Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

Praying – sorry, Playing – in Sala Monasterio in Barcelona

May 10, 2013

blues society of barcelona

blues society of barcelona

BARCELONA – One thing leads to another, and had it not been for striking up a friendship with an interesting and unique bass player and singer songwriter name Sergi Carós Massegur at the Big Bang Bar in Barcelona last year, I’d never have ended up playing in the monastery last night.

Well, what I mean is that this venue, called Sala Monasterio, is in the basement monastery room of what was obviously formerly a monastery – and if you pray to the sounds of music, then it still is a monastery, if last night’s jam was a good example of what it is all about.

Coming to Barcelona I contacted Sergi, and learned that the Big Bang Bar is now closed, its jam gone. (Something to do with fire escape problems and loud music isolation problems, if I understood correctly.) Sergi told me that he and his band were running a blues jam session last night at the Sala Monasterio, and why not come along.

Freaky, it turned out that the hotel I chose this year – a piece of crap – was located around three minutes walk from the monastery, so I could go an pray to the powers that I might sleep the night in the crap hotel.

Sergi’s band, in fact, was just a guest band for the venue, as there is a different band running the jam each week – if I understood correctly. The jam happens each Thursday, though, and it has its regular performers and spectators, and the level can be very high.

Sala Monasterio: A Venue With Character

The Sala Monasterio as a venu is fabulous! It is in the basement, made up of several rooms, two of which are quite large, but not so big that they cannot be intimate too. The ceiling is curved, low, and the stage is neither too small nor too large – and it has great lighting, a good sound system – with a sound man on the board at all times. The jam is part of the Barcelona Blues Society, or something like that, if I understand correctly.

You may have realized by now that I don’t speak Spanish. In fact, Sergi’s English is excellent, and he has written some wonderful songs and had some good national television air time, too, lately. In fact, his band, Ed Tulipa, has played internationally, the most exciting gig of the last year being at the Cavern Club in Liverpool.

The Sergi Carós Massegur Story

That was cool for Sergi, because his music sounds very much like The Beatles, and he’s a fan of George Harrison. Unfortunately, one of the reasons he has had this big surge of creativity in recent years is that three years ago he had a very dangerous scare and battle with skin cancer, and he came out a new man – and musician. The Ed Tulipa album came from that period, and contrary to the darkness you might expect, its positive, bright and hopeful – full of life.

Last night, it was not the Ed Tulipa band, but the Neirak Blues Trio, made up of musicians from the Ed Tulipa band, but playing blues, since it was a blues jam. After I listened to a few acts, I realized that it was not 100 percent blues all the time, and I figured I could fit in my “Wicked Game” and my “Mad World,” and after doing that with the Neirak Blues trio – with Sergi on bass – they asked me to do a third song, so I did “Crazy Love.”

Something about playing in that great room with those cool musicians and that great, packed house of an audience meant it all went down very well, and I was in heaven…so to speak….

An Unexpected Jam at La Pepica Restaurant, in Valencia

June 22, 2012

la pepica

la pepica

I’ve been saying a lot lately that if you want something interesting to happen in your life, carry around a guitar with you. I might also add a guidebook. At least, that is what happened to me in Valencia, Spain, last night – something very fun and interesting thanks to my guidebook and my guitar. And it also happened at a very interesting place where Ernest Hemingway, Lauren Bacall, Orson Welles and others used to hang out.

To step back a little…. I finished my day’s work at the Formula One race track at the Marina in Valencia and I decided, exhausted after a long night the night before and the travel and the work, that I would not even look for a place to play music. Valencia has never been good for my musical adventure. So I opened up my guidebook, called Cartoville and published by Gallimard in France, to see if there were any good restaurants nearby.

hemingway at la pepica

hemingway at la pepica

Carrying these Cartoville guidebooks is a new thing I have been doing this year after I was introduced to the books by my friend Vanessa, last year, and she took me to some amazing places thanks to these books. So I thought, why not find one for each town I go to. Tourism was never my thing – but there’s no point traveling around the world for my work and being dumb about finding places, either.

