Linda Em – Wild Fire

I’ve never known weeds grow in quite the way that they do out here in Spain. I guess that the rain of the past weeks has helped their considerable spurt. 

I find little joy in gardening but these are no beanstalks leading to magic kingdoms. They’ll just engulf me unless I take action and so, armed with a bucket and a pair of gloves, this morning I set about tackling them. 

‘Tackling’ feels like the right verb to use for this was (and still is) a sporting endeavour. It’s me against nature and despite my very best intentions I suspect that the best I can hope for is a score draw. Or a narrow defeat. 

Regardless, there was great satisfaction to be gained in pulling at them. Their heads popped out of the gravelled driveway masking the submerged stems that wrapped themselves underground around clumps of earth, stone and tarpaulin. The ones that broke off before I got at the root mocked me but some came out of the ground complete. When they did I let out a little yelp of self-congratulation. The stray black cat, that’s made a habit out of spying upon me from a safe distance, smirked as it watched. 

“You crazy, sweat-ridden Englishman”, it no doubt thought.

Try as I might I can find little connection between pulling up garden weeds and todays choice of music. Linda Em, Irish and living in London released her ‘Wild Fire’ EP last week and it’s all sorts of smoky-seductive fab. 

If I was really pushing it, I could suggest that I’d love a wild fire to destroy these weeds. Or I could observe that the lead track is all about a power struggle in a relationship built on control and passion, where there can be no victor. That does feel a little like my battle with the weeds except I have little passion for them. 

No, it’d be foolish to force links. It’s best perhaps to simply sit back and allow Linda’s wonderful tunes to wash over you. Let the candles smoulder as the duet in Wild Fire tells the story of dying, impossible love. Allow yourself ‘the bitter sweet surrender’ mentioned at the end of ‘Two Hands’. 

The weeds will no doubt continue to grow. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death By Unga Bunga

It was a Spring day I think. Though it might not have been. 

It could have been an Autumn day. All I know is that the drive was a sunny one; not sticky and hot like we might expect in the summer months. The air was fresh and bright, all sorts of beautiful. 

We drove across the high road from Leicester to Rutland with not a care in the world. At least it felt like that for a short while. I’m sure if we had stopped to think about our lot we might have crumbled.

I put on a CD that I knew very little about. It was back in the days when the PR agency used to send me new albums in the post. This one hadn’t arrived with much of a fanfare. Still, we listened and loved. 

The garage pop felt right. It wasn’t a long album. We didn’t stop it when it started to repeat. By the second listen, we could sing along to the catchy choruses – and felt no inhibitions when doing so. If the car had been one that had a retractable roof, we would have let the breeze blow through our hair as we sang.

That was my introduction to Death By Unga Bunga. Norwegian power pop at its best. Pineapple Pizza the unlikely CD.

I had a chance to see them live in London. This was as part of a Scandinavian showcase. I was working down there and the Lexington was one of my favourite venues. Beer options were good; pricey but this was London. I suspect it was winter then; at least I remember that it was pretty much dark when I left the office and I wouldn’t  have been prone to working late. 

I hadn’t seen the late E-mail advising me of early start times. And by the time that I arrived at the venue, Death By Unga Bunga had already finished their set. I hung around to watch the other bands. In truth, they can’t have made much of an impression because I can’t even recall their names now. 

I did get to see Death By Unga Bunga eventually. On the surface, they were unlikely additions to the Nozstock festival line-up two years ago. In afternoon sunshine, they looked horrifically dishevelled; a scruffiness cultivated as a result of an early flight from Norway. 

But my eFestivals review of their set was positive  “By the end of their whirlwind set they’ve got all onside so much that the whole band in unison can play their guitars behind their heads with ridiculous rock postures. It’s surely what it’s all about.”

I’m alerted to the fact that Death By Unga Bunga are supporting Ash on their October tour. If I was back in England, I might have tried to take in a show at Sheffield, Bristol, Birmingham, Norwich, Huddersfield or London. Sadly though, I’m not. 

I’ll just have to dig into my memories more. 

 

 

 

 

 

JP Harris – When I Quit Drinking

It might be rash of me to say that I’m going to quit drinking for October. But, at present, nine hours into the month when many are going sober for charity, I’m also part of their club. 

Truth is that after a skinful on Saturday night, it’ll take a while until I fancy another drop. But, probably not a month.

I’ve got a lot of respect for those that are able to give up for months on end. I did it once one January. It wasn’t so much the lack of alcohol that got me, rather how incessantly humdrum life got in those desperate four weeks. 

Given my acknowledged dependency, I suppose that I really ought to give more attention to abstinence. 

As JP Harris has. ‘When I Quit Drinking’ is a prime cut from his record, ‘Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothing’, that’s due for release this week. It’s a fine country tune from a songwriter who’s consistently been turning heads for a few years now. It’s as authentic as a Hank Williams reprise with the timbre of his voice perfectly capturing the dilemma a drinker feels when not drinking.

