Accidental admission

An 800-year-old fortress may not be a typical site for a music festival, much less one that includes bands with names like The Toxic Avenger and Ultra Vomit.  But in Europe, it’s apparently the venue to beat.

It was mid-afternoon in the city of Perpignan, and the Palais des Rois de Majorque was undergoing a not-so-historic transformation. Ete 66 is a summer music festival that takes on different themes by the day of the week. Jazz one night, classical another, etc. And for 5 euro, any resident or tourist could come on Saturday night to hear some rock and roll.

I had stumbled into the palais not only to explore the landmark, but also to get out of the scorching Mediterranean sunshine. Once inside the defense walls, I heard a drum set. With the humidity taking its toll on my senses, I was hesitant to believe my ears. Was this French rock? Since coming to Europe, all I had heard was American hip-hop blaring from seemingly every mall and restaurant speaker. I knew there were such things as European rock bands — I had just never heard one until then.

As a drummer in my high school years, I have a fairly thorough understanding of what constitutes a rock band’s set up. For example, the amps must be strategically arranged to not only project into the audience, but also not to pick up and carry feedback from the other instruments. So when I heard the oily-haired punk of a Frenchman pounding the snare for a sound check, I felt a new connection to France, something beyond simply consuming large quantities of its cheese.

There was something unique about watching the setup of Ete 66. The location, the Catalan punks in their fishnet stockings and spiky hair, and the way the sun struck the triangular stage all reminded me that I was indeed out of my home country.

But just like in the states, roadies laid and connected cables and black T-shirts were neatly folded on the merchandise table. If the manager of the event hadn’t been shouting orders in French, or the bleachers weren’t being set up against ancient walls of rock, the whole scene could have taken place anywhere.

I didn’t stay for the concert. The sun has a way of robbing me of all stamina. But I feel that I had experienced something that could have rivaled the face-melting, kidney-bursting effects of French hard rock. How many foreigners can say that they watched a European road crew from the rooftops of a historical monument?