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Art Club Barcelona, Jamming, and Festa Mayor de Gracia 2009

18 August, 2009 (13:45) | Living in Europe | By: admin

1) Quixóte posing on the mermaid street sculpture. 2) A close-up from my favorite street.

This year’s Festa Mayor de Gracia is all about making music and meeting new musicians to play with. Every night we find ourselves jamming with someone new. In the last 3 days we have played with a blues guitarist, a virtuoso young Catalan theremin player and a couple of guys from Antwerp who play in a Romanian gypsy ska band with anti-fascist lyrics. It is now about 5 am and our boisterous, charismatic and talented posse of 3 new friends has finally gone home. After a night of carousing the streets with us, our euro mod squad trio walked back to our studio to jam and exchange stories and ideas. These two guys were brought into our life by someone I met last year at Festa Mayor named Ilde, who I have been facebook friends with ever since. Ilde is an artist on the rebound from a love gone awry.

1 &2) Mark hits it off with a blues street busker 3) Jordi, who plays theremin and also owns the Monster Museum on our block. 4) jamming with our new musical accomplices from Antwerp

I enjoy going out during the day and posing my dog Quixóte on the various decorated street props of Gracia. My puppy is not very impressed with Festa Mayor, but he sure is cute, as evidenced in the top photo of him investigating the mermaid sculpture. He also gives a sense of scale to the street decorations.
1) Quixòte sits under the legs of a giant centaur sculpture. 2) My dog likes the view of the centaur better from up here.


I’ve recently started painting again, now that we have the space as well as the luxury of an air conditioner in Partners In Rhyme studio. We are entering an inspired phase of our evolution as artists and musicians. We now make more money off the (combined ) efforts of our 70 composers than we do off our own original music, which is a luxurious “place” to be in as musicians, considering that when we started Partners in Rhyme back in 1996 we provided the sole content. Amazingly, our Multi Media Music Vol 1 continues to sell, 13 years later, as doe our original Ambient Loops Vol 1 & Web Designer’s Sound Collection

When we went off to live in New Zealand we started branching out and exponentiating our content by representing other composers with different musical styles than ours. We also started buying libraries of music for a flat fee with a contract giving us full distribution rights, (meaning once the content sold enough units to recoup our investment, it would be total profit from then on.) Our first such lucrative acquisition was a collection of short Tchaikovsky pieces performed by a Russian orchestra. Our first leap of faith was paying out two thousand dollars to an alleged conductor in Russia for a collection. Amazingly, he delivered the recordings we requested, on time and I’m sure we’ve made more money off Tchaikovsky music over the years than he made in his troubled lifetime.

it is a great feeling to make a success of one’s lofty business aspirations. At this point in our lives, although we do have to keep up the business end of things, we can now live at our own rhythm and pace. We’re even outsourcing our shipping now, an investment that makes it possible to travel without a suitcase full of CDs and mailers to send to customers. We live with no imposed deadlines, no Disney Corp. bureaucracy to please, no Mr. Mutato Muzika (Mark Mothersbaugh) making a 100% profit off our talent. Partners in Rhyme Corp. is now its own living and breathing entity. We no longer have to play or even write music to make our living if we don’t want to. The money still comes in, because our 3 websites continue to gain momentum in these allegedly dour financial times. Our composers love us because we are fair and pay every month and on time. We love them for making our dream to live in Barcelona a reality.

Now that we are settled AND as of last May we have a big, rented place literally next door to our home to do projects in, we can invite friends over anytime for a jam session, or to have an art club, an idea I only recently resurrected while Mark was visiting his family in USA.

This month my first efforts after 3 years of not painting at have been reasonably satisfying and fun in a tactile way I didn’t realize was missing from my life until I picked up a paint brush again.

1 & 2) My first 2 abstracts after many years 3) My first pprtrait o Quixòte, copied from a photograph.

Although I’ve never considered myself a visual artist, I used to paint a lot, especially in the days when I had composing deadlines for the Disney Show, “Adventures in Wonderland”. There’s nothing like a good deadline to begin a creative series of procrastinations that over a 2 year time span resulted in 20 or so oil paintings, in a “cubist/futurist” style (or so I was told), every one of them a by-product of having to write hundreds of one minute songs, with the endless inane revisions inherent to a professional songwriter’s field. I had a few art exhibits in Hollywood and even sold a number of my paintings before leaving Hollywood for what I at that time thought would be a 2 to 3 years stint in New Zealand, an auspicious stepping stone to our vision of moving to Barcelona, but it took way longer than projected. Its hard to believe I haven’t lived in Hollywood in over 10 years, nor do I miss it. I visit every other year and that’s just perfect.

