Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

OK, so I have missed Luna in Seattle, like… six times? Seven? I don´t know, it seems that whenever they come, I narrowly miss the show for some odd reason or another (like the whole Wilco/Luna fiasco-conflict at this year´s Bumbershoot).

As many of you may know, I am currently in España, traveling and learning for a few months… and guess who is likewise spending some time aqui? That´s right, Luna. In typical imaginaryD fashion, Luna played Barcelona the day after I left the city for the Pais Vasco. ¡Que lástima! How I suffer!! My new wonderful European amiga Inge ("17 Minutes in Brussels, well, Gent") accompanied me to the land of paxtos and txacoli, of green rolling hills, beaches and ETA bombings. I was not thinking of the Luna show. I was not thinking of the Luna show. I was in another culture; I did not need to attend the Luna show.

So, San Sebastian. The Emerald jewel of the Pais Vasco, with its old gorgeous streets, its forested bluffs overlooking the sea, its cuisine that´s considered the greatest in Spain (well, don´t tell the Catalan that). Inge and I had high expectations for the region… for hikes up the hills, for sunbathing on la playa, for hot, dark, and angry Pais Vasco boys… I was certainly not thinking about Luna. No sirree, I didn´t care at all that I was missing Luna.

Funny how expecting the unexpected can produce the most familiar results. The night we arrived, we went to get coffee.

{aside: having been thwarted in our search for Spanish karaoke; apparently "Lonely Planet: Spain" doesn´t update as regularly as it should, so I had the humiliation of requesting a night that ended more than three years ago. I felt cool.}

While sipping our cortados, I noticed a familiar tune in the background, and strained to hear. Yes…? YES! It was!! One of my favorite Smiths´ songs, "There is a Light and it Never Goes Out," IN SPANISH. Hah!! How fantastic!! I quickly asked the barista (en español, claro) who sang the song, and found it was a local singer named Duncan Dhu, who according to our barista, once had a coffee at the same table where Inge and I were sitting!! How delightful!!!! After such a joyous musical discovery, there was NO WAY I was still thinking about the Luna show. The show that was going on in Barcelona at Bikini right at that very moment. There´s just no way I was still thinking about Luna. Nope.

The next day, we awoke early, and hiked to the huge Jesus statue at the top of the hill overlooking the village, where we could see the amazing half-moon San Sebastian forms around this lovely little cove of the Atlantic ocean.

Oh wait. Except that´s not true… that´s what we planned to do. Really we slept until 2pm. We wandered the streets, the gorgeous streets, and never mustered the initiative to summit the hill. But we did manage to make it to a music store, to search for Señor Dhu. Sure enough, there he was (well, his CD). I made for the counter, and noticed a flyer that Luna would be playing the following night, IN BILBAO!! VERY CLOSE TO SAN SEBASTIAN!! LUNA! LUNA LUNA LUNA!!!!! (Did I say I hadn´t been pining for the Luna show? I was lying.)

Inge had never heard of Luna, but seeing my enthusiasm, was eager for the adventure (or perhaps, was terrified to refuse…?) This required some thought and research. A subsequent phone call to the venue revealed that the show wasn´t actually in Bilbao (which, incidently, we later found out is a smelly shithole with horrendous traffic and a fancypants museum that I like to call the "Experience Guggenheim Project".) The show was actually in the tiny seaside village of Ondarrea, mas or menos halfway between San Sebastian and Bilbao. OK. This made the quest for Luna a bit more challenging. We already had a place in San Sebastian, and the buses and trains wouldn´t be running once the show let out. So… there was only one thing to do. We both had to get piercings. Oh, and we needed to rent a car. Internet research confirmed the latter. We were going to Luna. LUNA!!!

