Sunday, 25 October 2009

Thurs July 30, Åmål….The rain came down heavy and hard. Boarded the bus leaving Göteborg. Less than two hours later and three chapters into Andrew Millers’ ‘Casanova’ we arrived into Trollhättan. After the initial pang of commuter confusion, I got on board the train and arrived into Åmål just as the rain was easing up. I had checked it out on google maps and according to the Big Brother of the skies, if I swung a left out of the main entrance of the station and followed the river I should find the town centre. Ignoring the bus service and the taxis, this is what I did. Fifteen minutes later I landed on the doorstep of Café x/o and was greeted by Camilla, and later met Fredrik who showed me around. There’s a big ballroom type place upstairs which they hope to turn into a venue next year. I’d like to play here, but not tonight. The building itself dates from the 1700’s.

I met up with local photographer / graphic designer and occasional musician Tony Berg, a gentle giant of a guy, long blond beard, built like a wrestler. Had a beer, Tony had a coke and we chatted about music, photography, life in Sweden….you know how it goes.

The gig was an out-door affair, but the wind was blowing rough and it was difficult to keep the guitar in tune as it was such a damp evening. Fair play to the audience of 70 or so brave folks who turned up and seemed to approve of my attempts at entertainment. Camilla drove me to a cabin on the shores of Lake Vänern which was my base for the next few days.

Fri.July 31 ..A restless night of tossing and turning, but I had my book to keep me company and its very well written and Millers got a great turn of phrase, one of those writers who effortlessly takes you into another world, a very believable world too. Eventually I got to sleep properly around 8am. The phone rang shortly after midday. It was Fredrik informing me that Tony was at the bar having breakfast and would pick me up if I wasn’t doing anything. I needed a quick shower, so he said he’d see me at 2. And so at exactly 2pm Tony’s car pulled up outside. I hopped into the car, The Clash on the stereo blasting out….I knew there and then that we had a lot in common. Tony drove me around the sights of the small town and we stopped off at his apartment for a while. He showed me his collection of 28 guitars…. and he’s got a lot of CD’s too. His photos and artwork adorn the walls. A talent man indeed.

We had a drink over at the 50’s diner sitting on the balcony, avoiding the wasps, weekend shoppers down below, the River Åmålsån running through the town and into the lake, the third largest in Europe. Back at Café x/o we had dinner and red wine and I felt a bit tired and went for a lie down. Every now and then a hot girl would walk by and wave at Tony, or come over to the table to give him a peck on the cheek. All these leggy ladies apparently had been photographed by him. Not a bad job really !

Due to the dodgy weather the gig was inside the small bar. The acoustics were great and Fredrik and I spent a good while getting the sound right. Often, I can sound check in 10 minutes. Tonight took a little longer, but it was worth it. I met some good people after the gig, sold CD’s and had a few late drinks. A good night by any standards.

Sat Aug 1, Åmål…Another open air gig, down in the town centre got the day off to a good start. Åsa and Freja arrived up by bus and it’s a very rare occasion when this sort of thing happens. We met up with Tony as planned as he wanted to take a few photos. We find a location over near the old chuch and he gots out his expensive camera and started shooting. Some elderly ladies from the nearby craft fair approched Tony wondering if I’m up for signing a few autographs. They must have thought I was Johnny Logan ! (he’s big in Sweden)
Later we found a bar and contemplated dinner, but the beer prices were riduculous and the food menu was more than a bit crazy, so we didn’t eat. Instead we visited Cafe Trädgarden out at the camping site and had a few beers followed by wonderful fish and chips. Marley’s ‘Keep on Moving’ was on the stereo, speed boats bounced across the waves on the lake. After dinner I had a nap and then strolled the half mile back into town. A big beat-up, souped-up black Mercedes drove by. The stereo pumping out honky tonk sounds. A welcome respite from conveyor belt hip hop. I walked past the caravans and camper vans, holiday homes. A heated arguement was underway in the garden behind one of the stately mansions. “Nej, Nej, Nej”..some guy was shouting. Other voices are in obvious disagreement but I’ve no idea what they’re on about. The gig was great, the place packed, I played well and felt I was amongst friends.

