VIVA VALENCIA

VIVA VALENCIA

TRAVELS IN EUROPE 2012

VIVA VALENCIA (+ BELGIUM): Hasta Pronto!

Nearly a month has past since we said our first goodbye in Brussels. We played for the European Parliament of the EU; we all shared the stage for our last song together. We shared a table and drank to the memories we'd made. I couldn't tell you who spoke or what was said... and those little details hardly seem important now.


We had seen several countries together, played for presidents of record labels and presidents of nations, Had our pictures taken to be painted larger than life on the side Palau, we had jammed with international superstars and talented children with down syndrome, we had attended award shows, lived through violent Spanish riots and celebrations (both pretty dangerous) and braved interviews and a steady barrage of camera flashes together. When we began this journey, I never dreamed our motley and diverse group would become so close.

One of many sketchy parts of Brussels that I probably shouldn't have wandered through alone, but I'm me.

After a ten-hour flight I saw the sweet land of American prairie stretched below me like a blanket; no, It doesn't feel that much like home anymore:

Manhattan Skyline from Brooklyn

I am on another train from Manhattan back to Boston, where I am playing and recording my own songs again, doing some interviews for magazines (Check out the latest issue of the French music magazine Guitare Extrême) , and helping a group of international music students adjust to a life in the states. If you're on the east coast, feel free to come to one of my shows sometime and say hello! In January I will return to Valencia, and I hope I will have the chance to re-experience half the pride and the privilege that it was to play with our original small tribe of pioneers. Thank you for all being a part of this important stage of my life - I have grown and changed profoundly in the past year! I'll see again soon out there in our big beautiful world; Hasta Pronto my friends!

VIVA MADRID

Sorry - I’ve fallen a bit behind on my writing lately because we’ve all been so busy. It’s going to be hard to explain everything that’s been happening, but I’ll give it a try…

Ryan and Cara


Recently we took a trip to Madrid on one of Spain’s high-speed trains, and as soon as we’d unloaded our bags at a hostel in the very heart of the city we were whisked off to three days of nearly non-stop activities: Along with plenty of sightseeing, we got to admire paintings by Dali, Goya and Picasso at two of the nation’s finest art galleries. We also went to some flamenco shows and jammed with local musicians at jazz clubs. One afternoon a few people went to go visit Javier Limon at his studios to lay down a track or two…

One of the highlights of the trip was definitely our visit to EMI records, where we met again with the president of the label who gave us a nice presentation about ‘what EMI can offer to artists’ like us in the current incarnation of the ever-changing music industry, and answered lots of our questions. I always had this vision of big record labels being stiff and corporate, but EMI actually seems very relaxed with very down-to-earth people who are trying to adapt to the times like the rest of us.


We also got to tour an abandoned slaughterhouse in the middle of the city that has been converted into an amazing facility for fine and performing arts! In association with Red Bull Music Academy, the ‘Matadero Madrid’ offers a wonderful place for young artists to play, record, and establish themselves – along with plenty of gallery and exhibition space and public art classes. And oh yeah, they have the crushed yacht of Francisco Franco in a meat locker! Gaws.


I also explored the city on my own a bit – whenever I’m in a new place I have to go on some little adventures of my own – and I found out that Madrid has some stunning public gardens. It’s a great city as long as you keep your wallet in your front pocket!

 

 

When we came back we all played a big show together at café Mercedes to a packed house! It was great to hear everyone’s music and feel so connected. It’s also nice to be at the Palau again. I can’t overemphasize how picturesque our campus is: yesterday they were shooting a movie there, and three different bridal parties were all having their photos taken by the serene pools and the iconic opera house. This past week I've had a chance to get acquainted with some of my favorite Valencian street artists. Their bright, elaborate, colorful murals on city's crumbling walls will be one of the little things I will miss most about living here. Sole Gimenez also took a few of us singers to a recording studio outside of town to record some vocals. She’s so kind, and has really helped us improve this term.

