Barcelona Rockfest PART 1: The journey to Spain

Oh my babies… I’ve got blisters on my feet the size of nickels, my jeans are so filthy I gave them a roll of quarters and told them to walk themselves to the laundromat, and I have sent my socks out to be cleaned….and then burned. I’m tired….my room is a sweatbox…there’s no wifi….and I haven’t had a vegetable in days. This incessant whining can only mean one thing: welcome to the Armadillo Road Report: Cranky Edition, otherwise known as Rock Fest, Barcelona, Spain, 5-July, 2014.

Well, my babies, before I launch what was Rock Fest in Barcelona, I need to explain to how we got here. Or more accurately….how we almost didn’t get here. I left my home at 0900 hours on 3-July, expertly catching a bus and then two trains to Newark Airport. The road crew and most of the band had a perfectly planned direct flight: Early evening flight out of Jersey, landing the next morning in Spain, where we, refreshed from our in-flight sleep, have an entire day to prepare for the festival on the 5th. We were flying United via Lufthansa, the latter known for their timely flights and strict baggage allowances, and so I packed as minimal as possible and checked in early: the monitor read: ON TIME.

The first call came in from A.J., Our flight was not out of the Lufthansa terminal, but the United one, so I quickly hopped an Airtrain back to the proper terminal, just as Danny, our Tour Manager called, to tell me that he was trapped in ridiculously heavy Manhattan traffic–go ahead and check in the crew and band, just in case he missed the flight. I asked the Universe to make sure that Danny made the flight, but unfortunately I wasn’t specific enough–because within the hour, our departure went from ON TIME to delayed by 3 hours. Always one to make a positive out of a negative, we used our extra time to have a crew dinner together. While dining, Mother Nature provided a little ambiance…the power went out in the airport due to an electrical storm. We sat, chewing our burgers in the dark, serenaded by the fire alarms going off. We heard the distant rumble of thunder–and it was actual thunder, not A.J., the Sound of Thunder –and Mark pointed at the window. I glanced briefly, not concerned–as storms go, this one didn’t appear very organized. Within minutes, I saw what Mark had pointed at–a violent storm front rolled in–clouds as black as coal–horizontal rain, and the formation of a low hanging wall cloud attempting to form a funnel. More troubling, was that we were surrounded by glass windows.

Our three hour delay turned into four…then five…then six.. our 7:20 pm flight now departing at 2:00 a.m. It was no surprise when the flight canceled, but we then all clamored onto our respective cell phones–one calling airlines, one calling travel agents, one calling hotels. We booked the last rooms at a local hotel and got just a few brief hours to shower, get a few moments of sleep, and then back to the airport to try again.

Our direct flight to Barcelona was now a flight into Dusseldorf, with a ten minute layover and a change of planes. Unfortunately, our checked bags and gear was still on the old plane, and Danny had to work some special baggage ju-ju with the airport to get them to ensure that the bags would find their way into Barcelona. Believe me, not an easy feat. The plane was cramped, noisy and hot–none of us slept a wink–and we had a rather stressful brisk gait to the gate, which had started boarding before our current plane had landed. We arrived in Barcelona….not a bag in sight.

So half the band and crew headed to the hotel–I remained at the airport on a quest for our luggage, which consisted of a scavenger hunt of various luggage carousels, and out of desperation, throwing myself at the mercy of the airline, who told me to try the “bag graveyard” by belt 16, where all bags go to die. There I found piles upon piles of similar looking luggage, but squealed with delight as I unearthed A.J.’s then Dee’s bags in this avalanche of abandoned attaches. I piled my trolley eight feet high with bags, and then proceeded to meet Mark and Dee as they disembarked, on to find out that our transport was nowhere to be found. Missed flights. Missed baggage. Missed transport. We finally located him–Instead of “Mack the Knife”, our driver was more like “Juan The Whack” and all I can tell is you that we did make it safely to the hotel. Mark and I did briefly discuss tossing the driver and stealing the fan, but we were both tired and the van didn’t have GPS.

We arrived at the hotel late morning/early afternoon on the DAY OF THE SHOW. This never makes life easy. The band members went off to catch some sleep, and I had about 1 hour to drink some coffee, take a shower and come downstairs to load the equipment onto the van and head over to the venue. Other than the 3 hours I slept in the Newark Airport hotel, I was now about to go on a bender of 2 full days awake. Special Armadillo salute to Matt and Sara, a lovely couple we met while standing in line–they were on their way to Spain for a wedding–and while they had little success locating their own checked bags, Matt was able to help me find Eddie”s.

I cannot complain about enduring conditions, however, compared to the handful of fans who spend three days in the elements at the hotel and in the adjacent park, leaving only to watch Twisted Sister and a few bands at the festival, and then returned back to our hotel to catch a glimpse and photo op with their rock heroes. Special shout-out to SMF’s Oscar and Ramon, as well as Javi and Guari, who broke bread with me and introduced me to the lomo conqueso sandwich, a tasty grilled pork and cheese concoction. I also got a quick spanish lesson, which explained some of the linguistic problems later in the day. [I thought I was yelling that I needed a bass technician. Apparently, I was asking for someone who knew all about “glass.” What can I say? Vaso (the “v” sounds like a b) and Bajo are quite similar.]

In any case, your faithful road crew loaded up the gear and headed out to the Rock Fest venue, prepared to do battle. To be continued….


Leave a Reply