Saturday, November 18, 2017

SESENTAFEST - An attempt at documentation

I’m not sure how much sense it’ll make because both my Cabeza and my Corazon are still holed up out in Madrid someplace. They don’t have much use for their physical host right now but hey, I’m getting ahead of myself here so let me try and explain. When I set out with SESENTAFEST, I guess I never thought about it too much. The whole premise turned out to be somewhat ambitious for someone with less than no conventional ambition.

I turned six decades old and figured it would be a gas to organise an extended shindig to mark that occasion. The closest thing I ever did like this was to get married back in 1979. I don’t recall much about that. The honeymoon was in London and during the time there, an opportunity came up via my pal Howard to go and see Motörhead in the studio. That was vetoed for some reason but we did see The Psychedelic Furs at The Moonlight Club in West Hampstead.

A friend and I put Dave Alvin and The Guilty Men on at The Grand Old Opry in Glasgow a while back. Despite only selling 13 tickets in advance, we got 260 walk up and it worked out with us making 20 quid each on the night so that was really my extent in terms of putting on a show. When I say putting on, I mean coming up with it and bringing in the professionals. This was punishment for Jonathan Vidal who was instrumental in my discovering I had an extended family that I didn’t know about. All I can say is that playing “All Pop, No Star” by The Slingbacks that fateful night at the Wurlitzer Ballroom in October 2008 opened up a whole alternate dimension to me. Throwing a stramash that would last from the closing hours of Thursday November 2nd until the wee hours of the 5th seemed like the way to go. I have no dependants other than those I've adopted and if I get hit by a bus tomorrow then at least everyone will remember the occasion as a true rock n’ roll experience in the city that only ever sleeps during siesta time. As I type this, I realise that next October is my 10th Wurliversary...!?

The DJ tag team of Los Sangria-Las got things moving. This was my pal Sara and I playing records in the wonderful WEIRDO! BAR, my other home away from home where the throng got in about the Cafe de Licor and other treats. It really was fun to trade tuneage with my wee Spanish sister and I hope we can do it again. She has such great taste and sense of exactly what to do in a room. We rolled from there and down to Wurlitzer for a wee small hours nightcap though it was closer to morning than it was to night.

Friday the triple action of Wreckless Eric, Amy Rigby and Amy Allison took the stage. As entertainers, songwriters and just plain old great folks go, this was a dream come true. None of them should need any introduction but if they do then I envy you. We jumped around like crazy folk to the musical selections presented by Diego El Sotano and Head and Banger. Everything went swimmingly.

Those gathered to play all had some connection to these recent years and to the history of NBT. Saturday was my actual birthday and we kicked off with Reine Laken playing their hearts out on two songs, a huge thing because they’d never been out of Risør. Their gift to me was “I Want Your Love” and “Hate To Say I Told you so”. The fact that they nailed it is one thing but they had my love from the day and minute I met them. Suzy and Los Quatto were next. Completely instrumental in this taking place and recalling the "1-2 Tutti Frutti" battle cry.

This could not have taken place anywhere else but Wurlitzer. The epicentre of what has become an important source of transfusion to me gave the whole thing a gravitas that having at home in Scotland would not have provided. The location and the setting and the people elevated everything. Sure, I threw it but those that attended booted the whole stramash into the stratosphere.

Photo by Tom Erik Kristoffersen

I met Andre and Line Dahlmann in Madrid too and that was a massive moment. They’re the kids I never had and what do you know, they have a kickass popular music group. Not only that but they covered and made a record of them doing “Fireball”. The first record I ever bought at age 6. They were in cahoots with those Nomads. Who in addition to agreeing to come to this malarkey, they only went and recorded a brand new song for the occasion and the commemorative 45. I was moved to tears let me tell you and I’m a hard-faced old sod. Young Marco Padin of Ghost Highway Recordings had these chestnuts struck into vinyl and there’s a beautiful little 45 doing the rounds. I don’t believe it either but I have physical proof.

Anyway it was a heck of a turnout, an international gathering of the punk rock clans with Ross Nelson breezing in from Australia even. I think we were nudging 80 out of towners in the end, many of whom hadn’t visited the fabled city before. NBT has been for me what playing the pipes was for my father, it has allowed me to meet and get to know like-minded crazies across the world.

It wasn’t just my birthday, Rocket To Russia turned 40 on November 4th too. And it was Nancy’s but sadly she couldn’t be there other than in spirit. Ulla, Kaisa and Aku did though.

When it comes to Madrid, I’m always wary of having talked it up too much. What if all these people didn’t take to it the way I did? There was no need to worry, since the mass invasion I’ve had about a dozen revellers check in to enquire if there’s a Samaritans group that might assist with their transition back into reality. This was an experience that they’re keen to play on repeat just as soon as it’s humanly necessary. I’m always buoyed up to discover that it’s not just me that gets it.

Attendees were urged not to bring gifts but many gave that the rubber ear. The idea was to have a charity box with proceeds going toward permeating Madrid's R n' R supremacy for future generations of the unique metropolis. MENUDOFEST provides a musical grounding for kids by putting on daytime events in the city’s clubs. Venues open (often not long after they’ve cleared out the big kids) to welcome the prospective stars of tomorrow with parents and family members. Artists and bands pitch in to provide their services to assist aspiring youngsters to make as big a racket as possible. Some of the really young ones give the ‘avant jazz’ types a run for their money. I think we raised around 500 euros around the time of writing and that might increase a wee bit before I settle at the end of the month.

All that remains to be said is that the world outside the hallowed walls ceased to exist for a bit. Mi amigo Jo Espen said that Wurlitzer is our Bang Bang Bar/Roadhouse. Anything can happen in there and it absolutely did. If you’re familiar with “It’s A Wonderful Life” then you’ll know the “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends” credo.

I sure felt like George Bailey over that weekend.

This is just a hobby for me, nuthin’ y’hear... a HOBBY?? My arse. It ceased being that a long time ago. Who could ever have believed it’d become a vocation. My granny used to tell a story about how some minister or someone told her that I’d come to represent some form of religion, he evidently neglected to mention that it was rock n’ roll. 

SESENTAFEST definitely happened but I’m fine with anyone considering that something so damn groovy could never have happened. I have the bruises to confirm that it did. Massive thanks to everyone that contributed by playing and coming and going crazy to what really turned out to be beyond all reasonable expectations of a bloody high old time.

Here is Amy's report. I get something in my eye every time I look at it.

I'm currently working on photos so maybe there'll be a pictorial to accompany this at some point. Then again... meanwhile you can get a wee idea of what went down here. Photo album by Mona Di Pontty.