Basque and Spain tour report: 9th-16th April

Day 1: Logrono

We’re really doing it – first time back in the Basque Country in 12 years!

We started our trip with an early run to the airport with good friends shuttling us, and the hungriest day began. After a computer cock up we just made our flight, but then had a rapid change in Madrid with Don Michael handling the bags and making sure things flowed well. However, Spanner marches on its stomach and we were in need but had deadlines to make so powered on to Bilbao.

Good friends Marmól met us at the airport and we found Eve (who had had an altogether more pleasant trip which ended with a half an hour love in with a friendly local dog) and headed off in the sun for vegan burgers, local beers and mosto which made everything good again and kept the hanger at bay for now. Our first gig of the tour was in Logroño at Villatruna (“Village of Shit” – a reference to some particularly dirty squatting and plumbing issues in the early days of the squat), a squat and gig space 13 years strong which was punk as fuck and a great start to the tour. We met some old friends who fondly remembered our gig with the Scavengers 12 years ago.

Richy and Nick got refused entry to the gig and had to negotiate entry with the door person after missing the start of Marmól’s set, and the Basque crew smashed it – really intense melodic punk anthems. It’s going to be an absolute pleasure to share a stage and a van with them for 7 days and nights!

After their set the acrobatics got started in the bar and Eve represented team spanner with aplomb. We had a great gig and got 7 new songs out which seemed to go down well, plenty of dancing, crowd surfing and pile ons with Iosu from Marmól suffering an early injury to his thrashing arm. We doubt if it will make him ease off! Nick and Kepa got slightly inexplainable bruises from their frantic drumming and the borrowed gear we’re using is serving us well. Two strings down and the first outing for the melodica!

Don Miguel was found after the gig pacing around in a state of euphoria, checking the perimeters and smoothing some deals on the march stall. Many thanks to the Don for some sterling tour management so far! Lush empanadas (pasties) after the gig were provided by Alvaro and the crew, which were enjoyed on the terrace with some tasty local wine.

We had a rowdy sing song on the drive back to Santurtzi with Marmól and arrived late at the awesome Kelo squatted social centre, an old Franco school, where we collectively collapsed at 4am with ears ringing and big smiles in some very comfy beds.

A long day but a great start to the tour!

Day 2: Santurtzi

The second day of our Basque adventure began awakening slightly dazed in the amazing La Kelo, which was also to be the venue for the evening’s adventures. Based in Santurtzi, La Kelo is a squatted social centre based in an ex-Franco ran school, decorated with beautiful anarcho murals throughout the building. It’s a fantastic space, with a great gig room and bar, as well as meeting rooms, a library, gym, and bike workshop, which seemed really well used by the vibrant community of activists in the area and the local community.

After a good night’s snooze, we shook off the morning haze and went for a quick morning walk around the streets of Santurtzi, where we stocked up on mountains of fresh fruit and supplies, before returning to the squat to line our stomachs for the adventures ahead. After downing fresh fruit smoothies and munching our way through an epic breakfast, we set out to explore the docks with a twenty strong mob made up of our hosts and tour brothers Marmól, Tenue, and Fuerzas Libres del Interior. The sea breeze and great company made for an excellent afternoon taking in the sights along the water and onward to the lighthouse, where we engaged in a casual bit of graffiti, and reflected on the stark divide between the picturesque side of the waterfront inhabited by the well to do, and the bleak industrial buildings of the working class areas.

Upon returning to the latter, where of course all of the fun and the best kind of mischief was to be had, we found the La Kelo crew busy setting up for a night of top music and dancing. We were immediately drawn into a fiercely competitive (I assume) traditional game of chucking discs into a metal frog’s mouth. So this why local anarchists are so renowned for their throwing accuracy! Amazingly the game was won by a solo winning shot by Richy Ray, the outsider! We then made our own preparations, with excitement in the air. After a quick visit to a local bar to sample the local wine and beer, we returned to enjoy a feast of a three course dinner with the other bands for the evening, making up for lost time after the day of slim rations the day before.

Fuerzas Libres were first up, combining fiercely intense vocals with melodic lines, and were followed by the heartfelt and tight musical cacophony of Tenue. After the skill and top notch performances of both bands (even though some of their members were struggling through illness – fair play!), the crowd were nicely warmed up and smashing the stereotype that Basque punks don’t dance!