The books are great because they split up the cities into sectors, and in each sector you have only five or six choices of bars, restaurants and shopping. So the choice is done very carefully, and I am rarely let down by what I find. I looked in the area around the Formula One track last night and saw this restaurant overlooking the beach; it was called La Pepica, and the guidebook described it as a “local myth” and that it was mentioned in Hemingway’s novel, “The Dangerous Summer,” and that these other celebrities had followed him there, etc. And the food was said to be good, and the ambiance was good, and simple, too.

So I walked over to the place, dragging my luggage behind me, and with my guitar on my back – for I had still not checked into my hotel. As I approached the restaurant, I saw suddenly some familiar faces: A massive table of maybe 35 British journalists sat on the terrace of the Pepica, in some kind of get-together for before the British Grand Prix, which is the next race after the one this weekend. There they were, BBC, Sky TV, magazine journalists, newspaper journalists from all the major publications and wire services, web journalists, other television and whatever journalists – the cream of the British racing media.

As soon as they saw my guitar, two or three of them requested I play a song. In the state I was, and given that it was the beginning of the evening and still bright out and they were just being served their first course, I thought, No way. I laughed off the invitation and said that perhaps once I had eaten, I would play.

I went inside, found a table not too closely within sight of the Brits, and I had a wonderful meal. The first course alone consisted of three dishes: a Valencia salad, calamari and some kind of mini muscles, shellfish. I had a nice half bottle of Rioja, and an amazing desert of some kind of parfait ice cream. It makes me want to run right back there as I write these words.

So I finished the meal, reading my New York Review of Books and the latest issue of Rock&Folk, the French music magazine, and then I went out and wondered over to say goodbye to the British journalists. Some had already left, but I was immediately invited once again to play music. And now, I was really ready, and desperately wanting to sing. And what a place to do it in? An old Hemingway hangout in the country of the flamenco guitar….

I ended up playing perhaps a total of 10 songs, split up by periods of talking, carousing and drinking the wine they offered me. Somehow I managed not to drink so much that I would lose hold of the notes, and I must say, with the beach in the distance, the sea a little beyond that, and even the appreciative waiters at this wonderful restaurant, it was an unbelievably great way to finish my first day in a town that has never been nice to me on this musical adventure – until now.

(Unfortunately, although a number of the journalists took photos and made videos of me playing, I have none myself, exceptionally, for this post.)

David Sam’s Singing Keyboards, Ed Tulipa’s Pop Terapia, and My Own Bits ‘n Pieces at the Big Bang Bar in Barcelona

May 14, 2012

After there was a big bang in the Williams Formula One team garage after the Grand Prix I had to stay later at the race track, so whatever may have been my thoughts about where I might go to play music in Barcelona last night, it whittled the choices down to one as far as I was concerned: The Big Bang Bar. That, of course, was where I had intended to go anyway, since it has a very cool Sunday evening rock and pop jam session. So I went, I played, and I especially enjoyed – oh, and made a few discoveries.

The open jam session is run by David Sam, who sings and plays keyboards, and its the style where you go up with your instrument and play with other musicians. Mostly rock and pop. David did this fabulous thing using the synthesized vocals on his keyboard. I got it on video, so check it out here; it is on the video that starts with a long bass solo – which is cool too – and the scat singing keyboard kicks in around the 55-second point.

I got to play two songs, and David played along on keyboards, someone else played drums, and a performer named Ed Tulipa played bass. I did “Mad World” and “Wicked Game.” Oddly, I blew both of them, forgetting key moments of the vocals. But it went over pretty well, and I had an amazing time. Ed then came over later with David, and gave me his latest CD, which is called Pop Terapia. I have listened to half of it already, and have it waiting for me to accompany my exercises tomorrow morning.

