The Whiskey Daredevils just returned from a road trip in Europe. Frontman Greg Miller fills us in on what happened.
Day 14: Vitoria, Spain
Ken and I taxi over to the other hotel and immediately see the van hasn’t moved. Two glorious downtown “temporary” Barcelona parking spaces are filled by our giant van, and have been for well over a day. I can’t imagine how pissed the hotel must be at us. Gary has become increasingly sick, some kind of cold/flu symptoms he’s had for about 65% of the time I have known him. Never a “roll with the punches” guy, this setback has left him feeble and essentially useless. He doesn’t go into a brief explanation of his health, but rather offers grand gestures of sullenly laying silently in the back seat of the van with an occasional huff and puff when he rolls into a new position. For two hours driving out of Barcelona, he does not speak one syllable.
We drive across Northern Spain and the arid tundra landscape. There is nothing out here. Nothing. We’re driving across New Mexico. Suddenly, we get some action. We get pulled over by cops that had followed us for 20 minutes. This isn’t like the United States where you need probable cause to pull someone over. The cops can flag you down, ask you a bunch of questions, and search your car for no other reason than they feel like it.
These cops feel like it.
Only one of the two of them speaks English. The other one glares at us from a safe distance, and is ready with his revolver. We get through the “Where are you going?” and “What do you have in the back of the van?” questions. They then announce we owe them money because the people in the back weren’t wearing seatbelts. The good news is that if we agree to pay them now on the side of the road out here in the middle of nowhere, we can go on our way. It turns out that they want us to pay 150 euros for the seatbelt violation. 150 euros each… That’s right, we owe them 450 euros because they say so. (That’s about 700 fucking dollars.) The even worse news is that all of our cash from the entire tour is in a floor safe in the van, and if we let those motherfuckers see that, they’ll take all of it. It’s like a movie, and one I do not particularly want to be starring in right now. No matter what, we cannot let those guys know about the floor safe. I think the technical term for our situation would be “completely fucking fucked”.
I try to reason with them that we had no idea that this was a law, as it is not consistent with the law in the rest of the European Union. “You should have known.” Well, how could we know? There is no sign. “Does every law in the United States have to be posted on a sign?” No, but an officer of the law would give you a warning and send you on your way when he realized you were not aware of it. (He shrugs his shoulders.) Well, we don’t have any money. “Then you will have to go to our station house.” How about if we pay by a credit card?
And that is how we wound up paying $700 on Ken’s MasterCard in a Spanish cop minivan for getting pulled over and shaken down for cash in the Spanish desert. With our thin margins, this is a crushing economic blow. Nobody is happy about it. The cops are pissed as they expected to pocket our cash. We’re pissed as we just got $700 charged on a credit card. After a lengthy hassle we go back on our way, now buckled up everywhere in the van. Fuckers. I hope they die in that desert in their shitty Euro mini van cop wagon.
We get rolling again, and the scenery changes. It is hot, smells like cowshit, and is full of vineyards. We finally hit the famed wine region of Rioja, and the land starts to resemble Napa CA (but much more rural). So, this is where all that great wine comes from…
The Helldorado Club is located in an industrial park complex outside of Vitoria. It’s a really good space, but I’m concerned as the neighbors to the club include a pet food wholesaler, and something to do with mold building. It’s not exactly the Sunset Strip.
I am less concerned about this situation than normal as we have a support slot opening up for The Godfathers. You might remember them from the late 80s/early 90s. They had a couple modern rock hits including “Birth, School, Work, Death”, “Cause I Said So”, and “Walking Talking Johnny Cash Blues” to name a few. They have some really great stuff, although I haven’t seen them play since 1989 at Peabody’s Down (when it turns out they were imploding from the insane tour schedule and heavy drug use).
We wait for our soundcheck and talk to The Godfathers, who are really nice guys. They also have brothers in the vocalist and bass positions, and Peter (the singer) is obviously in charge. He still maintains the bulldog demeanor I remember from seeing them so long ago. It’s not so much that he does anything, it’s that you feel like he might do something if he becomes displeased enough.
Chris, the bass player, is unable to go to the United States because he has been labeled a “substance abuser” in the system. Why he can’t even visit the US while Keith Richards maintains a swanky Manhattan apartment for the last couple decades I’m not really sure. The Stones probably have a much better legal team.
We finish up the prep work at the club, and head over to a local restaurant where we all eat together at a single long table. The guy that owns the club is handling everything. He looks like Derrick Smalls from Spinal Tap, which you just gotta love. We eat multiple courses of salad, calamari, chicken croquettes, airline chicken, and very rare steak washed down with local wine. Gary almost makes the faux pas of watering down the local wine in an attempt to make sangria. He’s been drinking sangria for about three days now, and it’s noteworthy in that he’s the only one I see drinking it anywhere. Sipping it from a long straw, he reminds me of tourists in Cancun drinking those long plastic cups of mystery daiquiri thinking they are “going local”. But hey, if the guy likes sangria, he likes sangria…
The room gets to be about 60% full when we start with about 140 or so people. We buzz through a quick set where Gary’s pedals malfunction, Leo’s floor tom collapses onto his right leg, and I unsuccessfully try to climb up the PA stack by Ken. It really seemed like a good idea to go for it, but I greatly misjudged how slick the tightly angled metal would be in cowboy boots. I went up two rungs, failed to get up a third, and sort of swung like a retarded chimp for a minute. I definitely looked like a loser.
After the show, we break down the gear quickly, and I head to the back of the room to the merch table with Christoph. He then lectures me on the need to have a masterplan if I am going to start climbing around on the PA rigging, and adds that merch sales are sluggish. Thanks…
I change my horribly sweaty shirt in the van. Gary has already taken up residence in the back seat laying face down in the Squirrel Command Center. I ask him what he’s doing. He doesn’t respond. I ask again. “What do you think? I’m sick.” he mumbles. OK man. Good luck with that. I’m going back inside.
I take over the merch table and we slowly start to sell some stuff. The Godfathers start, and they sound good. Their momentum really starts to kick in at the end, where the last 30 minutes are as good as when I saw them in 1989. Maybe better, because I have been standing around in clubs for the last two weeks watching bands, and I am really into it. I forgot how much I like this band.
Leo is cruising around trying to score some weed. Gary is walking back and forth from the club to the van to the club to the van looking VERY disheveled. Christoph slumps in the corner, only becoming animated when it appears the Godfathers singer might go after a guy in the crowd. Ken tries to get some free drinks and a t-shirt from Derrick Smalls. The show ends and Leo is hold up in the dressing room smoking up with some of the Godfathers, and I knock back a few beers in the parking lot watching the scene play out. One in the morning becomes two becomes three before we leave.