We were next up, and had a real ripper of a set, feeding off the energy of the local kids and friends old and new dancing by our sides. We were happy to see the new songs in the set coming to life and the crowd responding well to them, and even managed to remember (most of) the words! Despite a bit of a quiet mind blank moment in Quiet Life, the set roared past smoothly, reaching its crescendo with a thoroughly epic moment with Ben lifted off his feet mid-song for a bit of a crowd surf while still playing his guitar, which he survived admirably despite initial terror due to some severely bruised ribs, thanks to a gentle and supportive crowd.

Last up were the fantastic Marmól, completing the beautifully musically diverse line up for the evening with a happy mob dancing to their infectious melodic beats on their home turf. Needless to say they smashed it, and it was great to see them in their element! Post gig, the kalimotxos were flowing, and it was great to catch up with some old friends including our good friend and ex-Bristol-er from years past, Iñigo. After an amazing night, and with giant smiles plastered over our faces, we finally succumbed to a (relatively) early night, ready for more adventures ahead in Bilbao the following day!

Day 3: Bilbao

Well, there’s a lot to say about today. It began with another power breakfast, and getting up to date with our tour report. There followed some successful negotiations of the metro underground, which took us to nearby Bilbao, and pintxos time!

It the beautiful Casco Viejo, or old town, there in a bar that gets the Spanner seal of approval, and big thumbs up. Masses of vegan pintxos (bar snacks) lined the bar, and we ate pretty much all of it. As the drinks flowed, and the pintxos got demolished, the barman was happy. Richy, Ben and Mike then proceeded to work it off in the corner with a trip down memory lane, and a particularly awesome golden oldies multi-game arcade machine. Richy aggravated his tennis elbow with some over enthusiastic joystick thrashing during a frantic session on Golden Axe. He’ll recover! We were pleased to meet the parents of Kepa, our good mate, Mármol’s power drummer, and tour comedian. Lovely people, and so warm and welcoming.

After a good while in the bar it was time for a bit of local history, with our awesome tour guide, the unstoppable force, local legend, and all round brilliant Ivan. And a very drunk Kepa, who gave the walk about a bit of a Euro-hooligan edge. A rowdy ride on the funicular brought us to the top of the mountain overlooking the city, and some incredible views.

It was here that the Basque antifascists made their last stand after their “ring of steel” defences were finally broken by the combined Spanish and German fascist forces during the Civil War. Basques are rightly proud of their history of determined antifascist resistance, and honour the memory of their fighters here with a monument listing all of the battalions involved in the defence of Bilbao. The city was bombed relentlessly by Nazi planes supporting Franco’s nazi coup. If the so called democracies of the time had chosen to put similar solidarity into practice instead of turning their backs on, and thus helping to defeat the Spanish and Basque antifascist, it could have all ended differently. Despite the sadness of such places, the courage and strength of those brave people who came before us inspires and reminds us of our responsibility to carry on fighting fascism.

Next up was an eagerly awaiting visit to the lovely and irrepressible Zaida and her vegan cake shop in the old town. The extremely tasty cakes (too many to choose from!), and lots of tasty anti-speciesist/animal liberation info on the walls.

Oh yeah, the gig! That’s why we’re here, right? The local anarchist social centre, Izar Beltz was recently evicted by the bad guys, so we unfortunately couldn’t play there as hoped. Instead, we found ourselves in a bar called Shake!, so we committed ourselves to shaking things up on the dance floor. There was a really good friendly crowd, and lots of mates of Mármol, who are clearly well loved and respected in their home town. We warmed things up for them on maximum power, fuelled by top notch food, provided by local punk prince of pintxos and gig organiser, José, or Sauerkraut, as he’s known to his friends. He’s one of those solid people, who quietly gets on with really looking after the bands and the people around him, keeping the scene and real punk attitude alive and kicking. And his pintxos are simply the best!

With so many good friends and people in the place, both Spanner and Mármol had great gigs, despite some drum kit misbehaviour/collapse and Kepa being drunk at the drums. There was some exemplary formation team dancing with Ivan, and it was a bit emotional seeing Kepa’s parents representing and momentarily trumping Richy and Ben’s senior status. They were clearly enjoying themselves, and we reckon Kepa’s Dad will look well good in his new Spanner t-shirt.