But what I have heard of Ed Tulipa’s album so far is very good, and very Beatles. The story behind the CD is that Ed’s Dad died, then at the same time basically, Ed got cancer, and during his chemotherapy treatment, his girlfriend left him!!! Holy crap! So he did this album as therapy, naming it Pop Terapia. But what is beautiful is that it is not sad, down, and depressed. Very nice stuff, and Ed plays a wicked lead guitar and sings well. The songs are catchy and nice pop. One of the songs is brilliantly entitled, “I’m Only Here for a While.” That one, in fact, was written by, and played with and sung by on this album, the so-named Rory Gallagher of The Revs.

I could write all night about this place, this music, and my time last night – which was incredibly brilliant in more ways than one. But if I did that, I would find myself compromising tonight’s open mic in Paris. I had to travel back from Barcelona today and that took a while, and now I’m in Paris and looking forward to some of my own Pop Therapie…. return tomorrow to hear about that…..

From Foc You to F..k You and a Busking Whore in Barcelona

May 12, 2012

I started out last night checking out a musical venue, a bar, in Barcelona called Foc You. That word “foc” means something in Spanish, but the bar obviously enjoyed using it to mean something else, adding that English touch. The open mic was not running last night, in fact, so I just went out for a quiet dinner. But after the meal I decided to take a look at the streets around the Cathedral because I had been told there were lots of places to play music, jam sessions and buskers. I ended up meeting a busker who did not like me taking a video of him and then leaving without paying any money and he ended my night with “Fuck You!” Let me clarify:

But first, before you consider me an ogre, let me note right away that I got a fabulous video out of it, the kind that could go viral perhaps – although no one can ever really figure out what works or doesn’t. So today I decided I would open up an AdSense account and action the video to make money. Any money I earn on the video of this busker whom I did not leave any money, will go 50-50 to him and to me. If, that is, I ever meet up with the guy again or he makes himself known to me…let’s say, in the next 1 year.

Now, back to the story: I had a wonderful meal, wandered over the cathedral, contemplating the meal, my next day of work and my imminent return to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. But as I went around to a back street behind the cathedral, I heard this fabulous violin music. The streets were beautifully lit, old Barcelona, ancient brick and just a medieval sort of feel to the whole thing. And with the music it was stunning.

The busker had a recording of a classic piece on the radio and he played along on his violin. I recorded for about two minutes, taking in the scene and appreciating his music. (I have cut the video to under a minute.) I realized that I had no coins of any kind left in my wallet as I had left the last coins in a tip in the restaurant. And in euro bills, the smallest I had was a 50. Way too big. So I knew that I could leave him no money.

But I thought that he could see I appreciated his music and that I was making a video out of respect. In fact, I had remembered seeing a video on YouTube about a star violinist from the Washington symphony (I think it was) playing in the subway in Washington and being ignored by almost all passersby. I thought of that and decided I would do the video of this guy and put it on my blog as an example of a great busker in Barcelona.

I know what it is like to be a busker. I lived off my busking in London in the late 1970s when I ran out of money and lived in a crappy hotel and did not eat for three days, as I wrote in the old piece I link here. In fact, last night I had my guitar in its bag on my back, and so I knew the violinist could see I was a fellow musician and know what it is like. I got called over by a busker in Istanbul three years ago to play with him, and I did, having a reminder of how demoralizing it can be.

So I was quite surprised when the violinist, playing this beautiful classical music, saw me about to leave around the corner without leaving any money in his case, and he stopped playing, said, “Fuck you,” and gave me the finger. He then went on to tell me about how he only played for money, he had to pay his bills, etc. I was so surprised by the contrast of the classical music, the setting, the peace… and then this vicious verbal assault! Moreover, for me, despite all my own experience, this was tantamount to whoring. And, of course, while I am occasionally paid to play my music today in the gigs I perform, I am lucky enough to have a job to enable my music to be something I do to share with people for free since I love music.

I would never, ever, not in my most destitute days as a busker, have ever given the finger to anyone and sworn at them and told them they had to pay for my music. Having said that, I would never want to profit by this man’s reaction without giving him a share of the profits. So I have set up that advertising account mostly in order to see if I can earn a bit of money for him, but also to justify putting up the video. I considered whether I should give him ALL of the profits, until I said, “No, I have bills to pay, kids to feed, electricity and food for myself to pay, too!”