Paula in the Studio


Last night we rented out a very cool, exclusive nightclub for our goodbye party. It was so bittersweet to see all of my good friends and colleagues all together in one place, maybe fore the last time. The crew had a wonderful surprise for us – they are going to decorate part of our campus with big silhouettes of us playing our instruments! I am speechless, I just feel very honored to be literally be a part of this place that has come to mean so much to me.

As I wrote on my Facebook last night: “I’m Laying in a four poster bed in a grove of palm trees at a night club on the roof of a building in Spain surrounded by my friends... Can life get any better?”

 


Right now we are all at the beach together, it's so nice to swim out beyond the waves and tread water in the sea, then come back and bathe in the warm sunshine. On Tuesday we will leave for Belgium to go play for the Congress of the European Union… and I can’t wait to see what happens on our final trip together!

Best wishes,
Kelvin
 

VALENCIA 2012: ASHES & RAIN

 

 

 

I’m sure everyone’s Fallas experience was different; I know mine was absolutely unforgettable. I spent five wonderful days wandering around the city admiring the giant effigies, enjoying the ubiquitous smell of fresh churros and porres and the sound of giant firecrackers. At night I was showered in sparks during fire-themed parades, and danced until the sun came up at block parties sponsored by local Casals.

 

 

 

Of course the most beautiful part of the entire festival was ‘La Cremà’, (a night when all of the Fallas structures were burned). Alexis and I chose to go to the Ruzafa neighborhood to watch the cremà of a very popular and especially large Falla of two ballroom dancers. The flames quickly grew and began to lap at their thin paper machete skin, exposing the strong wood scaffolding beneath. Soon the entire structure was no more than a teetering tower of red-hot coals and ash, which came crashing to the ground.

 

 

I am told that every year it rains immediately after the Fallas are burned. Maybe all the heat rising from the city causes the downpour, or maybe St. Joseph really does hold back the storm until the conclusion of the festival. Either way, it began to shower less than 10 minutes after the last Falla was burned. As everyone else ran for cover and huddled under bus stops, I decided to dance with my friend Marina in the rain. It was perfect. All the streetlights were reflected in the cool water at our feet, as the ashes were washed from our hair. That wonderful storm has left the city feeling revitalized and clean.

 

 

This week we resumed our usual classes. I was very happy to realize that my Spanish has improved tremendously over the past few weeks, and my private instruction with Sole Gimenez is going very well. We also had another visit from President Roger Brown this week. It’s nice to see that his enthusiasm for this program matches our enjoyment of the experience! I am spending this weekend jogging, relaxing at the beach, and climbing trees… honestly I just can’t stand the thought that our time in Spain is nearly over, so I re-applied to get a new visa and come back for Fall 2012!!

 

 

Cheers,

Kelvin Killmon

VALENCIA 2012: QUICK FALLAS UPDATE

Our campus at The Palau is one of the most breathtaking and beautiful places I have had the privilege to work in, but for some reason every time I go inside recently it feels like the world suddenly turns black and white...

Why? FALLAS is Beginning Right Outside!!! 

The festival is starting to gather momentum - and the best way I can describe it it through pictures... but for those who would like a short explanation: During Las Fallas the people of Valencia figuratively declare war on winter. Imagine the best fourth of July in the world combined with Burning Man, then add a touch of 'halloween-like' fear and ornate traditional costumes. It literally sounds like the city is being bombed 24/7! With both children and adults detonating eardrum-shattering fireworks all night and day, we are savoring the few moments of sleep we can get. Also, many effigies are being constructed all around the city; they are so imaginative and skillfully crafted it will be bittersweet to see them all engulfed in flames this weekend!

(Taylor Winn and Paula Andrea)

An 'Official' Mascletá Video:
Best Wishes!
Kelvin Killmon
 
 

Valencia 2012: First Sparks of Falles

We have all been invited to perform for the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium in May! It’s a tremendous honor, and I am so excited for our trip!