After the gig, a bit of excitement was provided by a procession of local religious zealots, dressed in full Spanish Inquisition-type regalia, complete with Klu Klux Klan type robes and hoods. Not a great look, and not our idea of a great night out. The Catholic Church is responsible for so many abuses and atrocities, not least in Spain and the Basque Country, where the church sided with fascism, and assisted in the mass murder and incarceration of republicans, antifascists and anyone deemed to be an opponent of the regime. So this bunch of self-oppressed jokers in fancy dress got some merciless heckling from the Spanner non-believers. The bishop was metaphorically bashed, in a staring match that spoke a million words, that we’re pretty sure Nick won. Ok, so it’s not quite on a par with the revolutionaries demolishing churches everywhere during the Civil War, but every bit helps.

At the end of an eventful day, and a check in with Don Miguel (now beautified to become San Miguel after some righteous anti-religious ranting) that he was was on top of managing the (by now well drunk) Spanner youth wing, we split forces. The senior section stayed local in readiness for a trip to the mountains the next day. A rowdy ride back to Santurtzi rounded the night off for one last night in La Kelo social centre for the youngsters. We were sad to say goodbye to great friends in Bilbao, but we know we’ll be with them again soon.

Day 4: Oviedo

We began the day with the band being separated at two locations with Richy and Ben waking up in Bilbao and the youth brigade in Santurtzi.

Ben and Richy started the day in a fully automated luxury communist house (i.e. beds) and were woken up by the lovely Surka. After which they visited a new friend who had a pottery workshop where Ben was attacked by a cat! A little while later they returned to the vegan cake shop. Whilst there they had a discussion with locals about the closing of Izar Beltz and ongoing police repression and brutality. Many people have suffered as a consequence of this including a woman who was fined 1000 euros for taking a photo of a police car in a disabled parking space!

After saying farewell to good folks of Bilbao, they took the car and headed towards Oviedo their next stop but not before stopping at Cantabria to pay a visit to old friend who had made themselves a beautifully self constructed home in the mountains. After a great afternoon of catching up and appreciation of the beautiful scenery, the duo along with one of our friends from Marmol were foolishly lead by the satnav into an off road dukes of hazard style track (fortunately Boss Hog was not in pursuit).

Back to the day of the youth who started the day at La Kelo in Santurtzi after having a good night’s rest. After getting up they decided to take a stroll into the centre in a quest to find food. After looking through various cafes for vegan options they finally found their prize in one of the restaurants and got stuck in some delicious sandwiches after which we took a post breakfast rest in the park nearby to bask in the sunshine and sleep on the fresh grass. After which they helped Marmol to load the van for their next show. By the mid to late afternoon both crews made their separate ways to Asturias for the show. With the tortoise (van) in front and the hare (car) in pursuit The route along the northern coast was breath taking as on one side of the road there were mountains and on the other the coastline a brilliant drive to Oviedo.

Lata de Zinc was the next venue on our tour and it was an ideal venue to play at. The staff were very friendly, the food was great and the acoustics were even better. However due to a double booking there was a change in the line up as we would also be playing alongside a band on tour from Canada. The door price was also expensive at 10 euros for entry, considering we were playing in a working class town and we usually charge less for our shows, it would have been better to have a lower ticket price. As a result the show brought in fewer numbers than our other shows but the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd was what truly mattered.

First to play was our good friends Marmol who performed yet another great set. We have started to become more familiar with the songs they play and enjoy our time getting to know them better. A welcome addition to the show was Tibia, a hard core band from Madrid who had a great politically charged set and were great bunch of folks who were great to hang out with. Before the headliners was us and while it was a small crowd it was a great crowd with plenty of fire in their blood as they worked their magic on the dance floor with some fantastic crowd surfing including one from the newly anointed San Miguel! The headliners from Canada a nice enough bunch of folks but definitely not our cup of tea. Their set and look came across as more poser and less political then the usual bands we play with.

Towards the end of the night we finally had our evening meal! We are starting to get used to the idea of having meals on European time. Another fantastic selection of food for us to devour mercilessly. The night ended on a very late finish as we made our way out of town to our place of rest in Gijon. With Marmol and us separated into 3 different homes in the town we finally got to sleep at 4am!

A massive thank you to the hosts of Bilbao and Oviedo for your fantastic support and hospitality, and for giving us a roof to sleep under. Next stop the urban jungle that is Madrid!