When we moved to New Zealand in 2001 Partners in Rhyme was already generating a sizeable income for us. As the story goes (read my book Horizontal Rain if you want more details) while Mark slaved away in Peter Jackson’s hellish pool of temperamental visual digital artists for 6 1/2 years before retiring from visual effects to dedicate himself to our flourishing websites.

Don’t get me wrong – visual effects is a field in which those who excel are given promotions, raises, and bigger impressive credits after every film, so while Mark originally signed on for the Lord of The Rings trilogy thinking we would move on after a couple years, by the time King Kong presented itself Mark had become head honcho, “senior comp supervisor” and the income was too good for us to leave behind just yet. But we were already planning our next move, to Barcelona, our at that time dream city. By 2006 we saved enough cash to make a sizeable down payment on the place where we now live. Our royalty free music and sound effects company generates enough income to easily pay our present mortgage, travel, buy things, rent a separate studio; in fact our adsense income alone generates our mortgage. Last year we incorporated. That was a big step. We are now legally safe from crazy lunatic composers and/or clients.

Its never easy to make friends when one moves to a new country, which is why in New Zealand I started an Art Klub, to attract friends to me rather than me having to go looking for friendship in a country so cheery one never knows how a person really feels about you. My Art Klubbe became a very popular and fun way to spend time with new friends who were lured into my life by way of the Art Klubbe itself. Mark and I lived in a huge villa in New Zealand so space was never an issue – I would have up to 12 friends come over to paint and laugh and act goofy, usually 2 people working together on 1 painting. The idea was that artistic loss of control can be fun, even for control freaks, and the effort often brought surprising results.

But I was more of a hostess and artistic director than a participant myself, more of a party girl and an “idea person” than an artist. I came up with an art club manifesto and thought up themes for our monthly art party, but the truth is that living 6 1/2 years in NZ with no deadlines at all resulted in only 2 oil paintings – the rest of my time was spent writing music, hiking, travelling, recording sounds, writing a book and and playing tennis. I wasn’t driven to express myself visually.


Which brings me to now:

Earlier this month while Mark was in USA visiting family I realized it was time to bring art back into my life. “Fuck Picasso, Miro, Dali” my Catalan girlfriend Cristina told me when I first moved here. I had met Cristina 13 years ago and she is/was bitter about the lack of enthusiasm for any art not touched, pooped or conceived by the 3 art gods of Catalunya. Back in the eighties and nineties she was a hired gun for the now deceased famous Catalan abstract painter named Palazuelo. Like Mark and I writing music for Mark Mothersbaugh back in the day, where Mothersbaugh got all the money and credit while we received a nominal fee for every song we wrote for him. (At the time 500 dollars seemed like a lot of money per song…until we later found out he received 5 thousand dollars for every song we wrote) Cristina for over 10 years was on his painting team. Palazuelo himself rarely touched a painting except to sign it. But I digress… (the indulgence of having a blog to do whatever I want to do, albeit sound, word or image.)

While Mark was in USA I collected some boards I found on the street and slapped gesso on them in case I got a serious urge to paint. Free canvass! I enjoyed applying the gesso to those boards so much I understood right away that I do miss the physicality of painting. In dismay I stared at the white boards for several days, thinking to myself, “who am I kidding? I’m not an artist. I haven’t a clue what to paint and I have no training whatsoever in visual art. Why try?” I stared peevishly at my recently unearthed easel with the gesso’d boards. I picked up some basic art supplies just in case I got the conviction to go for it. With Mark gone for 3 weeks I could give it a go. No interruptions. I literally moved into our rented Partners in Rhyme headquarters next door to our home, only going there once a day to feed the dogs, brush my teeth, clean up a bit. Of course now, because I hoped to rekindle a relationship with the art muses, I was suddenly overcome with musical ideas. So I played music and stared at my white boards for quite a few days before I got mad at myself for being a wimp. I was afraid of my own expectations – which is what was preventing me from painting or even trying. So one day I made a party of it, drank some sake and locked myself in with the intention of doing at least one painting. I knew in order to do anything “good”, I needed to crank out some mediocre stuff, and with that mantra in mind I literally threw paint on the boards with not entirely unpleasing results.