Now, back to the latest news from Valencia:


Every day is a little louder here in Valencia since the Fallera Mayor announced the beginning of the Falles festival; fireworks shot up from the Serranos towers and the Turia riverbed as acrobats suspended from cranes played drums high above the crowd. It feels like real life is becoming more and more like a strange adult fairy tale. At the culmination of the festival on May 19th, 380 massive, beautiful effigies (some cost as much as 500,000 euros to construct) will be burned all around the city, coinciding with what is claimed to be the largest annual fireworks display in the entire world. Every day at 14.00, little bombs are detonated downtown to create rhythms that rip through your body and shake the ground in a ceremony they call Mascletà – It is a lot of fun! We were told that a few people are seriously injured (even killed?) each year from certain fireworks that are lit off in the streets that they call 'Borrachos' or “Drunk Snakes / Monkeys”. People toss them and they supposedly ‘heat seek’ anyone who tries to run away - so we had an informal safety lecture from some local Falleros over a round of drinks: Haha, their best advice was “Cover your face, and pray”! These nights, even going to party in certain neighborhoods is an adventure because M80s are being thrown all around.
 

 



I think that Valencia needs the Falles now more than ever; last week there was a lot of police brutality against local students, who are protesting massive budget cuts to public education. Thankfully even as Spain is in the midst of an economic crisis, events like the Falles can still bring the community together in celebration and solidarity! Speaking of community, today Javier Limón, Pablo Alboran (Who is currently #1 on the Spanish Pop charts), and The Head of EMI Records all visited our campus and we all got a chance to talk to them about the recent changes in the music industry!

 

Traditional Dress of the Falleras


Estoy feliz. Yo siempre estoy hogar, Porque mi corazón está siempre en mi pecho.
Viva Valencia!
Kelvin Killmon
 

VALENCIA 2012: Boiling Point

The Protests in Valencia have turned into full-blown violent riots. It is sad to see the city like this:

Today the protests began at Luis Vives, where students were campaigning against austerity measures, cuts in funding to education, police repression, corruption in the government, and the recent discovery that a metro crash that killed several people in 2006 was actually caused by safety violations the government had ignored and later catagoically denied.

 

My friend Gianni, who is Spanish, put it like this: ""Guys That's happened yesterday in Valencia... after the students from Lluis Vives High school complained peacefully for the lack of Light, heating, ink, paper, chalk.... and were just asking for a better school and education system...."

The federal riot police were quickly on the scene, mercilessly beating anyone who appeared obsenant and causing all out mayhem in the streets. Many people were arrested, rounds of rubber bullets were fired into the crowd, and a few teenage female students were bludgeoned until their skulls were fractured. I went downtown to see what was truly happening firsthand, and I'll let the pictures and videos speak for themselves (some are these were taken by me, others by friends, some are from the news):

 

Goodnight Spain. Goodnight Valencia.

Valencia 2012: Last Night, She Said...

Danced at CARNIVAL at mirror club in Valencia, Spain until the sun came up!! Tried to help break up a fistfight in the alleyway; bad idea. Walked home alone through the ghost-town dawn.

VALENCIA 2012: ON & ONWARD

 

Had lunch with Graham Ball, former tour manager for bands like the Sex Pistols, and now I'm sitting in on one of his classes on concert promotion and management. Next week we're expecting a visit from some members of Paco de Lucia's band. I was hoping to make it up to Barcelona this weekend for two friends' birthdays, but now that I would have less than 24 hours in the city I'll have to re-assess my plans. I also definately have to get down to Moroco sooner or later.

 

Finishing up my recordings at the Palau, and Victor Mendoza has kindly offered to take me to a studio here in Valencia to have the best of the batch produced professionally.

 

I am still enjoying every day here, but there are nights I get hung up on the things I've already had to sacrifice to get this far. There are two very wonderful women I eventually had to leave behind to pursue music and I tend to drink a little too much every time they're on my mind. At one time I offered them both the option of coming with me on adventures like this - but I've finally realized that they are too scared to take a leap of faith like that, and would rather stick to the same lifestyle they grew up with because it's simply consistent and familiar. Sometimes I think I'd feel more grounded if one of them were beside me every step of the way - but the truth is that though I have my moments I am probably a lot more stable than they could be in these situations. It's best that I build this career while I am a young, single man. That said, it feels alright if they keep up with what's going on in my life from afar.

