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Michelle's Tour Diary - Summer 2007

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Saturday Night, June 30 - Luxembourg

I only have 15 minutes and I'm using a hideous French keyboard but here's a fast report.

Salsa Mayor's first concert in Europe was a complete success. The venue was good with good audio. the audience knew all of the songs and danced and sang from beginning to end. The band spent about 2 weeks rehearsing before they left for Europe and it paid off. they are tighter than ever and have spiced up the show since I saw them in Cuba. They have done a new arrangement of Cimarrón sung by Ricardito and they included the new songs La maza, Ella dice and Anda pégate.

They did 2 sets of a total show of about 2 hours 15 minutes. They did an encore of La Maza and then went to eat dinner at about 12:15 but were called back for yet another encore before they were finally able to eat dinner at 12:30.

The great thing with the Salsa Mayor concert is that they are having so much fun and they really interact with the audience. The show is both well rehearsed yet full of spontaneity. At one point probably 10 women came up on stage and Maikel left the piano to take charge of things himself. He also gave bouquet of flowers to someone who was celebrating a birthday.

And now on to Paris where we expect an even bigger audience. The band had a great time last night and they are excited to see Paris tonight.

Sunday Morning, July 1 - Paris

We're just about to leave for the sound check at Back-up in Paris. Maikel went to do an interview. We will have to do the tourist thing tomorrow morning before leaving for Zurich.

Tuesday, July 3 - Zurich, Switzerland

I haven't had internet access until now but I've been going crazy to give the Paris report. The concert was held at Back-up which is very nice. the stage was smaller than in Luxembourg and there is a strange metal pole sticking up off to one side. So during the soundcheck. Pepe, Ricardito and Noro tried their hand at pole dancing. Unfortunately I didn't have my video camera on at the time ladies.

I have never seen anything like the Paris concert! The fans were incredible! The place was packed and very hot. When the band was announced and entered the venue to go backstage the crowd was already screaming and this was just a foreshadowing of what was to come. I swear it was like the old videos you see of the way fans reacted to the Beatles. They knew all the songs, except maybe Ella dice and Anda pégate. They sang and danced, despeloteando furiously throughout the show. The energy was incredible.

Of course the band fed off this energy and put on a great show. And when Maykel played the first notes to Recoge y vete the reaction was fuera de liga. The people screamed and reached out to Maykel...Honestly you aren't going to believe it until I post the video. It was something I've never seen before.

Of course the people were screaming for an encore and started chanting Cimarrón, Cimarrón, so the band obliged by performing Cimarrón, which is sung by Ricardito. Afterwards the band signed CDs and took pictures with fans. It was great to see how happy the fans were. I think Europe has definitely been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Salsa Mayor.

The next day some of the guys went to the Eiffel tower and others went shopping. We left Paris at about 3PM for a VERY long trip to Zurich. Maykel took over my video camera and started filming some behind the scenes stuff. We arrived at about 2:30 am and with the whole check-in procedure it was "Las tres de la mañunga" before we got to bed last night.

Today the guys are running loose in Zurich and tomorrow is the concert at Cubanito. It will be interesting to compare the concert with the 2 thus far. People say that the concerts in Zurich are more reserved, but I think with the excitement that the fans feel about seeing Maykel Blanco y Salsa Mayor for the first time that we can expect something similar to what we've seen so far.

Maybe I'll hold a contest for the best audience. The winning audience gets nothing except the admiration of timberos around the world. So far Paris has the lead.

Wednesday, July 4 - Zurich, Switzerland

The concert in Zurich was held on July 4 at Cubanito. It was cold and rainy as only a summer in Northern Europe can be. Earlier in the day the guys all went sightseeing and shopping in the rain and Maykel and the singers all got lost and got back to the hotel an hour after the time we were supposed to meet to go to the sound check. Fortunately we were only actually about 30 minutes late.

They spent 2 hours working on the sound and also used the sound check as an opportunity to work on some aspects of some new songs. I did manage to film some of that so I'll upload it when I get back to Stockholm. They also are putting together an arrangement of a traditional Cuban song for venues that might not be up on current events in Cuban music.

After the sound check we went straight to dinner and then they only got 30 minutes to get showered and dressed for the show. Despite the fact that it looks like they spend hours fixing their various tuffts of blond hair, they all made it on time.

Cubanito is a very nice club with a big round bar in the center and some nice antique furniture set around the dance floor. There weren't as many people in the audience as at the previous two concerts, but we weren't expecting there to be since Switzerland is pretty heavily into New York style salsa. But there were still a number of casino dancers and Cubanos as well. Also 3 of the fans who went to the Luxembourg concert took the trip to Zurich as well. They are some hardcore timba fans from the Fiestacubana.net gang.

