MEGACONCERT

An unexpected job.

There are moments when life opens doors or windows to people or situations so far removed from your everyday that you can't begin to imagine what they're like. Yet, look through that window or cross that threshold, and you enter another reality. That's what happened to me a few years ago.

I was without regular work, grappling with overwhelming economic uncertainty, but I spent my free time helping out as much as I could at the Sosterra Association in Colindres. One day, Pedro, one of the members, asked if I was interested in a job for about four days as a shuttle driver. They needed someone who was fluent in English to transport VIP passengers from abroad. I, in dire need of work, didn't hesitate to tell him yes, that I was very interested.

Truth be told, I didn't think too much about it, sensing it would involve driving a car and taking people to various places. But it turned out to be more interesting than that. First was the schedule. I had to start at eight in the evening and finish at six in the morning, driving a nine-seater Vito van. I started a week earlier to shift my sleep schedule so that I could sleep during the day and stay awake at night. When my first day of work arrived, the first thing I had to do was to pick up the van from a car rental company in downtown Bilbao. I completed all the paperwork and was handed the keys. Having had bad experiences with this kind of company, the first thing I did was take pictures of each scratch and dent on the van and show them to the receptionist. He noted it down on a paper and gave me a copy. With that, I was happy enough.

mercedes vito 9  seats

The van was spacious and comfortable. I set the destination in Waze, and it guided me through unfamiliar streets, eventually leading me up a steep and narrow path to Mount Cobetas (Kobetamendi). I had my doubts about the van's capabilities, but it climbed the incline without any issues. Upon reaching the top, I was struck by the enormity of the installation. Finding my designated spot proved challenging, so I called the supervisor who provided the necessary directions. My destination was somewhat concealed behind the stages, literally the backstage area. It was a well-set-up spot, equipped with chairs, armchairs, a water dispenser, a machine for hot drinks, and a small bar-restaurant. Part of it was covered, in case of rain, and it was well-lit and clean. In the back, there was a building resembling prefabricated office units with a small reception area. The rest were dressing rooms where the artists could change or leave their belongings. However, reaching this area required passing through about four security checkpoints.

Before heading to the reception, I took a good look at how the van worked. From the driving controls to adjusting the seats in all possible combinations. I had been informed that some artists would be bringing their instruments and would need space. Once I felt comfortable with the operation of everything, I approached the reception where I was directed to the shuttle company's office. Several people were working there, but the coordination of the vans was mainly handled by two women who were constantly on the phone.

After introducing myself, we quickly began planning the trips. I was responsible for about eight groups or individual people. This included picking them up from the airport, taking them to the hotel, from the hotel to the venue, from the dressing rooms to the respective stage, and the same in the opposite direction, all synchronized with other drivers. After finishing the planning, I realized my age showed, and that I belonged to a different generation. Looking at the list of names, I found that despite growing up listening to Anglo-Saxon music, I didn't recognize a single person. Not even the Spanish groups or singers.

Returning to the van, I sat and waited, taking the opportunity to look over the list of names again. The only one that rang a bell was Liam Gallagher, but I couldn't remember why. The rest were Suede, Modeselektor Live, Slaves, The Voidz, Brockhampton, Hot Chip, Rosalía, Idles, HVOB, Vince Staples, Kero Kero Bonito, Alicia Carrera, and finally Cut Copy. All unknown to me.

I started the engine and went to the Jardines de Albia hotel to pick up Liam Gallagher, but upon arrival, he preferred to travel with the rest of the group and not in the VIP van, so I didn't get to meet the only person I somewhat recognized. Having some time, I sent a WhatsApp message to my son, who knows about musicians, to see if he recognized any, but he only knew a few, including Liam Gallagher, who was the singer of Oasis, which is why the name sounded familiar to me. He now played in two different bands. I didn't feel so old when I saw that my son also didn't know most of them. What he did tell me was that this Rosalía was very famous.

I returned to the musicians' area, noticing along the way that the queues to get in were enormous. Except for a few older ones, everyone in line was very, very young. Even at that moment, they began leaving trash everywhere, so much so that hours later, a musician commented on how dirty everything was as we passed between mounds nearly a meter high of plastics along the roadside. A significant oversight in the event's organization.

London Suede

I went to the drivers' coordination booth to confirm the next pickup, and everything was noted correctly. I was to pick up London Suede from the Hotel Indautxu. With five minutes to spare, I took the opportunity to connect my phone to the van's Bluetooth and play my ELO playlist. The music style coming from the stages was becoming quite different from my tastes of many years ago, and I wanted something familiar. I arrived at the Indautxu a bit early and got out of the van. Soon after, another vehicle from our company arrived, also to wait for them, so I assumed there would be several people. After about 10 minutes, about five young men who looked English came out.

'You lot Suede?' I asked in a way that was too informal for addressing strangers, but if they took it well, it could be friendly.

