Finally in Bilbao after a 20 hour trip. Took the bus into town from the airport. 5k luggage hump (suitcase of CDs, backpack, guitar) to the hotel. Washed clothes in hotel sink and hung them up to dry. No gig tonight. Went to Coppola to say hi to my new friends Ana and Diego before the gig tomorrow. Random flute/clarinet/bagpipe session at the Irish pub down the street. Met a Catalonian car paint salesman named Alex who gave me some good advice about touring.
June 4th: gig day at Coppola. Ignacio the owner is absent on a trip but he found me a PA and left it for me. I set it up, just one speaker but it's enough for a small room such as this. People are taking videos and photos on their phones. The last note rings out and the bar empties out around 8:15 in the evening. They don't even stop to talk to me. Maybe they are afraid. Have they ever seen a Texan before? Diego says he is from Valencia. He comes for my pizza order, the Coppola Pizza is my reply. A young guy from Texas introduces himself and we have a brief conversation before he returns inside to occupy himself with his beer. I finish my cigarette and the pizza comes out. It's good... and so I eat the whole thing. I haven't eaten a god damn thing all day, again. Later that night I find my way from the hotel to the train station so I won't have any surprises in the a.m. A guy pisses on the sidewalk and I step into the street to avoid his streams of piss.
June 5: train from Bilbao to Ourense. 5k luggage hump from hotel to train station. I am kind of nervous about the train trip because it's been almost a year since I rode the train. 10 hour train trip ends and I get out. My tour manager in Galicia, Gabri, is waiting for me. We hug and greet, and we get in the car to go to Carballiño. He takes care of business and makes my job easy. We show up to the gig at Sete Flores way early, so there's too much time to kill. Touring is all waiting. Gabri is on the phone trying to book a Monday I have open and book afternoon gigs before my evening gigs coming up. If you're lucky you find someone who gives enough of a shit to talk to you while you stand there waiting around, playing hold em on your phone, and smoking. If not, there's always hold em and smoking.
Gig time comes and there are 80-90 people at the bar but more than half of them are outside when I play. The other half are scared of me again, except for the hero of the night-- Paco! He's a country music superfan and his enthusiasm keeps me fired up through my set while Gabri is working the desk. It's fun, except for the one guy who thinks he needs to comment 17 times to me that he wants to hear more of my guitar. Sorry, man, I'm not the sound guy, and furthermore I trust my sound guy tonight. He's my tour manager as well as a capable musician who takes care of business. So just let us work. Side note: being excessively unreasonable to touring musicians is a great way to end up in a song! There are a few people out there who ought to be on my payroll, in fact. Anyway, after about 15 encores I stop. it's a fun night at the bar with my new friends Cristian and Oscar, friends of Gabri. In Galicia they give me family treatment. These people are close knit and have a profound sense of humanity.
10 hour train trip early in the morning back to Basque Country because I picked up a last minute show in Eibar at the bar of some friends of Keegan's (McInroe). It's an hour bus ride from Bilbao. 5k luggage hump #3 across town to the bus station. I almost run over some poor little old lady dragging my suitcase full of CDs because I'm going downhill on the sidewalk and had to swerve to avoid a pile of dog shit. It's raining, and I start writing a song in my head about what just happened. Except in the song I stop to ask her where to find some weed and then she lectures me. Beñat and Jose at the EzDok bar. Beñat and I have a discussion about moral philosophy and animal rights. A fight breaks out in the street. A guy is getting kicked in the face by 4 other guys and they break his arm. I break it up because nobody's doing anything. Apparently they don't want anymore black eyes and bloody noses for trying to prevent idiots from being idiots so I understand. These people are heavily drugged and rabid. It is pretty scary. Show goes off fine, couple of encores, I end up hanging out with some young guys in Pantera shirts who are a band. At 6am they take me to the train station to catch a train to Bilbao. I have to get my sleepless self to Coruña for a show today.