Wednesday Night Mass at San Juan del Hospital

 

These days it's my responsibility to cheer myself up with simple things: I've promised myself to never go home with pocket change, these days in Spain it's not hard to find someone who needs a few spare euros a lot more than I do. Yesterday was St. Valentine's Day too, so I also bought a big bunch roses for all my friends here in Spain, I may not have one special person in my life, but I have many; no matter how crazy things get, I will always feel better when I am channeling my energy into caring for other people.

 

Much Love,

Kelvin

PS: Our visit to the special needs music school was wonderful and inspiring, but I am really starting to resent the politicians who are using our group for photo ops. It feels like they're just desperate for any good publicity to distract from their failing economic policies and I hate feeling like we're somehow endorsing them.

New Graffiti in the Old City - Politicians

 

LATE UPDATE:

Tonight Diego and Efren Lopez  invited me to their afghan music concert with Daud Khan. It was a wonderful, entrancing show.

 Afterward I headed downtown to meet with a group of about 10 foreign graduate students who all know each other through a consortium called Erasmus. I am getting very used to being the only American at the table, but tonight was just especially fun. It was really refreshing to be around people who work in different fields like economics and linguistics, and the place we went to (called 100 Montaditos) is my new official favorite thing.


So what did we learn tonight?

If you go to an Afghan concert, come late! Each instrument has about 12- 40 strings that need to be tuned individually and it takes forever!

AND

What happens when you cross bocadillas with a tapas restaurant, a dive bar and a McDonalds?! Delicious tiny sandwiches and a very happy Kelvin : )

 

VALENCIA 2012: QUICK UPDATE

The last week has been pretty relaxing. I have spent a LOT of time practicing, and I am starting to record some new music at the Palau, including a song I am going to give to Creative Spotlights for their Charity Fundraising Album, and one I plan to submit to Berklee’s brand new A&R department. I’m very proud of this new material, and I’ll try to make it available to listen to ASAP.

This past week I met a French girl who managed to get the whole crew free VIP passes to an exclusive nightclub by the beach called “Los Animas de Puerto”, and we were also visited by Gypsy Flamenco artists Belén Lopez & Chipas, who jammed with us at the Palau and talked about politics and the history of Gitanos in Spain.

Tomorrow morning we head to Torrent to meet with and play for special needs students who are studying music in a program called "Tots músics, tots diferents". It’s always nice to be more a part of the community, and if we can inspire and connect with people on a deeper level these types of activities may be the most meaningful things we do while we are in Spain.

Best,
XO KK
 

Viva la France 2012!?

 

I’m not confident that I can manage to compress all my experiences this past week into something very coherent for a blog entry, so in the words of Lewis Carroll I’ll try to just “Start at the beginning - and when I get to the end, stop.”

 

We woke up around 3 AM on Friday morning to begin our long trip to Cannes via Paris and Nice to attend the MIDEM Global Music Conference and NRJ Music Awards. As soon as we touched down in Paris we got our first taste of chilly air and rain showers that would last throughout our time in France. After a long layover we flew to Nice, where a ground crew strike at our destination kept us from getting off the plane for about an hour. Needless to say we were all very relieved when we boarded our much more comfortable and quiet private bus, bathed in blue lights and safe behind tinted windows, to travel down the Riviera to Cannes.

 

Cannes is a beautiful, surprisingly small, seaside town where many of the trees, plazas and streets are draped in little LED light displays that trickle down towards the ground, in a way that seems that invokes thoughts of the water that characterizes the area. The next morning once we had settled in, we made our way to the Palais des Festivals for MIDEM – following a red carpet that had been stretched around the building that gave us a beautiful view of the harbor, despite the drizzling rain. We received our badges, cleared security and started to explore the conference center, which stretched out in every direction on several levels of the building and at first was quite easy to feel lost in. Representatives from large companies like BMI staffed micro-suites for meeting potential partners, right next to indie labels, fan data mining companies (designed to more affectively target key demographics), and even some brick and mortar distributors who work exclusively with specialty products like vinyl. Another hallmark of the MIDEM conference was it’s many simultaneous open forum lectures, taking place in private halls and in designated places on the trade show floor. Monetizing and marketing through social media were the hot topics of the week.

