Recap on My Second Visit to Mexico
After playing the streets almost every day for six months or so before arrival, on June 14th, 2019, I’ve made it to Mexico for the second time. My primary purpose on this second visit was to be able to start booking and play legitimate shows with Black Sea Storm. This goal had particular importance for me. Since the day I began Black Sea Storm, it has solely been a recording project. It started as a solo side project, and as time went by, it has become my main musical outlet.
By being able to integrate live performances to the project, not only would it be a big step forward in Black Sea Storm history, but also I’d be able to turn my current nomadic life to a never-ending rock n’ roll tour. Being able to represent Black Sea Storm live was the last missing piece to allow me to be a fully independent and autonomous artist. From writing songs, recording them to publishing them, I’ve been doing it all on my own. Integrating live shows to the end of the chain would make the experience go full circle.
During the initial weeks of the adventure in the Mayan Riviera, I tried to use learned booking techniques from the past. Since my personal history as a rock musician mostly happened in the United States and Western Europe, I ended up being very unsuccessful in booking shows in Mexico at first. This is why I decided to leave the expensive riviera and go to Mérida, the capital of the Yucatan state, where I had made some beautiful friendships during my previous visit in 2018. With their support, I was able to get my first shows in Mexico. In between June 2019 to December 2019, I was able to book about 13 shows in this beautiful country. I later found out that my intuition guided me in the right direction and going to Mérida to get help from my friends was the best move to make. Today I can easily say, knowing people and having real friends in Mexico is a critical factor if you want to book shows as an unknown foreign artist.
Love is not a rational thing
With my booking and touring experience in Mexico, I faced many challenges. I was able to play a total of 13 shows. Probably for a business-oriented rocker, the time and effort I put in was probably not worth the financial and promotional results I got out of it. But when it comes to Black Sea Storm and my rock n’ roll adventures, I tend not to think in usual business terms. The return on investment exists and it’s usually things that are way more precious than money for me.
Black Sea Storm is the project I am the proudest of in life, and I see my relationship with it as sort of a parent-child one. A parent would do anything for her child without expecting anything in return. I suspect myself having a similar relationship with my solo rock n’ roll project. I’m not in for the money, I’m not in for fame. I just love doing this even if nobody is listening to my songs. This is what makes me a happy person in life.
If I happen to be the last human being on Earth, I’ll still be playing to the trees and the mountains. I love doing it, but at the same time, I want to do it in the most professional fashion possible. Not because I am doing it out of love means that I am going to have an amateur approach. In that sense, I think that the parent-child analogy is also appropriate. A parent will have joyful moments with her child, but it is also a 24/7 job.
Black Sea Storm is the thing that gives me the most joy in life, but at the same time, it has its own challenging moments. From the outside, one may perceive me as a guy with a guitar having some fun touring Latin America. I am probably stating the obvious, but the reality of this rock n’ roll and traveling adventure involves a lot of work, sacrifice, dedication and requires a capacity to constantly adapt to new situations.
Preparing The Last Show
This last show I was about to prepare had a distinctive flavor in the sense of being a 100% DIY event. As if I had to showcase everything I had learned in booking and performing 12 shows in Mexico to make this 13th and the last one be a success. Thank Margarita from Tadeco. I was introduced to Alejandro, who owned a minuscule theatre called El Forito $3 Pesos in the heart of the Querétaro downtown area. I am amazed by how the entire Mexican tour ended up being a chain of referrals. I can almost connect all the people who helped me from the first show I got to play to the last one. Alejandro of El Forito was willing to lend me the room on a slow night for their regular events. There was no P.A., no microphone stand. Basically, I had the room at my disposal, but I needed to make almost everything happen on my own. I needed to find a P.A. a mic stand, and draw enough people to listen to some Turkish Rock on an acoustic guitar on a Wednesday night in Querétaro. It was definitely a challenge, but with everything I had gone through in Mexico as far as booking shows and the valuable things I’d learned along the way, I was ready to tackle the challenge.
First, the missing P.A. and mic stand situation had to be solved. I have my own microphone and my own cables, but I prefer not to travel from country to country with low-cost flights and take a P.A. and a mic stand with me. I called my friend Lalo who owns the Centro Cultural El Árbol. For a previous private event I had in Querétaro, he was very kind to let me borrow the P.A. plus the mic stand from El Árbol. Lalo had told me that I could ask him again if I happen to have more shows in town. When I called him, he was willing to lend me the gear again, but he told me that the mic stand wasn’t his, and the owner had taken it back. It was good and bad news for me. At least I had the P.A. secured for the show, I just had to find a mic-stand.
