Barcelona: “I’m gonna see my friend!”

After the Berlin show, Jaime and I set our sights on a self-guided walking tour that took us to Prenzlauer Berg–formerly an East German neighborhood known for its students, artists, intellectuals, and alternative lifestyles–for breakfast; then to the East Side Gallery–where murals decorate what was formerly the Berlin Wall; up to Museuminsel, the Berlin Cathedral, and Hackesche Hofe–an outdoor courtyard with bars and restaurants; down Unter den Linden–Berlin’s main drag; up to the iconic Brandenburg Gate; over to the Reichstag Building; through lush Tiergarten; and finally to Victory Column.

When we arrived at Brandenburg Gate the first time, we noticed that the area was blocked off and we had to go around the side.  We thought maybe a concert was going, but we soon learned how the Germans watch the World Cup–down Unter den Linden, stretching a quarter-mile or so from Brandenburg Gate, were several 50-foot television screens broadcasting the upcoming quarterfinals matches between France and Uruguay and Belgium and Brazil.  Considering Jaime and I got a taste for World Cup fever when we were in Amsterdam back in 2014, we decided this would be a nice way to spend the afternoon with Berliners.

During the Belgium vs. Brazil game, we met a group of people from New York in Pearl Jam gear, so we sat down with them and chatted for a while.  They were also carrying on to Barcelona, which was cool to us because we hadn’t met that many people who were going past Berlin.  We told them we’d look for them at the show, said our goodbyes, and checked off another city on our trip.

 

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The next morning, we hopped on a flight to Paris for a quick-side trip.  This was my first time in Paris, and without a doubt, it is now one of my favorite cities.  Our adventure started with a trip to the Palace of Versailles, where we toured the opulent palace and its vast gardens and lavish fountains during the afternoon and then returned for the pageantry of the Night Fountains Show (which I can’t recommend enough!).  Another highly-recommended experience is a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower (worth it!) during the evening hours and then sticking around for the Eiffel Tower light show at 11:00 p.m. (bring a blanket, a bottle of wine, and some snacks and have a seat on the grass in Eiffel Park).

 

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The best part about Paris, though?

Seeing this guy and his family at Sacre Coeur!

 

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Brothers don’t shake hands!  Brothers gotta hug! 

Jaime and I finished up our time in Paris with visits to Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Rodin Museum for a quick glimpse of The Thinker, Les Invalides, and the Louvre.  Our walks along the Seine River, though, helped me understand why people love Paris.  Up and down the riverwalk, people picnicked and conversed and drank wine and shared meat and cheese and bread and hummus and whatever else.  Never in my life have I seen such a vibrant and lively stage for conviviality.  When I heard people talk about Paris in the past–even Brandon–I always felt like they were romanticizing their experiences, but now having been there, I completely understand why people fall in love with Paris.

After being completely enamored with Paris for three days, we packed our bags and headed to our final destination–Barcelona!  Barcelona has always been high on my bucket list of cities to visit, but I also knew making it to the Barcelona show meant putting in a full month in Europe.  That seemed like an awfully long time to be away from home, but Jaime and I both acknowledged that neither of us felt home-sick.  We never spent too much time in a city to the point where we got bored, but also we felt like we saw what we needed to see in the time we were in each city.  Had it not been for a certain little dog waiting for us back home, we probably would’ve spent another two weeks in Europe!

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“Come back!  Come back!  Oooooh, I need you!”  

The Barcelona show held a lot of significance for me in various ways.  It was the last show of our trip, it was my 45th Pearl Jam show, and it was the first time Brandon and I had traveled to a foreign country to see our favorite band together.  For Brandon, Barcelona was Show #40, but it was the first show he and his whole family had attended together.

“PJ bucket list 100% complete,” he texted me after the show.  “Europe–check.  Both boys–check.  Billy–check.”

Before the show, we ran into some familiar faces once again.  Aaron from Southern California, who I had seen outside the venue at Padova, at the Prague pre-party, and at Schoenfeld Airport in Berlin, and his wife were with a group of people from the States, including Seyton, one of the guys Jaime and I met while watching the World Cup in Berlin just a few days prior.  This was the last stop for all of us; and just like always, this group of fans bonded over our travels and our devotion to this band.  The group seemed well-connected to each other, but once again, none of them knew each other before meeting each other at the various shows they’d all attended over the past two-and-a-half decades.  I listened to them tell stories about sharing hotel rooms or hosting each other at their homes.  They hugged, they joked, they laughed.  They embodied the human joy.