Still, I feel no animosity toward this busker. A little pity, yes. And a difference of opinion on the purpose of sharing music. But variety is what makes life so interesting….

Three Jam Night in Barcelona’s Multi-Tiered Musical Cornucopia

May 11, 2012

Sagrada Família

Sagrada Família

The Sagrada Familia is an iconic weird looking incomplete church in Barcelona that was designed by Gaudi, as most people know. Last night’s adventures in Barcelona’s music scene for me were about as weird looking and seemingly never-ending as the Sagrada Familia. But while it is expected to see the church and other Gaudi buildings when you come to Barcelona, the kind of musical night I had last night was far from expected for me – given my experiences here in the past.

Not that I had bad experiences, but they were limited mostly to the highly organized jam sessions of the Jazz-si venue or the Big Bang bar, or the classic expat open mic of the George Payne Pub. Last night, I ended up having a three-tiered experience, a whole cross-sectional experience of the open mic and jam session, from three different levels and kinds of society. Or maybe it was all an expression of the same thing, in this country with such a high unemployment rate – especially amongst the young – and where music is one of the few releases for a suffering population, but also where it is also illegal in most venues at nighttime due to the strict anti-noise laws.

For the four years that I have been coming to Barcelona I have been hearing always in the background of my musical adventure the talk of the police crackdowns on live music at nighttime. The death of live music in Barcelona, etc. Last night was no different. But I saw one of the outgrowths of it too.

The first place I went to was more or less an expatriate open mic, run by an Englishman named Matt Kemp. It is held at the Bar Ese Efe in a cosy maze of tiny streets in the El Raval area, which has been compared to the Lower East Side in NYC. I had started the day thinking I would find no venue until Sunday, and then I received a message from my friend LadiesDi whom I met at open mics in Paris, who has lived in Barcelona and is currently in Finland but who originally hails from South America!

So I was saved by LadiesDi who told me about Matt Kemp’s open mic. I went and found a neat little bar with a back room and a cool mural of a kind of apocalyptic image behind the small stage and what turned out to be an acoustic open mic, ie, no mic. That, I later learned from Matt – and you can hear him talk about it in my next in the year’s series of podcasts – was directly due to the Draconian music laws that outlaw loud music at night.

barrilonia barcelona

barrilonia barcelona

There were a few Spaniards in the place, but mostly it was an open mic with foreigners – from England, the United States and elsewhere. It got quite full with a warm audience, and given the small size of the room it was quite possible to do it without a microphone. The ambience actually reminded me a lot of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic in Paris.

I got to go up twice, as I was the second performer of the night and later went up on the second half of the evening too. In fact, Matt prefers to call it an open stage as opposed to an open mic, as he allows and encourages everyone to take to the stage – magicians, actors, poets, musicians, etc.

Just after I finished that evening and interviewed Matt, I started to make my way back to my hotel when I suddenly heard music emanating from a building on the corner of Carrer de San Rafael. The front of the building was wide open and I walked in to see what looked like a jam session going on, acoustic, but with a mic and amplified guitar and some South American-sounding vocals. I was immediately invited to go up and start playing, by some man whose face I could barely see in the shadows.

I wanted to case out the joint and the music first, and said, “No.” I turned out to be a squat called Barrilonia. And in my mind I equated it with the current economic and real estate situation in Spain, and the crowd was a vast mixture of people from different social classes. But the overall vibe, of course, was that of an illicit squat and people bearing with life’s vicissitudes through a need to express themselves and listen to others in music.

If live music is not allowed in Barcelona late at night – and it was after midnight – it will find its way out nevertheless. Music has healing powers, and Barcelona has a huge need for that now. All of Spain does. And far from not being a musical city, there is live music all over the place. It is just highly regimented, and where it cannot be done with amplification, it will be done acoustically.

