Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Screamin' Fest 2013 Recap: Calella, Spain

Well, friends, Screamin’ Festival ’13 is over and with the help from both new and old friends, I can say that a mighty fine time was had. Several friends have asked for a few more details about my trip, so I thought I’d write a ¿short? journal-type blog post to share some of my memories and photos from the past week in Spain. For all those who don’t follow blogs, I’ll go ahead and post it on Facebook as well, but with a gentle nudge towards my blog at www.nathandgibson.blogspot.com.


MONDAY: The trip started out at 5 am on Monday. That’s mighty early for a rockabilly-poju like me, but fortunately my friend and neighbor Jyrki Häyrinen was headed the same way so we shared a taxi, flight, and train to Calella, talking about Finnish music along the way. Jyrki has recorded a lot of records I really dig by the Barnshakers, the Flatbroke Trio, and others and plans are taking shape to do something together in the future. More on that at a later time. As per my usual routine, I avoided sleep the night before so that I could sleep through the entire plane ride and forget that I was experiencing the miracle of flight while sitting in a flying fuselage hundreds of kilometers above the ground. Fortunately I didn’t sleep through the train ride from Barcelona to Calella though, as it was a gorgeous one hour ride along the sunny coast. I wanted to take lots of pictures, but many of the beaches were nude or topless beaches and, frankly, I just didn’t want to be THAT American guy taking photos of all the liberated Europeans (though I couldn’t help but smile a little at the sight of four seventy-year-old dudes who were both naked and fishing).

I checked into the Continental Hotel, which was pretty stripped down but very pleasant, then went to edit Angry Birds books all day in a nearby internet café. My two immediate observations for the day: 1.) English is not spoken by everyone (or even very many) in the tourist industry in Spain, and 2.) My four years of studying Spanish did very little to help me communicate important ideas such as ‘Do we have WIFI in the hotel?’ ‘Which printer should I use?’ or ‘Are there any good record shops in Calella?’ I suppose I need to find my former Spanish teacher, Jose Espericueta, and get back into the books before I return next year!
TUESDAY: By noon all of the Rovio work was complete and vacationing could begin. Around noon I took the same train back to Barcelona to join up with Jake Lähdeniemi, bass player extraordinaire, and his lovely wife Taina. As a former tour guide, I’m always down for some sightseeing tour bus action and fortunately they were as well. 


We took a hop on-hop off double decker tour of Barcelona, listened to some sweet smooth jazz jams in between the English commentary about Columbus, and saw some incredible architecture along the way (pictured here: Antoni Gaudi’s crazy dragon building (Casa Battló) and La Pedrera (Casa Milà). 

A highlight of the day was when we hopped out near the National Museum of Art (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya) and did some hiking and sightseeing from one of the highest points in Barcelona. 


A lowlight of the day was when the bus neared the seaport district and a bird pooped on my head. (pictured here: Some residual bird droppings left in my hair after a hasty cleanup from the kind tourists seated behind me).


Back in Calella, the party was already starting near the pool at the hotel of KK and Carita Kunnas. The informal jam session was a great start to a lively party that lasted all week. It really is hard to beat sunshine, sweet harmonies, beautiful people, poolside/beachfront rock’n’roll, spontaneous dancing, and great bars/restaurants! A trip to Santi’s Beach Bar in the evening was equally rewarding with some great tunes by the Savoys and a whole night of dancing thanks to DJs Little Boy Blue, Miss Aloha, Willie Storm, and others. At Santi’s I was excited to meet Carlos Diaz, El Toro Records chief and the man responsible for organizing the festival, as well as his gal Mar and their daughter Carla


It was also great to meet up again with my buddy and fellow Statesman Eric Shoutin’ Sheridan and also to meet with fellow St. Louisans Matt and Nikki HillI was also surprised to see just how international this festival was—cats and dolls from Japan, Australia, the States, Canada, the UK, and all over Europe. I found it very interesting to hear about all the different scenes from Frankfurt, Germany to the Ukraine to Scotland and all over the world. For the most part, these conversations reaffirmed my thinking that the rockin’ scene today is still far bigger in Finland than it is anywhere else in the world. I don’t have on hand the statistics of how many people came to Screamin’ from outside of Spain (though Carlos, if you have those I’d love to see them!), but I would have to guess that Finland (especially if we include Finns from Scotland) might be the next country on the list of Screamin’ ticket holders. I can easily think of 40 or so, but I am sure there were many more… Tuesday night’s Finnish contingency included Carita, Mika Kauppinen (who explained to me that he is from Kouvala, the “Heart of Finnish European Rockabilly”), Iikka Peräoja, me, Timo Tarkela, and KK among many others. 


