Unfortunately, I didn’t have much busking luck in Barcelona. You have a have a permit in order to busk, especially if you use an amp. After my nap and a bit of a walkaround through the old town, I took the amp to the Ramblas. No sooner had I taken it out of the bag than the police were on top of me, asking me if I had a permit. Of course I hadn’t, and asked them where I could get one. They told me where the municipal building was, but it was late Friday afternoon and the office would not be open till Monday. I thanked them and said I would try and get one on Monday.
I noticed there were no buskers on the streets. Last time I was here you couldn’t move without hearing or seeing one, everywhere on the Ramblea. I did see the human statues, loads of them. They hadn’t been banned, I guess. But of course they don’t make any noise. With a sinking feeling I began to realise that I had perhaps come all this way for nothing. I should perhaps have stayed in Paris where the going was good, or gone to the south of France. Ah well, best to make the most of it.
I would try again anyway, and if I was stopped I would just enjoy a day or two here then go somewhere else, maybe back to the south of France.
Behind the hostel where I was staying there was a park. Not too many tourists were visible around here. Maybe this would be a spot where I would not be interfered with. I got me a few beers and headed down to this park. I found a spot and set up. I sang a few songs, the usual Johnny Cash numbers and Springsteen numbers, an Irish song or two. I kept the volume low, as there were a lot of locals just relaxing on the nearby benches. Didn’t want to have them complaining!
There was no need to worry about them complaining. I was into my fifth or six song when three or four squad cars entered the park suddenly, their sirens blaring. They pulled up alongside me, and I was sure I was going to be taken in. Again, the heart sank. Not too much attention was being paid to me by anybody and I was in fact enjoying just playing quietly and drinking my beer. I would have been quite happy to spend the whole evening there without anyone stopping to throw a coin into my case.
But it was not to be.
They told me, in a not friendly manner, to move on. Then they drove off.
They had to send that many squad cars just to tell me to move on! Didn’t they have anything better to do on a Friday evening!
Maybe they were pretty serious about protecting their city from the malificent presence of buskers. Broken hearted, I took my amp back to my room. And now I was feeling lazy. Maybe it was just best to give up trying to busk and take it easy for a day or two, after all. Explore the sights. Go to the beach!
Go to the beach I did the next day. It’s a twenty minute walk from the told town. I spent a few hours there soaking up the sun and enjoying the natural beauty of the place, or should I say, natural beauties, for there is no shortage of natural beauties on the beaches of Spain.
I do get kinda bored if I spend too long on beaches, though, so I decided I would check out of the hostal the next day and try a smaller town. Maybe the cops wouldn’t be so severe outside of Barcelona.
Maybe local residents had gotten tired of the buskers and had called on their local legislators to ban them. There had been perhaps too many of them, poking their instruments into peoples’ dinner plates. I did notice the last time I was in Barcelona that at every cafe tarrace that I passed there was someone singing songs and then going around from table to table with their caps held out. Perhaps enough was enough for the tourists and they started complaining to the cafe owners!
Whatever the reason, I was on my way out of Barcelona the next morning, which was a Sunday. The old guy behind the front desk at the hostal had advised me to try Salou. He felt bad for me that I had brought my gear all this way and had been disallowed from playing. He shook his head sympathetically. It definitely wasn’t fair. Salou is a coastal town so going there sounded like a decent idea. I got the metro back to the central station and bought my ticket. The train pulled into Salou at 4pm!
Salou basically is your typical Spanish resort town. Full of shops and pubs and restaurants, and a really long boardwalk. Loads upon loads of English expats and tourists. I got a hotel room and took a walk around, leaving the gear in the room. It was good to get rid of it for a while. I scouted the scene, as it were, and bought a pair of flip flops and shorts. Might as well be a tourist, or at least look like one!