I did go up and play a song at the Barrilonia squat, and I was joined on my guitar and vocals with the other guitar player and a guy drumming on his knees. I spoke to a couple of middle-class looking guys about the place, and one of them gave me a link to a web site to find more music, and told me that the area around the Cathedral is full of live music and jams at night.

I left the squat and continued heading towards my hotel when not far up the next street I heard live acoustic music emanating from a bar, a real bar, a bona fide middle class person’s bar with wooden interior. I glanced inside and as someone saw me with my guitar on the back he gestured me in to join the jam. There were a couple of guitarists and a flute or recorder player, and one of the guitarists also sang.

I was not there long before I was asked again to join in. So I did. This time I played along to a few of their songs, they played along to my songs, and I spoke to a couple of them about life in Barcelona. One man in particular, a teacher, was angry about how Spain was in the south of Europe and had a southern culture – like Greece and Portugal – and that it would never be able to fit into the norther culture and economy pushed by Brussels and the big European Union countries of the north. And he lamented the death of such things as impromptu jams and music in the streets, and again complained about the crackdown on live music.

But had I not just lived a full evening with three live music events that the city is apparently teeming with? Everything is a matter of perspective and expectation….

Missed Opportunities in Valencia

June 26, 2011

Since last year all I have done is complain about how Valencia, Spain is the world’s crappiest city for open mics and jam sessions and live music. It was the only place in my two and a half year journey three times around the world where I failed to find a place to play. This year so far, although I played a few songs on a restaurant terrace – thus marking my territory, unlike last year – I must say that I can blame myself for a little failure this time.

First, I learned on Thursday that there was a massive beach party on Thursday night where someone at the F1 circuit told me I should go to play – that people would be playing music on the beach – and later that night the waiters at the restaurant said the same thing. That is not at all an open mic or jam, but it is a place where music is played in public.

Okay, I could swallow that one. But last night, I met some buskers on the street in the old town and asked if they knew of a place to play, maybe a jam session. They told me there was the French Institute of Valencia that held a jam on Sunday night and that I should not miss it. They said it was not far from there, so I set out to find the address immediately, to ensure that I wasn’t going to miss anything.

In fact, I never found the institute. But today when I decided to look into its exact address and confirm there was a jam, I saw that the jam took place last night. In fact, it might well have been finishing up while I was walking up and down Ca. Moro Zeit looking for the place.

That was two potential places to play that I missed out. Of course, coming from Paris to play at the French Institute makes little sense. But I still feel as if there must be some hidden jam or open stage in this city that I have missed.

I got so desperate last night, in fact, that I looked up on google for karaokes in Valencia hoping that maybe they would allow a guitar player/singer, if there were any karaokes. Something led me to believe also that they may use the same word for karaoke and open stage. So the first place I went, not far from my hotel, was entirely empty. I spoke to the manager of the place, and she said they hardly ever have karaokes because it disturbs the neighbors…. She sent me off to one on the other side of Valencia, however, which she said definitely happened, at the place Canovas del Castillo.

I walked through the entire city, found the square, and searched all the side streets and the square itself, and found nothing at all. I walked back to the hotel, having walked in a complete circle of several kilometers, with a stop for a cheap paella dinner. They may not specialize in music here, but they do specialize in paella. It was invented here.

Jammed Up at the Bel-Luna Jazz Club Blues Jam

May 24, 2011

Monday night was my last night in Barcelona, and I headed over to the Bel-Luna Jazz Club for a dinner and to sit in on the Monday night blues jam session. I have found that around the world the word “blues” does not always mean the same thing. Some places it means “rock.” So blues jams vary from place to place, from real and pure blues to pop rock. I prefer the latter for personal reasons, even if I don’t agree with the definition. The personal reasons are that it usually means I can play my stuff at the blues jam. Last night at Bel-Luna, with the exception of the occasional 1950s rockabilly song – I prefer to call that rock ‘n roll, but what the hell – and the occasional boogie, it was really nothin’ but the purest blues stuff.