WEDNESDAY: First full day of music!! Most of the day was spent consuming delicious food, shopping in the tourist areas, scouring the second-hand shops for records, and both meeting up with old friends and making new ones at Santi’s Beach Bar. The Big Chief from Japan got the music started around 5:00 with some stellar guitar picking by Tomoyuki Ohno and a really fun song by Kohjiroh Ishihara about ‘Red Hot Taco Rice’ (which happens to be on their new CD and I believe is also available via 45). I would add that they are some of the nicest cats around as well! 


From there, a gang of us took a trip to La Fabrica and the Main Hall to catch the night’s main attractions: Sadly, dinner ran late and I missed Charlie Gracie’s first set, but arrived just in time to catch some stellar blues picking from Matt Hill, who will be performing in Finland in just a couple weeks. A highlight of the night for me was the set from Ukraine’s Ruki’v Bryuki. I’m a sucker for foreign language (in this case, Russian) rock’n’roll and these guys brought a lot of energy to the stage. It is really too bad there is not an award for best scream at the Screamin’ fest, but if there had been I think guitarist Alex Filippenkov would have won it hands down.


Following this set, Spud’n’Nick and the Roughshods represented Finland’s first showing in the festival and I thought their set was great. I dig all those Don & Dewey and Jimmy & Johnny recordings and Kekka Uitto (from the Rockin’ 8 Balls) and Vesa Haaja (from the Hi-Fly Rangers) pulled that stuff off spectacularly (especially considering that this was only their 3rd gig!). I’m also a sucker for Mosrite rockabilly and Pekka Laine’s guitar playing and tone were tops! I know they were disappointed not to have their new Goofin’ EP ready in time for the show, but I know it’s going to be great (produced by KK) and I am certainly excited to pick that up once it becomes available.


Earl Jackson from the UK followed with some mighty fine blues picking and man, that dude can Duck Walk! I wish I had a good picture from that show, but the crowd was too big to even get close to the stage. The night was capped by the Hi-Winders from Sweden. It was a great set of rock’n’roll tunes by Jan Svensson, aka Wildfire Willie, and company and I really enjoyed hanging out and talking Starday with Jan. I hadn’t seen him since about ’98 or so in Boston and the live show was just as fun as it was back then.


THURSDAY: Gig night. Exciting day it was. Being as the parties ended around 5 a.m. the previous night, it was a bit difficult to get much done in the morning. I can’t actually remember much of what happened before 4:00 p.m., but I remember getting to Santi’s Beach Bar early to catch the Rockin’ 8 Balls. They are among my favorite bands in Finland and their Screamin’ show did not disappoint. What I recall of it is hanging out with lots of friends, including my pals Tapio and Johanna Väisänen, seeing lots of people dancing (both dressed to the nines or barely dressed at all), and just seeing tons of people trying to get a glimpse of the rockin’ band that fed into the overall good feeling of the beach party. After the set and after rushing to our own soundcheck at Fabrica, Jake mentioned to me that it was among of his favorite shows he’s ever played.

When I arrived at the soundcheck, I met my good buddy Rudy “Tutti” Grayzell. Rudy and I have been talking on the phone regularly and writing to each other for almost seven years (since my first interview with him about his recordings for the Starday label), I arranged for him to come to the festival, and he even wrote the liner notes to my most recent album, but we’d never met in person. This trip was pretty magical in that we finally got to meet each other after all these years and like Rudy says, he’s my brother from another mother! I’m mighty glad I was able to help arrange his appearance at Screamin’ and that he could make the trip. Rudy’s an amazing cat and I’m so grateful that we had this time to spend together making music and hanging out in Spain. After his soundcheck, he and I had a chance to rehearse ‘Daisy May’ in the halls and it sounded great together! Unfortunately, Rudy was exhausted by the time we went on stage (around 12:45 am), so he had to head home. Even though we didn’t have the chance to do it for the crowd, you can bet that Rudy and I are making some plans to do some recording when I return to the States in August.