 

I floated from one area to another, many of which where a collection of various companies from a given country or region, and talked to people in all aspects of the music business… but to be honest I was more intrigued by the commotion outside: crowds of French girls under umbrellas started to appear, huddling together in the rain. They were all pushed up against the barricades at the red carpet of the NRJ awards hours in advance, desperate for an opportunity to at least have a brief glance of the musicians they loved who would be arriving that night. I think the music industry is embodied somewhere between the cavalier business-oriented atmosphere inside that conference center, and those drenched smiling shivering girls on the street.

 

We changed and headed to the NRJ Awards. Allen, who had organized the event, told us that as an alternative to walking the red carpet in the rain we had been given clearance to enter through the secured VIP entrance on the side of the building and avoid the hassle. Though I think some of the ladies in our group wished they could have shown off their stunning dresses on the red carpet, we collectively decided that we’d rather not get too soaked. I grabbed a quick cup of coffee, but on my way back to the venue a swarm of teenage girls crowded around me at the entrance asking for me to sign random things, the most ironic part of this entire experience has to be the fact that the further I go on this path, the more I feel disconnected from the friends I grew up with and more unsolicited attention comes from strangers. These days, my only truly meaningful connections are to my loving supportive family and to the people I actively play with here and back at Berklee in Boston. Anyway, the awards were nice: very commercial, very over the top. I’m sure you can watch it on youtube if you’d like to. Congratulations to Shakira (who speaks amazing French, by the way), Coldplay, Adele, Rihanna, Justin Beiber (who we are officially now calling Ju-Ju Beibs) LMFAO and all the other performers and award recipients in attendance.

 

 

The next night we threw a party at Morrison’s Pub, with a beautiful performance by Julia Easterlin and a great group Flamenco Jam. I also met a gorgeous German girl who I had a wonderful time talking to outside the bar. It was only around 1 or 2 am, when the party moved to a different venue, that things started to get a little out of hand and I stopped having as much fun. There’s just something really depressing about being in a packed bar of artists and music industry execs, where even water in 11 Euros a glass, and seeing gross older men capitalize on their fame and reputation by dirty dancing with girls who are young enough to be their daughters. I saw a couple of those same married men leave through the back door, taking those girls two at a time back to their hotel, just because they can.

 

Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of decent people too, and it was great dancing with friends, but I hate the way so many things revolve around 'status'. Eventually I felt too disgusted to stay at that club any longer; I skipped out on my egregious bar tab, and walked out into the cold dark drizzle. Thankfully I was able to share a cab back to my hotel because I was in no state to walk.

 

Over the next few days I lost some of my interest in attending the conferences, and explored a little more of Cannes. I hung out with the German girl from the pub when we both had time free, and on our last day in Cannes I almost missed the bus because I ran through the rainy streets to buy her some chocolates and say goodbye. That is my best memory of the entire trip. On our way home we had another 4-hour layover in Paris. At the terminal we all spontaneously started jamming together to pass the time, and a pretty impressive large audience gathered to listen and cheer. There was one tense moment when airport security arrived, but even they started dancing!!

 

We got home at 2 AM, but by 9 we were already awake and preparing to leave to meet President of Generalitat Alberto Fabra who had invited us to come meet him at the Patio Gótico of the Palau de la Generalitat Palace. It’s an honor, but it boiled down to more speeches, introductions, news crews, reporters and camera flashes going off our faces. I wore my sunglasses in but took them off for the meeting. I think GaBo and Jeremy didn’t even bother to take them off when talking to the President.

 

Last night Jonathan Miller got us free tickets to his opera with Zuben Mehta, Don Giovanni, at the Palau Reina Sofia. It was a nice departure and a chance to admire some tremendously talented vocalists with incredible stamina.

 

Well that’s all for now… It’s nice to be home. And yes, finally with all my colleagues and friends nearby, Valencia feels like a wonderful home

The Stray Dogs of Valencia

It would be wrong of me to not talk about this.