'Yes!' one of them replied, engrossed in a conversation with another.

'I’m your driver to the concert backstage,' I said as I opened the door. They got in, still talking. The rest of the group boarded the second van.

'Excuse me,' I interrupted their conversation. 'Are we waiting for anyone else?'

'No. It’s just us.'

'Thanks, and by the way, do you mind if I put some music on? I have to tell you though that in this van we only listen to the ELO.'

'Sure, no problem. My mum loves the ELO. I know most of their songs,' one of them said.

'A woman with good taste,' I replied, smiling through the rearview mirror.

We set off towards the mega concert, me humming songs and ensuring that each acceleration and braking were as smooth as possible. At one point, 'Wild West Hero' started playing, and I sang it softly so as not to disturb the two who were deep in conversation. Suddenly, one of them stopped talking, turned to me, and joined in singing.

'You know that?' his companion asked.

'Sure!. Don’t you?'

'Never heard of it,' his friend replied, but the other was already singing again.

There I was, singing 'Wild West Hero' with someone from a famous English group on the streets of Bilbao. His companion looked at him amazed that he knew a song unknown to him but known to the Spanish shuttle driver. As the song ended, as if nothing had happened, his friend stopped singing and continued the conversation. Upon arrival, I helped them through the security checks and left them at the artists' reception.

'Thank you!' they said as a farewell.

'No problem! Have a good one!' I replied, already thinking about my next passenger.

Slaves

I can't recall if it was two or three in the morning when my fellow driver and I were tasked with transporting the Slaves band and their musicians. My assignment was to take the duo's accompanying team from the backstage area to their hotel in the city center. They were six people in total, four women and two men. Leaving the venue, as I circled the macro-concert area to begin descending from the mountain towards Bilbao, I remembered that all shuttles were instructed to use small, unfamiliar streets. I had only learned the route up on Google Maps, not down. Nonetheless, I hoped Waze would guide me correctly. We could still hear the music from the nearest amphitheater when I reached a fork where the road split into two narrower paths. Waze instructed me to go straight, but one option wasn't on the map. I stopped and studied both routes, dark mountain roads illuminated only by the van's lights. My passengers had fallen silent, so I pointed at my phone screen and confessed in English:

'There's only one path on the map, but two in reality. I have to decide which is the right one.'

'Don't you know the way?' one of the women asked.

'No. Normally, to ascend to the event, we use the main roads, wide and well-lit, but they're closed during the concerts, reserved for emergency vehicles only,' I replied.

I chose the left path, where the city lights shimmered in the distance. A few meters ahead, we entered what seemed like a small village or a cluster of houses that suddenly emerged from the darkness. The houses were so close together we barely fit. Realizing I had taken the wrong turn, I decided to turn around at the first opportunity, so I continued through the narrow streets. Soon, we left the village and faced a steep downhill road so sharp that I stopped, disbelieving it was meant for vehicles.

'Oh my god!' exclaimed one of the women in the passenger seat.

'What are you going to do?' she asked in English.

Down the road, about twenty meters away, I saw a left turn leading to a parking area with enough space to turn around. I was about to release the brake and descend when a strong, unpleasant sense of déjà vu hit me. It was strange because I was sure I had never been there before. Then I remembered—it was a dream I had had months ago.

In the dream, I was driving a van full of people in a dark place, needing to turn around, but facing an incredibly steep slope. There was a parking lot where I could turn around. As I contemplated this with the window down, a couple walked past. The woman, seeing me looking at the slope, said:

'You can go down and turn around in the neighbors' parking. It's less daunting than it looks,' and they continued walking.

I heeded her advice and carefully descended, entered the parking lot, which was smaller than it appeared from above, but managed to turn around. As I tried to climb back up, the front wheels started slipping, and the van slowly began to roll backward. Before losing control, I drove back into the parking lot and got out. The slope looked much steeper from the outside. A man in his forties approached, looked at the van, and told me I wouldn't make it out. The van was front-wheel drive, and the road was damp. It was better to call a tow truck.

Now, sitting and staring down the slope, I recognized the place. It was exactly the same as in that dream. I rolled down the window for a better look and heard voices approaching. A couple was walking down the hill, chatting. The woman, passing by my side, smilingly said:

'You can go down and turn around in the neighbors' parking. It's less daunting than it looks,' and they continued their descent.

I was astonished. I watched them, mouth agape, as they walked down. What she had said in the prophetic dream was exactly the same, which helped me make a decision. I wouldn't follow her advice. I put the van in reverse and slowly started backing up. Reversing through narrow spaces uphill in a Vito-sized van is quite difficult, especially with passengers shouting warnings about the proximity to the walls. The van's proximity sensors were no help, beeping continuously, but ten minutes later, we arrived back at the fork. When my passengers realized, their applause was immediate.

'Thank you! And thanks for your help,' I said in English, sincerely grateful as the volume of 'You're going to hit it!' warnings was directly proportional to our distance from the walls, far more effective than the proximity sensors.