Shortly after our soundcheck, Rudy kicked off an incredible set with the Tennessee Rhythm Riders. For me, this was hands down the highlight of the week. He had more energy than most of the performers who were less than half his age and he just tore the stage up two days prior to his 80th birthday. He plowed through nearly all of his Starday hits (‘Duck Tail,’ ‘You Hurt Me So,’ ‘Let’s Get Wild,’ ‘You’re Gone’), as well his choice ‘50s Sun, Capitol, and Award recordings, and the 7-piece western swing outfit backing him was incredible. 


Kuudos to Lynette and Phil Morgan, Willy Briggs, Chris Wilkinson, Jim Morrison, Gary, and Gabe for learning some mighty tough tunes and doing a great job backing the legend! After Rudy’s set I joined him at the merch table and sold the rest of my Starday books so that folks could get Rudy to sign them. It was also mighty fun just sitting at the table with him and seeing how excited people were to meet him, to get their records signed, and to wish him a Happy 80th Birthday. It was indeed a special day.

Because I was near the merch, I wasn’t able to catch all of the Jetaways set, but what I saw was mighty fun. I really dig the rockin’ country stuff and I recall them playing a rockin’ version of Ernest Tubb’s ‘Thanks A Lot’ in addition to some all-out rockers. As they are from neighboring Sweden, I’ll hope to catch up with Mikael Letskog and the boys again soon and hopefully catch a full set by them next time! It was also difficult to catch the Riverside Trio’s set, as we were backstage dressing and preparing for our own set, but what I heard I really liked.

Nate Gibson & the Hi-Fly Rangers hit the stage at about 12:45 and I had myself a mighty fine time.


Jake was on his 3rd set of the festival but played awesomely, as did KK. As it was Starday’s 60th anniversary, and also because the new Goofin’ CD is a tribute to Starday Records, we did quite a few songs from the Starday catalogue: George Jones’s ‘How Come It’ and ‘Too Much Water,’ Groovy Joe Poovey’s ‘Move Around,’ Bill Browning’s ‘Down In the Holler,’ Orangie Ray Hubbard’s ‘Sweet Love,’ and many more, sprinkled with a few originals and rockin’ tunes from the previous albums. We even got our pals Eric Shoutin’ Sheridan and Agustí Burriel to come up and do some backing shouts and hand claps on ‘Evening Time’ which I thought it was awesome;) During our encore we were playing Glenn Barber’s ‘Shadow My Baby’ and KK was rockin’ out on the solos and I was feeling it… I wanted to jump off the stage or do something, but there was about five feet of nothing between the crowd and the stage and, to be honest, I just didn’t think I could make it. Then, just as the second solo started I got an idea: What if I just fall backwards, like a trust fall, but don’t catch myself? It seemed like a good idea for that split second… All I can say is that I’m glad it was our last song! For a good laugh, check out 44:50 in the following video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iQXQ6w-eiQ.

After our set I sold some CDs and LPs and was fortunate that I returned to the main stage area just in time to catch some of the Wild Goners set. I’ve got one of their Tail Records from the ‘90s and it’s real good, so it was cool for me to hear them live 20 years later and still rocking. Closing the night were the Dragtones, featuring Luis Arriaga (of Wild Records fame) and a few all-stars from the Swedish rockin’ scene. After checkin’ out their latest Wild Records CD, I was really lookin’ forward to checkin’ out the live show. Unfortunately, sometime in the middle of their show, I guess around 4:00 am, Jake found me snoring backstage and convinced me to wake up and head home. I managed to snap one photo, but another time I’ll have to catch that show, I say, another time soon I hope!