A Coruña today. I bought breakfast for a homeless guy at the Bilbao train station. He was grateful. Then I realized I smelled worse than he did. I should not smoke Pall Malls, I concluded. I then sat myself down for coffee and a croissant. I wish they had bocadillos in the morning in cafes. 10 hours later I'm in Coruña and Tomi from Sala Mardi Gras is there to pick me up. I feel like an ass for asking people to come pick me up and for not having a car. But I don't have a luggage hump in me right now. When we get to the gig it's time to sound check and start almost immediately afterward. Small Sunday crowd is present and attentive. I feel appreciative and grateful that people come to spend their time watching my concert. Met Alicia and Maria, Victoria and her partner (forgot his name but he is a guitar player who had a Gibson acoustic guitar stolen from him recently at a concert). Of course I always look forward to seeing the bar manager Jaume, who is a great supporter to me and always takes care of me. He's a big fan of country music and knows all the classics and how to get the authentic country vibe going in the bar. Solid gig and generous treatment... Guarantee, dinner (open-late hamburger joint down the street from the bar. We always walk there after the show), and hotel. Thank you Mardi Gras Coruña.
It's a Monday off so I paid for the hotel tonight so I could do laundry in the sink again and be a lazy ass. I wanted to walk around the beach and city but I slept for 14 hours instead. Everyone's blowing the internet up about cops crashing the pool party. I started a song about that because I think it's funny that white people act so offended on Facebook. Anyway, an Australian rock band names Sun God Replica is playing Mardi Gras tonight and Tomi invited me. I went to get my guitar and suitcase full of CDs from the bar during sound check. Talked to the drummer Lochie who has a very bright personality and is a humorous character. It pretty much blew the bass player's mind to discover that he and I have the same first name. They went to dinner and I contacted their booking agent who is interested in helping me book my next tour, thanks to a sound recommendation from my friend Jaume. I went to their show and left after the third song because my deaf ear started going deafer. Pretty solid rock band though.
After a massive lunch of Octopus and Raxo, I head for the Train in the afternoon from Coruña to Ourense. 5k luggage hump #4, and I'm sweating uncontrollably after this one. Could not even sit down in the seat next to a lady because I'm sweating so hard. So I think of a song about a guy like me on tour but who is single and sits next to the lady on the train, all sweaty. She's a nice lady, and nice looking, too. But the poor fellow can't get none, so he laments that even if he does end up at her house he'll be sleeping on the floor.
I make it to Ourense and wait a while for Gabri, who's simultaneously juggling my tour and a new album
With his ska band Dakidarría. In the meanwhile I contact my good friend Brett Walker and Dave Martinez to arrange a bulk shipment of copies of my new album to Lubbock in promote the Wimberley Flood Benefit at the Blue Light June 14th. That's tomorrow so if you go you will receive a copy of my new CD at the door until the supply of ~150 copies is exhausted. Do it, it's only $15 and for a great cause.
Gabri comes and we load in for sound check at Cafe Pueblo. It's a basement with culture, good ambience, etc. Cristian comes with Reubén to meet us. I later find out that Cristian's dad is a painter and the next day they leave for a trip to the Louvre where his dad's work will be on display. Go ahead and scroll back your eyes and read that again. These are not only talented people but as I said before, people with a deep sense of humanity and reverence and value for the individual. Before the show we went to fountains built by the Romans where hot water comes out of the ground and out of the fountain. It has special healing effects and you see elderly people constantly coming to collect the water with large jugs. Hot water (it will burn you) has been constantly coming out of those fountains for nearly a thousand years. Ourense is beautiful and all the more so because of my friends here.
Show goes great thanks to Diego with Lestrato Rock Conciertos. He and Gabri busted ass to promote this show because the place I was supposed to play shut down a couple days prior. Thanks to these individuals we were able to get some people out to see me and ale it a successful show. Thanks to Diago at the bar, Anyta, Pablo and everyone present for coming to my show. It was fun and I hope to return. Cristian and Reuben's house to sleep in a bed- thank you!
