A Week of Madness:

A true and accurate account of one man's mission to watch some of the highest quality live music ever witnessed by humankind in the entire history of the world. Or something like that.

Our tale starts on Thursday 8th March 2007, with a young(ish) man, who awakes from his semi-sleeping state in the bar of a pub in Manchester. He is, not, as you may initially surmise, a drunk who has fallen asleep in the bar and been missed at throwing out time, but is, in fact, the landlord, who, having gotten drunk had decided just a couple of hours previously that stairs may offer too much in the way of a challenge!

It's almost 9am, and the cleaner is due in. Once said cleaner arrives, then the landlord, who for the sake of saving having to repeatedly type "the landlord", shall hereafter be known as Damien, has some things he needs to take care of. They are important things, for him anyway, involving the exchange of cash, the purchase of a suitable amount of reading material, and the packing of clothes into a bag.

For today, Damien is going on holiday. Not just any holiday, no sir. Not for this young man a trip somewhere to sit quietly on a beach for a week and work on his tan. Museums are also out of the equation, unless he should find himself in a rainy city somewhere before the pubs open, although this is unlikely on this trip.

The cleaner, the stupid pile of festering, good for nothing, useless, baby punk rat-sick, that he is, has decided that today he is not going to show up for work, which in and of itself is bad enough. That he chose also to not bother sending a message or calling in to tell his boss of his intentions to stay in bed the lazy idle good for nothing waste of flesh and bone has irked said boss somewhat, as it meant an hour was wasted waiting for an arrival that was never, in actual fact, as impending as it should have been!

So the cleaning, which should take two hours to do, now has to be condensed into a mere quarter of that time, and also has to be done by an extremely tired and grumpy young man as well. Once this is done, it is down to the cellar to make sure everything is okay there and that plenty of beer is available, a phone call to the brewery to order some more beer for the coming Monday, and, of course, the till to be organised ready for opening the pub.

By 11am, miracles have been worked, and the pub is open. The serving wench, as ever, is running late, as is the young man, who we shall name Wesley, who has been given the task of attempting to prevent the pub from collapsing into a heap whilst Damien is on holiday.

However, after a short delay, by 12noon the bar wench has finally arrived, and young Wesley has been issued his instructions of what his duties do and do not entail for the next week. And thus, young Damien is free to begin his pre-holiday chores that should have been done a week ago!

A run around the centre of town, and the following things somehow occur in quick succession. A haircut, the exchange of English money into Euro's, a trip to Waterstones to pick up some books, 4 in total is deemed an acceptable number of books for a week away, back to the pub and the packing of a number of t-shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, lots of socks, and of course, underwear. Also included is a phone charger, as this is deemed vital to being able to continue communications throughout the trip.

Without further ado, Damien mounts his trusty bike, and sets off for the hour-long journey to Liverpool Airport, for the first leg of his journey.

Upon arrival at the airport, a rare moment of pre-organisation occurs, as our hero actually checked-in for his flight on-line a couple of days previously. Making his way quickly through security, he heads for the bar where he partakes of his first, second, third and fourth drinks of his holiday. Then he gets on the flight, and soon thereafter is en route to Barcelona.

By 10pm that evening, he is checked into his hostel in Barcelona and ready for a drink or three. Starting point is the hostel bar, which is crowded and offers beer at the choice of 2 Euro's for half a litre or 3 Euro's for a full litre. This is not a difficult decision to make, and by the time the bar closes at 2.30am a total of 7 litres has been consumed. Warm-up completed, our glorious traveller wanders out on to the town for a few beers!

By 6am he is feeling that it may be time to go and get some rest, so he wanders back to his hostel, finally making it to bed at 6.30am. Then, at 9am, it is time to get up, as he has a big day ahead of him.

The first task is to find Barcelona's main train station, which with the aid of a map should be quite easy. Our intrepid explorer, however, scoffs in the face of maps, and decides to try to find the station without any help from anyone or anything.

Walking out of the hostel he finds a metro station, and applying logic deduces that there is a strong possibility that somewhere on the metro system will be a stop at the train station. So he heads down into the depths of darkness that are commonplace amongst such systems, and finds he has managed to navigate his way straight to the correct station for a direct train to the station. Even more wonderfully, a train approaches almost immediately, and we are on target to arrive at the station within the next 15 minutes.

And then, disaster strikes. Well, not really, but certainly an inconvenience occurs that could be disastrous to many people. After just 2 stations, the train pulls into another metro stop, and an announcement is made that appears to indicate the service is terminating many stops short of the intended target.

Rising back up to street level, in a part of a city he has never been to before, with a target destination he doesn't know the location of, would prompt lesser men to scream the traditional call for help of strangers in a strange town of "TAXI", but not this young man. No, he has faith in his ability to navigate even the most un-navigable of difficult to find your way around places, and, picking a direction seemingly at random, off he sets in search of the station.