Fri Aug 18 Barcelona. I had arrived in previous night, with my host Oriol Stardust meeting me at the airport. A thunder storm greeted my arrival and this suited me fine. Thor was simply saying that everything back in Sweden was fine, and we’ll see you soon. We took the long long train ride out to Cardedeu where Oriols parents have a house in what used to be the countryside, but is now the sprawling flat suburbs. Slept a bit, awoke, went for the walk. Oriol arrived in from work (he’s a journalist) and the afternoon was spent having a look around at the old derelict mansions, one-time playhouses for the well-heeled. Back in Barcelona, we has dinner just up around the corner from the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, spaghetti pesto and a few glass’s of red wine. Antoni Gaudi’s famous church La Sagrada Família was up around another corner but we didn’t have time to go see it, but I had seen before way back in the last century, mid 80’s if memory serves me correctly.

One time Racketeers bass player, Paul Demsey showed up. He had a gig the following night in some Irish bar in town, but was on a night off and it was good to see him and get the news on what he’s been up to the last few years splitting his time between Spain and Thailand. The gig at Macondo was fun with Oriol joining me for a quick run through Brand New Cadillac towards the end.
Sat Aug 19 Cardedeu…Spending the afternoon travelling into Barcelona seemed like a good idea, we had a few drinks and Tapas in some place just off Las Ramblas. In case you don’t know, La (or Las) Rambla is a street in central a 1.2 kilometer-long tree-lined pedestrian mall between Barri Gòtic and El Raval, it connects Plaça Catalunya in the center with the Christopher Columbus monumentat Port Vell. It’s full of tourists, but the locals like it too. Had a swift beer in a bar, cerulean blue walls covered in magnificent paintings of Sumerian dragons. We stood at the bar, I soaked in the atmosphere, lazy trip hop on the stereo, sounded like Morsheeba. Oriol was restless. He’s not a beer drinker, whiskey mostly and it was too early in the day for that. The lady across from me was smoking Lucky Strikes, the barman was grumpy and bored and pulled pints from a great golden tap in the shape of cobra head. I could have stayed all night, but we had to visit a record shop. A very expensive collectors haven. Still, I managed to find a John Lee Hooker single for 1 Euro.

By the time we got to Cardedue by train, I was ready for a nap, but that wasn’t possible. Thre gig time changed from 9 until midnight, but in reality it was 1am by the time I got in stage and it was all a bit hazy. Apparently it was great. Maybe they lied !

Sun Aug 20 Barcelona…Oriol was kind enough to accompany me all the way to the airport, a journey that took well over an hour., a place where smoking is forbidden “ By Royal Decree” according to a sign on the wall. By the time I got to Brussels I had finished reading Joseph O Connors Star Of The Sea . With twelves hours to wait for the connecting flight, it was a long night.

Wed Oct 14 Göteborg…I had started hanging out in bars in Central Station, buses coming and going, railroad tracks leading right across the country and down into Denmark if your feeling like you want to go that far, or in the opposite direction, north into Norway. The transient vibe of the place appealed to some sort of feeling of restlessness or a misguided desire to have wander.
Nordstan is a huge shopping centre nearby Central Station and I’ve had the frosty pleasure of a drink in one of their bars too. And so it came to be that I was there and the stereo was pumping out the latin sounding pop trash, the singers sounding like coked-up chipmunks. Synthetic bass, synthetic drums, rubbish melodies. A cardboard cut-out Swedish guy was tapping his fingers in an unsteady tattoo on the table. Down at the end of the room is the gambling corner. People were winning, and people were losing on the roulette table. The lady at the blackjack table was elegantly dressed in white shirt with black tie, black skirt and matching waist coat. The dealing of the cards and laying out of the chips, just another tea time gig for her. The Thai girls who work in ther nearby restaurant were knocking back the tequila with beer chasers and talking loud. They can’t get Singha beer here, but there are no complaints. Falcon Export will do the trick.

Went to the nearby Mother India restaurant for dinner. I was starving and we got a seat upstairs, the basement room being packed., and this suited fine; my anti-social tendencies being catered for by the friendly Indian waiter. Cobra beer arrived in gigantic bottles, bigger than I’d bargained for. Things were looking good.

Played a gig over in Kontiki, a bar right beside the enterance to the Botanical Gardens. A small crowd on a freezing cold Wednesday night, but such is life. Met some folks who had seen me in Åmål, and Andy and Damon were down too. Deutschland beckons like a ghost.