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Visions of Marchena (Australian dub reggae band on tour in the deep south of Spain)

A little tour dispatch I did of my experiences touring Spain in 2010 with my band The Sunshine Brothers. We recorded an album and did three weeks of touring that fantastic country!

Marchena
Fifteen days into the Brothers Spanish tour and the enormous 2000+ calorie
lunch,several beers and assorted aperitifs , and numerous “chats to mum on the
phone/jazz cigarettes” had reduced my being to a hazy napping carbon based life-form, barely
self aware or able to react to the aged landscape of southern Spain that flew
passed my reddened eyes.
I can recollect coming to some sort of startle in the back of the tour van, one
of my five senses appeared to be reacting to stimulus somewhere down the back of
my brain.
It was the cutting smell of goat shit that had released enough neural energy to
gain a sense of consciousness. We slowed down as I watched a farmer running a
large mob of goats right by the road. We were some ten minutes from Marchena
home of the tours least known gig.
The rest of the band was stirring in the van in a manner not unlike a Arthur C
Clarke inter-stellar cryo-sleep scene.
Its an odd phenomenon awakening whilst in transport and being surrounded by a
band..
and in that first moment you see them
they appear so alien, so overwhelmingly foreign as they stretch and yawn
crumpled bodies.
You have no idea as to the species of the creature before you lil-lone believe
that ”it” is someone you’ve spent every minute of the day with for weeks. Quite
disturbing.
As I focused more on my surroundings and environment Yolanda was quickly telling
us (as the Spanish often do) that she had just spoken to the venue owner Miguel,
and as she was from the north of Spain, was having trouble understanding his
thick southern accent.
She could not understand his directions to the accommodation and as a result,
had agreed to meeting him at a railway crossing on the outskirts of the town.
The gig was off the radar far as towns were concerned,a population of 20
thousand smack bang in the middle of the deep south of rural Spain. It was
booked to cover our road costs as we needed a stop over on our way to a gig on
the beach near Cadiz.
Our Madrid friends always seemed to have a wry smile when this gig was
mentioned.
We were first informed that we would be staying in a nunnery in Marchena.
I had visions of firm gray blanketed bunks in cold stone corridor-ed
dormitories. Jimmy receiving stern frowns from nuns at 3am.
We were now staying at a house Miguel had organized. I remember thinking at the
time that this appeared to be a more comfortable outcome, surely easier to chill
an enjoy the post show entertainment in a house than a nunnery right?
The Spanish don’t seem to do urban sprawl, I love it.
country country country country country…TOWN!
No slow build of house’s trickling into urbanization, the first house is the
start of the town! Awesome.
We pulled up by a an old railway crossing and kicked dead rats the size of
healthy kittens around the road waiting for Miguel who turns up on an old beat
scooter.
A Huge grin on his tight lean face ,he appears to be a man who would work hard
into the night,and would often do just that.
He offered a warm welcoming vibe with a hint of anxiousness which allowed us to
follow him to where we will be staying.
Passing giant wheat silos and rusty old loading yards that have gathered on the
edge of the town, we turn into what looks like a typical light
industry/warehouse area.
Obviously this street was part of the more affordable light industry/warehouse
sector of Marchena. Pot holes and skinny dogs dotted the road as we pulled up.
The house was behind a large security gate, across from which was a weed
infested and crumbling tennis court.
A bizarre gaudy billboard of a lecherous bee chasing a shy bashful flower
somehow made sense and tells of another life this place might have had.
Miguel signaled us to follow him through the gates and as a strong putrid smell
of decay made entrance to my nose, the dark green stagnant swimming pool at the
front of the house greeted my eyes.
Miguel frowned at the swimming pool and gestured to us that by not “looking” at
the pool – would make the smell go away!
I liked the man’s logic, although when I entered the house which appeared nice
enough, I was still smelling that overpowering stench.
Now having been in share houses where the swimming pool is allowed to “sleep”
over winter I can tell that although the nausea inducing smell makes sense with
the dank green water of the swimming pool, the two were not connected…
No this omnipresent, all encompassing smell wasn’t from the neglected swimming
pool, no no no.
Much darker origins were afoot.
At the heart and soul of this thick blanket odor I’m convinced is poo and wee.
As far as the world of smell is concerned, we are dealing with the big end of
town…Sewage!
It was a brutal aroma make no mistake. Many many many phrase’s of a similar ilk
as “that s hardcore/whoah dude thats hardcore..” were used by the touring party
in order to I guess, be able to process and come to terms with this confronting
environment.
I walked back out onto the dusty street to get some fresh air for my hung over
tummy. I wondered over to the fields that hosted a man with a donkey and fires
burning in the pink blue twilight, framed off in the distance by an amazing long
ancient stone cathedral and steeple.
Is that where the nuns live?
I now envisioned a kindly old nun tucking me in-to my fresh clean sheets, the
smell of cut flowers from the church garden by my bed….
Back in the van and we were following Miguel to the venue. Across the railway
and into Marchena. As we approached the center of town the streets were