Almost before you know it, or so it may appear to a random person watching, but in fact after approximately 20 minutes, our intrepid traveller walks up towards the main train station, his objective achieved with the minimum of fuss. He has not, for the record, asked anyone for directions at any point, or, in fact, changed direction. He has not succumbed to the lazy option of a taxi, but has in actuality managed to walk straight to his objective, regardless of the fact he had no idea of where said objective was.

Again, the remarkable pre-organisation thing takes place, and within just a few moments he has collected his pre-ordered train ticket, and at 12noon he leaves the station on a train heading for Valencia. As the train pulls out of the station, the second book of the four purchased for the journey is started, as somehow he has already found time to read one of the books in the preceding 24 hours.

Arriving in Valencia at 3.30pm, our supreme navigator heads out of the station and takes a right turn. Within just 10 minutes, he is at the hostel that was pre-booked on-line, which is again impressive due to the lack of directions he has and the fact that once more there is no map used. Rumours that at some point in the past a satellite navigation chip was imprinted in his brain are as yet unsubstantiated, although would not be entirely surprising should they be proven to be true!

Having checked into the hostel, another attempt at blind navigation is undertaken, and by 5pm he has arrived at the venue of the gig he has come all this way to see. This is remarkable for a number of reasons;

He doesn't know the name of the venue

He has no idea where the venue may be located in relation to his hostel

He has not looked at a map, asked for directions, or anything else related to assisting in navigation.

He has crossed a river, and headed straight for where he wants to go, with no prior knowledge whatsoever of where he is going.

He has never before been to Valencia before in his life, and is currently 2 out of 2 for successfully finding places without directions….

He had made a promise to be in the bar nearest the venue at 5pm, and arrives there at 4.58 and 49 seconds precisely!

Grabbing a bite to eat and a beer, he sits down and waits for other people to start arriving, knowing he is ridiculously early, but strangely proud of his ability to find strange places without any assistance, or in fact, addresses!

By 7pm on Friday March 9th, Damien has been sat there for a couple of hours, and still no-one else has shown up. Then he notices a group of 5 people, vaguely Italian looking, sat outside the bar, and goes out to investigate. Sure enough, it is the group he was expecting to find, Enrico and his friends, and after introductions are made the group, now consisting of 6 people, sit there happily passing the time with alcohol.

Next to arrive is a girl called Christina, who Damien met a year earlier in Barcelona. Pleasantries are exchanged, and the bar owner, who has managed to get the correct drinks for an Englishman and several Italians thus far, misunderstands the Spaniard and brings her a drink other than the one she ordered!

Again, the group settle into general conversation and discuss how much they are looking forwards to watching the band they are all here for. Then another couple of people approach the table. These two are from England, more accurately, Manchester, and recognise Damien as being the landlord of the pub he runs, although to be honest he has no recollection of ever having met them before!

The next three people to arrive are also English, and at least this time Damien vaguely recognises one of them from a gig in Buckingham, which is nowhere near Manchester, a few years ago. This trio all recognise Damien though, and were apparently in his pub back in April last year after travelling to Manchester to see the band everyone is now gathered here in Valencia to see.

Throughout all this, Damien is communicating via text and phone calls with a couple called Paul and Amanda, who were apparently about 5 minutes away a couple of hours ago, yet have been having problems with their sat-nav in the car and keep getting lost! Ironic considering how Damien himself seems capable of finding his way around without any effort whatsoever!

The doors to the venue open and everyone goes inside. Knowing that Amanda, should she ever actually arrive, will be in a wheelchair, Damien gets a stool and reserves a spot for her at the side of the stage, and, getting a couple of beers from the bar, settles in to wait for her.

The support band come on, and very good they are too. Then, towards the end of their set, a message from Amanda. She is outside with Paul, and Damien, being the fine, upstanding gentleman he is, goes outside to meet them. Brief introductions are made outside, and in the three of them come, with Damien taking Amanda straight to where he's reserved a spot for her.

Of course, Amanda being a female member of the species, she is not happy with the spot reserved for her, and wants to be in the front of the stage just left of centre. Damien gets her to agree to wait until after the support act finish, and then promises to get her exactly where she wants to be, rather than go pushing through people whilst there is someone playing on stage.

A few minutes later, the support act finish, and Damien fulfils his promise and pushes Amanda through the crowd and straight to the front, just left of centre as per her request. She starts to set herself up to film the gig, and take photographs, and Damien goes to ask Paul if he wants any help with the filming.

Paul and Amanda have been kind enough to offer to drive Damien around Spain for the next couple of days, so he figures the least he can do is offer to help out in any way he can. Paul pronounces himself in no need of assistance though, so Damien reverts to his default mode and goes to find a decent spot near a bar where he has a good view of the stage!

A little before midnight and it's time for the main event, for the band that have brought people quite literally from all over Europe to this little bar in a quiet suburb of Valencia…

Marah….

Possibly the greatest rock and roll band plying their trade in the world at the moment, although they have never received the recognition their hard-core supporters believe they deserve.