The concert went well. They opened with Esto está and later in the night they got a request to play it again so they performed that song once more. They also did Quitándome lo malo, Recoge y vete, Años, Brujería, Ella dice, Cimarrón and the encore was Anda pégate.

Although the audience wasn't as large as at the other concerts, there was a lot of dancing going on. The Cubanos at the front of the audience would start some steps and lots of the audience would follow along. Everyone had a good time. Someone asked me if the band was disappointed that the audience was smaller than the other 2 concerts, but really you could see that they were enjoying themselves because the audience was having fun. I think that's really the central aspect of the Salsa Mayor shows: they really just want to make the people dance and have a good time. That is their mission and they are really good at it.

Anyway, once again we got back to the hotel at about las tres de la mañunga and had until 13:00 the next day to rest up for the trip to Rome...

Friday, July 6, 2007 - Rome, Italy

We left Zurich at 15:00 on the afternoon of July 5th. The departure was not without incident. Somehow the bus battery had been completely decharged so the guys all piled out of the bus to push it so the driver could jump start it. I really tried to get that on film but was caught unprepared. They were all laughing that this stuff happens outside Cuba too.

So off we went in the guagua. The plan was to go first to Milan where we would switch tour managers, Giovanni being called away to work with la Charanga and Valerio taking over with Salsa Mayor. It took us probably 6 hours to reach the airport in Milan where we picked up Valerio and Sara. then they took us to eat at Casa de la Música in Milan. The guys were really happy with the Cuban food again and also the ambiance was great.

There was a live band, a trio called Los Amigos Cubanos, who put on a nice show. Later some of the Salsa Mayor musicians joined in on congas, guiro and maracas, as well as singing. After the break Maykel had his singers come up 1 at a time. Norberto sang the slow intro to Ella dice as well as Años later on, Noro sang Recoge y vete and Ricardito sang Un montón de estrellas.

The cubanas at the restaurant were up dancing despelote and tembleque and some of the guys from Salsa Mayor joined in to dance casino. I was surprised how many of Los Mayores are very good casino dancers. A great time was had by all and at about 01:00 on July 6 we left Casa de la Música to continue the trip to Rome.

For the first hour or so the guys spent most of their time hassling each other and listening to music, but after a while everyone was just doing their best to try to get some sleep. It was not easy and the couple of times we stopped, everyone was stumbling around in the gas stations looking like zombies and trying to get a cup of cappuccino.

One dangerous aspect of falling asleep in the guagua with Salsa Mayor is that you might wake up with a piece of a napkin rolled up like a cigarette and stuck in your mouth. They kept doing that to all the guys who fell asleep and had their mouth open.

We finally arrived at the hotel, a very nice one by the way, a little bit outside Rome at around 11:00. People went off to their rooms for a shower but didn't sleep. As usual they were more interested in checking out local shopping possibilities than getting any rest.

Tomorrow they leave for Lecce and the day after that is Turin. I haven't decided what I'm going to do because I can't find any cheap way to get back from Turin. So I may leave them tomorrow...or maybe I'll just spend more money I don't have so I can catch these 2 concerts as well. I hate to miss anything...

Saturday, July 7, 2007 - Lecce, Italy

As you probably guessed I opted to spend money I don't have so I could catch 2 more concerts with the band. I'm on my way back to Stockholm now so tomorrow I will start uploading pictures and video, but here's a short report on the concert at Lecce.

There was some small confusion about the time we were supposed to leave for Lecce which resulted in a 07:30 phone call to my room saying "We're loading the bus now". Fortunately I showered the night before but I was forced to spend a bad hair day in the bus. Well that's what pony tails are for.

The trip was calculated to take 9 hours and at about 14:20 things looked good. We were close to Lecce and expected to arrive at 15:00. Somehow a wrong turn was taken and we spent another 2.5 hours driving around the Italian countryside.

Finally we arrived and it was a great venue. It was like a big tiled outdoor patio with a swimming pool and a stage and dance floor under a roof. Another 2 hour sound check and we all went to get showered and eat dinner. I actually skipped dinner to have more time to resolve my hair issue.

The venue was full when the band arrived and the concert went very well. It was the first concert in Italy for Salsa Mayor and the fans really showed their appreciation. There was much dancing and singing along but the best part for Salsa mayor must have been just before the end of the concert when Geppo from Salsalento came on stage to present Salsa mayor with an award for the best CD 2006/2007. It was a surprise for the band and it really caught Maykel unprepared. Of course they were thrilled about it.

After the concert there was quite a queue of people who wanted to take pictures with Los Mayores. But at 03:00 we had to load up in the bus again for an all-night trip to Turin.

Sunday, July 8, 2007 - Turin, Italy

The all-night trip to Turin was a tough one. The excitement about the award wore off after an hour or so and the rest of the time was spent trying to find a comfortable way to sleep. it took us 14 hours to reach the hotel where we had 30 minutes before leaving for the sound check.