FRIDAY: Man, what a day! After waking up I took Rudy “Tutti” Grayzell out for a birthday lunch and we found a real good restaurant advertising a three course meal for only 10 euros (¡Viva la Spain!). One salad, some chicken somethings, a huge steak, and some ice cream accompanied a fun conversation filled with tour stories, family backgrounds, and our plans for making some more music together in the States. Love that guy! I asked him why he didn’t play my favorite song ‘Jig-Ga-Lee-Ga’ last night and he said that they just forgot. He asked me if I could help get him on stage with the Tennessee Rhythm Riders during their show that night to do it. Back at the hotel I later asked the boys and, of course, they were more than happy to set it up. After dropping Rudy off back at his hotel I did some record shopping and sunglasses hunting. Who knew you could buy real, official ReyBeri brand sunglasses for only three euros?!
Around 4:00 I was off to Santi’s beach bar once again for the Hi-Fly Rangers set. 


Just like the show the day before, the Finns rocked Calella Beach! Amazingly enough, Jake’s hands made it through his fourth and final set and everybody around seemed to be having a great time. I recall loads of CDs being sold, lots of people dancing, lots of people romping on the beach, and lots of beverages being consumed. Towards the end of the set Vesa Haaja invited me up to sing ‘Justine’ with them and I was mighty honored. 


My only regret was that I forgot to take off my sunglasses before I sang and for that, I’m truly sorry (this apology is specifically for all those who have had to listen to my rants about rock stars who perform in nightclubs wearing sunglasses). Kekka from the Rockin’ 8 Balls also made a guest appearance on rock’n’roll vocals to great applause.

Back at La Fabrica, the night was solid gold from start to finish. My buddy Eric Shoutin’ Sheridan got the party rollin’ in a big way and Mambo Jambo did a fantastic job backing him. Pure rhythm and blues goodness! If nothing else, I have learned that I need to track down a copy of his ‘90s Uptown Rhythm Kings release on Ripsaw and anything else this guy records in the future. 


The Tennessee Rhythm Riders followed with a set of their own western swing stylings and it was fantastic! They are certainly the most colorful hillbilly band in the UK, and now I’m off to track down all their offshoot bands’ recordings as well such as Lynette Morgan and her Blackwater Valley Boys and the Zazou Cowboys


And, of course, another highlight of the festival was when Rudy “Tutti” Grayzell got up to sing ‘Jig-Ga-Lee-Ga’ and even invited yours truly up on stage to do it with him. There was no rehearsal, but I think it went pretty well regardless. It was a blast to sing with my buddy Rudy and in his own words, “We killed out there!” My many thanks to Rudy for the invitation and the shameless book/CD promotion, and to the whole TRR gang!

Charlie Gracie followed with a fantastic set of swinging tunes with Ray Collins’ Hot Club from Germany and it was real fun. 


Charlie’s been in the business for over 50 years and his guitar playing and singing are still impeccable! In Charlie’s own assessment, as he later told Rudy and I at his hotel, the set started off a little slow, but after a few songs he was able to get settled and do his own thing and really work the crowd. And it certainly worked!! The All-Star Doo Wop show followed and while it may not have been entirely doo-wop, per se, it most definitely was incredible. The Four Candles (also 4/5 of the Velvet Candles) are just great singers and the harmonies were spot on. I knew this after I heard them on the boat cruise in Finland a few months earlier, but I thought this show was even better as they were backing some of the best singers in the international rockin’ scene: Nikki Hill, Vesa Haaja, Eric Shoutin’ Sheridan, Earl Jackson, and CC Jerome.


I was also mighty glad to see the Bellfuries from Austin, TX back on the road and gigging. They had taken some time off a while back, but this show proved that they hadn’t gotten rusty during the layoff. Joey Simeone is a great songwriter and for anybody who doesn’t know them yet, you’ve got to hear these guys (yes, listen to all of their records)! I had a great time talking with them backstage and I didn’t even know that my buddy Jeffrey Herring, who played guitar with me in the Gashouse Gang for about three or four years, was actually a former Bellfury! Jeffrey, where in the world are you these days, man!? As a bonus, they’ve got some real purty new vinyl with them as well! 

