Wednesday, October 08, 2008

So let’s see, where were we? Oh yeah, Barcelona… intensive S&LQ rehearsals meant that the next time we’d see J & S would be at Sidecar. I was keen to see this place because Ben Vaughn played there just a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, I know that a lot of you are interested in this bikini eating action so we have to rewind to being at the beach on Thursday (2nd). I didn’t know that you could actually walk to the sea from the city and it was a whopping 27 degrees down there at one point. So the natural thing to do is get into the shade in a café and soak up the ambience.

I’d seen “bikini” on the menu in various places but never put two and two together to make the requisite four until that point so I ordered one. Thinking it was like one of those terrible places where you get to choose a live lobster or fish or something (I don’t do seafood), I’d seen one or two passing that I definitely liked. But did I get to choose, did I heck as like. No chums, and here’s where the big dissy comes in, a “bikini” is a toasted cheese sandwich, cut diagonally to make it beachwear shaped. And this one was pretty teeny weeny, I can tell you.

Friday was a bit touristy, forsaking another rattle around the record stores for a trip up to the castle on foot and by cablecar and then down over the dock area from there, back to the beach. And then “home” to pick up the gear for my first dj set in many, many moons. I have to say that I was more than a little nervous and that could have translated into cackhandedness but it didn’t. So this was the weekend that Suzy & Los Quattro would play their 100th and 101st shows consecutively. They had Tim Cross come out from Blighty too in order that they could properly celebrate the release of “Stick With It”, resplendent with keyboards.

They put a lot of work into making these events somewhat special and it was an honour and three-quattros to be included. I am spiritually indebted to these kids for re-introducing me to the concept that rock (‘n’roll) is not dead, certainly not in their country. I keep reading that Barcelona wasn’t a r’n’r town but if anybody thinks that then they need to hit up a few of the bigger cities here. Then you’d know what the stench of undernourished music really niffs like. We pontificated amongst ourselves with regard to what might be responsible. Most likely that the “freedom” aspect is relatively new having only come in 1980. It’s a rocket up the arse to a jaded old twonk like me that it doesn’t actually have to be like it is here. At this point I’m thinking, I want to live 6 months here and 6 months in Stockholm.

After November, Europeans could well not be welcome in the USA anyway, depending on what goes down with the extended season finale of The West Wing and the arse that could be potentially made with regard to the “rescue package”. Anyway, back to the positive (at this point you’re checking who wrote this, right?) So the beers were going down a treat, as were the jagermeister shots. I don’t normally indulge in this kind of business but when in Barcelona and all that. It reminded me of being in NY during the 80’s and hitting the bars with the Elektra posse. So perhaps that calmed the nerves a bit.

Opening act, The MovieMakers were playing their first ever show with this line up. I imagine they were nervous too and I was wishing that they’d opened for The Dictators two nights before. Actually the Quattros should have had that spot when all is said and done. They would have complemented one another perfectly. The act that did do it played too long and was fundamentally awful. The MovieMakers played it short and sharp. Reminding me of a lot of things but not actually sounding like any of them. They left the people wanting more, how often does that happen? Let’s watch them go.

I should add at this point that joining us was Mr Clive Gilling from The Surfin' Lungs. No stranger to this fine Catalonian city. His is another group that enjoys an affinity with Spanish audiences, and Italy also - where they're bound next month.

Time for Suzy and Co. and this was my first taste of the new line up. Joey Q reminds me of the late, great James Darroch of The Eastern Dark both visually and stylewise. He doesn’t dress like a beach bum though, certainly not at showtime. Yuri Quattro is as clean and precise a drummer as you’ll find this side of Clem Burke. He propels the material in conjunction with musical director BB Quattro at a finite velocity. The lady herself frugs, shimmies and sticks out her tongue not necessarily in that order. She also belts out all these great tunes the band has in their armoury. I couldn’t really hear the keyboards other than at a couple of points near the stage. As it turns out they couldn’t hear anything onstage so for it to sound as good as it did out on the floor was a karmic result.

The distinction between djing and playing records and that of writing and being a journalist is a broad church. I've been in places where alleged djs are essentially deaf and unable to cue anything. I've also been in places where people are curating the music in the way that Andy Dunkley did.

Neither of these should be confused with the principle of clearing a room. One of the coolest things I ever heard or witnessed was when Mr U played Peter Brotzman's Machine Gun at shredding volume, driving the inhbitants out of the immediate area. If that's the intention then good, but don't you go to places where the music sucks and wonder what the fuck is going on?

The people who took over from me in both cities had a real flair for tempo. I couldn't mix anything to save my life but I can set up a string of knockout songs or whatever you want to call them. I had Adiam dymott running into Matt and Kim into Screeching Weasel into The Nomads into The Dictators. And people danced! Some folks asked for stuff I didn't have and wouldn't have. One guy asked for Midnight Oil. I did wish that I had Cheap Trick's "Surrender" and Tracy Ullman's "Breakaway" though and that there is the learning curve.

I guess we stayed maybe a half hour or so after the Sidecar set. A lot of nice people came up and said "hi" and asked what stuff was and just generally made me feel very welcome. It felt like some kind of triumph but most importantly, it was seriously great fun.

