August, Umbrellas and Sexy Sax

Everyone's feeling pretty, it's hotter than July...

Posted in Valencia Gigs

August, Umbrellas and Sexy Sax - Everyone's feeling pretty, it's hotter than July... - by Simon Campbell

For much of the year my birthplace, Bury in Lancashire, is overcast and cold, with that 'Manchester drizzle' that seems to pervade your very soul. The summer can be quite lovely, but of course there is no guarantee. Here, it's very unusual to have a day without skin searing sun.

For a northern chap the heat, combined with stifling humidity, makes it difficult to function: it's not hard to grasp how a good percentage of Spain 'up sticks' and moves to the beach.

Valencians, even in this grim economic climate, work to live and even if totally skint, will go balls to the wall to wring every last drop out of the summer.

Everyone has suffered and even in the best parts of town you find stores, bars and restaurants up for sale or rent. But no matter how poor trade is, they still shut up shop and go on holiday.

Understandably, dogs are not welcome on any beaches. This, combined with the fact that you can't find a square centimeter not already occupied, has meant no trips to the coast in August.

Roll on September when the kids are back at school, everyone is back to work and then normal service will be resumed.

Shopping

It can be difficult to get what you need and even the large supermarkets struggle to keep their high-priced shelves stocked.

Being avid 'anti-supermarket', we try and shop at the local market or make the 'daunting' 22 minute drive into central Valencia, to enjoy the produce and atmosphere of the district markets.

But in the hottest month, the normal hustle and bustle of Tuesday's in Bétera is like a scene from a Spaghetti Western; tumbleweed and dust.

Even the coffee shop

In a country of coffee lovers, it's surprisingly difficult to find great coffee beans (grano). Supermarkets seem only to stock lifeless ground (molido) stuff that tastes like sawdust.

Here, at 'el cafe de comino' in Mercat de Russafa, you can buy exactly what you need, be furnished with a complimentary café 'solo' and receive service with a smile... And she only shut up shop for a mere ten days.

Sunshade

For most of the summer normally bustling live venues are quiet, with the 'action' moving to beach parties and town festivals and crowds entertained by 'orchestras'. Forget classical here, we are talking three to four, one hour sets of Europop!

Many of our friends play in these bands and tales of a 0100 start finishing at 0530 in the morning are not uncommon. Crazy shit...

Studios continue to operate through the summer and we visited Estudios Tigruss which is run by Pepe Gomar. He set this up in his dad's old-skool, disused Cinema and is now home to a lovely old Neve console from the 70's and a pair of vintage Neumann U67's - want/need/musthave.

Walking the streets of Gandia, we were protected by the sun in a unique way. Great work by the Ajuntament de Gandia :)

Apartments and gigs

Most Valencians live in apartments, many without lifts, which you would expect to be problematic for musicians.

On our way to a gig, our friend Jose Benavides has a great solution to moving his lovely old Fender Bassman from his mates apartment to the 'Van of Rock'...

Simon and Maite

Starlite and I moved to Spain knowing no-one and nothing about Valencia. We made contact with Simon Taylor and his wonderful, effusive partner Maite, through our friend and ace drummer Dave Walsh from the Leeds College of Music.

Within hours of our first meeting in local a bar (surprise, surprise), they had helped us establish in the City. Simon found some of the finest, reliable musicians in Valencia to work with and put together our band.

Over the last twelve months they have given us countless introductions, oiled wheels and helped us make sense of the wonderful, but quite alien culture, which is Southern Spain.

I have met thousands of people over the years, many of them musicians, but Simon and Maite are two of the most genuine and selfless people we have ever met.

Simon is a cool, jazz sax player and enjoys wearing 'off white' mankinis, loves posing like Kenny G at the front of the stage with wind machines gently caressing his long, mousy locks, but of course we don't hold any of this against him :)

See you next month...

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