Drive with Gabri to Vigo for interview with 40 Principales, a famous radio program with 2 million likes on fbook. Thanks to the host Salva for an engaging interview and hospitable treatment and to the sound technician Pablo (I think) for breaking a string on my guitar because the strings were deader than dead and I was just putting it off every day. Pick up PA in Nigrán and drive to Gondomar to fill up with gas and load in at Pub Rañolas. Linkin park coming out of the loudspeakers and I'm worried. See a few Pantera shirts and I'm less worried. Break a guitar string placeholder changing strings and I'm worried again. Fixed by Gabri with cardboard and I'm less worried. His mother Montse comes to the show and brings me a new placeholder and a mic stand. She's a most pleasant lady who speaks English and has traveled a lot. Maria and Miguel liked the show and we talked a while. She lived in Athens TX for a year and he plays classical guitar and lives in Segovia. Hugo from Taberna Marrucho last year came out to support.. He's an actor and musician. Juantxi helped us greatly in the resolution of various technical obstacles and Antón the owner was gracious and generous to me. A memorable night with great crowd response and attentiveness and I converted 9 people into fans of Hank Williams with a rendition of Lovesick Blues. A couple shots of licor de cafe (a Galician specialty) and back to Gabri's house to sleep for a few hours. Train to Salamanca early to meet with Inblauk.
Thursday. Woke up late and almost missed my train from Vigo to Salamanca. Gabri was a trooper and took me to the train station at 07:30. The dog (I call him Perriño) was happy to come with us. He sat in the floor at my feet. Got the train. Change trains at Medina de Campo. It's an ugly day and about to start raining here and I realize that I'm severely fatigued. Guess I need another 5kLH to recharge my health. Inblauk meets me in Salamanca with with his girlfriend Anna from Russia, his brother Pablo and his sister Maria and her husband Alberto. Inblauk sets me up in a room in a house where 10 college students live together. We sound check the venue and I already know it's gonna be a challenge because we only have a small acoustic amp and a microphone on us and the venue won't pay for a sound tech this evening. Back to the house for dinner with Inblauk. Mari, who works and lives there doing all the cooking and cleaning, made us supper of croquetas and fried clams and ham and chorizo bruschetta. Relax a minute and time for the show. "American Party" and they are flying the flag in Irish Theatre. I raised an eyebrow that the venue panders so hard to tourists when Castilla Leon has its own rich culture but whatever. That's their principal economy in Salamanca, I am told. Inblauk's friends and family arrive early and I talked with his producer Mauricio and with Tres Acordes radio show and country fest organizer Paco Jimenez. Inblauk goes on as the place starts filling up with my fellow Americans. Can't hear shit except crowd chatter past 15 feet out, and of course the owner wants us to keep the crowd anchored down. It occurred to me that any earnest request to keep a crowd engaged might also be accompanied by every possible effort to facilitate our job and help us be heard. But not always. Nonetheless we got through it, with the help of the friends, fans, and other patient listeners and travelers in the crowd. Even one person who truly appreciates your concert has the miraculous effect of defusing frustration in the heat of action. And I remind myself that the audience too had to deal with the shitty sound. We all did our best for each other and that makes it easy to walk away with a sense of having the important aspects of my job fulfilled. The friends and fans leave for the evening as we load out. I come back by myself 10 minutes later to talk to people and the bar staff looks at me like I'm a complete stranger. Guess that's the cue for the tool to exit. They have new and more exciting things going on in this moment, like half the bar getting naked onstage to reggaeton music in a schooling descent to the level of rabid beasts. So long, then. 3 douchebags from Canary Islands try to convince me they are Iranian, Iraqi, and Vietnamese on my way out. A classy way to ice the noxious cake.
I walk to the house and light up a joint outside the door as the lonesome sounds of festive hollering barrel down the street. With a shit eating grin I recall the pastries and milk Mari had set out on the kitchen table.
