The day started with an early drizzle, it was as if the Gods were pissing lightly over our heads. It was surprisingly warm for December in New York. Before I came to this part of the North Western hemisphere, my mates were telling I would freeze my balls off but really, I had only endured a couple of proper cold days, the temperature was 14 degrees Celsius or 57.2 FARENHEIGHT as they say here, bloody warm. I left home at 12 pm in search for some guitar strings wearing a snow jacket and gloves, could not be bothered to go back home and change when I felt the heat plus I refused to believe that I could be that hot at that time of the year. I started to sweat like a pig and was drenched after a couple of minutes, courtesy also, of the benevolent piss of the Gods. “This day started off well,” I ironized to myself.
I had seen a guitar shop on the internet on 2nd Avenue, somewhere between 79th and 85th street. Foolishly I had set off to find it without writing the address down. BIG MISTAKE, in New York six streets cover a bigger area than the whole of Gibraltar and despite walking up and down 2nd Avenue I could not find it. Now, New Yorkers are incredibly friendly and helpful but they are usually as lost as penguins in a jungle, they also have no idea of any location that is not a numerical indication of a street. Moreover, there response to any request for directions is, “a few blocks up.” After 10 few blocks up I found myself on 98th street without a music store in sight, lost, tired and wet. I was about to give up when I saw what I thought was a neon light with the word MUSE on it. I thought it might be an omen of good fortune, or a sign from the pissing Gods, a portal to the Olympus, a gateway to musical inspiration. I cautiously approached the building that held the divine foreboding only to find out the place it announced was just one of the thousands of beauty salons, manicure factories, body worshipping tanning lotion joints scattered all around the city. I grunted and turned around in anger but found myself observing what then was a genuine sign of good fortune, a real blessing, a gift from the heavens; one of the most physically impressive humanoid creatures in the whole of the planet, Tyson Chandler, centre forward of New York Knicks basketball team, all 2 metres and 15 of him, 7.0546 feet for the Brits and Americans, was coming towards me with an advanced hi-tech CELL in his hand. I stood in awe of his immense figure, I had only seen him in NBA Televised games before but to see him in the outer world was another matter.
“Tyson!” “Tyson!” I screamed wildly shaking my arms to and fro like a madman.
Tyson Chandler quickly walked on to the opposite side of the pavement of 98th Street. I followed him, quickening my pace to keep up with his giraffe steps.
“Tyson!” I screamed again, “You are the best. The Knicks are dead without you, Carmelo Anthony is a fraud, Stoudemire is finished and it’s a pity they have banned Woody Allen from the Madison Square Garden.”
I finally caught up with him and padded him on the loins as I could not reach the shoulder. Tyson turned around with the eyes of a starving nuclear bear. I could see the iron in his muscles solidify all over his body as he turned to look at me in the eye.
“No pictures, fool, goddam,” he whispered menacingly, with the rage escaping through his teeth.
“I have a gig in New York tonight Tyson, you are my omen of good fortune,” I responded with unfolding pupils and mad frog eyes, “please sign me this piece of paper.”
Tyson shrugged me off with his Titanic shoulders and continued to walk away from me down 98th street East. I stood alone in the pavement, wet under the rain, refuted by one of my sporting idols and convinced that my concert at the CAFFE VIVALDI, would be an utter disaster.
Walking back home, things started to get worse, my thumb nail suddenly dropped off (the nail I use for all the bass lines in my songs) I started to throat cough which is the worst kind of cough for singing, I got a stomach ache and my feet were killing me. “God, my first full gig in the USA” will be a right fuck up, I said to myself. At home, things did not get much better: I tried to practice a new song forgot the words, the melody and the chords. Burnt the two veggie burgers I had planned for lunch and got a call from my girlfriend saying she was having one of the worst working days of her life and probably would not make it to the gig. “Fucking Tyson Chandler,” I said to myself, “Fucking me, why would I want to play in New York? I am fraud, who cares about me? I don’t even believe in myself.
To make things worse, I fell asleep on the armchair and woke up at 5.15 pm. I had to be at the venue at 6 and did not even know how to get to the Lower West side from East 79th Street. I tried to shave and cut myself over my upper lip, could not find my “playing music pants,” had run out of underwear and my hair was a mess. I put on my black hat, picked up the guitar and fled.
The subway was rammed. I hit three fat women with my monstrous black guitar hard case. They yelled at me deliriously complaining about the general rudeness of white tall musicians. I did not take it personally and tried not to look exceedingly embarrassed as the whole of the carriage stared at me with gleaming eyes. New Yorkers have a knack for making you feel like a twat. Anyways, I was nervous, sweating again, tried to remember some songs in the 35 minutes that took the ride from 79th Street to Bleecker Street station on the 6 train. Got off Bleecker Street walked another 15 minutes down this endless corridor of Bleecker (it actually continues all the way to Brooklyn), stopped at a Music Store bought a FALSE PLASTIC NAIL FOR PLAYING THE CLASSICAL GUITAR WHEN YOU BREAK OR DAMAGE YOUR OWN and strings. New York is incredible, you can find anything you want here, If you can imagine the specifications for an object or service, it will exist here, they follow this kind of Blakian philosophy, “Anything imagined is an image of the truth.” I bought the plastic strap on nail and the strings, just in case, as breaking a string in such a day would not have surprised me in the very least.