"In Spain; Things ar really wrong. Banking." - Not even the Palau Reina Sofia is exempt from this type of grafitti


The impact of the European debt crisis is becoming increasingly apparent in Valencia, though at the same time I feel like we are sheltered from seeing the true depth of the discontent throughout Spain. I am still often taking walks alone through the old city, where even from blocks away you can hear the chanting of mobs of protesters. It seems the police presence in the 'Carmen' area of downtown Valencia has increased nearly tenfold since the weekend.
What is more concerning is that the re-enforcements are not additional traffic cops or local Valencian police, but federal spanish police in black fatigues who all carry nightsticks and handguns. They stand in groups of 3 or 4, near police trucks for detaining arrested protesters. Let's hope this doesn't escalate...


In other news these crazy interpretive dancers and their DJ were disrupting the flow of traffic at the Colón metro station:

 

I was extremely tempted to join in and show off some of my American breakdancing moves, but I decided to respect their show by not drawing attention away from their funny, strange performance. They really cheered me up though. I guess that's the role of all artists here now.

I also have to brag about the amazing musicians I've had the pleasure of working with this past week: The Lovely Sole Gimenez, who has been kind enough to offer me private vocal instruction for the next few months, the incomparable yet still humble Victor Mendoza, Jose Sanz and Diego Lopez, As well as all of my wonderful friends and colleagues who are also in the program, representing Singapore, Slovenia, Iran, Mexico, Puerto Rico, The Dominican Republic, Columbia, Germany, Spain, and the the UK and US all the way from NYC to SoCal!

Tomorrow we fly to Paris, then Nice, then Cannes. I've never been to fond of airplanes but I know that it will go fine. I thought about buying a bracelet with the colors of Valencia from a tourist shop to show how proud I am to be living here currently, but a handful of cheap chinese thread won't make me any more or any less a part of this place now.

The stray dogs of Valencia still pitter patter along the concrete. Today I saw one with a broken leg. This is Spain, where people value independence as a birthright. Here the unemployment rate is 1 in 4, and a stray dog with 3 of 4 good legs is expected to keep walking.
 

Valencia 2012: Settling In

(A picture my friend Alexis took of the beach here.)

I'm sitting here in the beautiful tropical and temperate botanical garden. Haha and "a gaggle" of several delightful overly friendly old spanish women just felt the need to make sure I knew how to use the coffee machine and were all clamoring to oversee every little step if the process. It seems as good a time as any to reflect on the past few days:

Our official welcome to Spain was pretty overwhelming and included a personal visit by many politicians and members of the national presidential cabinet, including the vice president, minister of culture and the minister of education. Someone called out "Hey it's the Joe Biden of Spain!" and I think it was Jon who asked "Can I hug a politician?".There must have been at least 50 cameramen at the press conference; they encircled us, shoulder to shoulder on every side and even filling the rows between our tables yet there were even more standing in line outside the door. At one point I felt a little uncomfortable so I grabbed my friend's iphone and started taking my own pictures of the cameramen who were swarming around photographing us; they seemed to get a kick out of that. Those of us who spoke spanish were pulled aside for additional interviews - but the questions were a confusing mix of musical and political topics. When I saw us on the news later it made a little more sense, the VP had decided to make a comment about how to recover from the eurozone debt crisis right before we met. (On that note, last night I was wandering in the old city alone and got swept up in a huge protest against proposed cuts to public education, there must have been thousands of people of all ages hollering, chanting and disrupting traffic. It was inspiring; I've never seen a protest so large in the states!) After the press conference a few photographers stuck to us for the rest of the day, but most left us alone after we left the Palau. Opera director Jonathan Miller came and gave us a nice talk about acting and performance in relation to opera and music. He's a very entertaining and charming guy, and was kind enough to give us free tickets to Don Giovanni, which he is directing with Zuben Mehda. We also met with a futurist to discus revenue streams in new media - haha stuff that could only me interesting to people in the business. Later that night we reserved a restaurant to meet and have dinner with some other local musicians; thanks to an open bar and one of my friends commandeering the PA, it quickly escalated into a private dance party. I am exploring on my own a lot, people are extremely kind but I get a lot of double-takes and intense stares on the street. I've glanced over my shoulder and seen one or two people even doubling back for another look. Maybe a few recognize me from the news or maybe not, but my blonde hair and red tattooed arms are definitely giving me away and attracting more attention wherever I go. Everyone is treating us so well, especially the Spanish women, who are very beautiful, and shy but flirtatious. Today I took off on my own and explored a little town north-west of Valencia - and now I too am learning how to flirt in spanish. : ) Soon we will leave for Paris and Cannes for the MIDEM music industry conference and the NRJ French Music Awards. I hope that despite rumors in the US, the French are also warm and friendly.

