Oct 21, 2014

Day of Doom 2014: Two Years in the Making

I still remember the very first time the organizer of Barcelona's Day of Doom Festival and I spoke.  I was at work on top of a ten foot ladder when I received the call.  I don't normally answer the phone at work unless it's one of a small handful of people trying to reach me. Talking on the phone is not what I get paid to do. Apparently talking on the phone and texting all day is what everyone under the age of 30 gets paid to do, but not me.  On this particular occasion I happened to notice the foreign country code on the phone screen, so I decided it could be interesting to take the call.  A very thick accent on the other end said "Hello!  I am calling from Barcelona, Spain".  Barcelona?  Cool city, but I didn't know anyone there.  I replied "I'm pretty sure you have the wrong number" and I thought that would be the end of things.  I was wrong.  The voice then asked "Is this Steve Shelton?".  Hold on a second, this had to be a prank.  I started looking around from atop the ladder to see who might be watching my reaction.  Within a few seconds I realized this was not a prank at all.  My friend, Braulio kept on working while I spent the next few minutes trying to process the idea that a very rich, booming voice was asking if Confessor would consider flying to Barcelona to play a festival. Scott already lived in China, and we may not even have been 'active' at the time, but hellz yeah, I'd ask the girls if they would be interested in playing one of my favorite places on earth!  When I tried to give The Voice my email address there was a problem with my accent.  It suddenly dawned on me that the mystery fan might speak Spanish, so much to his surprise and delight we finished the last several minutes of the conversation in Spanish. I remember him laughing and saying that I sounded like a bonafide Mexican.  I'll take that as a compliment any day, and it was an interesting way to end a very strange conversation that had begun ten feet in the air.

Two years later The Voice and I were finally going to meet.  We thought we might be able to make the festival work that first time around but Scott's job in China ultimately kept him from being able to make the trip.  The following year when The Voice, now known to me as Samo, asked if we could come I knew right away there was no way.  There was no follow up call, and I didn't know whether or not I'd hear from Samo again.  This year I kept my eyes and ears open for any contact, and I was not let down.  Ever since receiving that first call on top of the ladder I had envisioned both Confessor and Loincloth flying out to Barcelona.  The guys I play with have been such a big part of my life that there are really only a few other people I would have considered traveling with.  Naturally, Monica was one of those people. She and I never got a chance to take a honeymoon, and I knew she would love Spain.  She became part of my manifestation ritual.  Whatever value you may put in the concept of manifesting aside, I wanted to be in the right frame of mind to be ready for an opportunity like this one.  Couldn't hurt, right?  What could be wrong with clearing your head and focusing on something?  We should all clear our heads more and focus on where we are in life or where we might like to find ourselves.  Think of it as mental preparation if the thought of 'manifesting' sounds too new age for you.  I won't be offended.  Monica, both bands and I did make it to Barcelona after all.  Roll your eyes all you want.

The arrangements for Day of Doom were all made out of mutual trust between Samo and me.  No contracts, no official rider, no nothing.  Was I nervous at times?  Sure!  Was Samo nervous at times?  Of course he was, but foolishly or not we did trust each other.  That wouldn't work for a lot of bands, but it worked for the two of us.  After what had seemed like an eternity our departure date finally showed up when we flipped our calendar over to October.  "Damn, Sweetie!  We are about to go to Spain!"  We had our carry on bag packed with all sorts of gizmos that I never would have been able to comprehend even a couple of years ago.  Hell, there were more cables than socks in our bags!  Fortunately ( until it's no joke anymore ) the TSA was no more interested in us than most employees at the DMV or post office are in making you feel like you matter in the world, and we were whisked right through customs without so much as an acknowledgement of our existence.  One perfunctory grunt and a lazy glance at our passports and we were 'on the other side'. Somehow it was a relief and horrifying all at the same time.  So what though... we were on our way!

