I was just thinking about some of the gigs i’ve done over the years. Tirana, the capital of Albania sprang to mind. This was maybe around ten years ago. As always, i had conducted a little research before going there, read a few articles and watched some videos on Youtube. I got the impression it was a capital city like any other. It wasn’t. There were a lot of unfinished buildings in the part of town we stayed in/hung out in. It was almost like they started building and got bored. I guess its more probable that the money run out.
A lot of the houses/apartments were painted in bright colours. There was one apartment building which was green with yellow arrows painted all over it and the painting project was led by the city mayor himself. There were no traffic lights, there was no right of way. Cars seemed to do whatever they wanted to do apart from when there were traffic police present.
It was common place to see that someone had just parked his car in the middle of a road, blocking it…..and then just walked away to do whatever! Crossing the road was not fun as there were no pedestrian crossings. All you could do was pull up your big boy pants, pray, and then run like the wind, trying to be faster than the approaching car.
On the Friday we arrived, there were about 15 power cuts, although i stopped counting after that! It was very frustrating, especially when i was having a shower and ended up in a pitch black, windowless bathroom with shampoo in my hair and eyes! One unlucky band member found himself in the ‘bathroom’ taking care of solid business during one of those power cuts and i must admit we were not very supportive when we heard the immortal words “oh shit!”
Despite the threat of bodily harm by cars, constant power cuts, low wages, etc, we found the Albanian people take everything thrown at them with incredible ease. They are warm, friendly, people who are always up for a laugh. They know how to have a good time and love their drink and music. Needless to say we made some good friends over there.
The first night’s gig went really well apart from some sound issues. The crowd was singing and joining in with our brand of humour right from the start. We always have fun onstage, even in the middle of a ballad, there’s always time to turn your back to the audience, look at your drummer, catch his attention and with a straight face say something like “dude….do you have to be so ugly?” After we finished the second night’s gig we had some medicinal alcohol, and then the owner decided to do a rock karaoke. We had a long day ahead, so we left early (4.30am) and they were still going for it!
There are a billion words i could write about our time in Albania but i’ll always remember this little trip by the moment when even in our “merry” state. we truly grasped the weirdness of our situation. Picture the scene. We’re walking back to the hotel. We’re quite “merry.” There is no street lighting here, its pretty dark. Suddenly with a cry of “shit!” ….one of the keyboard player’s legs disappears into a big hole in the pavement.
The original cry of “shit!” is quickly followed by an “oh fuck!” as he loses his balance and ends up on his butt in this hole/puddle thing. So….he gets up ….he is covered in wet stuff….we can smell him…..he smells of excrement…..human excrement.
We realise the hole he stepped/fell into was an open sewer! A few feet ahead i can see a fire on the pavement……yes….a fire on the pavement!…..not the small fire you can see in the photo on the left……a BIG fire….on the pavement! picture a scene from the movie “Escape from New York.”
Then we finally think and talk about the situation. We recall how we had earlier walked to the music venue from our hotel, in our ‘bright’ stage clothes because the venue’s dressing room hadn’t been built yet! (we got some strange looks). The constant power cuts….the crazy driving…..no street lights….there we were in a former communist country to rock n’ roll…..and the keyboard player has fallen in an open sewer and is covered in human excrement…..and we can tell this not only because of the nostril burning stench….but because there is a huge fire burning bright on the pavement a few feet away!
We look at each other and burst out laughing. How unreal a situation is this? I laughed so hard my eyes hurt from crying. (Who knew that was a thing). The guitarist laughed so hard he was actually physically sick. Its impossible to describe just how weird/different from our ‘normal’ some situations were, you just had to be there. However, put it this way, as i lay in my bed at the hotel room on that Saturday night, i did something i didn’t know was actually possible. I actually laughed myself to sleep. 😀
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