Maybe I’m just as guilty of romanticizing Pearl Jam as others are of Paris; then again, maybe I just wish complete strangers would be as accepting of others as Pearl Jam fans seem to be of each other.  Maybe I just wish complete strangers would bond over some common ground the way Pearl Jam fans do.

Wouldn’t that be nice?  Wouldn’t that make for a better way of life?  Imagine…

I enjoyed talking to Aaron because he and I both work in education and share a passion for baseball, so our conversations made that anxious time before the show more festive and entertaining.  Aaron’s personality is one that lends itself to meeting others, so when acclaimed photographer Danny Clinch–who just so happens to be his wife’s idol–walked passed us, Aaron introduced himself and asked Danny if he’d take a picture with his wife.

Not gonna lie…that was a cool moment to witness!

As the show neared, we made our way into Palau Sant Jordi, a sporting complex from the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games that rests on top of Montjuic Hill.  We knew it wasn’t going to be worth fighting our way up front with two small boys in Brandon’s posse, so Jaime and I settled in next to the sound stage on the right-hand side so they could easily locate us.  When they finally arrived, the excitement of the moment built up within me and I couldn’t wait for Pearl Jam to blow me away one last time in Europe.

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“I don’t need another friend…got too many friends…”

I asked Brandon’s two sons what they wanted to hear.  The oldest, who saw Pearl Jam in St. Paul back in 2014, wanted to hear a classic–“Black”.  The youngest, who was fulfilling Brandon’s Pearl Jam bucket list by attending this show, wanted something with a little more energy–“Mind Your Manners”.  I high-fived them both for good luck.  For Brandon’s wife Courtney, this was her 16th show, so I was hoping for “Smile”, a favorite of hers that she’d never seen before.

Listening to that song always reminds of the time Brandon and I went to see Pearl Jam in Chicago (2008) and he said, “I’ve never seen ‘Smile’, which is Courtney’s favorite song, and I just know I’m going to get it here…”  He turned and looked at me with great disdain: “With you.”

For me, I only had one song left to hear on this tour that they hadn’t played yet–“Long Road”.  I was surprised they hadn’t opened a show with it yet, so I thought getting that song would make for a fitting way to end our trip.

I was also secretly hoping for “Oceans”, because that was the only song from Ten that Jaime hadn’t seen live.  When I told her that, she said, “Oh!  Cool!”

Another classic understatement from the Accidental Pearl Jam Groupie…

When the lights went out, I could feel the chill of excitement run up my spine.  Brandon and I were dialed in.

Right on cue, “Long Road” opened the show.  From there, the set list just fell right into everyone’s wishlist.  “Mind Your Manners” melted our faces, “Nothing As It Seems” and the rarely played “Ghost” made their tour debuts (making Pearl Jam fanatic Dimitri the Greek Ghost a happy camper!), and “Oceans” rounded out Ten for both Jaime and Courtney.

The final four songs of the first set–“Jeremy”–>”Go”–>”State of Love and Trust”–>”Porch”–packed a powerful punch that had the Barcelona crowd roaring.  During the first encore, I watched Brandon’s oldest get lost in the beauty of “Black” just like I did the first time I heard it in his dad’s car oh so many years ago.   I know someday he’ll have a beautiful life because of that song…

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Our tour came to an ideal end with my favorite concluding trifecta: “Alive“–>”Baba O’Riley“–>”Yellow Ledbetter“.  Mike rained down a cascade of notes signaling that our time together in Europe had come to an end, so I turned to Brandon and gave him a hug.

The band of the hour had taken their final bow.

Goodbye for now…

Today’s title is taken from Pearl Jam’s “Gonna See My Friend” off the album Pearl Jam,
released in 2006.  

Traveling to Europe, Seattle, or Chicago this summer for Pearl Jam?
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1 thought on “Barcelona: “I’m gonna see my friend!”

  1. Billy,
    Really enjoyed meeting you and reading about your journey! Sounded a lot like mine, I just can’t put it as eloquently as you. Nice job and a great read.
    Hope to see you at Seattle or Missoula look for the M👀N shirt!
    Aaron

    Liked by 1 person

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