Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Barcelona: Today I...

Visited Montana. You fuck with them, you fuckin' with the best!Climbed a lot of stairs and shit to get to Guell Parc:
Finally got to Guell Parc:
Played with Toys:
Admired the smoggy view of Barcelona:
Was amused by the cactus graffiti:Fell in love:
Had a threesome:
And ate coques de recapte (traditional Catalan pizza) at L'Antic Bocoi de Gotic for dinner:

Barcelona: Viva la Karaoke Revolution

Last night I decided because I haven't been out to any clubs/bars etc here in Barca that I probably should. I was lucky enough to witness something of a Barca institution right before my very eyes. No, not Gaudi's 'art'. Not tapas munching tourists. Not even a backpacker getting pick-pocketed.

This was something even more Barca than that.

I went to Anti-Karaoke @ the Apollo.
Every Monday night comedian/burlesque performer Rachael Arieff hosts this unique karaoke night where the Apollo comes alive to the sounds of Metallica, Bon Jovi and Frank Sinatra.
The night started out innocently enough - Rachael did a few jaunty show tunes and made more costume changes than Superman. A few nervous punters got up and did their thing early, including a guy named Michael from Melbourne who belted out You Could Be Mine by Guns'n'Roses. And there was a lot of getting casual happening on stage.
As more and more alcohol was consumed, the karaoke got more hardcore. Apparently it's O.K. in Spain to free pour directly from the bottle into open mouths in the crowd. I guess they don't do R.S.A. here...
Suddenly the crowd was getting into it. There was moshing, air guitar and crowd surfing. It was sort of like Guitar Hero on crack.And at some strange point - probably via my beer goggles, the smoke machines and a bit of a squint - these soldiers of the karaoke army began to look and sound almost like real rockstars. Almost.Either way, it still didn't make me want to get up on stage and sing - but it made me remember how much I love to laugh my ass off at people who do. Bring on karaoke fun times in Tokyo motherfuckers!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Barcelona: Don't ask questions, just give into the power of the tea...

Today I treated myself to Air de Barcelona - the Arabian Baths in Born, Barcelona. I'm a massive fan of baths, and this was no exception. Air de Barcelona was probably the most beautiful baths I've ever had the pleasure of dipping into.

I'm not one for swimming at the beach or pool, but give me a hot bath/spring and I'm in like Flynn (not you Flynn). So Air de Barcelona was I real treat. I was imagining something like this:And it was pretty much exactly what I got. The baths are located in Born, right around the corner from where I am staying. The baths are underground, and there are 6 baths in total; 2 salt baths (35°C); 1 spa; 1 hot bath (40ºC) and 2 cold baths; plus an aromatherapy steam room. Obviously no cameras are allowed, but it looks like this:
But a lot darker and steamier. 24EUR gets you 90 minutes of pure heaven. And they give you tea. Strong tea. I've never tasted tea like it, but I'm going to assume it's of the Turkish variety. It reminded me of this:
And I sort of felt like this:
If you are staying in Barca, then you simple MUST go to Air de Barcelona. My skin feels like heaven. The experience is divine.

Direct from Paris...

Check out this awesome live set by Mr Explicit, which was recorded when he played at Social Club in Paris a few weeks ago (I was there - it was dope - he played before Buraka Som Sistema). Thanks Red Bull Music Academy - but can you please make mixes downloadable so tightasses like me can listen to them on iPods? kthxbai.


Rosario owns Chloe. Oh yer and read my C.O.P. post about Barca Hotness here...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Barcelona: Le Mercé Festival - Fire Run

What was a pretty shitty day turned into sheer awesomeness. Ron took me to the Fire Run (part of the Le Mercé Festival). The Fire Run is kind of like the running of the bulls, except instead of bulls, people run around swinging twirling fireworks mounted on pitchforks above their heads. Everyone runs around like mad, trying to get under the sparks for good luck. It's like a giant fire fight. It's pretty bloody dangerous. I got a few burns from sparks.

Everyone carrying the fireworks dress up in crazy costumes, and anyone with half a brain who wants to run with the fire wears protective gear (googles etc). Of course, I didn't.

There were people running everywhere, ducking and weaving through the sparks. Young, old, you name it. Here's what it looked like...
About Le Mercé
"After Pope Pius IX declared the Virgin of La Mercè the patron saint of the city, Barcelona began to celebrate a festival in the month of September. La Mercè really took off in 1902, when under the impulse of Francesc Cambó, the festival became the model the those that are currently held all over Catalonia. However, the history of La Mercè would suffer many high and low points that extended throughout the Civil War and the years of Franco."

Basically it's a great excuse to celebrate an have heaps of fun!

An open letter to the management of the Gala-Salvador Dali Estate

Dear Management,

I have loved Dali ever since I can remember. His work and story have consistently inspired me through out my life. Over the years I have been lucky enough to visit many Dali exhibitions and have even wept openly on seeing his work in the flesh. But most of all, I have longed to come to Spain to visit his house.