completely void of life or activity,we saw no one.
We traveled up a small hill and turned down into the town square which
was…HEAVING!
People everywhere. Cars honking, dancing, music blaring, wine, food, kids in
some kind of traditional white garb. Movement, colour, noise. Crazy.
The street was full of people getting down, absolutely bulging with life. We
realized that we had driven smack bang into a wedding procession, it was truly
an amazing site to see.
Totally overwhelmed with the scene we were now in, the band blinked out at it
all with mouths open. Cars honked going in all directions,people jostling past
us. As if transported into the middle of a late night SBS movie the culture and
snap shot of life was almost too much to absorb,I was trying to soak up every
scene.
As we proceeded through the fiesta, Miguel would lean right around on his old
scooter and flash a huge grin at us, beckoning for us to follow him . Making us
all anxious that the dangerous angle he would assume in directing us while
wobbling through the cars and bustling narrow streets would end badly.
I realized that the strange almost frenzied soundtrack to all this was not
originating from my tired wiggy brain, but in fact coming from the car in front.
A hypnotic voice of a Spanish lady that I thought my mind had created was in
fact blaring from what looked like a ancient PA that was strapped to the roof
rack of the old car.
Yolanda informs us that it was promoting the evenings movies at the local
cinema. Again like that weird billboard near the accom , it made sense to me.
Her warm manic tone seemed strangely soothing and added to the Spanish art-house
film that we now found ourselves in.
Miguel it seems was taking us from one run down old industrial area, through the
quaint town to the other run down old industrial area.
We pulled up out the front of a warehouse type building that would not be out
of place from where we were staying.
I stared at the knee deep rubbish that was strewn across the vacant block next
door.
Miguel had lost any slight anxiousness that he may have carried whilst showing
us our accommodation. He was smiling and chatting to Yolanda as he proudly slid
back the door to to the club.
I could tell in the darkness that the venue was large. My musician brain was
working up 3D modeling of how small thirty payers would look in this big room.
The lights blinked on and we found ourselves in the most extraordinary venue I
have ever been in.
The first thing that struck me was the stage which sat in the back left hand
corner of the converted warehouse space. Around its walls there were murals of
pyramids and a Dali painting that added to the surrealist vibe.
Above was a large incredible hand made red perspex light bank hovering over the
entire stage which was trimmed top and bottom with vinyl records, fake grape
vines snaked around it and then grew down the wall onto the stage.
Every wall in the place was covered in framed pictures and posters, mostly of a
rock n roll/music theme or of a surreal/fantasy/sci-fi flavor.
I mean everywhere. The size of the room cannot be overlooked. Hundreds of the
things covering the blue planet colored walls. Old bizarre instruments,
keyboards, guitars hung through out.
Even the tables in the place were covered with the same style of picture, twenty
tables probably? Each lovingly adored with amazing art pieces.
The density of the artworks increased along the wall from bar to stage and
offered the sound checking musician ample time killing opportunities.
There could be no denying that Miguel has spent years creating this place.
The bar which jutted along and around the wall facing the stage was probably
twenty meters long. The whole thing was glass topped and displayed hundreds and
hundreds of assorted rock n roll paraphernalia, trinkets and photos. Incredible.
Not an hour would go by on this tour where we all did not think how blessed we
are to have Yolanda with us. We actually proposed driving ourselves on the tour,
I would not allow myself the pain of imagining this scenario,I still can’t..
god.
She did the whole tour with an air of complete grace , efficiency and humor. In
complete control of all venue owners, putting up with hours and hours and hours
of endless child-like banter that emanated from the back of the tour van.
Miguel through Yolanda offered up beers and wanted her to tell us that his venue
is now our home and to ask for anything that we might need.
To discuss business, Yolanda had to enter the men s toilet and between two
urinals, climb a ladder that extended up to Miguel’s mezzanine office space.
This also doubled as Miguel’s visual DJ booth, from which he controlled amazing
visuals throughout the evening and during our set on a giant giant screen next
to the stage.
Still its amazing the communication you can share with someone that does not
speak your language. Miguel’s smile and vibe did not need spoken word to let us
know that the guy was so happy for us to play at his venue.
Probably a safe bet to assume that we would be the first Australian band to
perform in Marchena. The kangaroo road sign that adorned our tour poster I’m
sure was already responsible for the odd curious local to stick their nose in
the door and peer at the odd faced musicians.
George our sound guy set about completely changing Miguel s sound system, by all
accounts from George it needed it, and I would see him climbing out from under
the stage, cables and cob webs everywhere.
The odd technical difficulty sparing, we sound-checked and ate Miguel s home
made banquet,grabbed a coffee and it was doors.

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About Bretskii

Guitarist, thinker, cheese melter! https://www.facebook.com/thesunshinebrothers

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