other a safe journey and off he goes.
I nap for another hour and then make my own way to the bus station.
This turns out to be quite an eventful bus journey for me, for the second time on the tour, although fortunately not quite as bad as the trip to Vigo was.
Initially I have no idea of what's going to happen, and the bus pulls out of Pamplona at the correct time. I instantly do what I have gotten used to doing on this trip, which is taking my shoes off so my feet are comfortable and nodding off for a nap. Around half an hour later the bus stops suddenly and I jerk back into conciousness.
I am instantly confused, as we appear to have just pulled over at the side of the road, seemingly for no reason. The driver jumps from his seat and comes stalking up the bus glaring at people, before getting to me and seeing that I don't have my shoes on. Evidently this is the reason for the unscheduled and sudden stop.
He starts shouting at me in Spanish, and I manage to get the gist of the fact that his ire is directed at my lack of footwear. So I put my shoes back on and try to apologise, but he keeps on shouting at me. Eventually, he pauses for breath long enough for me to tell him I don't speak Spanish, at which point he directs another bout of bitterness at me with the word 'Policia' interspersed here and there. I kind of get the impression that he is threatening to have me arrested if I take my shoes off again, and, suitably drained of his ire, he heads back to his seat and the bus continues on its way.
A few hours later we pull into a service station and the driver announces what I think is a 40 minute rest stop. But I've been screwed by this before, so even though everyone else gets off the bus I refuse to move. Then the driver comes back to me and practically man-handles me off the bus anyway.
I need to pee quite desperately, so run to the toilet and then run back, and am gone for a maximum of three minutes. Only to find the bus is gone. Again.
I have a few minutes of panic, trying to work out what the fuck just happened, and then turn around in frustration and see a bus filling up with fuel behind me. I also recognise a couple of passengers from my bus sitting around, so start to calm down a little. Five minutes later the bus is done filling up the tank and comes back around and re-parks in the same place and I start to relax a little. This wasn't some crazy conspiracy to force the guy with smelly feet off the bus so they could continue without me after all!
The rest of the journey to Valencia is uneventful, and I arrive early in the afternoon. Now all I have to do is find my hostel. I wrote down directions so I can get from the bus station to the hostel I'm booked in before leaving Pamplona, and it's supposed to be a ten minute walk. And all seems to be going well, right up until I get to the street where the hostel is supposed to be, only to find a vacant lot at the address I have written down.
I wander around aimlessly for a while, but eventually work out that what appears to be an abandoned church by the vacant lot is actually my hostel, although the entrance is on a different street to the one I have written down. Nevertheless, a few minutes later I'm checked in and head to bed for a few hours as I have nothing else to do with my time.
From what I've heard the gig is due to start quite early so I head out to find the venue at around 8pm. I'm pretty much out of cash again, so have to be careful with what I spend, so when i get to the venue and see no sign of life I take to walking around the block a few times until I see the band pull up.
Once they arrive I go to a bar on the corner with Dave and Martin initially, although the others join us soon enough. Dave is bitching about the sound in the venue, and warns me in advance that he has no idea what kind of gig I might be about to see. If it was just Dave then I wouldn't pay much attention, as he is one of those musicians that seems to really believe that every sound engineer in the world is out to get them.
But it isn't just Dave. The entire band, including Martin the drummer, who is one of the most laid back guys I have ever met, is bitching about the sound. So far on this tour every gig has been awesome, even if actually getting to them has been more difficult at times than I would have liked. But as I sit there and listen to the band bitch about how bad the sound is, I mentally prepare myself for a below par gig.
I should have known better.
Don't get me wrong, there are serious issues with the sound, so bad that even my untrained ear can pick them up (although looking at the footage I shot of the gig later I started to question myself as to whether things sounded as bad as I thought).
Anyway, they play a few songs and then Dave decides it's time to go all folky and brings his microphone into the crowd so he can actually hear himself play and sing. Before I know it, the rest of the band start taking turns joining him, including Martin, and it turns into one of the most amazing gigs I've ever seen.