Today was that day and it came and went - and I didn't even get further than Figueres. Which means I wasted an entire day of my very limited time in Spain. Why? Because of the lack of simple directional instructions provided on the Dali House website and printed information.

Firstly I had to buy a ticket online. By reservation only. 8EUR, nothing much really. I had no problem with this, and read the instructions for getting to the Dali House carefully to ensure I wouldn't miss my reservation. I even made a copy of the directions and saved them on my iPhone so I would not lose them.

Next I had to catch a train from Barcelona to Figueres. Simple enough according to the website. What the site didn't say was that this is a 2 hour train trip. One way. Needless to say I made it to Figueres in time to collect my ticket (an hour prior to my reservation). But where was I meant to collect my ticket from?

The website said to catch a bus or taxi to Portligat from Figueres. As there was no signage or information at Figueres train station, I went to the bus station across the road. They told me I needed to walk up the road to the information stand. The information stand was closed. Time was ticking away. I wandered around the streets until I found a small gallery where I asked for directions. They sent me to another Dali Museum in Figueres.

By this point I had missed my reservation. The staff at the Dali Museum tried to be helpful by telling me they didn't know how to get to the Dali House, but it would take at least another hour by bus and that I should stay the night here in a hotel.

Given that it was now 4pm, had no change of clothes and I had already spent a fortune getting there, it seemed spending another 2 hours going back to Barcelona on the train was the only option.

I asked if I could visit the Dali Museum instead, but apparently this was impossible. As each Dali property has different management, one entry could not be transfered to another. Seems ridiculous, because you by online tickets via the same website. So the staff told me I would need to pay entry again. And because I'd already wasted more than 30EUR getting to Figueres, I decided I wasn't wasting another penny on Dali's poorly run estate today. And I caught the train back to Barcelona.

Considering you got to keep my 8EUR entry fee, and probably many other people's entry fees too - would it be too much to ask to have your web people add some more detailed instructions to your website?

I'll look forward to visiting the Dali House in 10 years time when I can afford to come back again. If I can find it.



Saturday, September 26, 2009

Who came first?

When I was in Paris, I came across a gallery that featured some artwork by an artist named Speedy Graphito. I thought his work looked suspiciously like our very own Ben Frost. You be the judge. Speedy is above, Frosty is below...

Tymez Two Thousand & Nine

Those of you from Sydney who loved hardcore in the mid-90s would have to have lived under a rock if you didn't ever bust out your gabber dance to Chuck & Tymez II. AGU (Australian Gabbers United) certainly left their mark on my fragile little mind - especially the Fix by Blackstreet remix Tymez II used to drop on a regular basis (I still love that tune to this day). Aside from hardcore, Tymez II also was known to drop a slamming hardhouse set from time to time back in the day. Then suddenly they grew up, stopped DJing and disappeared...

Tymez II happens to be a personal fiend of mine (pun intended), and today I was super stoked to see he's taken up mixing again. I was even more stoked when I downloaded the mix and my ears were delighted by they fidgety digital goodness. He says this style of house has him excited about mixing again - and who could blame him. It's the way I've been feeling about fidget and bassline for quite sometime now. There's no better feeling than finding a new genre of music that makes your heart pound. And if he keeps mixing great sets like this, he might put a few other DJs noses right out of joint.

I can't say much more other than this is hot shit. I've been dancing around my Barcelona apartment all afternoon and the mix is going straight to my iPod.

You'd be crazy not to download it here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Barcelona: What a co-inky-dink

My apartment in Barcelona is amazing to say the least. Located in Born right next to Franca station, it is the quintessential Spanish apartment. High decorative ceilings, white walls, amazing mozaic tiled floors and my own balcony over looking the street.
My hosts, Ron and Tadaaki, are fabulous too. Last night we sat up drinking wine and chatting. It was a lovely way to start my stay in Barcelona.

Funny thing is I didn't notice until today home many cool things are located nearby. And by nearby, I mean right next door and on the same street. Last night Ron and Tadaaki were telling me about the 'devil's hip hop' that they often heard emenating from the 'hip hop' shop downstairs. When I went outside this morning, I discovered the 'hip hop' shop was actually 24 Kilates - the sneaker/art/street shop!
24 Kilates
Website: http://www.24-kts.net
Address: C/Comerç no 29, Barcelona, Spain, 08003
Phone: +34 932688437
Hours: Mon - Sat, 11:00 am - 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Then I wandered around the block, and stumbled across Limited Editions, another sneaker store. This is all totally blowing my mind because I haven't even looked at a map yet, let alone plotted out the stores I wanted to visit. They gave me directions to their other stores - there's another Limited Editions store close by, plus they also have a 2 outlet stores and an Opium (like in Paris). So I follow their directions and with 10 minutes I've visited 2 of the coolest sneaker stores I've ever seen. And not only that, but Opium has a pair of Infrared Structures in my size. No shit! Plus Limited Editions is one of the best sneaker stores I've seen - WIN!
Limited Editions
Website: www.limiteditions.org
Address: Carrer del Duc no8, 08002 Barcelona

