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A Tale of Two Festivals – Part Three: Cazorla Blues Festival continued….

CIMG4840“..It fell down…so I built another!”

The festival not yet upon us, we continued to explore the town of Cazorla and surrounding areas, discovering the amazing story of the ‘open air’ church that would form the back drop for one of the blues stages. The history of the creation of this building reads like a Monty Python sketch, the architect designing and building it adjacent to the mountain, and on top of a river. The mountain promptly collapsed upon it, the church in turn collapsed into the river, then the rains came, the river had nowhere to go because of the rocks and church debris blocking its course, so it promptly rose up and washed everything about twenty kilometers away. This sort of thing happened often. Personally I think God was trying to tell them something, but well, the Catholics were clearly a stubborn bunch. It stands today as I believe, the only church with a river actually running underneath it!

CIMG3515The River even God couldn’t stop…

It was fascinating to walk beneath the town square and the church, and wonder at the sheer bloody-mindedness that religious zealotry can provoke. There was supposed to be a statue of the virgin Mary in the alcove on the outer wall, but she didn’t make it. Probably too busy manifesting herself at the chapel high up on the ridge in order to put another collection-gathering scheme in operation. Pity, as I would have loved to see her presiding over the blues gig wearing a set of ray-bans and cradling a resonator guitar….

CIMG4685Finally make it to the outskirts of La Iruela-but a long way to go yet!

We finally made it to the Chapel high on the ridge via a punishing and circuitous route that also took in La Iruela and the amazing Castle there. Yes, they’ve got castles and watchtowers coming out of their ears round here, it’s almost reminiscent of that beacon-lighting scene in Lord of the Rings.

CIMG3380The Magnificent Castle at La Iruela

After finding the Castle, we trekked ever higher, and began to double back along the high ridge towards the chapel that we had seen from Cazorla. It turned out, like so many places around here, to have a) a wonderful supply of natural springwater and b) an unlikely legend. call me a cynic, but I’m constantly amazed at the amount of places that magically seem to be the site of some kind of ‘vision’, which then gives rise to some celebration, money, etc, etc…SO lucky, don’t you think?  Judging by the amount of places I’ve visited where Mary’s supposed have rocked up, she was certainly a busy woman, probably on a European tour. Apparently, in this instance, a bolt of lighting struck a rock, cracked it in two, and a shepherd fell down and whacked his head on it. When he came to, the Virgin was looking down on him…mmm…that’s not a miracle mate, that’s concussion.

CIMG3415View from the Chapel on the ridge.

Anyway, we made our way downhill, unconverted, in readiness for the following day, when Walking Stick Man would be the first act to take the stage at one in the afternoon. Unless we had a visit from the Virgin Mary of course.

CIMG4965Watching Walking Stick Man

CIMG4940Chilling in the Old Square

there was a fabulous atmosphere in the square that first afternoon as the sun beat down, the beer and tinto flowed, and everybody immersed themselves in the acts performing. Later that evening, the action transferred to two other stages, including the old bullring where Brazilian blues harp player and singer Flavio Guimaeres and his band with an English Guitarist really impressed.

CIMG4853Plaza del Toros

The old bull rings of Spain make superb concert venues, turning ‘Death in the Afternoon’ into ‘Music in the Evening’, and cultural differences aside, it’s a fair exchange.

CIMG3546The People gather…..

The shows are relentless at these Spanish festivals, particularly this one, acts begin on the first of three stages at on in the afternoon, and wind up finishing in the Bull Ring around five in the morning! The first day was amazing, and there was so much more to see….but that’s in Part 4!

Kev Moore

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July 21, 2013 Posted by | blues, Music, Recording, Thoughts, Writing | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Tale of Two Festivals – Part Two: The Cazorla Blues Festival

bluescazfestI’d only been home from Italy for a day when me and my partner Miki set off on our Motorhome, The Boomobile, inland towards the Spanish town of Cazorla. This beautiful place has hosted a Blues festival now for nigh on twenty years, and it’s somewhere we’ve been meaning to visit for a while, but my own gigs have often clashed, so this was the first opportunity we’d had.

CIMG4486Next to the Cafe by the Dam on the first day-Great Ice-Cream!

We broke the four hour journey by overnighting by an embalse, or dam, built in the 80’s, resulting in a beautiful vivid green lake in the middle of a hot dry wilderness. A cafe by the shore was a welcome sight, serving ice-cream and beer to die for, and we undertook a huge walk around the dam and surrounding landscapes to assuage our guilt at pigging out!

CIMG4505On top of the Dam.Our walk took us down and across the bridge you see in the background.

