Monday, August 3, 2009

Blogging Takes Time... Time That Could Be Spent Drinking Caipirinhas on Beaches

Okay, okay, I know the whole point of this little leaf on my tiny twig area of the Internet Tree is to keep a sort of running commentary on the behind-the-scenes action on my little jaunt across Europe, and so to whomever might still be paying attention, I apologize for the lack of updates. Let's have a quick rundown of the last couple weeks:

  • Two ridiculous if ultimately enjoyable DJ gigs in Portugal: the first in a hilarious mega-club basically in the middle of nowhere, near a kind of beachy community in the region of Torres Vedras, about an hour's drive north of Lisbon; and the second in a totally beachy resort sort of city about two hours drive south of Lisbon, Vila Nova de Milfontes, at a small but ultimately packed little bar. At the first, I was sandwiched between some big-room-house/trance type DJs and had to adjust my set appropriately although I did throw in the Buraka Som Sistema of course, and at the second, I ran with the bar's odd Middle Eastern theme (they had hookas!) and played some of my bootleg bhangra mixes. They were both a lot of travel and work (the hotels for both gigs were 45-minute drives away from the venues) and not in places where anybody would have ever heard of me, but people seemed to enjoy what I did.

  • The first major disappointment of the tour, a cancelled event at a beach club just south of Lisbon. The promoter arranging my gigs in Portugal turned out to be a real slimebucket, or at least completely incompetent, and only informed me of the cancellation after I went to the club's website the day before and noticed there was another event listed. Darrr. Who did that comedy bit about "I didn't lose my wife, it's just that when I go there, there's somebody else doing her"? Anyway, like that. A bit of a bummer but if I'm honest with myself (and who wants to do that?) this dude was super vague and shifty the entire time I was dealing with him (from when he contacted me, I'd like to point out, promising piles of gigs, back in February) and so in reality I was kind of pinching my nose and hoping for the best in Portugal, and I guess two out of three gigs isn't so bad, from that Lowered Expectations place.

  • Much beach-bumming and caipirinha drinking in Lisbon, a city that I found a little dull and oddly conservative, although I grew to love it by the last day. The beaches south of the city are amazing, although to get there, you have to take the subway to get to a special bus that crosses their 25 de Abril bridge (eerily similar to the Golden Gate) that then heads out to the beach area, and then if you want to get away from the crowds you have to take a little mini-train (see pictures here) that putters down through the dunes. It's a bit of a haul, and the water is muy frio. Or I should say "muito frio." The main nightlife in Lisbon itself is centered around the Bairro Alto, a gritty zone of tiny alleys filled with postage-stamp size bars selling 3-euro caipirinhas and 1.50 beers. It has its charms, especially on warm nights, but when the little streets fill to capacity with sloshed European tourists, it starts to feel a bit like a tropical Amsterdam, another city where northern Eurobros go to "let off steam." The food is okay but rather simple: lots of pork cutlets and fries, grilled seafood and fries, plus fries. Great, cheap wines though. Plus with Spain just around the bend, it's hard not to feel like you're missing out—Portugal is by nature more conservative, and it really shows in Lisbon, where a lot of the gay bars have doorbells. Obviously my experience is colored by having the cancelled gig, but even so, I'm not sure I'd recommend Lisbon as a vacation destination, unless you're like 22 and getting trashed with your European pals for cheap sounds like a great way to spend your time.

  • Arrival in Barcelona, where I've always wanted to go, and a stop here happened to be the cheapest and simplest way to get to Montpellier, in the south of France, the nearest big city to the small festival I'm playing on Friday. So, I get a couple days to hang around Barcelona, which has been good so far, although I think I came at a rough time: most of Europe takes a vacation in August (damn socialism!) and that means that a) lots of Spaniards have left town, and b) lots of tourists have arrived. The town is positively swarming with crowds of tourists, in numbers I've rarely seen in my life. I was a big fan of Gaudi as a kid, not so much now but I'm still committed to seeing the highlights, so my first stop was Parc Guell, and it was almost impossible to move, with mobs of tourists clamoring for the best views. Then the Pedrera house had an hour-long line to get in, and Las Ramblas, the main drag in the center of town, was wall-to-wall people. So I learned my lesson and today tried to hit out-of-the-way stuff in the day and big stuff at off-hours: funicular (funicular!) up to Parc Juic (or as Donald, my friend who used to live here, calls it, "Park Juicy") to see the views, and then a quick trip to see the Sagrada Familia at dusk, which I managed to catch just as they were turning all the lights on (photos coming soon). It's really quite spectacular, although still a huge construction site of course. The models and drawings are basically dumbfounding—it's such a dramatic, fantastic piece of construction already, the idea that the eight massive towers now standing will be dwarfed by the central tower is just impossible to imagine. But that will be a real party when they finish it—let's hope I'm around to see it.

Okay, hope that's kept you up to date... uh, Mom... and whoever else has the patience to sit around waiting for me to blabber about What I Did On My Neat Trip. Tomorrow I switch to another hotel nearer the beach and will be ignoring the internet entirely. Can't wait for the gigs in France—Friday's is with my buddies Moule and Loo & Placido, and Saturday's in Paris with Comar and the gang, both should be small but a blast. Then—wha?—home! I've almost forgotten what my apartment looks like…

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