That meant that I had a great meal – pasta starter, veal main course, sorbet desert, and a wonderful and cheap rioja red – and then I listened to a bunch of the songs and players and I cleared out by midnight. I’d been all jammed up and jammed out, and knew that I would not have a hope in hell of doing anything that would please anyone on that stage. I was tempted like anything, but this was pure, pure blues, and my stuff does not fall into that category at all.

I’ve said it before, that the pure blues jam thing actually tires me out after a while since all the songs sound the same. The players have a lot of fun, but to listen to several hours of the same riffs and chords and leads, and usually lead heavy vocals, doesn’t usually make me feel fresh.

Anyway, there was some nice stuff – and a surfeit of harmonica players, by the way, each with his case full of harmonicas in different keys to choose from. The house musicians – a drummer, bass player and pianist – were fabulous, by the way. And a wonderful club it was, with fabulous old videos of the real bluesmen from the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s running on for hours before the live jam. I loved that stuff.

Hard Rock at the Big Bang Bar Barcelona Jam

May 23, 2011

I mentioned the jazz jam at the Big Bang the other night, well, the rock jam is the one that started this bar off a couple of decades ago when Jesus de Kalle, a rock guitarist, decided he needed a place for him and other musicians to jam. So last night, like every Sunday, it was the rock jam night. I took that as my cue to go and play some of my songs, but there was a biiiiiiggg difference between my songs and most of the stuff last night. I mean, AC/DC, Deep Purple et al ???

Jesus was on hand to start out the night playing lead guitar, and it turned out I would be the first non-employed performer – ie, the first jam victim – and I would play with the house drummer and that house bass player. I was a little disappointed that both Jesus and David Sam, the keyboard player who is in charge of the rock jam, left when I was called up. But they had been playing for a while, so they needed a break. I played Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” and then I went into “Mad World,” and as I started the first chords of the latter, David Sam ran back into the room and did some greet backing for me on the keyboards and some nice solo stuff during the break between verses and at the end.

He later told me he liked this kind of music and that’s why he came back, to play along. I suddenly realized that I had already played with David before, around the corner two years ago at the JazzSi club on my first ever time playing with a full band. That was such an odd experience for me that time, and it took me telling myself that I would do it purely for the book I was writing about open mics, just like a George Plimpton experience playing with the Detroit Lions or something. But it was my baptism by fire, and since then I’ve grown to love playing with other musicians, and I no longer tremble at the thought of it being weird for me to be caught dead in the company of “real” musicians.

Speaking of real musicians, there were a number of them last night. There were some great bass players, lead guitar players, keyboard players, sax players and a singer or two. Check out the guy singing the AC/DC! He did some other stuff that sounded even more heavy metal….

Anyway…off to a blues jam tonight. I had two other places lined up last night, but in the end I decided to get the best taste of one place only that I could. Interviewed David Sam for the documentary, and also managed to get my performance on video, but it was too long to put here and I don’t have my video editing software on the laptop to cut the video shorter….

Playing at the George Payne open mic in Barcelona

May 20, 2011

Sometimes on my worldwide musical adventure I get the feeling that an open mic here or there has been thrown together just for me. When I played in Cologne two years ago I found what was certainly the only open mic in the city, and it happened to be on the first day I arrived, the Thursday, I stumble across it immediately while searching the bars desperately for an open mic, and it had only existed for three months. Although Barcelona is full of open jam sessions, the strict open mic mic format is more rare. Two years ago I discovered an open mic on the Monday night at an Irish pub called the George Payne, on the Place Urquinaona. But it did not last long. Yesterday after an internet search, I found it was happening again, and it was on Thursdays.

I arrived last night to find that it has only existed since last week, but in only one week it has become a great success. There were all sorts of accomplished musicians and bands there to play last night in this vast “Irish Pub,” which looks more like a Texas whorehouse, if you ask me – although I’ve never set foot in a pub in Ireland OR a Texas whorehouse…. but anyway….