The following day we hit the road again, making a stop in a village called Tiscar, which means ‘Mountain Pass’ in the Berber language,  a reminder, like so many in Andalucia, of the Arabic influence of the past.  The winding road, before disappearing into a tunnel in the rock face, passes the Sanctuario de Tiscar, an old monastery, and opposite was a large parking area where we pulled over.

CIMG3221Las Cuevas de Aguas

A steep path and stairway cut through the rock led down to the Cueva de Aguas, an unbelievably beautiful place, where a thirty foot waterfall thundered through the natural caverns into an oasis below. It reminded me of my time on the island of Dominica in the rainforest there. To get to the falls, one had to bend almost double and pass through a fifty foot tunnel to reach it, making it all the more enchanting for that.

CIMG4569Tight Fit: Negotiating the tunnel to the waterfall.

Not content with the punishing journey to and from the caves, we noticed an imposing stone watchtower atop the rocky cliffs that loomed over the Sanctuario. It had been the last Arabian refuge in the area until the Christians took it form the Muslims in the 14th Century. As we climbed the cliffs a little, I noticed, seemingly clinging to the sheer rockface hundreds of feet above, a metal grille staircase disappearing up into the distance. Further exploration revealed an entrance, unmanned, over grown, but passable, that led us to the base of this amazing metal construction.

CIMG3287Stairway to Heaven – The Sanctuario in the distance.

Without a thought, we made our way upwards, on and on, higher and higher until we were within the foundations of the ruined tower itself, with no safety net, but, oh, what a VIEW! Stunning scenery stretching for miles, the rooftop of the monastery far below, the motorhome a speck in the distance. A tough climb, especially on the see-through grill of the staircase, but worth the effort.

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The Watchtower at Tiscar

CIMG4622In Cazorla-La Yedra Castle in the background.

We eventually arrived in Cazorla a full three days before the festival was due to start quite deliberately, as we wanted to explore it as fully as possible before everybody descended on the town later in the week. It turned out to be a great idea, because Cazorla had so much to see and do, and the surrounding countryside was magnificent for exploring and long (and punishing!) walks.

CIMG4773A brief rest before exploring the Castle!

The castle of La Yedra watching over the town was a great visit, and a legend connected with it told to us by the guide has given me a new Witch Cross song, so you’ll have to wait until our third album to hear what it is!

We parked up on the big open space where the Market is usually held at the bottom of the town, and one could follow the river up to the old Plaza through a beautiful riverside walk, the myriad waterfalls and overhanging trees providing a welcome respite from the unrelenting Spanish sun. However, pretty much everywhere we walked was uphill!

CIMG3443Riverside walk through Cazorla town

We had a couple of days before the music started, so we planned a couple of hikes….more about them in Part Three!

Kev Moore

July 20, 2013 Posted by | blues, Music, Thoughts, Touring, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Off Topic: A Road Trip to Aguilas

CIMG4418

It’s only about an hour up the road, but I’d never been before, so we decided to take the Boomobile, our art & music studio on wheels, up there for the weekend, free of the internet and well, everything really. It proved to be a great idea. Parked by the bustling harbour, we spent the time exploring this lovely seaside town and its many treasures, on foot, and by boat. Treasures such as ….the immense and expensively-restored Castillo de San Juan de Aguilas, perched atop a vertiginous cliff rising out of the sea, not for the Cardio-impaired! (They’ve built an impressive glass-walled lift shaft for the last killer 300 meters, but sadly seem to run out of money before they could purchase the lift to go in it!)

kevsword

….the dual windmills that sit on opposite hills rising out of the town, as if waiting for some modern Don Quixote to come tilt at them. One is restored to former glory, sails and all, the other still a little worse for wear, and recipient of the some of the relentless graffiti that blights the town.

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I have a problem considering all graffiti as art. Some yes, but to blanket all of it with this moniker is to bestow on it a worth that frankly 90 % of it does not merit. Some uneducated git spray-painting that his bird who dumped him is a puta is not art, it’s ugly, and moreover criminal damage.  The harbour wall that faces the sea however has some marvellous graffitied (is that a word?) murals on it, but there’s no fun in it when you’re actually  allowed to do it, is there? Mm…..

kevgraf

…..The Don Pancho boat trip, what a wonderful way to spend 7 euros!  The whole experience was pure entertainment, and I’ll tell you why. Firstly, the lady in the kiosk whom Miki bought the tickets off was extremely friendly, secondly, as we sat in the pointy end waiting for others to embark, we were witness to some great cabaret:  one guy let slip a ten euro note which the girl taking the money failed to retain, and it fluttered into the drink, causing the Captain to (impressively quickly) assemble a long handled net and go fishing for money, successfully too. I managed to restrain myself from asking if we’d be fishing for 50 euro notes once we were in deeper waters.  It didn’t end there though, one would-be passenger alighted on the deck minus one flip-flop, which ‘flip-plopped’ into the water also! True to the saying that the sea gives up its dead, the soggy footwear was rescued, this time by judicious and speedy use of a boat hook by another crew member.  I turned to Miki and said “If we’re having this much fun before we cast off, it’s gonna be worth the money!”