Inblauk, Ana, and I are out the door and loaded up into the car shortly past noon. I nap most of the two-hour ride as Inblauk pushes into Zamora near the Portuguese border. It reminds me of the interior of Asturias but drier. We navigate a series of campgrounds and I'm horrified as the car stops amidst a massive herd of 10-year olds. Panicking and wishing I hadn't left that children's album on the back burner for so long, I was instantly relieved at the news that we had taken a scary wrong turn a few kilometers back. Soon we arrived at the intended locale, Camping El Folgoso. A gig at a campground on Friday evening. Last night's experience convinced me that the outcome of the job would turn almost entirely on the attitude of the people paying us. Luckily, the boss man of the campground--Alex, as well as Carlos, Celso, and the rest of the staff were gracious, generous people who were glad to have us. We set up Inblauk's little 50W Marshall acoustic amp (the little engine of whom way too much was asked last night) and it was perfect for the bar room in this cafe. Good quality sound, plenty deep, and a Neumann microphone to sing through. The staff and Inblauk and Ana were the audience for my first set. Inblauk and Ana were playing on their phones most of the time so I guess it takes more than an old dog with a few new tricks to impress them. Alex and company were jovial, enthusiastic and responsive to my set. I pretty much just played the fertile gardens album straight through, minus pitchfork. Even made my way through two time loser- while wedding lick and all. I guess my first set ran close to an hour. It was over by 7:30pm.
Inblauk gets on, and he's kickin out all the classics: Only One Way Road, Summer Girl, Road King. He is a phenomenal guitar player and his songs are growing on me. I am especially starting to enjoy the heartfelt moments in his songs and appreciate the feelings in these songs that I had missed before. People outside on the patio clap as the music pours out the doorways into the patio and entryway. People are slowly wandering in now as the sun starts to disappear behind the lake. Actually I don't know to whence the sun disappeared, but but that's sounds sentimental and storybook-like so let's roll with it. There is an elderly Dutch couple near the "stage" (the floor space near the wall where we took away a couple of tables and set up the amp and mic) listening intently. Inblauk does not realize they don't speak Spanish, so I volunteer myself to translate the introductions to the songs for them. Inblauk's set runs near a full hour and a half.
Time to play again. I won't be able to smoke for at least an hour. I give the word to Carlos and he pours me my second beer. My set list for the evening consists of a copy each of my three albums. Few Fine People, Pain Pill Blues, waiting for the right moment to pull out Hopes and Dreams. I never thought I'd play that song live much but people love the change of tempo, and they love to be included in the singing of the oooooooooooooohs. Didn't play Death Knell, didn't play Her Name is The River. I can't remember the lyrics to either of those songs. La Llorona came next, probably, and then My Share of Mine. I'm trying my best, and people are listening. They are clapping.
There's a German couple with a small child at the table near the bar at the other side of the room. I play Die Ramblin'. Play em a song about highway death to get yourself out of a fix, Payne. There is also a couple of unknown origin that is approaching Inblauk to buy some of my CDs on their way out. I never got to talk to them, but I did thank them in my heart. Rebel Soldier and Ballad of the Brave Colonel. Fool's Game. I'm saving Jealous Train and Small Town because I think they are some kind of silver bullets that might convert any fence sitters. They like Jealous Husband Blues. I spend my silver bullets. No Fear of Any Kind. Turnarounds and Lies in there somewhere. Way to Nowhere too, and I had some nice new verses that I made up in the moment because o couldn't remember the real verses. And now I forgot the fake verses which were really cool. And finally Methamphetamine Cowboy. How many songs can I write about some psychopathic half-wit with no conscience who runs around all hell and creation causing a bunch of harm before people realize that I'm covering up my true feelings and personal experiences and worldview with this clownery?