That same week I befriended an artist/sculptor my age named Chus. She has been living in my neighborhood for 8 years, but longs to move to the countryside and dedicate herself to sculpting and riding horses. We began meeting for coffee at the plaça, took trips to the beach, went to an interesting fauvist exhibition and even took a bike ride together. I told her about my art club in New Zealand, which excited her. She came to my studio the next day, bringing her own supplies. We had an art club together, only we didn’t share the same painting. It was more like 2 friends painting together. The fun factor of painting with a friend helped me bust through my artist’s block. I began painting with little or no discipline but plenty of abandon and more conviction than I thought I had in me.
Painting with my new friend, Chus, who likes to get down and paint with big, bold, messy strokes. I like her a lot.

1) Art Club painting by Chus. 2) Disco dancing with Chus at the El Dorado Disco de Gracia

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Festa Mayor begins August 15. Mark has been back since the 11th. We’ve blogged, filmed, photographed and sound designed this event the last 2 years so this year we are free to enjoy, be inspired, take it all in or not – the urgency is gone to document it. iPhone in hand I shoot the occasional photo. I love my iPhone! I use it to document my daytime outings with Quixóte, who I have taught to stand still and pose on almost any surface that can hold him.


On day one of Festa Mayor Mark found an excellent blues guitar payer to jam with. They played and chatted about “the music scene in Barcelona” until the wee hours. On day 2 we jammed with a neighbor who plays virtuoso theremin. We think we might be able to sell the kid’s music if he wants to submit something to us – we certainly have no theremin CDs to date…and its such an unique sound for horror, fantasy, sci-fi…

Last night (being day 3) we met up with an artist acquaintance I was introduced to last year. Ilde lives in Belgium but has come to spend a month in Barcelona to get over a relationship gone sour. Festa Mayor is a perfect way to be hospitable to visitors, to watch them fall in love with the irrepressible joie de vivre of our adopted homeland and this yearly fiesta the perfect escape from emotional turmoil.

Ilde shows up with 2 musician friends who are in town for the week. She tells us they are in a very popular gypsy/ska band based in Antwerp that sings anti Nazi songs in Romanian and Greek. We meet up at the plaça at the end of my street, stop by our place to show off our studio and digs, establishing that maybe later we can jam, after we get our fill of hot, sweaty, exuberant local music.

1) Mark and his new buddy Gregor feeling pretty happy. 2) home spun flaming hot rum.

1) The Cuban Habanera band singing to an audience of festive old folk. 2) Attractive street decor.

Every Festa Mayor my favorite music scene is on Calle Joan de Blanques, where the traditional Cuban Habanera bands play. This music appeals to octogenarians, who look forward to Festa Mayor every year for their fix; some have walkers, others dance, others bring their own chair to sit on. EVeryone has a fan. They sing along to tonight’s quartet, whose Catalan lyrics and dated melodies carry them back to the almost forgotten era when Franco would ship “subversive” Catalans off to Cuba, often splitting up families . Although the songs are in Catalan I find the lyrics easy to understand, mostly about crossing the sea, some with sad words of saying goodbye forever. The melodies are catchy, the band is slick. There many “hipper” bands playing at Festa Mayor every year, but these guys are the real deal.

I’m not much of a drinker, but even I can’t resist the famous flaming rum. I’ve never seen this anywhere except at Festa Mayor near the Habanera Cubana stage.

Around 3 am we all stumble back to our humble abode. Ilde is excited by my art space and asks if we could do a painting together, like I was explaining to her as we walked around the barrio.

“sure” I say and she makes herself at home in my space, while Gregor starts singing. He is eager to share his music with us, and we are very pleasantly surprised when he finds some of his tracks on the internet
to play for us. The music is great! It definitely sounds gypsy but also ska, with some Indian Bhagra beats on some tracks. Mark plays him some music he and I wrote together. Soon I am dividing my energies to art club and music at the same time I haven’t had this much fun since Africa!

Jamming and making art with our new friends from Antwerp.
Quixòte is not impressed at all.


Some iPhone shots of my neighborhood during Festa Mayor:

1) Quixote riding the Gaudi-esque gecko. 2) Ilde in the Habanera Cubna area

1) Close-up of flaming rum 2) Fragility of Life street decoratons

These 4 thumbnail shots are of a street decorated as metro #39

More colorful street decorations


Traditional feast en la calle

There are still 3 more nights and 4 more days of Festa Mayor, so I will most likely update these final snapshots, or more likely, follow up with a Festa Mayor sequel blog post..

Click here if you want to read my more thorough coverage of last year’s Festa Mayor 2008