Monday, March 9, 2009 Updated: March 10, 12:42 PM ET
Satisfaction from sticking with Datsuns
By Paul Shirley Special to ESPN.com
Talking to a strange girl is scary. Will she respond? Does she already have a boyfriend? Will she be completely repulsed by my face? If I consider the possible negative outcomes, there's almost no reason to speak with a member of the opposite sex. But I do it anyway, not because I know I'll succeed, but because I'll know I tried.
Dolf de Borst and The Datsuns didn't let a small crowd keep them from an all-out performance.
I saw a band called The Datsuns in Barcelona recently. I went by myself. On the way to the show, I noticed a feeling very like the one that immediately precedes the approach of an unknown girl. I was nervous, but for no logical reason. Similar to the cold approach of a woman, I didn't have much to lose. In the worst case, I could turn around at the door and go home. Thankfully, I didn't.
Typical to the European experience, seeing The Datsuns was harder than it should have been. I found out about the show a few days prior and -- thinking I would utilize this newfangled Internet phenomenon -- tried to buy a ticket online. I was stymied when the Webpage asked for a DNI (Spanish ID number). Ostensibly, this was to prevent fraud, although I'm not clear on what type. If I worked for the venue or for the band, I think I would be happy to sell a few extra tickets, regardless of what happened to them. Then again, I'm American and I tend to embrace the concept of driving revenue with a business or service.
I didn't already have tickets, so I left early for the show. I navigated the Barcelona metro with ease born of familiarity, and found myself in an industrial part of the city where the concert hall -- Razzmatazz -- was supposed to be. I shook off doubts engendered by the decidedly non-rock 'n' roll neighborhood and hiked a few blocks before finding the place just as boarded up as I had suspected it would be. The place looked completely deserted. I was ready to mark the night as a failed attempt at calendar reading if not for two young Barcelonans clad in all black. They looked like concertgoers, at least, but they didn't look like they were planning to see the same band I was. I didn't know much (anything) about The Datsuns prior to my trip to see them, but I was sure they didn't specialize in death metal, which, by their appearance, was what the two youths staring at the Razzmatazz entrance looked ready to watch.
So I did what I always do in intimidating situations, whether they involve musicians or beautiful girls. I stalled. I went across the street to a bar named Pepe's or Paco's, which was comfortingly filled with all manner of rock paraphernalia. The bartender was appropriately standoffish, and the patrons were appropriately ambivalent about my presence. Their behavior made me optimistic that some kind of concert was about to happen across the street.
After a Budweiser (because Estrella tastes like wolverine pee), my courage was appropriately gathered, and I walked back across the street. This time, I spied humanity at the top of a set of steep outdoor stairs and made my way up. I was greeted by two security guards, which was excessive because I had seen something like three potential audience members meandering about. When the unnecessary muscle opened the door for me, I found myself at a makeshift ticket booth. It was dark and deserted and I nearly gave up hope that any band not from the immediate neighborhood would be playing. I asked the man behind the counter if there was a concert tonight. He brightened and said yes.
I asked, haltingly, if it involved a band called The Datsuns. His face shone even more. Yes, he said, but don't miss the opener. They're very good too. I told him I wouldn't, paid for a ticket and walked back to the street to seek nourishment.
After a hamburger that was somehow turned into the Spanish equivalent of a Subway sandwich, I wandered back to Razzmatazz. The opening band, Stop Stop!, had already commenced rocking by the time I got inside. I took up a position near the back of the place, with sight lines of the stage and the bar, where a girl with gigantic breasts was serving beer in plastic cups.
The opener was, indeed, very good, but in a very bad way. They were Spanish, I think, but they sang 1980s hair band-style songs in English. The lyrics were laughably terrible, much like the lyrics to any Poison song. The lead singer had hair down to his waist -- hair he wasn't afraid to use in true faux-metal style. The guitarist wore a Bret Michaels cowboy hat, the bassist had no shirt and the drummer was the butt of the jokes. It was hilarious, quaint and endearing, all at the same time. And because the band didn't take itself too seriously, and because the guitarist was actually pretty damned good, it was a fun set. Near the end, they did a medley that started with Roxette's "The Look," continued with "Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue, and finished with Guns 'N Roses' "Paradise City." It was amazing. And horrible, if that makes any sense.
Between acts, I paid the girl with the cartoon boobs too much for the forest-creature urine she was serving and appraised the situation. A few people were leaving after the opening band, which was not something I had seen before. Their departure didn't change much; it only made it clear that my neurosis regarding advanced tickets had been misplaced. By the time the headliner took the stage, there were exactly 42 people in attendance.
I felt bad for The Datsuns -- they had come all the way from New Zealand for 42 people. And I felt bad for us -- the 42. I thought there was no way the band would put forth much of an effort for a crowd smaller than an NFL team's roster. I was wrong. The Datsuns were amazing.
I have long believed that it is nearly impossible to enjoy a band live if you aren't familiar with a few of its songs. Evidently, I hadn't seen enough good live bands. I didn't know a single song going into The Datsuns' set, but that didn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying myself. They played for nearly two hours, which wouldn't be significant except for the fact their songs average about 2½ minutes each.
Their sound reminded me of a combination of Wolfmother and a UK band called The Music. The music soared but it had a strong punk feel. The guitarist was amazing, the singing was unintelligible -- but no less wonderful for it -- and the band's attitude (best described as enthusiastic toward the music but disdainful of the crowd) was perfect.
Each song was as good as the last. I forgot about the top-heavy bartender and was carried away by The Datsuns. I didn't care that I was by myself, in an ugly bar in a run-down part of the city. I felt cool, alive and free. It was everything a rock concert should be, and it reminded me, once again, why I go to the trouble of seeing live music.
The band left the stage without an encore and the night was over. All 42 of us spilled out into the night and I walked to the subway station in a happy trance. My perseverance had been rewarded. If The Datsuns were the beautiful girl and my going to the concert was asking them on a date, then our night involved a hot tub and pancakes in the morning.
Paul Shirley has played for 13 pro basketball teams, including three NBA teams -- the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns. He can be found at myspace.com/paulshirley and at email@example.com. His book "Can I Keep My Jersey?" -- which is now available in paperback -- can be found here. With his brother, he co-hosts an online radio show, "Off Topic with Matt and Paul Shirley."