Arrived at the CAFFE VIVALDI at 6.30 and was greeted by a tall girl with Catalan eyes from Girona, called Victoria. “Where are you from?” She asked immediately, intrigued by my untraceable accent. “Gibraltar,” I responded. “That ought to be Spanish,” she replied. “OH no!” I thought, not another political mindless argument about the Spanishness of the rock according to reactionary, uninformed Spaniards, or even worse, Spanish loving Catalans, Oh God!” I told her about the TREATY OF UTTRECHT and the rest of the historical context for the rock whilst I tried to conform a set list for the night, as I had to be on in 30 minutes. She finally calmed down and told me that ok, Gibraltar might not necessarily have to be Spanish in the near future but I had to do my own sound as she was going to be very busy. Shit! I exclaimed. The Café was very intimate, beautiful, dimly lighted and had a lot of character but I dreaded having to control the sound myself.
Checked out the amplifier, cool, the mixer was ok, up the treble, down the bass, reverb here and there, oks. Soundchecked guitar and voice as people started to come in. First one in was my brother Anthony Moreno and his wife EJ, Anthony, and I were raised in different families and although we have the same father, I had never had the time or opportunity to connect with him properly. We had to travel all the way to New York to finally interact and get to know each other. We have had a great time and seeing him at the venue calmed me down, “Perhaps it won’t be that bad,” I thought to myself. Then Jed Dister, classical pianist and well known composer of experimental classical music in New York walked in with his wonderful wife Mimma. I continued soundchecking. Jed came up to me and mentioned how beautiful the grand piano at the venue was. It was an incredibly gorgeous thing.
I said, “why don’t you play a song with me?”
“An honour it would be,” he replied.
“Try this one. No One Can Reach us Here.”
We started kind of rehearsing, it sounded so beautiful that we continued playing, he found the exact note for every moment of the song, he was not doing very complex scales but merging the piano with the concept and lyrics of the track. More people were coming in, there was an absolute silence in the Cafe. Joanne walked in through the door at that moment, I was happy. We continued playing, I started singing the lyrics, Fuck it I said, this is the first song of the set. I was totally engrossed in the music, I connected with myself and the song deeply. All the doubts shooed away, all the insecurities settled, I could hear the notes of the piano responding to the words and passionately went on the chorus, “’cos when you dance the night away, all of my fears dissolve like rain…” I was there. Fuck the pain, the craziness, the day.
Jed was cheered off the stage and I continued with “THE WAITING SONG” dedicated to my brother. I felt great, relieved, open, alive, I could control the endings of the notes, which I had always had difficult with. I felt as inspired as I had ever been, flow, let it go, no effort, no thought, just the words and sounds, fuck the mind, well the controlling one. It’s like taking San Pedro, as soon as you stop controlling the trip, it all starts to make sense, it’s like life I suppose, learning how to walk the line without caring much about the fall, feeling the wind that keeps you in place. I then did “Beautiful Lies” just released online by Flat City Music. “Oh! What a night. No one remember their debts to the bank,” or the mind. The audience was incredibly responsive, they were so sweet and respectful. I initiated my typical stage banter, Joanne looked at me, she was like, “oh come on, get on with it, don’t spoil it.” I laughed and played, “Fountains,” excusing myself for the corny undertone, o well, we are romantics after all. Went down well, then “We are What we are” with Jed on grand piano again. It was a 7 minute version with an amazingly sensitive Jed solo, I recited Langston Hughes over it, “I could take the Harlem night and wrap around you…” Loved the feeling and wanted more. Played Dance me with Jed and “piensa en mi” after a request from the Caffe Vivaldi manager, Victoria, the Catalan girl, we became friends. The crowd were fantastic and had some nice conversations after playing. We chatted and drank till late with EJ and her sister Laura and Lou, her aunt. Had a great time, felt revived, reconnected, reborn. Got some cash too, yeah!
The point being: apart from inflating my own EGO, sometimes
the best things start off as the worst of nightmares and vice versa. I wonder why
a bad band rehearsal points to a great gig. Why do we have to suffer before we
can really learn to breathe deeply? Why are the most seemingly magical
encounters turn out be the biggest fiascos? How a nightmare day end in a
beautiful experience? How do we control the tricks our minds play on us? Is there
a mechanism to unfold the darkness in preparation for a moment of bliss? Who
knows. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I am broken, fucked up, but I usually need a
little darkness to experience life to its fullest. All in all, a very good gig
and experience. Maybe the Gods were not pissing over my head but sending a
little holy water to cleanse the spirit before the show. It all depends on how
you perceive and invent it I suppose, or does it?
Posted by Gabriel Moreno.