The Turin concert was also outdoors and had a nice big tent covering the wooden dance floor. Another long sound check where the guys got to eat some sandwiches and have a drink and we then had 1 hour to get ready at the hotel. There were some excellent Cuban dancers at the concert but the Italianas were very impressive. They moved just like cubanas with their depelote, tembleque and afro-cuban moves. There was a little contest with a Cubana/Italiano versus an Italiana/Cubano. In the end it was a draw so Maykel awarded both ladies a copy of the upcoming Live CD.

An old Cuban man dressed all in white also went onstage to dance. El puro spent the rest of the night dancing with the ladies at the concert..

The concert was not without incident. Twice Maykel's piano cut out and the technicians had to get it running again. But the singers improvised some coros and it all went well.

After the encore the band went to eat and were served a very nice Cuban meal and left for the hotel at, yes you guessed it, Las tres de la mañunga, again.

Now I'm in the airport getting ready to go to Stockholm and the band leaves tonight at midnight to head to Rome where they will perform at Fiesta tomorrow and from there they go to Latina for a concert on Wednesday.

It's about time for me to board the plan so I will sign off here and be back tomorrow with pictures and video.

Saturday, July 14, 2007 - Pamiers, France

I missed the concert at Fiesta in Rome and at Latina but I was told that the Rome concert went well. The guys were impressed with the festival. Some of the Trabuqueros showed up to see the Salsa Mayor show.

In Latina I heard the show was good but they had electrical problems. What!?! El apagón here in Europe!

I met up with the band again in Pamiers, which is a town close to Toulouse. It took me a good 19 hours to get there because I went by way of Nice and then a long train ride. I arrived at the hotel at about 11:00 PM and took a quick look around the town, where the festival was still in full swing. It had a very impressive stage that rivals that of Fiesta in Rome. the atmosphere was nice with a surprising number of families with children in attendance.

The band arrived the next morning at about 11:00 AM after a 17 hour bus trip. They were tired but no one wanted to sleep, just take a shower and then look around the city. The problem was that
1) lots of stores were closed because it was Saturday*

2) the ones that were open were closed for siesta right about the time that the guys got done showering. So there really wasn't much to do. Not even the restaurants were open after 2 PM.

*NOTE: I stand corrected. I have since been told that the stores were closed because it was Bastille Day. My Bad. So now we know that France isn't closed on Saturdays.

The sound check went fine and during this time the band discovered that one of Adalberto's ex-singers, Donaldo Flores, was performing the same night with a French/Colombian group called Salsa Illegal. They had a nice reunion.

The concert was another success. The stage and sound were great and so was the audience, which was quite large. There was a group that had made a trip from Paris to see the concert as well as a group from Marseille. During Años Donaldo came out and did some improvisation with the band. His coro was "¿Más viejo de qué? si ahora estoy más chevere". It sounded great.

Again the French timba fans were singing and dancing all night and demanding encores. After the show quite a few people came backstage to get photos with band members and to get autographs on their CDs. I was very pleased to get a gift from FiestaCubana.net of a tank top with the FiestaCubana logo on the front and a Cuban flag plus the text Timbera Mayor on the back. Coooool!

Sunday, July 15, 2007 - Ghent, Belgium - Polé Polé Festival

We left Pamiers after the concert at 4:00 AM. Fortunately in Rome they changed from the guagüita to a real guagua which gave everyone a little more leg room and a better chance at sleeping. We arrived in Ghent at about 5:30 PM and had about 1 hour to shower and get changed for the line check. At Polé Polé they don't have time for sound checks but the sound men are so accustomed to this work and so professional that it is rarely a problem, although at one point the bass got disconnected for a minute.

For most of the guys this was their first time in Ghent and they were duly impressed by the stage and the ambiance of the festival. Really it is one of the most beautiful settings for a concert with the stage built over a canal in the center of town, and the boats passing under the stage during the show. The audience is seated (or dancing) along the banks of the river. At night the old churches and buildings are illuminated and the whole city center is filled with people selling all kinds of miscellaneous junk. It's great!

To my extreme distress I had run out of mini-DV tapes and the stores in Belgium are all closed on Sundays. I spent probably an hour looking for a store that could sell me a tape but in the end I have up and got back to the stage just in time for the concert. I had to satisfy myself with taking a few pictures and filming with Pepé's (the bassist's) video camera.

There were a good number of casineros in attendance, most of who were concentrated on the left bank of the river dancing casino and rueda. there were a few Cubans but most of the audience was Belgian, and during Recoge y vete, Noro tried to ask the audience how to say "Eh, se acabó?" in Flemish, but in the end he gave up and the audience learned to say it in Spanish instead.

After the show and dinner some of the guys went to a salsa club and others hung out at the festival enjoying the other performances, and the shopping (of course).

Tuesday, 22 March 2011, 07:31 PM