If his press release is to be believed, JP has lived quite a life. He “doesn’t fancy himself a musician as much as he does a carpenter who writes country songs. He left home on a Greyhound bus in the middle of a summer night and since then has consistently worked hard in every sense of the word. Hitchhiking and hopping freight trains while making his living as a farm labourer, shepherd, woodsman, and carpenter, among many other titles, he has also forged his own path in the world of raw country music.”

JP’s album is fabulous. When he breaks into the soft and tender gentle balladry of ‘I Only Drink Alone’ one doesn’t know whether to weep or holler. That’s just the way it is for us drinkers. 

 

Cordillera Sur Murcia Fest

I’m heading across to Murcia later today. My convoluted reasons for doing so are music-related. Murcia is a fine city. I spent a fair bit of time there when I first arrived in Spain but I’ve not headed back much recently. It’s been a bit too hot.

Back in August, whilst sat around a table at Boomtown’s crew bar, I got chatting with a couple of members of Mexican band, Los Kamer. In truth, they spoke little English and  my drunken Spanish was rudimentary. I think I managed to convey that I’d enjoyed their set (even though I’d not watched a great deal of it). They told me about a mammoth European tour they were embarking upon and I randomly made a commitment to catch up with them when they touched down in Murcia sometime in September. 

A couple of subsequent Internet searches proved fruitless and I wondered if my drunken head had made things up. Had I imagined that Los Kamer were playing in Murcia? 

Cordillera Sur Murcia Fest is a one-night festival taking place in the small town of Beniajan. From what I can tell having never been there, Beniajan is a half hour bus ride from Murcia, the equivalent perhaps of a festival in Broughton Astley for a Leicester dweller. If Beniajan has hotels or rental accommodation, they don’t have availability for tonight. But the impression I get is that this is one small town at the end of a dead-end street. It’s Spaghetti Western country. Let the adventure commence.

Los Kamer are one of the few bands on the bill for Cordillera Sur Murcia Fest. But I had a listen to the other acts listed (Eskorzo, Alien Tango and Clot) and couldn’t help but be impressed. The skewed psychedelics of Alien Tango particularly jumped out and  the bouncy world music of Eskorzo would surely get any crowd going. I missed Eskorzo when they made their Boomtown video but it does capture the essence of that great festival. Best of all, tickets for the Cordillera were hardly going to break the bank. At 2 euros for general admission and 5 euros for admission, a drink and a wristband, I plumped for the more expensive. It would have been rude not to. 

As with any ‘new’ thing that you throw yourself into, I don’t mind admitting that I’m a bit afraid. I’ve booked a hotel in Murcia and will build some Dutch courage by having a few afternoon beers. It looks easy enough to get to Beniajan by public transport though I do suspect that navigating my way back to the hotel at 4AM tomorrow morning once the music has stopped might prove more challenging. 

Still, that’s no reason for not doing something. Wish me luck. 

 

 

 

 

 

Xuan – Sheila

I woke early yesterday. It gave me chance to write up a couple of outstanding (as in overdue) articles whilst the villa remained cool. The night had dipped below twenty degrees for the first time in months. My head, for so long a fuzzy mess in this heat, yearned for a return to routine. 

So, once the articles were done and dusted, I turned to what I know and love best. And spent most of the day scouting around for new music. I was stumbling over so much that I enjoyed. Some of it made me cry; some of it made me laugh; some of it was clearly great art but pretty unlistenable all the same. 

Before long I had a list as long as my arm of acts that I wanted to feature on Sonic Breakfast. It’s fair to say that I’d had a productive day. Music can make you feel good. Out here in this remote space where it’s entirely feasible that I won’t speak to actual live humans for days on end, music had again been my companion and friend. 

Xuan (pronounced ‘swan’ apparently) was one such act that made me smile. This young woman from Dallas, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, is releasing an album, ‘Have Some Fun’, in November on Palo Santo records. On the evidence of the two tracks I’ve heard from it, there’s no misnomer here. 

Regular readers of ‘Sonic Breakfast’ will know that I’m a sucker for a bit of indie bubblegum twee. Initial single release, ‘We Were Just Talking’ ticks those boxes as it playfully sets up the tried and tested girl-meets-boy / girl-misses-boy story. Xuan’s voice, deliberately innocent, gives the sound some extra chewiness. Let go of any cynicism you might have and I’ve no doubt you’ll find charm within. 

Xuan has just released a new video for another song from the album ‘Sheila’. It’s another belter of a tune. On the surface, it appears to be about an old classic car but dig beyond that and there’s a wider metaphor at play. This is about classic friendship and fun times. 

I’ll be looking forward to more music-listening fun when I get to hear Xuan’s full album. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Lost and found

This Spanish sabbatical has thrown up its fair share of characters; who would have thought that one of the main players would be a hound dog though? 