By the end of the show I can tell that there are issues with the band members, as some of them clearly think that they just played a great gig while the others think it was a disaster. I do my best to reassure them all that it was fucking awesome, as can be seen from the footage I shot of the whole gig, but am not entirely successful.
There's one night to go on the tour and the band are at each others throats because of a crap sound engineer, despite the actual gig being one of the best Marah shows I've ever seen. This could only happen with Marah!
Once everyone disperses, all I have to do is find my hostel and get some sleep, which takes much longer than it should do after I decide to see if I can find any of the band in a nearby bar and accidentally lose myself in the middle of Valencia!
Saturday 8th October
This is the final day of the tour, and is also a Saturday so I'm worried about being screwed by public transport, as I've now been totally fucked over in some way on the last three times I've tried to watch Marah in this country on a Saturday.
I get a bus at 8am, thinking that the earlier I start the less chance there is of things going horribly wrong. For once though, my Saturday travel jinx seems to be having a lie-in, and I make it to Barcelona by lunch-time. The only issue I now have is that I don't actually have enough cash to pay for the three nights I'm booked into the hostel, as even though I know I left 100 Euros in my account for just such an emergency, the bank isn't actually willing to give it to me.
I do have enough for two nights, so decide to pay for those two nights first and then see if I can borrow some money later to cover the last few days of my vacation. After a brief nap I arrange to meet Paul and Amanda near the venue for a bite to eat and so we can watch the sound-check.
Amanda is, like Paul and I, one of the biggest Marah fans there is. I met them both back in 2007 when they were kind enough to drive me from venue to venue on a Marah tour and have been close to them ever since. She wanted to come and do the whole tour like Paul and I did, but she has health problems, and even a couple of days ago it was still touch and go as to whether she'd make it over for this one show.
I arrange to meet them in a bar next door to the venue that we've been to before, and this is a place that I've been looking forward to heading to for the entire tour. It's a bar where every table has its own beer pump and you get to pour your own drinks, something I always enjoy as it means I don't have to waste valuable drinking time waiting for service!
However, to my shock and consternation, when I get there I find that the place is closed for renovations, as of a few days ago. This pisses me off somewhat, as the inconsiderate bastards could have at least waited until after the weekend before closing the place!
As the place is closed, I wait at the venue for Paul and Amanda to arrive. Amanda has a friend with her that she went to school with who now lives just outside Barcelona and has done for many years. This woman has an amazing story, as it turns out that when she first moved to Spain she ended up working for an agency that was booking all the big acts of the time to play in Spain. At the time, the country was still being run by Franco, so there was a lot of oppression and restrictions in place that are hard to imagine these days.
And yet here was this young girl from England, fresh out of school and traveling for the first time, who was liasing with people like Black Sabbath and the Rolling Stones in order to arrange gigs for them in school gymnasiums and so on!
Anyway, we have a quick bite to eat across the road, and then the band show up so we head inside to watch the sound check. Amanda is kind enough to lend me 100 Euros, which is the money I'm supposed to have left in my bank account, and I can relax knowing I have enough money to cover the last couple of days of my vacation.
Once the sound-check is done we all hang around talking for a while, and then head off to do our own things for a bit before the show. I do a little bit of writing, but can't really concentrate as I'm looking forward to the final show of the tour.
As always, the actual show is immense, and there's a surprising number of British people hanging around. Amanda's friend comes for the start of the show but then has to leave to pick her daughter up halfway through.
We get talking to a young couple from London before the show, and it turns out that the flights to Barcelona and the tickets for the show were a surprise birthday present from the girl to the guy, one that he's obviously overjoyed with.
The only downsides to the show are the interval, where the band goes off for 15 minutes to allow people to go outside and have a cigarette break, only to have the venue security people refuse to actually let anyone go outside, and a guy from Manchester (horrible place) who is really drunk and behaving like an idiot.