Day 5: Madrid
We awoke in separate resting places in Gijon. Eve and Ben firstly walked along the city beach with dogs and surfers whilst everyone else had a lie in. Nick, Richy and woody travelled in the van (tortoise) whilst Eve, Ben and mike travel at in Kepa’s automobile (hare). Who will get to Madrid first. Hmmm. The tortoise was traveling through the industrial valleys of Asturias then puffed up through the mountain passes, pausing to view the stunning vistas of the Peaks of Europe. The hare on the other hand detoured off to the the beach where Ben and Kepa frolicked in the sea. The flighty hare narrowly missed another automobile but bumps did not occur.
Needless to say, the tortoise beat the hare by a country mile.
After the steady journey heading south across the plain where there was no rain we eventually arrive to the streets of Madrid and the Koko social centre, a squatted ex film production studio where we’ll play later.
As it was Jesus Thursday the favoured bar of the tortoise was closed so we hightailed it to another bar for patatas bravas and beers.
Tonight we were reunited with Tenue and Fuerzas livers del interior. The gig was energetic with the sound of the room complementing the bands. Richy acquired the Marmol boys for a bit of vocal duties whilst Eve and Richy took to the skies for a spot of surfing. We met a mutual friend from Brighton – they get everywhere!
A long day and a relatively early crash for the spanner crew.

Day Six: Palencia

We woke up in Madrid after a mixed sleep. Mosquitos mounted a night attack and all night street partying kept the spanner crew mostly sleep deprived. While nick dodged bites in his hammock, Woody in particular got savaged by the little fuckers but eve unleashed chemical warfare to keep them at bay.

After a coffee quest and punk as fuck breakfast of biscuits with chocolate spread we went to look round La Enrededera, which means ivy (as in forming networks, being determined and being hard to get rid of), a wicked local squatted social centre round the block. Our tour guide was the clearly hard working and sound as fuck Dani. This place was epic! The centre is used extensively by local groups and organisations, and during the 2011 protests and continuing organising became a hub for the neighbourhood assemblies. There is, amongst many other things, a gym, an acoustic gig space, kitchen and socialising areas, numerous meeting rooms, an English classroom, other learning spaces and housing above. We were especially impressed by a well organised food bank and the smell of fresh bread from the big bakery for local people. Every time we go away we are blown away by the mega euro squats and social centres, and always get inspiration for projects back home. We are also struck by the quality and openly anarchist, revolutionary content everywhere on the walls. One day Bristol!

We hit the road after saying our goodbyes, with the hare/tortoise combo heading illogically back north for a gig at an alternative distro fayre type affair. We had extra punks on board and some good chats with top people. Kepa provided the daily driving scare and bit of panic by driving on the wrong side of the road. You’re not in Bristol now mate!

When we arrived at Palencia some chose a siesta in the park but found sleep troubled by seemingly endless tales of mármol’s sexual misadventures. A couple of bouts of some substandard patatas bravas and some duff falafel later, and it was time to head to La Cueva, a self organised and good looking space on the outskirts of town. The venue is overlooked by a huge Jesus UFO docking station, but is punks have never been fussed about the watchful gaze of anyone’s skydaddy. This was our last gig with Tenue and Fuerzas Libres (/livers!), so it was good to share a stage and food with them one more time. Tiredness was taking its toll (along with various tour plagues) so we rejuvenated in different ways, some slept, some sampled the local cider. Spanner’s variously successful attempts at the traditional pouring of Asturian cider were with met with roars of approval and/or poorly timed laughter.

It was a good gig, if sparsely attended and all the bands smashed it. A few technical difficulties required Woody and Nick’s technical prowess to get it going, and once in full swing, the Mármol/Spanner bonding singalong took hold once again. After a short drive home with some late night anti police hassle manoeuvres, we made it to our home for the night. We were staying with the lovely Santi the gig organiser and our tour buddy from Fuerzas, and all collapsed in a pile ready for the long drive the next day to our final gig way down south in Xátiva.

Day 7: Xativa
The day of the long drive! Top shower facilities got us going and we grabbed what we could for breakfast from a supermarket as we set out south to Xativa, 7 hours away in Valencia. As the landscape changed and became more mountainous as we progressed, there were plenty of great views. It all started looking well wild west and the posses met up on the road for feeding and watering. A bit of friendly brawling broke out as the boys from Marmol clearly felt the need to stretch legs and buck around in the dust. Although temperatures rose as we headed south, the journey wasn’t as arduous as expected, due in no small part to much tour banter and laughs.