The last event of the night was the Nick Curran Tribute Show and it was a mighty tribute to a mighty man. Nick was another great songwriter, and incredible guitar player to boot (and again I thought of Jeffrey Herring, who first introduced me to Nick’s music so long ago), and I thought the tribute to him was really good. Many thanks to Mambo Jambo for some tight backing of Matt and Nikki Hill, Eric Shoutin Sheridan, Agustí Burriel, and many others. 



It was an incredible night for music, for meeting new friends, and for hanging out with old pals from around the globe.




SATURDAY: I guess it rained sometime in the morning, but I certainly didn’t wake up to see or hear it. By the early afternoon when I awoke, the sun was shining and the weather was again in the mid-70s, just as it had been every other day in Spain. I headed over to Rudy “Tutti” Grayzell’s hotel and picked him up for some late lunch/coffee/dessert on his birthday. 


We ran into Charlie Gracie and his wife on the way and it was awesome getting to hear those two music legends talk about rock and roll over the past 50 years and how to work a crowd! After coffee I convinced Rudy to come to the beach where there was a vintage flea market and car show. Needless to say, it was awesome! 


We started off looking at records and Rudy had a story for almost every record we saw: Elvis Presley (“Oh man, one time when we were on the Hayride together he…”), Wanda Jackson (“Oh yeah, I used to go out with Wanda for about two years…”), Aretha Franklin (“Oh yeah, I met her one time on a show we did…”), Goldie Hill (“Oh man, she was like an angel and her brother Kenny Hill was in my band for years…”) and on and on. It was a great day and I know Rudy really appreciated all the people who came up to him to say ‘Hello’ and ‘Happy Birthday’ ‘Great Show’ etc. Rudy had later plans for dinner with Charlie and his wife so I dropped him off at his hotel and met up with KK, Jake, and Carita for drinks on the beach. We had a grand time, met some super nice folks from France, and I was even gifted with my own Nate Gibson hat (thanks guys!). Lookout: the NG clothing line has officially begun! A short while later we were met by our Finnish friends Jate Haro and Ira Weckström and we headed toward some famous chicken joint KK knew about. I can surely say that was one of my best meals in Spain. Great recommendation KK, great food, and great company!

We got to the show in time to catch the last half of the Ricardos set and it was great. The UK trio has been around about 20 years as well and they are still making great records and having a ball on stage. Their latest 45 on El Toro is highly recommended. 


Next, I thought the Ray Collins Hot Club show as a lot of fun as well. I know a lot of my friends had already seen them, many times for that matter, but I enjoyed catching them live for the first time. 


Unfortunately, I was catching up with folks and watching the jive competition and I missed most of the Phil Haley and the Comments set. But man, those two Russian couples can dance! And so can Lynette Morgan! I was glad to see her out there breaking the whole ‘musicians don’t dance’ stereotype and killing it on the dance floor! Regarding Phil’s set, I am hoping YouTube can help me correct this omission (as well as some others)… I did happen to catch the Re-Chords set, however, and am mighty glad I did. 


They are a trio from Australia doing really fine three-part harmonies on most of their songs and I was quite taken with the sound… I even bought their El Toro 45 and a shirt… I bought the 45 based on their country ditty ‘Bottom of the Barrel,’ but was pleasantly surprised to find that the first track was actually a rockin’ cover of Bob Doss’s Starday rocker (and one of my favorite rockabilly tracks) ‘Don’t Be Gone Long.’


Then, of course, another highlight of the festival was Nikki Hill’s set. That girl can flat out sing. Was glad I had a chance to talk with her and Matt Hill this week and to also hear them play. It’s just good music… Covers of Barbara Lynn go a long way in my book, especially when they are done as well as these cats do it, and their originals are mighty catchy as well. 


I was glad to see that after the festival she was already in Memphis recording a new record with my pal Deke Dickerson and also the Bo-Keys. Now I’m really looking forward to both Deke and Nikki’s shows in Finland in the next couple weeks. The Kat Men, featuring former Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom and guitar monster Darrel Higham, closed the night with some real good old-fashioned rock’n’roll. 