I took this at the Biopark

Protests in the Old City

(I didn't take this one, it's an image I found online of one of the concert halls at the Palau we'll be performing in this Spring)

 

The street that runs from my little studio to the palau

This is our entire crew! : )

 

Valencia 2012: Embajadores de la Música

1.19.2012

The last few days have been exhilarating, and I have to admit I’m in a little bit of shock. The city itself is so grand, and the Palau de Les Artes Reina Sofia where we will be... working and studying is an indescribably beautiful campus with magnificent architecture surrounded by serene, rippling reflecting pools. Today we were treated to a private tour of the Palau, and all of the plaza’s concert venues – several can hold an audience of nearly two thousand, and we will get an opportunity to perform in some of them this spring. The facilities are brand new; even the pedals of the baby grand pianos are still wrapped in cellophane. Had lunch with Jonathan Miller, who is currently directing Don Giovanni with Zuben Mehda at the opera house of the Palau. We about talked politics, religion and theatre of the absurd; he promised that he would try to get us exclusive free tickets to the show when it opens. We also got our first taste of what it will probably be like to deal with the press (both American and European). During our tour of the Palau today, there were two photographers following our every move with their lenses clicking madly, as well as two documentarians with video cameras. I have to admit that it’s still a tiny bit intimidating and it’s hard not to be camera-conscious, but it’s something we may get used to. Who knows how much publicity we will get as a result of this trip, but it’s probably best to enjoy our relative anonymity in Europe while it lasts. We have been told we will be dealing with more national press soon. Our publicist / public relations manager told us not to be caught off guard if reporters ask us questions about things that have nothing to do with our music – like sex scandals and European politics. Why they would even value the opinion of a handful of American musicians on such matters is beyond my comprehension, but we’ve been duly warned, “be careful, reporters are not friends”. Tomorrow we are meeting official representatives of the Spanish and Valencian government, and soon we will travel to Cannes, France for the MIDEM music conference!

PS: If you ever get to visit Valencia, go to L’oceanographic and the Biopark, where the animals roam free and aren’t even kept in enclosures! I have no idea what keeps the chimpanzees, lions or elephants (which all come freely within a few feet of you) from touching or attacking the visitors, but for some reason they all just choose stay in their designated areas like magic!
Adios

Valencia 2012: First Impressions

15 / 1 / 2012

Valencia is a city of many contradictions. My neighborhood is not even fully awake until after 10 AM, so my steps echo through the deserted streets as I take my morning walks. The only other sound is of the pattering of paws beside me; stray dogs that are well fed, very friendly and curious to see a stranger wandering around their town. It seems no surface is safe from the vibrant and imaginative graffiti that spreads out around each neighborhood, as if to engulf the entire area in cartoonish characters and bright neon color. My limited Spanish is better than most of the locals’ English, but when words fail us we get by on polite laughs and smiles. Old, young, gay and straight couples stand huddled in the shadowed archways of churches at night, sharing tender kisses without any concern for the crowds passing by. The elementary schools have gardens, to teach young children about sustainable farming. It is definitely a young, affluent, cultured, collegiate town; and I sense that most people who live here live rather simply, yet are probably still considerably wealthier than I am. Every day is sunny with a light, cool breeze that rustles through the palm trees – and the city almost seems to reflect this light and glow in return, like the moon. The riverbed containing the grand futuristic campus of La Cuidad De Las Arts y Ciencias divides the old city from the new – each equally representative of it’s unified, distinct character. I think I will like it here.
 

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