Bursting on stage and straight into the opening number, they barely pause for breath in a rip-roaring 16-song set, followed by a 4-song encore. Throughout this whole set the whole bar is going mad, singing, dancing, jumping up and down, screaming for more. The beauty of this band is that they are so good they can play for 3 hours and still leave you screaming for more, and tonight they are on top form from start to finish.

There is a mention made at some point about magic boxes, which pretty much goes over most peoples heads, and probably the two highlights of the set are 'Dishwashers Dream' where Serge goes walking through the crowd with his harmonica, and also the opening song of the encore, 'The Apartment', with just Serge and Christine Smith, a new addition to the band, on stage throughout.

As ever with a Marah show though, it is, alas, over far too soon, and then it's down to the serious business of alcohol abuse, as there is clearly nothing else to do! Our glorious gentleman hero goes to check to make sure Amanda is okay, and also offer any assistance to her and Paul they may need.

For the most part though, it's just hang around the two bars and dispose of beers with as much gusto as possible. Alec Pappas comes to say hello to Damien, and comments on his shirt, which tonight bears the slogan "I like you. I'll kill you last." This is to become an enduring part of the next few days…..

At around about 4am Damien realises two things, pretty much simultaneously.

He's more than a little bit intoxicated.

He can't seem to find his phone anywhere.

Enquiries are made at the bar, but it hasn't been handed in. A walk around the place shows no sign of it, but this is not exactly surprising, as it's a small, black phone and a big dark club. Bemoaning the loss of the numbers in his phone more than the actual handset, Damien decides the only thing to do is have another drink.

Another thing that will become an enduring tradition on this trip is bar staff keep giving young Damien free beer, something that he is not overly against on principle.

By 5am he knows the sensible thing to do though is head back to his hostel, so he has another beer whilst trying to work out if he actually has a chance of finding the way back there. Remarkably, by 6am he's in his bed in the hostel, having finally both dragged himself away from the bar and managed to find his way back!

At 8am on Saturday March 10th, an alarm clock wakens our travelling hero, which is strange, as he didn't actually set one due to losing his phone in the club a few hours earlier.

Not to be deterred by such things, however, he jumps out of bed, grabs all his things, and leaves the hostel, heading back for the club where the band had played the night before. He has two reasons for heading back there. Obviously his phone is one of them, and the other is some vague recollection of agreeing to meet Paul and Amanda there at 1pm for the trip to Zaragoza.

On the way to the club, Damien notices something very strange about Valencia. It is IMPOSSIBLE to buy a bottle of cold water in any store! This is something that perturbs him greatly, as he needs water, and cold water, as it is a vital part of his personal daily program.

Our young friend Damien is often mistaken for being an alcoholic. In actuality, he is no such thing and not even close to becoming one. What he is, really, is a professional drunk. Allow me to explain….

After many, many years of extreme alcohol abuse, Damien has worked out a way to consume enough alcohol to kill an elephant on a pretty much daily basis, to never actually get more than a couple of hours sleep, and yet to be able to function in an extremely efficient manner at all times regardless. This involves water, preferably bottled water, and definitely cold water, and lots of it.

The body is a temple, as some people have said in the past, and like all temples it regards care and attention if it is not going to fall into disrepair. Thus, knowing that alcohol tends to cause dehydration in an individual, and that it is this dehydration that induces illness such as hangovers and so on, the trick is to make sure your body is always hydrated.

Damien has a system for this, whereby he drinks 6 litres of water EVERY DAY, prior to actually consuming any alcohol. The trick is to actually have a consistent level, as too much water can actually be bad for you as well, as evidenced by someone entering some radio competition in America a few months ago to see how much water someone could consume without having to go to the toilet actually collapsing and dying!

So, never drink too much, and find the right amount for you personally. This water will then counteract the alcohol in two ways, both stopping you getting dehydrated and also limiting just how drunk you actually become!

This, of course, sounds like complete and utter rubbish, and would, no doubt, be lampooned by esteemed doctors and the like as nothing more than clap-trap and perhaps even bunkum!

Nevertheless, anyone who has ever been drinking with the alcohol dispersal machine known in this tale as Damien will feel themselves vouching for his ability to seem almost immune to the said liquid!

So, anyway, back to the search for water, which we have now established is integral to the health and safety of our esteemed beer monster. After going into 17 stores, 9 supermarkets, and even, in desperation, a shop that clearly sold nothing more than fruit and vegetables, the search for cold bottled water was abandoned. This was not good….

Meanwhile, at 10am he arrived back at the club and pounded on the door in the vain hope that there may be someone in there, that they may actually understand English, and to hell with it, let's go for the hat-trick, that they may have also found his phone and return it to him!

Low and behold, the miracles of Valencia took place, and a few moments later the phone was in its rightful place, back in it's masters pocket! Rumours that the telephone received any kind of verbal admonishment for daring to get lost are nothing more than an effort to discredit the sanity and wisdom of said mobile telephone owner….