Once again, as per my usual pre-flight routine, I got zero sleep. I said my goodbyes, ate one last sausage sandwich, went home, packed up my garments, packed up all the records I bought/traded from bands at the festival, 


packed up all the sweet French pressing EPs I bought at the flea market earlier in the day, 


and then headed for the airport. Fortunately, on my way out the door I ran into Chris Wilkinson and Willy Briggs from the Tennessee Rhythm Riders, and they were headed the same direction (which was a mighty good thing considering I didn’t have time to research how to get where I was going—Thanks again guys!). Travel went as smooth as can be. I made it to the plane, slept like a baby during take-off and landing, and made it home about six hours later. Though I can’t say I’m much of a beach person (ten minutes of Frisbee in the sand with KK and I thought my feet were going to catch on fire; I don’t know how to swim; five minutes in the sun and I’m already badly burnt; I don’t like wearing suntan lotion because it almost always smells like coconuts or bananas; etc), I gotta say that after this week I have a new appreciation for the beach—so long as it is coupled with good drinks, good music, and good folks! It truly was beautiful, as were the people, and the music was among the best among festivals I’ve attended.


To all the new folks I met while in Calella, let’s stay in touch! If not elsewhere on the trails, I’ll hope to see you at another Screamin’ fest. To all my Finnish friends at the fest: KK, Carita, Jake, Taina, Tapio, Johanna, Kekka, Minna, Vesa, Marjo, Niina, Iikka, Mika, Jyrki, Pekka, Janne, Netta, Jate, Ira, Mila, Petteri, Timo, Tuula, Tita, Ville, Jari P, Jari H, Risto, Mila, and many more (with apologies to anyone I am forgetting at the moment)—it was wonderful to see y’all in Spain. Now we just have to find a time to get together and do it again in Finland!


There are lots of folks to thank for making this trip possible: Of course Carlos Diaz, KK, Jake Lahdeniemi, and Vesa Haaja. But I’d also like to thank everyone who worked at the festival: the sound guys, the MCs, the DJs, the cleanup crews, the hotel staff, the ticket sellers, the security, and everyone in between. Lastly, I’d like to thank all the folks who have shared with me their photos and videos from the trip, and especially YouTube user womblewhu, who has gone as far as to record and post the entire sets of most of the bands at the Screamin’ festival including my own (see full list of links below). This is key… In case you thought I was lying or exaggerating about anything, go ahead and check it out for yourself! Feel my pain as I nearly die at the end of my set…  And for Rudy and I’s version of ‘Jig-Ga-Lee-Ga,’ check out the Tennessee Rhythm Riders’ set at around 19:40-25:40 (but check out their entire set as well). To see Vesa Haaja and I’s rendition of ‘Justine,’ look for the 57:00 mark in the Hi-Fly Rangers set (but be sure to check out their whole set as well). We’ll hope to see you all out on the trails soon! Now it’s off to Salo, Finland tomorrow for a rockin’ Summer Kick-Off show with Masa Saloranta, Tuomas Metsberg, and Ari Berhall and then the Puistoblues Festival next weekend where I’ll be performing again with the Hi-Fly Rangers and then checking out George Thorogood, Joel Paterson and the Modern Sounds, Hoedown, Johnny (The Pirates) Spence and Doctor’s Order, Robbie Hill and Blue 62s, Hank and the Hooks, and many other great acts! Hope to see y’all soon!


Nate Gibson & the Hi-Fly Rangers - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iQXQ6w-eiQ
The Tennessee Rhythm Riders - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWDdgaEksr0
Spud’n’Nick and the Roughshods - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhkgl1wlwEc
Charlie Gracie with the Ray Collins Hot Club - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvjEo2EcaxM
Nick Curran Tribute Show - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaIirhn-aww
Eric ‘Shoutin’ Sheridan - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10KroojQnZo
The All-Star Doo Wop Show - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bICDbbqsqnA
Phil Haley and the Comments - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1GYd-hHIEU



1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post, Nate!!!
    I believe you had real good times!

    Who knows we'll have you here in Brazil one of these days!

    Best wishes!

    ReplyDelete