We traveled in three groups because we all bought our tickets as we were able to front the money.  There were six of us on our flight.  Tannon ended up on our flight from JFK to Barcelona even though his ticket said he was on a different airline.  We figured that one out at the terminal in New York.  That was a pleasant surprise.  Another surprise came when I looked around the corner from the bar we were all hanging out in to see about boarding times.  There was no one left at the gate and the woman working the desk looked like she had just let loose a sigh of relief and was checking things off of some list.  Yes, we came that close to missing our flight while absent mindedly killing time no more than thirty feet away.  You know how when you have already been sitting on the flight for what seems like an hour and then that one disheveled guy gets on hurriedly as they close the door behind him and you think to yourself "You self absorbed a-hole!  You're the reason we have been stuck here for all this time"?  Well, there were six of us stumbling onto the plane at the last second.  Somehow I ended up being the very last one to board even though for those few seconds I was the responsible one rushing us through the gate.  Maybe next time I won't be so harsh toward the self absorbed jerk who holds everyone up.  Perhaps his company made him think he had all the time on earth and he happened to look at the gate in the nick of time to realize, "Oh right, these guys would have kept drinking at the bar all night had I not had enough sense to check the boarding time".  Maybe that self absorbed D-bag is the coolest drummer / photographer / blogger you have never heard of.

The flights were about what you'd expect.  Several hours of not quite being able to find the magic position you could drift off to sleep in, but all of the back, neck and leg discomfort you could ever want.  To make matters worse, I think that the two women seated in front of us were in a contest to see which of them could use the word "like" the most.  I learned that "... he was like" , and that "... she was all like", and then that both of them were "... like what the hell?!?", and that it was all "... like totally crazy!"  When I overheard one of them say she was 42 years old I suddenly was like, annoyed even more than I had been for the previous few hours.  Other than watching six different people watch the most recent Planet of the Apes movie at different points along the story line the flights were sufficiently unnoteworthy with one slightly disturbing observation.  The current safety video shown on the back of everyone's headrest seemed to have been directed by the Zucker brothers of "Airplane" fame.  Every scene tried to be entertaining by adding some random bit of prop humor.  All well and good.  It did have the affect of keeping everyone engaged throughout the four or five minute video.  Mission accomplished.  However when I looked up to see what the flight attendants were doing since the job of staring blankly ahead and pointing with two tightly clenched fingers at the four exits located at the front, sides and rear of the plane had been taken over by a slapstick comedy troop, I was jolted into a brief moment of Big Brother un-reality by what I saw. There were decidedly humorless male attendants standing like enforcers at the end of each aisle, slowly and methodically glaring at us all as if to say "You WILL follow all instructions or risk being incinerated."  It was all fun and games as long as we laughed heartily at the silly safety video, but looking up made the whole thing seem sinister.  There was one guy who got tazed running down the aisle yelling "It's a cookbook! Run!" but none of us knew what he was blathering on about. He should have just kept quiet and enjoyed the Soylent Green burgers they brought out later.  They were pretty damned tasty.  You know, I never did see that guy again.

Flash forward roughly one full work day and we were touching down in Barcelona.  Again, the check at customs seemed to be just a way of forcing someone to sit somewhere and appear completely disinterested for the purpose of drawing a paycheck.  But who wants to get hassled anyway?  We met most of the rest of our crew at baggage claim and unlike the last time we flew overseas, everyone's bags and guitars showed up as they were supposed to and we were on our way to meet The Voice from the phone call two years earlier.  I felt like I had known Samo for a long time, so to finally see him was great.  He had a few people with him providing transportation and we filed into an itty-bitty Euro car and one tiny mini van.  I introduced myself to everyone, including a guy who turned out not to be Spanish at all, but was instead Eric Wagner of Trouble, and now the singer of The Skull.  He hopped in the cute toy car with me, Monica, Samo and Max from Holland.  I couldn't help but think about how hard I would have crapped my pants several years ago if I had been in a car that any of the guys from Trouble had even taken a leak behind, much less if I had shared a ride with one of them for forty minutes.  This was to be a week full of reminders of things that had inspired me for most of my life.  Aside from expressing to Eric just how influential the first two Trouble records were for all of us in Confessor and admitting that I had had a couple of dreams in which I had to fill in for their drummer at the last minute, I was a well behaved little fanatic.  He seemed eager to get to the hotel and relax, so I kept the questions to a minimum and respected his desire for a calm ride.  I got the impression that he was not such a fan of traveling, so I kind of felt bad for all of us being in such a small car.  Don't get me wrong!  He was certainly nice enough, and he had a sense of humor.  It's just that he seemed a little anxious to get to a calmer place.  It made me wonder how Tannon was doing in the van.