It was “too late” (now that’s a familiar song title – let’s have a wee think…?) for any Barbara Ann action because Madrid beckoned the next morning. Jeroen and Stefan were going to their respective countries that evening but the hardcore got in the van. It was a great experience to be taken across country like this, seeing areas that looked like the north of Scotland and also those that bore a resemblance to the moon. Stopping off at a cool roadhouse called Restaurante San Cristobal for some sustenance in the form of chorizo, egg and chips. Lovely jubbly, as they say in the England.

We made it to the Madrid city limits and the Stone Temple Pilots cd was jettisoned in preference to a kids show that prompted much Quattro participation. I wish I had an audio of that because it was priceless. In addition, The new YumYums album (more of which another day) seemed like much better mood music. Chewing bubblegum and kicking ass is a worthy sentiment, irrespective of order.

Madrid was pretty much as I remembered it. The busiest, most full-on place I’ve ever visited. We made it to the Wurlitzer Ballroom, loaded in and the kids set up while Clive and I set out for the billet. A quick freshen up and I was back on the streets heading for the gig. Just as I got there, a very cool-looking girl asked me if this was The Wurlitzer. I was able to confirm that it was indeed and we made our way inside. The band was finishing soundcheck. It felt way better than the previous night even without bodies. Loud but clear and The Q’s seemed happy. Some people had made a long journey to meet up with Tim and at the end of the s/c he played a wee bit “Mike Oldfield” for them. It was odd but possibly related to the way J, S and I felt when The Dictators were ripping down the Minnesota Strip back in Barcelona.

The bar closed for an hour and that gave me a chance to meet up with Simon Birrell who has been living out there for a while now. If you didn’t check out his short film “His Last Request” then you need to do so. It’s a beautiful looking piece in sumptious monochrome. Supped a quick Guinness and went back for showtime. I was introduced to my workspace and got to laying down the vibe for my gracious hosts. It’s all a little humbling to be honest. To be given this kind of opportunity to play good music to cool people. Every kind of people too, not just a single demographic.

The Quattros knocked us out. They could obviously hear what was going on and were all the happier for it. You’d hardly think they’d spent all day travelling when they exploded onstage. There are so many potential avenues that they could take and I think that the upcoming visit to Japan will give the folks there something to believe in, some good old, well-dressed, pop-drenched glamour to keep reality at bay. I even managed to try out a few of my unique (read: bad) dance moves with the lady that I came in with earlier. There might be a handful of places in the UK that could even come close. The Dirty Water, some places in Brighton, club nights by certain parties in Glasgow or wherever but not with this electricity.

I always err on the worried side but played music for nearly 4 hours, maybe more. I was running out of sonic gas by the end but it seemed to go over pretty well. I’d switched to water by that time because the “Mahou” (cheers Simon) was going down just a little too smoothly. And there was travelling to be done the next day. Young people here would never take their grandparents to the rock club, I think I’d like to retire there. Tim and Clive got in a taxi and headed for the airport and we headed back to the hostal. There were Chinese people selling beers and mars bars and other stuff. But their main trade was in unlicensed hot food. I couldn’t get my head around it. A very shifty enterprise. I asked Jonathan if there was a name (possibly derogatory) for this practice and he told me they call them “The Chinese”. Now that’s what I call funny.

So that’s about it, I was dropped at the airport as the band made their way back to Barcelona. It was pretty much downhill from there. Flight delays on the way back seem to be a regular malaise and by the time I got back to Edinburgh, the temperature had plummeted. It was too late to do anything other than pick up a haggis supper…

I had a ball and would like to thank all concerned. Unfortunately I never caught up with my Munster friends in Madrid but one postscript to all this is that I didn’t catch the name of that delectable young lady that was at the gig. Via the wonders of Quattro-Communications International and the good offices of its president, Colonel Vidal – she has been identified as Ms Eli Ramos, a real sweetheart. Dig these S&LQ photos that she took last Saturday night and check out her myspace.

That’s about your lot, I guess there’s stuff that hasn’t percolated back to the surface so if it does and it seems relevant then who knows… I just wish I were still there. Who wouldn’t?

Eternal gracias to Jonathan and Suzy for making this happen.
Also to Joey and Yuri Q.
S&LQ photos courtesy of Ms Eli Ramos

Andy, Scott, Richard, Ross and JP – you rule!

Sylvia Sans – nice to meet you – all too brief.

Simon – thanks for taking time out to come on down.

Clive and Tim – good to hang with you guys.

Santi and the guys at The Wurlitzer Ballroom

Nacho Ruiz @ Sidecar

Dos Amigos – Vedder Conrad Associates

Barbara Ann – A local to die for in the magnitude of Manitoba’s or The Lakeside Lounge

And everyone else for making an old guy so welcome… Goodnight Espana, I hope to be seeing you again…


BB Quattro said...

So glad to read we made it worth your while. Can't wait to make it happen again, you know you're welcome ANYTIME over here! Hopefully we'll do another batch of UK shows by late february.

Anonymous said...

Quattro in Japan..... when....where.... me will show up!!!!