First to arrive at “La Fabrika” nightclub, our venue for the last gig of the tour, was the hare. Eve did the necessary after spotting a swastika scrawled on the door of the bogs, hastily turning it into an antifascist symbol. We’ve noticed a lot of fascist symbols in various places on our tour, but more cheerfully we have not seen any of them that have not been rubbed out or given an antifa makeover. We met members of the local gig crew organising the do. The “Do It Together” or “DIT” collective are a top bunch and clearly well committed to the anarchist leaning punk, very much reflected in their attention to how they organise together as well as the content of the gigs and bands they put on. Very sound, hard working and nice people! Local band “Capaje” started things off furiously with some very musically literate post hardcore and an uncanny array of pedals! They were really sound and quick to step in with a back up amp for Marmol when theirs stopped making noise. It was quickly sorted and Marmol were well on form and did not disappoint! At the right moment we mounted a spontaneous stage invasion for a hearty singalong with our good friend Maria, who had turned up to join for our last gig and good times! Although Marmol’s songs took on a bit of a more melancholic tone this night as we knew it would be our last gig together for a while.

Our gig was frantic and a few sound issues were blasted away to make way for crowd surfing aplenty and dancefloor uproar. It seemed like half the gig goers were in the air and Woody got his in with lots of friendly hands and shoulders! Marmol weren’t looking tired of dancing and Maria brought some fierce dancing into the mix. When the gig (and our set list – see below!) was finished we knew the night certainly wasn’t!

So while some dropped off the gear at our home for the night the advance party surveyed the terrain and our options. Option numero uno was Spanish pop as cheezy as it comes in a bar on the main square and there was no need to look any further! Until the DJ decided to drop in what sounded like a homophobic tune which provoked a bit of a discussion. He assured us it was an anti homophobe song but we’re still not convinced. Anyway, they pretty soon made it clear it was kicking out time in a very well rehearsed “You’ve had a dance, we’ve had your money now clear off” routine. Local knowledge quickly located the next party opportunity, an Irish bar just around the corner. As we entered it looked like we’d have our work cut out getting things going properly here. It didn’t take long. Everyone was 100% committed to a night of locura. It absolutely went off! Nick finally got his well deserved crowd elevation to the dizzy heights of cheezy euro pop. He wasn’t alone as local party goers joined in the mash up. Come about 4am the more sensible amongst us recognised we’d had our fun and it was time for bed if were going to stand any chance of the much anticipated end of tour beach trip the next day. Woody, however, true to form, had other ideas. He chose the path of rave along with the unstoppable Inigo from Marmol, Jose from Bilbao and new friends, heading to clubland for some iffy techno and trashy euro pop to see the next day in.

Day 8: The aftermath – Alicante
You’d think it would be simple enough, right? 13 punks on a beach trip and all day to do it. Assurances of an early start to see the views from the hill and the pre medieval city walls then on to a beautiful beach. It was meant to be just like in the tour brochure! So how the fuck did we end up at what is very likely THE WORST BEACH IN SPAIN, in Alicante?! Well, it starts with a night of unrestrained dancefloor antics the night before. It then goes on to a fantastic and very continental breakfast on the square, with tapas, yet more patatas bravas, horchata, smoothies and all the crew.

There follows a bit of last minute floundering to resolve ticket issues. Throw in a seemingly endless stream of logistical and organisational issues and hangover induced go slow (“Horchata in the veins” as they say round here) and it starts to look like we may never leave this town. Pretty as it is, frustration levels start to rise with the degrees as everyone’s gagging for some beach time. San Miguel was especially close to losing saintly status as the swearathon kicked in.

We got on the road spectacularly late and after some moral boosting rude exchanges between the tortoise and the hare we finally arrived at, having run out of time for the paradise beach option, the last resort.

Playa de Babylon, Alicante. A nice little place for the zombie apocalypse! While some thought better of it, the unbowed Spanner / Marmol swim club ventured forth into the murky waters for a budget splashabout. The surroundings didn’t have our spirits contained though, as we realised that wherever we are, with such good people, we’ll always be alright. And no that’s not the drugs talking! There was a ceremonial handover of Spanner Tshirts to Marmol. We know that we did our bit to help the punk as fuck Iosu on the path to loving the ska a little bit more!

Next it was fond farewells at the airport and a long wait for our plane. All strength to the baggage handler strikers! Ahem. As we stepped onto the plane we were missing Marmol and friends already. Like Marmite. We love em! Brilliant people and perfect companions on an awesome tour. We share much more than instruments! Some might even say that Marmol share too much! What goes on on tour… A lot of solid lasting connections made and much solidarity and hilarity. Just the right mix of rage and rude! Huge thanks to everyone involved who helped make it so good. Expect some pop punk from the newly converted Spannerin the near future. Or failing that, we look forward to welcoming Marmol back over here with their new record (mucha mierda!) and adventures in waiting….


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