The visit to Malta is over. In recent years, my trips to Malta are always peppered with all sorts of music events. The most recent visit is no exception and featured a broad range of encounters with musicians and all sorts of gigs, including a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony by the National Orchestra at the Mediterranean Conference Centre.
It was good to see Frenzy Mono at the Coconut Grove in Paceville on the first night of this visit. It's been a while since I saw a retro hard rock band without a bass player. I thoroughly enjoyed their cover of Deep Purple's Pictures of Home and some of their original numbers are not bad at all. I was dismayed to discover that unbeknown to me Fire were playing at the Hard Rock Cafe on the same night. I found out about this a few minutes after their show ended, from someone who was heading home after just spending a good part of the previous hour hearing them.
The next couple of days it seemed like I was in for a few more disappointments because I didn't manage to get to any gigs, even though I had planned to attend one of the numerous Saturday night gigs. I may be wrong, but it seems like people in Malta still take Good Friday and the previous Friday seriously enough not to organise any live rock gigs. Strangely, though, I have a feeling that I may be wrong on both counts.
Between producing my most recent podcast and enjoying the company of Mario Frendo, who played me a couple of well-made recordings by Nafra (which I'm hoping to include in an upcoming edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor) I missed out an infernal struggle to make it to as many of the following gigs: KDZ's bash in front of Tigulio featuring Muzzle, Salt, Klinsmann Coleiro, and Ozzylino, Sixth Simfoni Live at Luxol with Mindstate; NV Unplugged at St James' Cavallier; and Skimmed with the Areola Treat at Naasha. I actually arrived at Naasha at about 1:00am but the gig seemed long over and there was no one I cared to have a drink with there by then...except someone I think is Brikkuni's front man. I tentatively glanced in his direction but I was either too tired/timid and/or he was too drunk/aloof to care to meet me. A great way to end one of the oddest evenings in many years.
In some way I made up for this a little bit the following day by attending the KSU Students' Festival at the University of Malta's fabulous Temi Zammit Hall with my old buddy Winston Degiorgio. Before I say anything about the Students' Festival I should publicly declare that any time spent with Winston is always a joy. His joie de vivre is contagious, especially to anyone who has known him for more than two decades. Without any hint of nostalgia I must also admit that some previous editions of the KSU fest I attended were more entertaining than this year's event. Still, this year's bunch managed to pull what was probably the best organised students' festival I've ever attended. Slick audio-visuals and stage management made the evening rather pleasant in spite of the fact that at times it felt like one of those dreadful secondary school prize days.
For me, the highlight of the KSU evening was watching Drive open part two of the show. They're a fresh young band which I featured on a recent edition of Mużika Mod Ieħor. I wanted to go meet them backstage after the show. Apparently they're planning to visit the UK this summer, which is an excellent way to see about getting them on the bill at this year's Beached. Going backstage didn't feel right, not least because it was close to midnight by the end of the show, meaning that Winston and I needed to see about getting a bite to eat before going to bed. Surprisingly we made it to the legendary Sunrise in Tal-Ibraġġ where we shared a bottle of nice red wine over pizza.
Since most of my visit coincided with Holy Week and Easter it's quite surprising that I managed to squeeze in so many music-related activities into it. Perhaps this feeling is hugely inflected by my overtly catholic upbringing in Malta in the 1970s. Whatever it is, I didn't feel uncomfortable watching the entire Good Friday procession standing in St. Ursuline Street in Valletta. The funeral marches sounded divine, but the evening was crowned with a chance encounter with Antoine Bonnici Soler who was there to see the procession with Godwin Lucas. As we started chatting following the end of the procession, we were joined by clarinet maestro Freddie Mizzi. It seems like listening to musicians play or talk is indeed one of the few things I really look forward to the most on my visits to Malta.
I had actually already met Godwin Lucas the previous evening at BJs where Winston and I went for a couple of hours after spending some time at the Scream Daisy gig at Ryan's Irish Pub. The audio at the Daisy's gig was muddled, the bar far too smokey for my taste, and the choice of beer ridiculously restricted during the show. I must be getting old or something. For different reasons, BJs is not actually my cup of tea either, but at least there I could have decent conversations with some old friends I hadn't seen in years including my former band mate Mark Attard, Paul Giordimaina, Joe Carr and BJ's manager Philip Fenech, of course. Strangely it felt good to be there in the lull of the storm that is the annual live music marathon.
Just for the record, other music-related encounters during this visit included a Sliema seafront meeting with the delightful Merga, a couple of trips to my favourite watering hole on Manoel Island with the amazing Grimaud, a lovely gift from Olivia Lewis during a 3-minute surprise meeting, a quick chat with Melchior Sultana before sitting down with Clare Agius for an TV interview, and a soothing cup of lemon tea with some figola at Jason Fabri's Sliema home where he updated me on what Etnika has been doing in recent years. You can expect some of that on an upcoming podcast too. I should also mention that during this visit I managed to see a Xtruppaw rehearsal, an experience I now treasure as much as the time I visited them during a recording session for their debut album last year.
I see that this blog entry has turning into a longer post than I had planned, but what do you expect when you don't blog for more than a week! It's so true that "life is what happens when you're busy making plans."
Labels: Malta, music