I was greeted warmly by the staff and fellow travelers after my set. I playedy my last two albums minus a couple of songs. Some Spanish bikers came in and caught the end of my set and they were psyched. One of them looked exactly like my friend Dan Hardick, which was even weirder because they are both bikers dressed in black, jeans, and leather. He said he was a fan of American music and liked my style more than what typically gets popular play in Spain, like Zac Brown Band. I said, "well that's cool, cause Zac Brown fuckin sucks ass." No, I didn't. The bikers went to their campsite and said they'd be back later. The guy from the German couple turned out to be named Bernhard and they invited me to stay at their house in Munich whenever I'm there on tour-- such pleasant people they are. Carlos brought us some giant cheeseburgers with fried potatoes on the side. It was almost 11:30 and Inblauk played two more songs and I played some Hank tunes: Lovesick Blues, Ramblin' Man, and Long Gone Lonesome Blues. My friends packed up and got into the car after we got paid. At midnight they were making a 2-hour drive to Salamanca and I was drinking last beer with Carlos and my new biker friends who had been drinking during my Hank set. I went up to my small bed in a simple room above the bar and went to sleep.
Carlos set me up with coffee and a croissant with orange juice for breakfast and Celso took me to the train station in Puebla de Sanabria. It's the oldest train station in Spain and PS is a quaint little village. The train came 15 minutes late at 12:15 to take me to Vigo. I out coconut oil on my head to control the psoriasis and I shaved with the electric razor while I was waiting. Why do people always stare? Do I always have to lock myself in some shitty public restroom to take care of this business? Let a man shave his face outside now and then, you sickos. It's a nice day, I see the train cat coming towards me. Someone has left two bowls with food and water for train cat by the door of the still-closed for the morning cafe, but train cat (or some competitor encroaching on train cat's territory) are all the food and is now hungrily prowling around. He looks pretty clean for a train cat, so I'm not sure if he can make it in this gig. Well, best of luck to you, train cat. I get to Vigo and I wait a little over 3 hours for Gabri the world's greatest tour manager. He is trying to find us a car. It's ok, because I'm writing my first artist spotlight on JMT and Garrett Owen as well as this long tour blog update you're reading. At 7:00pm he's there to take me to sound check at Fabrica Chocolate. Eladio (from Eladio y Los seres Queridos) is waiting at the mixing desk. Sound check goes down easy with an Amstel and we hit the street looking for a place to post up and relax until showtime. We turn a corner and a friend of Gabri, Sosa, is dismounting from his scooter to open his bar. He lets us in. I don't understand a thing they say, but later I learn that Ska precedes Reggae as a genre. Well after about three hours of being too bored and way too stoned we head for the club and I finally start to relax because Eladio has Bob Dylan on the loudspeakers. For me this music is a sanctuary. There are about five paying customers in the room when I go on. It's 10:30 at night, these people just ate dinner and are stone sober. I've got my work cut out. I try to get them ignited with all my usual tricks but nothing's doing. I can't get the rhythm to better days right. In a panic I went straight out of that into "Waitin Around to Die" by Townes, in E minor. Two songs later I went with Jealous Husband Blues in E minor but couldn't shake that Townes tune out of my head. I realized that my nervousness and anxiety was through the roof. "Someone for Christ's sake please dump a month's supply of phenobarbital in a tall glass of Jameson and get it up here now," I thought. The people tried, but their wood was wet this. Not their fault. In the last song a girl was sitting on the floor and I mentioned casually the fact that, whatever his shortcomings, Methamphetamine Cowboy never sits down at concerts. Her boyfriend took that as a sign to make her stand up, but I said I didn't care. They paid to come to the show so why can't they sit on the floor? It might be because I'm a bit of an ass and playing to 19 paying customers in a 350-capacity bar on Saturday night and screwing my set up on top of it. But I hope not. I'd like to think it was just a misguided attempt to make the audience part of the show. I really don't know. All I know is you can be a nice guy 99/100 times but that one time can earn you a reputation for being an asshole. Well with this reflection I'm sure I'll remind myself to be a little more thoughtful of my fans who decide to ride the rest of the show out on the floor. Definitely, this has been the only night of this tour when I truly felt like I was off of my game. Not a hard comedown and not hard to bounce back from. I've had plenty of lower lows before so this tour is looking good.