Old School Flyers
In addition to some Facebook and Instagram promotion, I decided to make some analog flyers and posters and put them in rock n’ roll sensitive strategic points of Querétaro. It reminded me of the days with my former, pre-social-media era bands Swoan and Channing Cope. I remember that with Swoan we did not have access to design programs, so we would cut letters out of the newspaper and glue the text together. Then we would reproduce the flyer with a poly-copy machine. During the Channing Cope era, I had access to design programs. With Black Sea Storm, since I passed from P.C. to Mac and not having the finances to invest in a licensed design program, I am in a way back to the 90s as far as putting together show flyers. The hack I came out with was to design an Instagram story for the show and print that out. As one can imagine, the resolution did not come out all that great in printed format, but it wasn’t terrible either. This is DIY rock n’ roll anyways; the primary goal is to get the information out and draw people to the show. When the time comes, I’d really love to have some badass concert posters for Black Sea Storm.
I went to a print shop near the La Cruz market, my favorite area to hang in Querétaro to get access to fresh fruits and veggies. My two favorites restaurants La Calenda and Blue Fish are located in the area as well. This is a bit off-topic promotion, but if you happen to be in Querétaro, those are quality places to eat for accessible prices. It can be a challenge in Querétaro to find yummy affordable food that won’t get you sick. It’s always a pleasure for me to support businesses that love what they do and are doing a good job.
The clerk at the print shop was a young guy. Although he did not have a band T on, I highly suspected him to be a metalhead. He had a friendly and professional attitude. Also, he seemed to be very familiar with the whole printed analog show flyer culture. He knew how to fit the maximum amount of flyers on a single sheet. He even offered to do a cutting job for me. That was very cool of him.
My Mic Stand Nightmare in Mexico
This is going to sound a bit unusual if you are not a musician from Mexico, but there seems to be a whole different culture in Mexico when it comes to microphones and mic stands. During my entire career as a rocker, I never had to worry about microphones and mic stands, because clubs usually have their own so the touring artists can use them. This is not a standard in Mexico. Some places do have the basic backline a standard rock club should have, and some don’t. Sometimes there isn’t even a P.A. on site. Early on, during the tour, I decided to invest in a Shure SM58 microphone while I was in Mérida. On the other hand, I was hesitant to invest in a mic stand, knowing that at one point during my Latin American tour, I will be taking a low-cost flight, and with limitation, on weight and number of pieces of luggage, I could not take the mic stand with me.
The mic stand issue started on the day I arrived in Cancun. An established rock club was willing to have me on a Friday night, but they did not have a microphone nor a mic stand. It seems like at some of the clubs in Mexico, those gear elements are considered to be a part of the band’s gear. I’m cool with that, but when you are touring internationally as a small independent act, how are you going to bring heavy equipment such as a P.A. and mic stands with you? For the 12 previous shows, I played in Mexico, either the venue happened to have a mic stand, bought one for the event or somehow I managed to borrow one.
The couple of shows I played in Querétaro I had access to Lalo’s friend’s mic stand that was in pretty bad shape, but having to play two shows with it I had figured out where to put some duck tape, so the whole thing does not fall apart during my live performance. This time around, neither El Árbol nor El Forito had a mic stand. A busy cultural center and a theater both located in the heart of downtown not having mic stands blows my mind. I came to the conclusion that the issue was probably more cultural than financial.
Since the venues did not have mic stands, I thought perhaps the bands have their own. I contacted two of my friends Adolfo and Arturo, both playing in a stoner band called Hellhunters asking if they could let me borrow their mic stand. The answer was that they both did not own mic stands. It was tough for me to get my head around the problem. Although the mic stand issue could look like a small gear-related detail, without it there is no show for an act like mine. I first thought maybe the bands don’t have mic stands because they don’t have their own rehearsal rooms, and practice in hourly rented practice rooms. But then I asked myself, how do they make it happen when they have concerts? The answer could be that they play real rock venues and not cafés, cultural centers, and theaters as I happen to be playing lately. Or, they all use Madonna-style head-microphones.
As we were getting closer to the show day, the mic stand situation started to stress me out a little bit. I was able to pull it off from Cancun to Qurétaro, passing by Mérida, Oaxaca, Mexico City for a total of 12 shows, and now on my last appearance in the country, four days before departure to Lima I had no access to a mic stand. Believe it or not, I ended up purchasing a brand new mic stand. I should have bought one for the entire tour from day one, at least I would have made my investment a bit more worthy. A brand new mic stand for one show, I still can’t believe that I spent 400 pesos and purchased that mic stand.