So then I walk back towards my apartment, but head towards IguaPop, which is a gallery on my street that also has a streetwear store attached. IguaPop features art by artists like Miss Van.
Iguapop Gallery & Store
Website: www.iguapop.net
Address: C/ Comerç 15, 08003 Barcelona
Phone: +34 933 196 813

To my surprise, a few shops up - there's the Montana shop & gallery. On my street. I didn't even look on a map yet. Seriously this place is the bomb. Hopefully the guys at Montana can direct me to some Miss Van walls...Montana Shop & Gallery
Website: www.montanacolors.com
Address: C/ Comerç n0 6, 08003 Barcelona
Phone: +34 93 268 01 91

But all this goodness is fraught with sadness. I think God has sent me to sneaker hell for bad behaviour. Sneaker hell in the sense there are so many awesome kicks and not enough money in my pockets! Ah well maybe this time I'll have to be happy to just window shop...

I go away for 5 minutes and awesome happens

Mookie, you're my hero. Check out this shit hot pastey my girl Mookie did as party of her 30 new things project. That's right - it's a paste up of herself. And then she wrote this. Fucking inspired!

Top 10 Sneaker Stores in the World

Alright so I'm obsessed with Top 10's.

First came the Top 10 Clubs in the World, now the Top 10 Sneaker Stores in the World (as suggested by Askmen.com, published June 2009).
Here's their Top 10:

1. Undefeated / Tokyo
2. Alife Rivington Club / NYC
3. Livestock / Vancouver
4. Huf / San Francisco
5. Solebox / Berlin
6. Bodega / Boston
7. Dave's Quality Meats / NYC
8. Size? / Various UK
9. Flight Club / NYC
10. Atmos / Tokyo

Obviously I haven't been to the stores located in North America and Canada (yet - hopefully I'll be hitting the NYC stores in November). But perhaps the writer simply hasn't been to as many stores as he should have when writing a story about the 10 best sneaker stores in the world. Because there's heaps of them.

Considering the fact I've been to so many sneaker stores across the globe in the past 12 months, I think I have pretty good authority to critisise the list above. And perhaps when I get back from the US in November, I'll write my own top 10.

But it begs the question: What makes a great sneaker shop?

Personally I use certain criteria to judge sneaker stores - Range, Service, Price, Personality and Design. So from now on, every sneaker store I go to, I'm going to give a rating out of 4 for each of the following criteria:

Range is probably the most obvious of all the elements that make a a great sneaker store. Without a great range, the store is nothing.

Some stores are fantastic when it comes to service - and some are just down right rude. Money is the same colour no matter who's hand it's held in, so the service better be good no matter who you're serving.

Price can really vary depending where you are in the world and realistically, at some point, the price point will become a factor (unless you have cash to splash).

A sneaker store needs personality. Whether it's the people who work there, the art, the design, the advertising, the website - the store needs to scream loads about what's inside before you even walk through the door.

Store design, just as much as it should be part of the personality of the store, it needs to show of the shoes without detracting attention from the sneakers! Store design is an important part of the shopping experience.

Each store will then get a total out of 100 (each criteria equals 20 points, with a total of 100 for all 5 criteria). I'm going to start by back tracking all the sneaker stores I've been to everywhere (including Australia) and start ranking them in my own personal top 10.

Now back to the Askmen.com Top 10. As I said, I can't speak for the North American stores, but the Japan and European component leaves a lot to be desired. On the one hand, they've missed so many of the best shops - but on the other hand, it was written for Askmen.com. So it's probably not the best article to use to judge where to buy sneaks from. But I'm sure some people have. Undefeated as number 1? Well, that's questionable. As far as I'm concerned, the best sneaker shop in Tokyo from a range point of view is K-Skit handsdown. K-Skit might not be pretty, but the prices and service are excellent. Defeated is a nicely designed store, but the range and prices leave a lot to be desired. It's worth a visit, but it's not the best in Tokyo, let alone the world.

Which brings me to the next point - finding a concise list of the best sneaker stores is really hard. SneakerFreaker have done a stand up job with their sneaker shop guide, but it isn't definitive, and doesn't give you a real description or whether the store is worth worth visiting. I've found in my travels that some stores don't sell Nike or certain brands, which can be pretty annoying if you plan your day around visiting several stores and don't find anything you're remotely interested in.

I'm not suggesting I can create a definitive list of sneaker stores - but I'm going to try to give the best description and information I can to make the decision to go and finding the place etc much easier. It's something I wish I could have had access to before I set out to visit all these stores.