Gabri's girlfriend's (Isa) brother (Carlos) just got married, so they show up to the empty club at about 1:00 as I load out. 2 of the girls in the wedding party (Elba and Carla) became fans. I'm starting to question the idea that I need to play shows to gain fans. I often make more fans just standing there by myself looking bored than I do from actually playing. The world's greatest tour manager strongly advises that I dissuade myself from staying at the bar and drinking in this vulnerable state. I take off with Gabri and his friend Pepo to a late night burger joint and it's back to Gabri's house for the evening. I fumble around in my shirt pocket for the last of the weed someone gave me and unwind on the porch with the lighthouses of the Isles Cies asserting their coordinates in the night less than a kilometer away.
Early day, lots of work to do. Gabri has us up and out of the house by 11:30am. He found me a gig in Baiona at his friend Andrés's brewery, La Micro. We pull up to the curb to load in and some old fart tried to start some shit with the world's greatest tour manager about some old shit that's been over and done for a long time. TWGTM politely tells the troll to get screwed.
At La Micro, they have a beer called Canalla (cun-eye-uh) which is highly recommendable. It means "beer tour" and they are going on a U.S. microbrewery tour with the savings from the profits of this particular beer. Andrés was a most gracious host, always setting me up with plenty of delicious in-house brews and pinchos (tasty little snacks like Spanish omelette, potato chips, padron peppers, and bruschetta you can snack on while enjoying your beers). About 40 people showed up for the initial lunch crowd the first set at 1:00, and about it stayed about the same with a few substitutions for the second set at 2:15. I thought hard about the sets and made quite a few fans this show, and sold quite a few CDs as well. A highly pleasant experience complete with lunch by two in-house gourmet chefs- one who just got a high paying gig in Malaysia in some luxury tourist attraction. I need to start paying attention to who's doing the work in the kitchens of these places. All this great food comes out and I usually do not have a proper relationship with the cook/chef. After an incredible lunch (patatas bravas, patatas ali-oli, Spanish tortilla, cured beef, pork chop sandwiches, grilled peppers, and a shot of licor cafe) and some nice conversations we load out. Andres is way hot on the idea of coming to Lubbock with Dakidarría and a boatload of frozen octopus to show Texans how Galicia likes to party. Legit ska music and octopus. Yes! I know in my heart, it has to be. It must be. I love meeting people who take the right amount of pride in their culture. Andres is one. He gave me a Souls Jacket CD- a band from Nigran, right there, that sounds like that Memphis soul somewhere between black Crowes and Lucero. Thanks Andres!
No time for nap, only for shower. We are out of the house by 7:15pm for gig #2 at Salason in Cangas. 40-minute drive, sound check, fresh pack of camels. Only about 12 people show up but they are all super fans and they all buy at least one CD and are super excited to be there. It's a pleasure for me. Henry the owner is behind the bar and running the sound as well. Gabri is slingin CDs like mad. Fernando is up front the entire time, and Cristobal too. I'm psyched. One of the best days of my life performing my own songs. Suso and Carmen and everyone present make it unforgettable for me and really make me want to come back. Get paid. Load out, must eat something because we are both famished. Döner kebap it is. O how I have missed you my friend. Big sandwich and a coke, hell this is more American than hot dogs. Delightful Pakistani music in the background over what looks like a badly acted and Eastern-themed muted western. I thank the two guys behind the counter and tell them that this is the best meal of my life and I mean it. They are gracious, hard working kids working the late nights Döner gig. I feel grateful for our brief moments as they ask about my origins and wish me the best of luck on my tour. I have to strike out on my own tomorrow. I'm going to miss Gabri and I'm going to miss these young strangers for reasons that are mysterious to me.