Making it happen
My motto with this project is to make it happen, no matter what. I define success in rock n’ roll for myself as being able to make it happen. Every show I play, every album I put out, is my definition of success. Regardless of if people show up at the concerts or if people listen to my music online. Each time I am playing a show or putting out a digital release, I feel like I am making a statement to myself and to the world that I am still alive as a rocker.
The Day of the Show
Bad luck for me, I woke up in the morning on show day feeling feverish. During the months I spent in Mexico, I would once in a while catch something bad, usually from food. On this occasion, on top of the fever, I was feeling weak. The most challenging part was that I would be out of breath with any efforts above normal. I am in the routine of training six times a week at the gym. I walk and run a lot. In that regard, I believe to be in pretty good shape. But on the day of the show, I did not feel like my usual self. Physical effort was a bit of a challenge for me. I could be feeling bad any other day, but it needed to be on the day of the show to spice everything up a little bit.
The Night of the Show
I needed to go to El Árbol get the P.A. and then go to El Forito carrying around all that gear with me. I managed to do everything and on time. Being punctual in Mexico will often make you feel very lonely. It’s not something I want to develop here, but I think it’s an exciting and funny topic to be developed one day.
I’ve made it to El Forito before Alejandro. In order not to waste time, while I was waiting for him, I decided to hand the remaining of my flyers to people passing on the street. “- Rock Turco esta noche, entrada libre!!” Trying to sell the last thing, an average Mexican citizen living in Querétaro needed made me realize that I would do pretty much anything when it comes to supporting my project.
Finally, Alejandro showed up. He helped me out setting up. The actual theatre was tiny and cozy. It felt more like a living room than a conventional theatre with a stage. Showtime was at 8 PM. Ten to eight, there was no one around. Alejandro told me that he had to go to an event with his fiancée so he would not be present during the show. I was utterly alone inside of the room, playing my guitar, and trying to sound-check. I started to think that maybe no one was going to show up. If that would be the case, I decided that I would just run the set, record it on my phone and go home, and recover from not feeling 100%.
At showtime, people starting to show up. It made me truly happy to see people coming into the small theatre. Since there was no stage and the crowd was sitting very close to me, it felt more like having friends over to my apartment than playing a show. I had not thought of bringing a connecting-cable, so I could play some music on my phone. I decided to chat with people who were already there. Asking them how did they hear about the show. At one point, there were about a dozen people inside the room. I asked them if they wanted me to start playing. They said yes and I started to play the set. As I began to play the first song “Dünya’nın Kalbine”, more people kept entering the room. Counting myself, I believe we were 17 people total inside of the room.
I don’t know if me not feeling well had anything to do, but the entire concert ended being twice as long as my usual set. Since I could easily interact with the crowd. The audience would ask me questions, I would answer. I ended up talking as much as playing. It was an awesome show from my point of view. Talking in-between songs is usually not my favorite thing to do since it tends to take me out of the zone. But on this occasion, it felt like the natural thing to do. Since initially on that day, I wasn’t feeling very well, I think that subconsciously, it helped me retake my breath and recharge my energy in between songs. As it happened to me several times during my rock career, I did not feel any of the symptoms of not feeling well during the actual show. The only thing that was affected was the strength and tone of my voice, but other than that, I felt fine. This is how powerful rock n’ roll is. It has the power to resurrect a dead person.
I was delighted that 16 people had shown up on a Wednesday night to listen to my music. It was an excellent feeling because everyone from the crowd had come to the show to see Black Sea Storm. This was the perfect show to conclude the Black Sea Storm Mexican Tour. Before this second visit to Mexico, I had not played a single show with Black Sea Storm, and now I had 13 of them behind me. I’ve met a lot of people and made new friends. Mexico is definitely an essential place for me on this journey. After living a total of 12 months on two separate occasions in Mexico, I don’t consider it as a country that I am visiting anymore. I see it as a place where I actually want to spend at least several months of my life every year. I can’t wait to be back. Mexico, I love you!
Next stop: Lima, Peru…
Black Sea Storm on Spotify
Black Sea Storm on Apple Music
Black Sea Storm on YouTube (blackseastorm11)
Black Sea Storm on Instagram (blackseastorm6161)
Black Sea Storm on Facebook (blackseastorm11)
Black Sea Storm on Twitter