The Jews Brothers in Spain 2009

A report from Hersh and Linn - catch up with their crazy Spanish escapades!

Yes it is us ...finally ... after two weeks and 3 days in Spain we at last have a chance to write "home".

We are in Seville which is so far the cats pajamas!

We are staying in the flat of a friend of a Kiwi friend and it is right in the old Santa Cruz barrio ... near the Cathedral and we are on the third floor of an old building with a roof-top terrace overlooking a gorgeous baroque church which plays bells for mass every morning. It is costing us a bit and so we are going baroque!

Mikey Lira, our Jews Brothers' bass player on this tour just left us for Paris and so we are now on our own but we have our great Kiwi friend living here Christine who is from Dunedin and who has lived here for 4 years and is showing us the ropes ... including the free Flamenco bar just around the block and the first show is 11pm every night 7 nights a week and we never get tired of it!

The people in Spain are the best lot of people you'll ever want to meet ... friendly, warm, helpful and classy! (not like some other people from a neighbouring country whose name shall not be mentioned, n'est-ce pas?).

Now, the Band played two festival gigs when we first arrived and they were fab: 1- Santiago de Compostela, in the far northwest, and 2- Murcia, in the southwest. Both were festivals in the city where you play in big squares and the local populace turns out. They loved our Kiwi Klezmer and we could not leave the stage without several encores in both cases.They were really good at the "whooooohs" on Happy Feet! ( note from Linn: our "success" at these concerts was in no small measure due to the explanations and introductions that Hersh provided for the audiences in fluent Spanish! )

The cathedral in Santiago is definitely one the most beautiful ones we have ever seen and they get hundreds of pilgrims arriving from all over the world on foot over the old medieval route and many of them have walked as much as 800 kilometers. They swing this huge incense burning gizmo at mass at mid day for the purpose of wiping away the pilgrims' "fragrance" (they didn't have deodorant in the old days but though the pilgrims are clean and showered these days the ritual continues). The incense-holder is suspended on long ropes from an apparatus just under the roof and 6 or 7 monks in brown robes form a circle around the counter weight which they pull on to swing this huge thing with smoke pouring out of it and as they do so they get lifted up in the air each time and it is a very striking sight!

In Santiago, which is by the way a Unesco World Heritage site, there are cobble stoned streets without trafffic and we ate at a fab restaurant where we had freshly caught sardines right from the Atlantic. (I thought I was in Sardinia).

In Murcia we had an equally wonderful experience. It is south of Valencia and the people there were amazingly kind and friendly. Plus we had a huge meal with many courses put on by the hotel each night we were there. We love the food in Spain, it is absolutely delicious and eating tapas has to be one of the culinary delights of the world. So far, our favourites are egg-plant sauted with honey, spinach with chick-peas and tomato with queso fresca, a creamy cheese that's like mozarella.

From Murcia our wonderful road-manager, Manel, drove us back to Madrid by way of Don Quixote country ( la mancha) where we stopped for lunch at a country town off the beaten track and caused a bit of a sensation walking the streets in Jews Bros hats and feeling as though we were in a spaghetti western! ( the meal contained deep fried pigs trotters and snails, not for the faint-hearted, and Manel tucked into it and told us this is how people eat deep in the countryside so take a tip and eat the urban cuisine! )We spent another few days in Madrid and hung out with another friend of a friend, Juan Antonio, who showed us the Madrid ropes (Notice we had lots of ropes on this trip so far).

We then picked up our Renault Megane leased car from Madrid and went to Toledo with Edna, our Australian friend who had come over from London to join the Jews Bros and then drove to Cordoba where we spent another day sight- seeing mostly at the Mezquite, a gorgeous ancient Mosque into which a Cathedral was later inserted! So it is kind of weird but wonderful at the same time. But the night before when we arrived, we again had lots of luck which included more ropes: we stumbled across two classy local men who proceeded to lead us to an unexpected and amazing local festival ... the Feria de Mayo ... which just happened to be taking place this week in Cordoba, but outside the old part of town (where we would have spent all our time had we not met these guys.) This feria consisted of 175 little Casertas in one huge fair ground type area. A caserta is a marquee but with added wooden floors and sometimes wooden walls and a bar with drinks and food. But imagine 175 of these ... row after row after row. Each caserta was full of hundreds of people drinking beer, eating tapas, and dancing Flamenco, with most of the women of all ages, from kids to grandmas, dressed in full flamboyant flamenco dresses with wonderful designs and colours. And outside the casertas people were walking up and down the "avenues" flirting and chattering and hanging out. It was really a fascinating thing to experience and we have come to realise that the Spanish people love to dress up and have a good time and stay up really late! ( we ourselves never seem to go to bed before 1.30-2am these days so we are on Spanish time already)

So, the next day we drove to Sevilla and entered searing heat. What a business getting somewhere to park the car for free!. But we eventually found a free car park and apart from one day-trip to Cadiz on the coast, we have left the car there out of fear of not being able to park again. This is OK as you don't need a car if you're staying in the centre of a city.

This was 5 days ago. Since then we managed to try our hand at busking, accordion, chanteuse and Mikey on borrowed guitar and learned that we are not cut out to be buskers. We think we did it at the wrong place at the wrong time. Nevertheless, we immediately went out and spent our hard earned 20 Euros on tapas and had a great time. We had better luck that night when Linn sat at the piano in the aforementioned Flamenco club and was heard by a local who was flabbergasted at the sight and sound and got us an audition which has led to 2 French Toast gigs which will take place tonight Friday and the following Friday.. The gigs are at the restaurant of the Casino de la Exposition which is a stately 18th century building with beautiful decorative tiles, marble floors and huge marble columns and the restaurant has 4 huge chandeliers It is just the two of us .. accordion and vocal.

Two night ago, after going to free flamenco performances every night, we finally heard out first GUITAR MAESTRO!! All the other guitarists were good but this guy was gob=smackingly great and again it was free, outside in a little square near where we are living. He is the son of famous gypsy musicians , both mother and father, and he was as good as all the famous guitarists who come to NZ occasionally, maybe better.A big man with long black hair and glasses, gentle giant type. He was accompanying a very dark-skinned gypsy singer who was also great. It was a really cold night ( unusually for here) but the music was HOT and we sat entranced. In the break between their 2 sets the guitarist went over to a group of teenage boys who were drinking and smoking but paying rapt attention ( obviously fans of his) and played a twenty minute improvised thing for THEM, full of inventive licks and interesting harmonies while keeping the exact rhythm throughout which is called "cim paso" keeping the tempo and rhythm totally accurately. Are you impressed that we've started getting some of the flamenco terms? it is such a sophisticated and complex musical genre that we feel we would need to study if for years to become conversant with all the styles and variations but we have has a good taste of it and it's definitely the music to catch when you're in Seville!
His name is Martin Chico Revuela and he's on YouTube apparently.

if you want to see the 4-piece jews brothers band at Santiago de Compostela, somebody in our audience of young people must have videoed us with his phone and has put us on at :www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_HdBo_sxKo

Artist Profile

The Jews Brothers Band

This eclectic and eccentric five-piece from New Zealand always hits the stage in an explosion of energy and keeps up the pace throughout. It's exhilarating foot-stomping, hand-clapping repertoire, both original and traditional, features wild Eastern- European dance medleys, neo-40s New York swing, gypsy "hot club", schmaltzy waltzes and funky dance grooves.