The Plaza de Catalunya, immediately adjacent to the venue and hotel in Barcelona, was full of makeshift tarp tents, crudely lettered protest signs, and young dissidents. There were dozens of people camped out there in the middle of the city, perhaps one or two hundred, and we were told that there had recently been several thousand there when the police had intervened. I have never seen anything quite like it. In America, there are large protests from time to time, protests against the war, rallies on behalf of the rights of immigrants, protests against the Republican National Convention in New York City, but they are protests that disseminate at the end of the day. It seems that there are few issues in the US where people are passionate enough to camp out in large groups for weeks, indefinitely. My understanding is that the economic situation in Portugal, Spain, and Greece has reached a drastic enough point to inspire this more intense breed of civil disobedience. There is also speculation that the uprisings in the Middle East have an influence on these gatherings.
Despite the sobering content at the heart of these protests, we were in Barcelona to accomplish the same task as always, to uplift through songs and through dancing, to celebrate. Although on the surface it may seem comparatively frivolous, I believe that is also important, even essential, work.
Darwin did a video interview in the Plaza de Catalunya, surrounded by the protesters and tarp tents, completely in Spanish. After ignorantly bumbling through other foreign countries like Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, it’s a real treat to finally be able to speak the language.
“Don’t address the audience as ‘Spain’ or ‘Spainards’” our promoter cautioned. “They consider themselves more Catalonian than Spanish.” He went on to tell us an anecdote about Those Dancing Days, and all female Swedish band that we became friends with two weeks ago at Immergut Festival. Apparently, a few days ago at the same club, TDD had joked around about the Spanish bull runs onstage, giving themselves horns using their fingers and exclaiming, “Toro! Toro!” It had not been well-received. We learned that the running of the bulls is something more culturally specific to places like Madrid and Seville, and widely frowned upon in Barcelona. Darwin adhered to these warnings during our set that evening, but went off-road for a moment, peppering our songs with slightly outrageous Mexican idioms: “Andale, andale! Arriba, arriba!” Happily, the audience were good sports.
A tiny beach themed bar called Pesca Salada (Salty Fish) barraged our band with obscenely oversized gin and tonics. On nearly every street block, freelance entrepreneurs approached us with sixpacks of Estrella Damm dangling from their hands, offering a can for one Euro. The following day, with heads slightly spinning, we dragged ourselves from Stansted airport up to Wakefield. Deliriously, we chanted “Toby! Toby! Toby!” until we arrived at Toby’s Pub and Cutlery, a British dream/nightmare of overcooked meat and vegetables, best eaten when drowned in gravy. We filmed an impromptu tour commercial in the parking lot.
At Wakefield Travelodge, Darwin bid Ben and I off into dreamland with a bedtime story. He read us an essay by Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo from his Harvard days about his experiments with hedonism and celibacy. Sweet dreams, everyone.