I decided that the best bet to busk would be the boardwalk right where the heavy concentration of restaurants started. Otherwise I had the option of going along the park segment of the boardwalk and sitting on a quiet bench, underneath a palm tree. Less people there but still, a steady stream of them, and they might be more inclined to stop and listen. In the end I chose the restaurant part, where the action was. Yes, always be where the action is! I bought a bottle of sangria, changed into the sandals and shorts, and took my amp back to the boardwalk. I set it down by a low wall, which of course I could sit on and face the passing tourists. I was in for a happy evening, provided nobody disturbed me. It took me my usual five minutes to set up, acccompanied by plentiful slugs from the sangria bottle. I sat down on the wall, tuned up, and off I went with my first song, ‘I Walk The Line’ by Johnny Cash. I always start with that song. It’s easy to play, easy to sing, and most important, EVERYBODY KNOWS IT! That definitely helps.
I was two verses into the song when the copcar pulled up. I didn’t even need to ask him what the problem was.
Is Europe turning into a big police state? Not states, but state! As you know, I had been stopped a few times in Paris also.
But Spain was worse. Not once had I been allowed to play, so far.
I felt disappointed as I packed up. A middle aged man approached me from the beach, on the other side of the wall and said: ‘that is terrible that they stop you. Why? it sounds very nice.’ I thanked him for the compliment and said I didn’t know why they wouldn’t allow me to play. I guess it’s the rules, I said. ‘Es terrible,’ he said, almost to himself, and went back to his fun on the beach. yep indeed it was terrible and I realized then it was indeed probably the same deal everywhere in Spain. Nothing for it now but to enjoy a day or two here before turning around direction Barcelona.
I took a walk through the town, as the evening fell. It was Sunday and all the bars and restaurants were getting ready for their night’s trade. Plenty of tourists were lolling around, most of them English. I saw a man holding up a sign advertising an Irish pub called ‘Dooleys’, so I decided to ask him did he think the pub might be interested in having me play. Maybe, he said. How much? I told him how much and he said, ”ere, come with me. let’s go and talk to my partner.’ He was English and as it transpired the pub was English owned and English run. Not a Paddy about the place. Except for me, now. They decided to give it a shot and asked me to start at ten. Delighted, just to be able to play again, I hurried the half mile back to my hotel room and changed into some evening wear: a pair of jeans and fresh t-shirt. That is to say, the t-shirt that was least smelly. I ran back and got there just at ten. A beer was waiting in the corner for me. Very nice chaps indeed, I said, to have a beer waiting like that. And it was more than you’d get in an Irish run pub!
They had me in the corner in the room, facing the patio. Folks could hear me from the street. That was the idea: just get them in; keep the songs pumping out. Isn’t it the same everywhere!
So I started on my Johnny Cash songs again, and my Dylan songs, and sure enough, suddenly there was a crowd of English rugby players in the room, jumping up and down and knocking the beers and shots back. I sang an Oasis song and then a ColdPlay song and they were good for another round or two.
I played till twelve, and had a good time doing so. A few more people came in to hear the band! And the beer kept coming my way.
After my last song I went to the bar and hung out there for a couple of hours. Well, the beer kept coming. I had no choice.
A nice bunch in that pub they were, and I promised I’d be back again. They wanted me to play Wednesday also.
I staggered across town to my room and luckily did not lose amp or guitar. Next day, however, I wasn’t really in the mood for hanging around. Two days was too long to wait for another gig; I am not the type either to sit around on a beach doing nothing. I still felt bitterly disappointed that I hadn’t been allowed to play on the boardwalk. The whole purpose of my trip to Europe had been to busk on the street. I was starting to use my plastic card again to buy things. I had vowed not to. But, of course, I could only try so hard to busk. If the cops were stopping me they were stopping me! There was no point in being hard on myself. When I had that thought I bought myself (using my card) an expensive bottle of Sangria and lay on the beach for a wee while, with all my gear. I had checked out of the hotel. Then I decided to spend one or two more days in Barcelona and then shoot back to Paris. I would busk a lot in Paris and earn back some of the lost money there.