I ignore most of this though, and for only the third time in my life I end up dancing like crazy at a gig! By the end of the show I'm feeling pretty worn out, and the band are clearly feeling the same way as they decide to head back to their hotel rather than have a few post-show drinks. I leave the venue with Paul and Amanda and another friend called Dirk, a German guy living in Spain, and the worlds worst film crew. Amanda is hungry and the rest of us are thirsty. It being quite late, and not really sure of where else is open for food, we head to the Hard Rock Cafe and sit outside while Amanda and a few of the film crew guys have a bite to eat.
Once they've eaten, the film crew decide it's time for them to head back to their hotel, and so we say our goodbyes to them. Dirk and I then walk back towards Paul and Amanda's hotel with them before bidding them a goodnight and heading out on the search for beer.
After a while, Dirk remembers a bar he's been to before, and we go in search of it. When we get there we just have time for a couple of beers before the bartender tells us she's closing for the night. This confuses us somewhat as at the same time she says she's closing, about twenty people walk in who she seems more than happy to serve drinks to. Evidently it's just us tourists that she doesn't want to serve for some reason.
We leave the bar and Dirk heads back to his hotel. Exhausted from all the traveling and a total lack of sleep in the last week or so, I decide to head back to my hostel for an early night.
Sunday 9th October
I basically spend the day lounging around in the hostel, not really in the mood to do anything other than sleep. At around 6pm I go and find a supermarket and get myself a bottle of vodka and head back to the hostel bar and just sit there drinking. After a few hours I join in with a few people playing pool, and generally just chill out all night.
By midnight, my vodka is all gone, and as I don't have a whole lot of cash to spare I just head up to bed for the earliest night I've had for a long time.
Monday 10th October
I get up bright and early and feeling fresh and head to the supermarket where I stock up on bread, cheese, and some ham, and grab a twelve pack of beer, before going to the roof terrace in the hostel. I spend most of the day writing up my tour diary, but eventually get distracted by a bunch of Canadian guys who are trying to chat up a French girl. This attempt is going on despite the fact that none of the Canadians speak and French and the girl's grasp of English being non-existant, so it's kind of funny to watch.
Eventually I take pity on them and I offer them my computer, pointing out that they can use Google translate to communicate with one another. This leads to several hours of conversation via text on my computer while I just sit there and make my way through my cans of beer.
Eventually we all head downstairs to the bar and continue just chatting about general stuff for the evening. After a while I manage to convince the person in charge of the music in the bar to download and play some Marah songs as I'm starting to get withdrawal symptoms.
The bar closes at 2am and the Canadian guys head out on the town. As for me, I'm officially broke again, so I head to bed. Tomorrow I'll be heading home to Prague, and as much as I love Spain I really want to go back to a country that serves the best beer in the world at a price much cheaper than anything I can get in Spain.
Tuesday 11th October
I wake up at 9am and check out of the hostel. I have a couple of hours to kill before I have to head to the airport, so walk around for a while looking at the sights. The only money I have is for the deposit I paid for my room key in my hostel, and I need that for the bus to the airport, so all I can do is hang around doing nothing much until it's time to head out.
I make it to the airport without any difficulty, then find a spot with WiFi where I can sit and check my emails and do a little writing before my plane is due to take off. The journey back to Prague passes by without incident, and the first thing I do when we land is go to the cash machine to withdraw some money. Only to find that my account is completely empty.
The only thing I can think of that makes any kind of sense is that my bank charged me at least 5 Euros every time I tried to use my card in Spain, even though I was only actually able to use it in one place. This pisses me off, as it means I have literally no money, not even enough to cover the bus and metro back to my flat.
I also have no phone credit left, so can't call anyone to do anything about it.
It takes me a couple of hours to get home from the airport. I have just enough cash to get the bus part of the way, but then walk the rest of the way, a distance of around 6 miles. When I finally get home I'm in an odd mood.
I have no money in the bank, have had hardly any work for the last 6 weeks or so, and I don't even have any food in the flat.
But I'm happy, because I just got home from watching every gig on a tour by the best rock and roll band on the planet. In just two weeks, I've traveled over 7000 kilometres, got lost a few times, been to places I really had no intention of going to, been threatened with arrest because my feet are apparently chemical weapons, met some great old friends and made some awesome new ones.
Everything else can work itself out later...