(Part Two of our adventures in Europe this summer. You can read Part One here.)
July 18 – A cousin once told me, “I love being places, but I hate to travel.” Often, in the interest of getting places fast, the sense of being anywhere at all gets sucked out of traveling. But not always. Occasionally we see spectacular moments, as when last spring after taking off from Catania, Sicily, we flew almost directly over Mount Etna, an active volcano with a column of smoke trailing off into the distance. Most of the passengers paid no attention.
In Palencia, Spain, we arose early (for us) and drove a few hours to the Madrid airport, only to find our flight had been delayed. Through the day we watched the screens announce one departure time after another. At one point we had actually lined up to board when the PA announced that our gate had changed. Everyone walked together, maintaining the line, to the new gate.
Delta Moon had purchased seven seats, four for the musicians and three for the guitars. On European flights, where we can’t put guitars in the overhead, it’s cheaper and safer to buy extra seats than to check our instruments underneath.
After arriving in Milan, we drove to Paolo’s hometown on the east shore of Lake Como. Paolo called ahead to make sure the lady at the hotel would wait up for us and that a restaurant would stay open. The day ended with pasta and salad and red wine al fresco by the lakeside. After thirteen hours travel, who could complain?
July 19 – We drove around Lake Como to Tremezzina, on the west — or more touristy — side, for an outdoor gig on the water between a bar and a small art gallery. This was a beautiful spot, and we had a perfect night for it. My borrowed amplifier fell silent halfway through the set, but we plugged my guitar direct into the PA and carried on. The tone was pretty well dialed in before it hit the amp — important when using unfamiliar equipment on the road — and apparently nobody could tell much difference. Paolo’s brother Marco, who has played bass with Mark and me before, was there, along with several other friends and Xeres family members. It felt good to be back in Italy.
July 20 – Piazza Garibaldi in Sondrio is a huge open square in the center of town. When we arrived they had a festival-size stage and PA set up, with lines of red plastic chairs out front. During the show we had plenty of dancers — all under the age of eight. The adults sat in the chairs or stood off to the side. After the show one of the organizers told us, “This was an amazing response tonight, the best we’ve had.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “They didn’t leave. Usually people listen to one or two songs and wander off. This audience stayed in their seats.” You take your victories where you find them.
July 21 – We had a long drive into the Alps and through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, France, for the Festival Guitare en Scène. There were two adjacent stages, one with a covered area for the audience and one open, and shows alternated from one stage to the other. Ours was the open area, and during our sound check it started to rain. We rolled with a revised schedule and didn’t go on until nearly two hours after the advertised time.
When Amy MacDonald finished her set before a packed crowd in the covered arena, the audience started streaming out. The stage manager told me, “Make some noise with your guitar so people will know there’s something going on over here.” I started noodling, and, sure enough, the wet field started to fill with expectant faces. By the third song we had a good-sized crowd — and an enthusiastic one. Later, after we finished making photos and signing CDs, we walked into the beer tent and were greeted with a protracted standing ovation from the staff. Our crowning moment.
July 22 – Back to Italy and the town of Baveno, on Lake Maggiore, for our part of the Amenoblues Festival. The promoter, Roberto Neri, told us this was the fifth time he had presented Delta Moon. Later we wondered whether that meant he really liked us or if he’d reached his limit. We hope the former. The last time we played Baveno, a few years ago, it poured down rain. Tonight the same thing happened. Still much of the crowd stayed with us.
The other act on the bill was Alejandro Escovedo, whose set we greatly enjoyed. Mark had met him before. In fact, Alejandro once gave Mark a ride home from Eddie’s Attic on his tour bus. Alejandro and his Italian band, aside from being great musicians, are very likable people.
July 23 – Once again we traveled the same road, the third day in a row, this time back to Courmayeur on the Italian shoulder of Mont Blanc, to play on a bill with our friend from Aosta, Max Arrigo. (Max and his band are coming to America later this month.) The venue was small but had a good vibe, and toward the end the crowd got up and things got a little wild. A dog got excited and jumped on the stage with us. After the show Max pulled out a metal Dobro, and we passed it around for a singalong session at the bar. A good ending for this five-day stretch.