I worried about Tannon, who still has car anxiety issues after the wreck that put everyone in his immediate family into the hospital a year ago.  The finish on the parking deck surface at the airport caused every maneuver the car made to squeal like we were in a chase scene in a movie.  Even though at times we were only going about four miles an hour the tires wailed enough to give the illusion of a high speed getaway.  The rest of the time we actually were going way faster than I would have thought possible in such tight quarters but hey, it wasn't my insurance that was going to go up.  I had to laugh at one point when our driver had been going the wrong way through the angled parking area for a couple of minutes ( I know because arrows on the road mean the same thing in Spanish as they do in English ) and he cursed at a woman who was trying to get out of his way, even though it was his own fault there was a jam.  It was somehow comforting to hear him call her a "F---ing retard!" as she looked up as if to say "What did I do wrong?!?!"  I knew we were among our own people. There is something so satisfying about watching someone brazenly cuss out another person who did absolutely nothing wrong.  Go big or go home, right?  Bluff or oblivion, this guy was a freaking badass in that tiny car that must have come in a box of cereal!  We would not be taking any prisoners that day!  Jesus, how would Tannon have handled all of that?  There is a funny shot of the other van full of people smiling and happy to be in Barcelona, with Tannon in the midst of all that totally random glee, trying to see what is in front of the car in a very stiff, concerned way.  Everyone else looks like it's the last day of school, but he looks as though the bigger kid who said he'd kick his ass at the end of the year was actually there waiting for him.  I hate it for him, but the photo really is funny. 

We all made it to the hotel in one piece and after working out who would be in which room together Monica, Marcus and I decided to step out and look for some coffee and chocolate goodies which we had read were abundant in Barcelona.  Naturally we got lost, but a churro stand appeared right in front of us as we were beginning to question the wisdom in our plan. The churros were completely covered in chocolate and slightly chilled.  Not exactly what we were hoping for, but none of that mattered once we took our first bite.  They were divine! The bread of the churros became something more like soft filling within their dark chocolate covering.  I think I became something more like soft filling once the whole thing melted in my mouth, too.  Damn!  I wondered if more people knew about this magical "chocolate".  I was able to communicate with the lady running the stand surprisingly well given that I learned Spanish from Mexicans.  I have had an easier time understanding people from South America over the years than my own Mexican pals, so I knew there was a chance I could do well in Spain, but this conversation was nearly effortless.  What a relief!  The woman spoke to us for a few minutes, and was very warm and friendly no doubt because this ginger tourist had put forth the effort to learn Spanish.  I see it in the faces of Hispanics all the time here at home and that little smile, that subtly flirtatious grin, looks exactly the same in Spain.  

So the stage was set... chocolate, music and great friends!  A recipe for an amazing trip, and we were only just beginning.  I'll get into the first day of the festival with the next post.  I just looked up at the clock a minute ago as Monica stumbled her way back into the bedroom.  My sleep schedule is still a little off, but I'm hopeful that a regular work week will take care of that within another day or two.  So until next time, grab another cup of coffee and find some chocolate to go with it.  Put a little Catalonian delight in your own routine.  

Back soon, but first some snapshots of our journey to Spain:

Cary sure seems excited to get on the plane!  Why did he ask if I wanted to join his Mile High Club?  Must have been Monica's sunglasses

Mrs. Shelton and Mrs. Rowells wore sunglasses to hide their shame after Cary and I traded knock-knock jokes with anyone who would listen

Marcus and Chris had heard about our knock-knock jokes and were prepared for maximum embarrassment even though they were on a different flight.  Or is that Ringo Starr and some beautiful bearded lady?

Our descent into JFK

Yay!  We made it!  Chris to Tannon: "Hey man, that guy waiting for you is huge!  Can I have your guitar if he kills you?"

Okay, the next post will begin to get into the festival and all of the wonderful people we met that weekend.  We chowed down with The Skull and Lord Vicar and got to see a little bit of Barcelona before we went full tourist after the gig.  If you are wondering where the rest of Loincloth are in these photos, they didn't show up until the next day.  Things are about to get interesting...

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