The piercings required further investigation… For this, Inge and I headed into the town and asked at the nearest head shop where we could find a body piercer

{aside: the head shop not only gave us free goods when we asked if it was legal to sell it in España — it wasn´t, but apparently there were no laws about handing it out for free — but the dude was also listening to the Presidents of the United States of America! I told him — no, I GUSHED — that they were from my home town! I told him I knew the lead singer!!! OK, so I met Chris once… but he was really nice, so I FELT like I knew him, when raving about his band in a foreign tongue to my new generous stoner friend. So sue me.}

Our amigo showed us three places. We looked. The first one seemed great, but told us the piercer wasn´t there, and to return the next day. The second place was inside a grocery store, and likewise was unavailable for puncturing. The third place: hoo boy. The woman emerged from a nose piercing. No gloves. Very dirty fingernails. She smoked, flinging ash while she grubbily fingered Inge´s naval and proclaimed her "un poco tripe" for the piercing (totally NOT true). Oh yeah, and her long-haired dog (who, incidently, seemed far cleaner than she was) occupied the seat right next to the piercing studio. Um, we´ll think about it… RUN AWAY!!!

We returned to the original shop the next day, mere hours before the show. The owner was clean, spoke English, and even showed us the hygienic packaging for our individual needles. Everything seemed okay… and then I saw a familiar bumper sticker on the counter. Slave to the Needle. I stared, disbelieving.

"Where is this from?" I asked.
"An award winning tattoo place," he started…
"In Seattle?" I asked.
"Where I got my tattoo…?" I asked and told him, simultaneously.

No WAY. In this tiny town on the other side of the world, we managed to find a studio where the artist knew the same place that did my tattoo, in my home town! Too weird. Seriously too weird. But so weird, it was wonderful; could it have been any more clear that this was our place? So we both got pierced; Inge in her navel, and me in my upper left ear. I hope Dean and Sean will like it…

So finally, we got in the rental car and headed out for our evening adventure. The ride proved challenging at best; those who know me know how, um, agitated I can get while driving in an unfamiliar city. At night. And the roads in España — let´s just say, less than modern. Very, very dark. Very windy. Very few signs. We had no idea where we were going, or once we got there, how to find the bar. Somehow, we did… and through Inge´s keen intuition, we found both parking and the bar, with 10 minutes to spare until showtime.

And then there was Luna. Luscious, lovely, Luna. Looking back, I was so overwhelmed by the experience that I have very few details to share about the music, other than that they sounded great, they played songs from their entire discography, and they hardly spoke at all. I was tempted to hop onstage to help translate… except then I remembered, oh yeah, my Spanish SUCKS. So I restrained myself.

And how are shows different in España…? Well for one, it started on time EXACTLY. En punto, a las diez. No
opening band, no delay, just the band. The crowd was decent size — perhaps comparable to a good night at Sit N Spin — and hip without being hipsters, as well as I can define it. I spoke with guitarist Sean Eden after the show, who said that Luna was more popular in Spain than any other part of Europe. Incongruously, he told us they were not very well known in Belguim, 17 minutes notwithstanding. A chat with a couple of local Carlos´s after the show confirmed this; we both agreed that in our countries, the people "con gusto" — with taste — like Luna. Good to know!

Did the crowd know the words? Difficult to guess. English is still not so widely spoken here in España, and Pais Vasco is definitely no exception. A few hard-core fans in the front sang along. For the most part, the crowd appeared polite, if not a bit indifferent during most of the show… until the end, when they went CRAZY, howling their approval, shouting for more (in Spanish). Luna appeared pleased, even playing an unanticipated second encore when the crowd refused to let them go.

During the show, I noticed an odd twist, a Spanish equivalent for the Imaginary Marlene indie-t-shirt theory. I saw only one other indie-rock shirt (The Strokes, in case you´re curious), and saw one girl bearing Luna on her chest. But no fewer than three concert goers wore New York City shirts — perhaps to demonstrate their knowledge of the band´s hometown…? I think so. Of course, I could pull the "home country" cred — and I did after the show, even being dorky enough to pose for photos with the band. ¡Viva Americana!

Inge adored the music, describing it as "warm and melodic," {perhaps an imaginary girls Europa in the making…?} and vowed to increase the Belgium fan base upon her return.

Speaking of return… our ride back was lovely and curvy, though too curvy, and my knowledge of the rental clutch, inadequate… resulting in a hefty dose of car sickness for poor Inge.

So within mere days, we might not have climbed or sunbathed, but we pined and puked, got pierced and pursued and got pot from a POTUSA fan, met American rockstars and Latin loverboys… and most importantly, got good twinges of home, reminding me that despite distance, the world (or at least, my Universe) is not so large as it frequently seems to be…

la chica imaginaria