Every time Delta Moon comes to Europe I have ambitious plans to post regular blogs chronicling our experiences. But the reality of a band on tour — constant travel, rare and often useless wifi, food and sleep caught in irregular snatches — makes the job tough. But today, riding through tall Italian cornfields, passing castles to the left and right, with the Alps rising implacably before us, I’ve decided to rise above excuses and have pulled out a notebook to try to catch up on what Delta Moon has been up to.
July 12 – Our flight out of Atlanta was delayed. Mark, Franher and I dashed at top speed through the Newark airport, lugging guitars and carry-on bags, hoping to catch our connecting flight to Madrid, which was leaving immediately. When we reached the end of the gate ramp, the airplane door was already closed, but they reopened it for us. We piled in, huffing and puffing and swearing yet again that from now on we would book only direct flights.
July 13 – We arrived in Madrid early the next morning and, miraculously, so did our checked bags. We were off to a good start after all. Delta Moon has played Madrid several times before and last year did a seven-night residency at Café Central, so we know our way around town a little. Everyone has a favorite tapas bar, and after Paolo Xeres, who is drumming with us this tour, arrived from Milan, we did our best to visit all of them. We spent the day wandering around town, never dining but grazing here and there, until darkness fell. Delta Moon’s method of avoiding jet lag is to stay awake all day — except for maybe a brief siesta — and to wear ourselves out completely, so that when we wake the next morning we’re in synch with the local time. Once again this method served us well.
July 14 – “Welcome to Hell!” someone shouted as we climbed out of the van at the Blues Cazorla Festival. The record-breaking temperature was well over 100 degrees F. By the time we took the stage at 11:15 PM, though, the air had cooled off. We hadn’t played a show in over a week, and I was a little concerned about being stiff at such a big festival, but from the first note the band felt loose and confident. Paolo, who has worked several tours with Delta Moon in the past, had done his homework and fit right in. It helped, of course, that the audience was with us all the way. Several other American bands were on the bill, some of them friends of ours. Nikki Hill and her husband Matt were in town a day early for their Saturday show. Ted Pecchio, who played bass on Delta Moon’s Clear Blue Flame album, was playing with Doyle Bramhall II . After meeting and talking a while with fans out front, we had a good hang backstage.
July 15 – 7:30 AM van call. A bleary-eyed Delta Moon stumbled down the hill from our rooms. Mark’s alarm was still beeping somewhere inside his luggage. After a few hours on the highway we changed vehicles at a roadside interchange and joined Zac Harmon‘s band on a small bus. “Tom!” “Mark!” Zac’s European agent and road manager was Massimo, a very funny guy who would fit perfectly on the Sopranos, whom we first met when he was touring Denmark with the late Michael Burks.
The Blues Béjar Festival was held in what they told us was the oldest plaza de toros in Spain (built in 1711). In our dressing room were little padded stands where generations of matadors have knelt and prayed before stepping into the ring. Walking out onto the hot sand in the afternoon, you could imagine the roar of the crowd and the sweat on the back of your neck as an angry mountain of meat, hooves and horns came racing at you. “Now,” as Franher said, “that’s show business.”
The audience at Béjar was ready to rock, and our show went over well. We were a long time signing CDs, shaking hands and making photos with fans. That night we went to bed happy, in love with Spanish audiences.
July 16 – Back in Madrid to play Sala Clamores, a prestigious nightclub. On a Sunday night in summer the room was less than full, but there were plenty enough people to play to. All through the show a woman at a table near the stage drew on a portrait of the band across two pages of a hardbound sketchbook. I watched the drawing progress, upside down, and later took a picture of it (above).
After the show Mark and I walked to a little tienda near the hotel. While shady looking late-night characters (of which we were two) milled around in the store, a five-year-old Asian girl stood on a box behind the cash register, calling out prices according to her own system. Everything cost one euro. A can of beer. Uno! A can of beer and a pack of cough drops. Dos!
July 17 – As we were leaving our hotel in the morning, a taxi pulled up and out stepped one of our all-time favorite guitarists — John Scofield — in town to play Sala Clamores, where we’d played the night before. I didn’t know him and wouldn’t have spoken. But Paolo, being Italian, stepped right up and gave him a big greeting. We were pleased to find that John Scofield turned out to be a nice guy. He said, “I figured you guys were a band.”
That night we played La Diputación in Palencia, a municipal gig in an outdoor courtyard inside the courthouse. Later we and the stage crew enjoyed an excellent meal in a private room at a nearby restaurant. I like Spanish food very much, although a lot of it is meat and cheese, neither of which I eat anymore. But I can usually find something, and what I find is invariably delicious.
The next day we got up early to fly to Italy.