kevboat

The whole crew were great, and clearly loved their job, or at least gave a superb impression of doing so. Smiles all round, and the guy tasked with the commentary on our jaunt up the wilder coastline to the north of Aguilas was passionate about his subject.  When the sleek dorsal fin of a dolphin broke the surface off our port bow, he was about as ecstatic as we were.  I can only say it was mesmerizing. Time after time it buzzed our vessel, playing with the wake, darting off, leaping out of the water to our cries of childish delight. Witnessing a dolphin in the wild makes one regress. It reduces life to a microcosm of simplicity, to something almost Utopian. It speaks to the very depth of your being, of freedom, innocence and sheer, unadulterated joy. I’ve swum with dolphins in Venezuela, but they were in captivity, more’s the pity. This is were they belong, and seeing one exuberant, dancing on the waves where it’s supposed to be, is a privilege, and something I’ll never forget.

dolphin2

The great thing about disappearing for a few days in the Motorhome is, you can choose what your backyard looks like on a daily basis if you fancy. We were perfectly happy to stay put for most of the time at the foot of the castle.

boomobile

After exploring the town in the mornings, I’d often just sit by the boats and read…tranquility doesn’t begin to describe it. Actually it really doesn’t because the seagulls sounded like a bunch of women at the January sales, but, it was relaxing, honest!

kevharb

We took the Boomobile out into the mountains North of Aguilas too, for the hell of it, got lost, ended up on a road that…well, ran out of road, in a place called Cuesta de Gos. When I say ‘place’ it’s intentional, it wasn’t big enough to warrant being called a village. The tarmac ran out, and there was a church.  Not fancying taking 3.5 tons of Motorhome on a gravel track to who knows where, I turned it round, and purely by chance spied a quite wonderful statue under an almond tree. Remember – we were totally in the middle of nowhere. We discovered it was a statue to, and the initial resting place of, the Internationally known Spanish actor and director Paco Rabal, who had a huge career in Spanish film and received numerous awards. Miki thinks she may have actually seen him attend the Alfas del Pi film festival many years ago, and indeed he was part of her consciousness throughout her whole life in Spain. He’d died in 2001, and this memorial had been erected 10 years after his death.  He had been born here, in this quiet, beautiful and unassuming valley. On our travels, we often stumble upon wonderful little moments like this, and that’s part of the beauty of it.

paco

I’m going to close this post with Paco Rabal’s own words, translated from the Spanish, and which are inscribed by his feet on the statue.

“…..I have it well thought out, my friends,
one day I will sit, face to the wind,
here by the sea I saw as a child
and here in this Sun, under this sky
and hearing your footsteps by my side
let me sleep a long dream….”
They say travel broadens the mind, but I would respectfully add, it does a helluva lot more than that.

June 17, 2013 Posted by | Thoughts, Touring, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ciao from Italia!

Coffee stop en route through France

The more ardent moore:music followers amongst you will perhaps have noticed the dearth of articles on here of late.

This is because we’re off exploring Italy in The Boomobile, our home from home on wheels. Having followed the coast from the French-Italian border, seeing the amazing Cinque-Terre, Portofino, Santa Maregherita and Pisa, we have turned inwards today, about 20 k south of the port of Livorno, and come to rest in the Medieval Tuscan town of Volterra, a wonderful collection of churches and buildings within walled defences, and views across the Tuscan countryside to die for.  The trip has been a strangely reminiscent one thus far, as we ‘ve called at many places along the French and Italian coasts that I visited when I was touring my solo show on Ocean Village. I even got to fly from Genoa again, as I nipped to the UK to fulfill a BC Sweet gig commitment!

Have bikes, will travel...now, where's the padlock key?

At one point, I was flying into Pisa every fortnight, via Munich, and across the Dolomites, to rendezvous with the ship, and often saw the leaning tower on our approach, but this was the first opportunity I’d had to get up close. It’s open to the public again now, but at 15 euros a go, I find the prices even steeper than the staircase, and went with the ‘Karl Pilkington’ philosophy: it’s better looking from the outside in, than the other way around.

Shock discovery: Jeff's song is Italian!

We’ll probably hang here for a day or so, then explore a number of other Tuscan towns. Stay tuned for more updates!

Kev Moore

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Music, Thoughts, Touring, Writing | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment