Wednesday, January 7, 2015

EU Tour: Madrid, Spain

--Madrid, Spain--

Though the rest of the band has no memory of this we had a brief layover in Berlin, Germany, and since we flew on Air Berlin we all got chocolate hearts and mints upon arrival! It was pretty awesome. We actually walked a few hundred feet on German soil from the airplane to the bus and in honor of this event I spoke only in German for the duration of our stay... Loosely 20 minutes. I'd been listening to Pimsler's Speak and Read German course and was able to say things like "Excuse me, I'm from America," and a comical expansion on JFK's speech, "WE are all jelly donuts." That one earned me a smile from the German family we shared the brief bus ride from plane to plane with.

Moments before passing out
The National Auditorium
The flight to Madrid was uneventful and once again we slept through the entire flight and woke up during the landing. Once in Madrid we picked up our luggage, Rook and I busted out our Spanish, and we all took a public bus to a stop near our venue. From there we walked the final half mile to the National Auditorium of Spain. It's at this juncture that i'm going to point out how utterly amazing it was and how excited we all were to be playing on the same stage as the Spanish National Orchestra in the National Auditorium!!! The members of the orchestra that we were able to speak with (the drummer, flutist, and a few string players) were super cool. When there wasn't enough room on the stage for Moose's drum set, the orchestra drummer said it was alright for him to play the Spanish National Drum set. When I mentioned to the flutist that I might be playing a duet with him for Time's Scar he told me that HE was honored to be playing with me... 0_0
Their kindness helped us feel significantly less nervous about performing with them.

Exploring Madrid
Since we would be the last to sound check, Konami and I walked the mile or so to the hotel and checked in. On the walk there we got to experience a little bit of Madrid. It felt almost exactly how Spain is often portrayed in films. It was laid back, the cars were extremely pedestrian friendly, almost everyone has a dog, and there are people who just stand outside and chat, not smoking but just enjoying being outside on a beautiful day. Our hotel, much to our surprise, was a four star accommodation for less than half the price of our two star hotel in London! The lobby was large, well lit, clean, the staff was friendly, the rooms were HUGE (the equivalent of one bedroom apartments!) and the beds were ridiculously comfortable. Konami and I spent a few minutes just admiring the rooms before we reluctantly left. Once back with the band we did our sound check and bumped into Tommy on our way out. Being the super friendly guy he is, he gave us Euros enough for a small feast and told us to go fourth and enjoy the cuisine of Espania! We thanked him thoroughly, departed, and did just that!

A great feast was had!
This was the night that we had our first group dinner of the tour (which included every single person in the band). We ate at a place we didn't get the name of but we entered because the window showed that it had won awards for best local food from 2010-present. The inside was bull-fighter themed and we ordered an array of delicious foods. I ordered the salmon and was surprised when my plate came out with not only a salmon sandwich, with the other half of the sandwich (which they didn't combine for some reason) that was topped with tomato slices and large chunks of extremely delicious mozzarella cheese! The entire band ate and drank Spanish beer/coffee, save for Kit, who's meal never seemed to have arrived... It was only as he described what he'd ordered, a mozzarella and tomato sandwich, that I turned ghost white, figured out what had happened, and apologized profusely. While everyone else's food had come on separate plates I guess Kit and my food came on one. He ordered something else (despite me telling him how amazing what he ordered was) and the band declined sharing in my teramasu dessert. I've long since learned, having been with the band for nine years, that if you acquire a taste for cuisine most people do not enjoy, no one else will want any of it.

The streets of Madrid
Anarchy in these streets?
Not on Kit's watch!
We got back to the hotel, took our first real showers in a few days, and instantly fell asleep on the most comfortable beds of the whole tour after nearly four days of nonstop transit. Somehow at 11:45pm (EST) I woke up, listened to Brandon Strader's final mix of our Super VG Christmas collaboration, told him it was perfect, and submitted it to the project coordinator with 5 minutes to spare! We had been discussing revisions over the previous day or two and I honestly can't remember when they happened. The next morning we got pastries and arrived at the venue for the pre-show festivities. I saw the couple we'd met in Manchester again, we learned that the show was completely sold out, and we prepared for our final show of the tour. About five minutes before getting on stage there was a silly technical issue whereby someone it was discovered that our gear had no electrical power running to it but it was miraculously fixed in the final moments before we took the stage (sweating with nervousness, wondering if all of our instruments would be powered).

Product Placement ad for Coke
This is how Random Encounter sits in terror before shows...
These are the faces of terror...
There were some oddities about the Madrid show. For one, as being pantsless is a sign of disrespect in most countries, Moose was asked to wear pants while drumming. Additionally, because there was no room for his set, he was playing the national orchestra's set, located on the opposite side of the stage from us. Without our monitors (which were working perfectly thanks to our sound check the previous day) we could literally hear the sounds bouncing off the room before the sound from the drum set itself reached us. Lastly, we were surprisingly cramped on the stage between the edge of the stage and the orchestra itself. It wasn't nearly as difficult a challenge as the TEDx event we performed/spoke at, but it was a case where we had to essentially "rock in place" without moving our feet.

Kit found a certain location from Earthbound
Well, while this is true for the rest of the band it was partly self imposed and did not apply to me as much. Being wireless, I wasn't afraid of knocking things over and had specifically asked the rest of the band to give me a bit more space to do as many foolish things as I could. They politely obliged and were a bit more bunched up as a result of my goofiness. In an effort to give them some space, I jumped into the crowd at one point. Somewhere, deep out there I also fell on my back while doing something stupid that fortunately wasn't caught on video, but it was okay because I kept playing and somehow jumped up from the what the others refer to as "the turtle on his back" position feared by most accordionists.

The mind blowing view from the stage
Person for person, the audience in Madrid was absolutely the most energetic crowd we've played to in a very very long time. As a collective they probably are the most energetic we've played to, or are tied with the folks from Will's Pub and our Album Release show for LMTYAS. The folks in Madrid have amazing spirit/energy, their clapping is like a heavy rain, their stomping is like thunder, and since there were literally two thousand of them their clapping overpowered Moose in volume! Even after experiencing this we still look back on this in wonder. 

Ultros was at the show! Vwe he he!
The people of Spain are also very accepting of accordions, and after the show I was stunned with how many accordion-based questions people had. After we got home I was told that one person at the show was so inspired that they went to the store and bought an accordion that same day! While in America my instrument is seen as a sort of gimmick ("You guys have an accordion in your band? How weird!") it's really close to the hearts of many Europeans who claim the instrument as part of their own national identity (Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Finland). I don't think I'm describing the feeling very well, but in short it's emotionally moving when someone tells you that your performance on an instrument they feel is a part of their heritage made them happy. It makes you feel as if the whole performance you gave was extremely personal to them, which makes it even more personal to me.

The daycare I kept thinking was a bakery
The meet and greet came and went quickly, and before we knew it we were saying our goodbyes to the VGL crew we'd come to be friends with over the last week and a half. We had planned to have a dinner with them, but our inability to find the place, and the fact that we were told (by locals) that the place was closed encouraged us to turn in early. 

Konami - The Quintessential Tourist
While the others slept, Konami and I went on an amazing adventure, seeking the finest food (and drink) in Madrid... within walking distance. We had beer in a place that took too long to get our food order, asked some local girls about the policy on tipping at restaurants, departed, walk to a gambling arcade place, departed immediately when we noticed the same girls from before (we did not want to seem like we were following them and/or being creepy), went to a convenience store, got Kinder Eggs, and stopped at a truly amazing restaurant. At the restaurant we ordered fried squid with lemon, another odd entre we could not identify but that the waiter said was "muy bueno" (he spoke no English and my Spanish is only conversational, despite taking 8 years of Spanish one). Lastly we ordered the best cake I can remember eating, one that rivals the Movenpeak of Jordan, and headed back to the hotel. Post tour shenanigans ensued that Kit will undoubtedly include in his videos of the tour and when I went back to my room to sleep, Moose turned on a Spanish opera (the cast was Spanish but they sang in English) stage production of Brokeback Mountain, turned the volume up, and inexplicably departed the hotel to go on a walk. Unable to sleep through a baritone call of "why can't I quit you" and unable to unplug or otherwise disable the television I watched the whole production and was fairly impressed. After this I sat through a soap opera about a woman who was in an abusive relationship. The show took an unexpected turn when she murdered her husband/boyfriend and it became all about getting away with the murder. I think she was also a shapeshifter.

Goodbyes to Spain
We woke up the next morning, late, barely caught the bus to the airport, and arrived at our terminal with an hour to spare, despite every last one of us getting randomly selected at one point or another by security to be searched. We flew into Belgium, had some chocolate, and took another flight to Manchester. I'll say again here that England really doesn't like letting me in their country and even with tickets showing that I'd be leaving in under 24 hours they were still skeptical that I'd do something weird. After an hour of interrogation I was reunited with the band, and in honor of my admittance to the country we booked a hotel. Because the taxi could only fit three of us, Kit and Rook walked the three miles from the airport to the hotel, which Kit's map had said was only half a mile. They seemed to have no problems with the walk, once they got their bearings, and were surprisingly chipper about it. Moose and I were really in no condition to walk very far and Konami carried most of Rook and Kit's luggage.

We're getting good at awkward photos
Once we were all at the hotel (which was also surprisingly inexpensive and awesome) we walked to a tavern nearby that was supposed to have excellent food. It was there that I finally got the meat pie I'd wanted since the tour started, that Kit got the drinks he'd wanted, that Moose got the hamburger he'd wanted. I didn't mention this but for lunch in Madrid Moose had ordered a hamburger off a menu that showed a massive and sizzling grilled hamburger. He was sincerely let down by the small and poorly cooked food he'd received from the airport cafe. It was a good victory meal. We chatted about the tour, how we all felt it had gone amazingly and that there was no one else we'd have rather done it with. This was a sincere feeling. We gave a toast to Tommy Tallarico, Emmanuel, and the VGL crew and in a blink (well, more like 24 hours of nonstop travel) we were all back home, due for work the next morning, and wondering what new adventures would be in store for us. Random Encounter has grown so much as a band, as individuals, and while we all collectively agree that we've neither "earned" or deserved this amazing tour we are utterly appreciative that we were able to do it. We've just undergone a truly amazing adventure.

Back in Florida
On the tour friendships were forged, new and exciting places were explored, we got lost, we went on adventures, we met some really interesting people, and we went where no video game cover band has gone before!
We started some new games (Dragon's Lair, Tie Fighter, Monkey Island), beat a few others (Rogue Legacy, Binding of Isaac), mixed an LP, made a colab song, and enjoyed amazing food and company. We met some extremely talented composers, musicians, had deep conversations into the odd hours of the morning, and enjoyed the performances of four amazing orchestras. True to our rock roots we slept in airports, hotel lobbies, a few pretty nice hotels, and I think Konami overdosed on coffee. Most importantly we took part in what I feel is the most amazing show in the world and we got a taste of the rock star life that will remain with us as we continue our 8 to 5 every-day lives.

Thank you.
If you're reading this, thank you for your support!
See You Next Mission

Random Encounter

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