This time around it was more Spanish, too, as the MC, Max, is Spanish, and there were more Spanish-speaking performers, despite the Irish pub aspect to it. There were the usual expats too, and some very good ones. In fact, most of the performers were a multicultural mix – from Joe-Psalmist of Nigerian origin to Jesse Masterson and Paul Henry of Argentine, Spanish, U.S. and British mix to me, a Canadian living in Paris….

Most of us did around three songs, although the guys dressed up like the Blues Brothers – Masterson and Henry – did a lot more, by popular demand.

Oh, forgot to mention, the Internet also led me astray as I first went to a very hip musical venue called KGB, that was supposed to have an open mic according to the net, but which had some kind of pin-up girl thing going on instead. Reminded me of the venue in Paris called the Machine du Moulin Rouge.

Now onwards to the many blues, rock and jazz jams in the coming days….

From the Kaf Cafe to the Wah Wah…With Nothing in Between

June 26, 2010

My second night in Valencia proved to be as big a deception on the open mic/jam front as the first night, and I feel as if I’m really edging toward the first Formula One race venue ever for me where I will not have found a place to play and sing. Oh, well, that’s not quite true – I’ve been playing every night in my hotel room before going out to dinner, but that’s to no audience.

I mentioned in my previous post that I met Pepe, the Spanish singer and guitar player from the Paris open mic scene, at the airport on my way to Valencia. The last thing he said to me as we departed at the airport in Valencia was, “It’s not like Paris here.”

But he had told me that I should check out a place called Kaf Cafe, a coffeehouse-like joint where they sell alcoholic beverages nevertheless, and where he said it was sometimes possible to play. So I went there last night only to find it in full swing with a night of a tribute to a professor and some kind of Mexican theme. I’m afraid my Spanish is non-existent and I had to depend on French sorting out the Spanish to understand that much.

But the night was a real breath of fresh air culturally, and I am sure that it would be a great place to play – when that is possible. The name is as it sounds, a play on the name of Franz Kafka and “cafe.” It’s a nice sized, long room with bookshelves full of books, a nice little stage and a bar, sofas, a bicycle on the wall, and an art exhibit. This is hip, cool, very much the kind of place I’d love to hang around in. I tried, in fact, to look at every possible way of presenting myself to do some music, but I could see it was just not going to work.

There was a kind of poetry reading with a guitarist backing the speaker; another group consisting of a man on cello and another on guitar and vocals; and a group of women who sang something and with a couple of guitar playing women thrown in too. It reminded me of the vibe I felt in Sao Paulo, actually, on the all-night jam I did there after the race last year. But here at Kaf Cafe, it was not open to anyone to play.

The crowd ranged from babies to grandparents and with everything in between, and I was content to sit, drink a beer and listen. But I was itching to try my luck in another part of town, where I had read there were one or to other venues, so I left.

I took a cab over to the university area and sought out the Wah Wah, which I read a review of that had this to say: “A rocking and grooving live music club in a student friendly zone. Mostly local and national bands loving it live, week in and week out. International groups like The Frank and Walters and The Sugarman hree play in spacious surroundings with a relaxed, open and bohemian crowd.”

Well, yes, that describes it well. The only thing that is not clear in that picture is that the crowd I saw last night was insanely young. I am not lying or exaggerating when I say that the majority of them looked 13, 14 years old. But this place sells beer and alcohol and there were some adults around as well. So I don’t know what was happening but I had the impression there may have been a special event for an end of school year party, or something like that.

The band was pretty young, but not that young, and not that charismatic either. The volume was not ear-shattering. But couldn’t take much of it, and I had seen enough within half an hour to know that I would never have a chance to play there, so I decided to leave and check out the rest of the area. There were lots of other bars, but none with live music from what I could see. I did, however, find a park that looked full of students, and I saw the occasional guitar there with people strumming and playing. That, I thought, might end up my last resort if I really MUST find a place to play in Valencia.

But I hold out hope and will continue the search. Oh, yes, Monday my flight is late, so there’s always the beach – as Pepe also suggested to me…. Strange, all this, however, given that this is guitar-building territory around here….

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