Cast your minds back a few months. Some ridiculed whilst others empathised but I was kept ‘prisoner in my own home’ by Herbert, the Podenco. (Blog post here).

Since Herbert’s howling ceased on my patio, I’ve often wondered what has happened to the poor mutt. In an ideal world, the dog would have been picked up by a kindly soul or it might have found wherever it was journeying. I consoled myself that this is one of those frequent stories in life where the ending can never be known. 

Last week I was procrastinating with Facebook, a favourite hobby of mine when the heat gets too fierce or the mosquito bites too itchy. I stumbled upon an article on a local Catral news group that I’m part of. Typically, it hosts articles about the weather, fiestas or classic car shows. But, staring out at me today, was an article about a hound, Alisha, who had been missing in action for four months. I read on. 

There was a professional photograph of Alisha at the top of a Facebook group, “Alisha Busca”. The group had about 50 people in it then yet that number has now grown to well over 100. Without reading too far, it quickly became evident that this villa’s previous tenant (known ‘affectionately’ in this blog as crazy dog woman) was involved in the search. Alisha was her dog and had escaped back in May shortly after the move. 

Now, here’s the truly amazing bit. Lost, undoubtedly desperate and not yet settled into her new home, Alisha began her incredible journey. She spent a couple of weeks travelling from Aspe, over forty kilometres away, to get back to this villa here. 

I find that mind-blowing. It’s stating the obvious but Alisha didn’t have a phone with sat-nav on it; she can’t (to my knowledge) read road signs. The only time she would have done the trip before was in the back of a truck. How did she even start going in the right direction? These hunting dogs are smart. 

On Sunday evening, the lovely Alisha was reunited with her owner (and dog mates) after being recaptured about six miles from here. As the Facebook group found its stride, sightings of Alisha became increasingly frequent. After four months living in the wild, Alisha seems relatively healthy and I’m sure she’s happy to now be at her new home. I’m so glad that this dog is no longer stray.

There is, of course, a sting in this tales tail. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the amount of money she still owes to Sarah in unpaid rent, bills and general damage, crazy dog woman didn’t pass on any forwarding details when she moved, not to me or the next door neighbours. Back in June when Alisha turned up on my doorstep I had no way of accurately contacting her though I tried. 

Alisha needn’t have suffered for so long over a Spanish summer if only her owner had acted in a more responsible and honest manner when moving. And that’s why this overwhelmingly happy story still leaves a slightly sour after-taste. 

 

The End Of The Summer

Friends tell me that the fabulous Shambala festival has once again been a riotous success over in Market Harborough. It’s always been one of my favourite festivals – and one that leaves me exceptionally sad when packing up the tent to head home on August Bank Holiday Monday. 

In years gone by, it’s marked the end of Summer for me. Often, but not always, it’s been my last festival of the year. The days can’t help but get shorter and colder; it’s not long before the central heating has to kick into action again; that’s if it hasn’t already done so. Schoolteacher friends have to head back to jobs they hate. There’s little bonus to look forward to in Autumn and Winter when Christmas rarely floats your boat.

This year feels different. July and August have frankly been too hot in this part of Spain but I’m told that September and October are much better months to experience. Far from being dejected, I’m excited by the new things I’m likely to discover. This is a year that’ll keep on giving. 

Progress on the novel has been slow and I’ve hardly been churning blog posts out with dedicated profligacy. 

Profligacy – there’s a word I really should avoid using in the future.

It has been a wonderful summer though. If I was truly able to live in the moment, I’d probably say it’s been one of my best ever; it’s certainly one that I’ll look back on fondly in years from now. Not having to worry about a day job has given me all sorts of freedoms I otherwise wouldn’t have. 

I slept under canvas when back in England for three weeks; the weather helped but what a glorious thing to be able to do. Looking out from the dewy tent over perfect panoramas of the Dorset coast; poring over newspapers and magazines and being truly able to appreciate the columnists’ craft without having ‘something’ else to do; not beating myself up for not rushing around madly; finding my own pace. These have been my favourite experiences. 

British festivals ensured that my need for the chaotic was still achieved; from the wet and cosy Lunar (review here) through to the simply extraordinary, out of the world Boomtown (review here) via the sizzling Bestival (review here), they’ve all provided summer memories to cherish. 

Just last week after a day exploring the Ricote Valley here in Spain (highly recommended when it’s less hot), Sarah and I stumbled upon the thermal baths and day spa at Archena. Full of water jets and forceful showers, plunge pools and wave trails, here you could massage and pummel your achy joints and muscles whilst looking out to the mountains north of Murcia. I’ll go there again. 

Fine food, simple sea swimming and  surprises beyond every T-junction that are waiting to be explored. 

It’s the end of Summer but it’s not the end of this crazy adventure.