I took the second road, which soon widened and even had some streetlights. I was glad to have remembered that dream. I dropped off my passengers at their hotel in Bilbao without any further issues and then returned to Kobetamendi. I never made the same mistake at that crossroads again.

The Voidz

On the second night, I had to pick up the band The Voidz from a stage somewhat removed from the others. They had just finished performing, and I was to take them to the musicians' dressing room area. It caught my attention that upon arrival, I wasn't immediately allowed to pass into the backstage area. But after passing through security, I understood why. To reach the back of the stage, I had to cross about a hundred meters of the area accessible to the public. A security guard moved ahead of the van, clearing the way. There weren't many people, as most were closer to the stage, listening to the music. We arrived at a second security checkpoint, beyond which was the backstage. It was a small area compared to the other stages, bustling with people. I saw some space next to the toilets, where I ended up backing in uphill between some trees. I waited nearly an hour for them to finish their set, so in the meantime, I listened to ELO and smoked a cigarette.

When the music stopped, I moved the van to a flatter spot and waited for them. The bustle of people was constant, but no one seemed to mind me being in the middle. Eventually, the group's members started to arrive, and after a while, everyone was aboard. I closed all the doors and took my seat. I approached the security checkpoint, where the guard signaled for me to lower the window.

'Sorry, I can't escort you,' he said, pointing outside.

The crowd was so dense that it literally formed a human wall.

'Do you think you can get through?'

'I think so,' I replied. Most were chatting and drinking. I knew people tend to move aside for a vehicle, so I gambled on that. Just in case, I pressed the button to lock all the doors.

I started moving forward, and indeed, when people saw the van approaching, they stepped aside. I went very, very slowly, without stopping, giving everyone time to see the lights, realize my presence, and move away without rushing. But they didn't separate by more than half a meter, and we were soon surrounded by a sea of people again. I saw more than one trying to open the doors to see who I was carrying inside, but I watched them through the rearview mirror and shook my head 'No,' smiling. They laughed and left it alone. Thankfully, I had locked the doors.

We continued to advance slowly, enveloped in darkness and parting the sea of people with the van's powerful lights. We hadn't reached the midway point to the second security checkpoint when, despite everyone stepping aside, a young couple remained right in front of us, utterly absorbed in an endless kiss. I moved forward a bit more but had to stop because they were so engrossed in their kiss that they didn't realize they were no longer surrounded by people and that the privacy of the darkness had been replaced by two powerful spotlights illuminating them fully. It was an unreal situation. A kiss that started in the privacy of a dark crowd was now in the spotlight, and they were the center of attention for all those around them. I didn't quite know what to do, so I switched on the high beams, sure they would see them even with their eyes closed, solely living the moment of that incredible kiss, but they didn't notice. Honestly, I had never seen a kiss like that. Not in reality or in any movie. It was completely passionate, where only they existed, but full of love and tenderness, and it had no end. It continued as if the two had reunited after a long time. They generated a magic that permeated everyone who watched them, including me, who was fascinated. Suddenly I realized there were whispers and something brushed my shoulder.

'This is so cool,' a voice said right behind me. I turned slightly to see who it was, but I saw at least five arms stretched forward with mobile phones lit up, recording the couple. Some were commenting on the situation, so I realized that this magical kiss was being shared on the social networks of some of the musicians. It didn't seem right. That kiss was born in the privacy of the crowd, meant only to be experienced by those two young, passionate men, not to be broadcast on the social networks of famous musicians. I gave a small honk, and one of the boys opened his eyes. Surprised, he looked at the lights, then around him, realizing they were the center of attention, he slightly separated from the other man, took his hand, and pulled him towards the safety of the darkness, disappearing into the crowd in a second.

'That was amazing!'

'It was brilliant!'

'I’m glad I got that!' some of my passengers said, but the truth is, I would have preferred it to be a moment just for those two young and passionate men. A situation too special for social networks.

Brockhampton

On the second day, I was assigned to pick up a group of those typical young, good-looking lads with well-choreographed music but questionable quality, at least to me. They appealed to teenagers. In the photos, they looked like they were between twenty and twenty-five years old, old enough to be appealing, particularly to teenagers, but not so old as to seem disconnected from the reality of fifteen-year-olds.

I arrived at the hotel and parked the van on the wide sidewalk, worried about getting a scolding from the hotel or the Ertzaintza. I relaxed when I saw a taxi bringing customers and other shuttles doing the same, as there was nowhere to park on the road. I had arrived almost thirty minutes early, so I opened the door to listen to music from outside and finished half a cigarette I had left. Then I rolled a new one for later, but honestly, I smoke little and was starting to feel overwhelmed with the two or three I had smoked. While rolling the cigarette, I wondered what the group members would be like. I imagined them as handsome and cocky young men, typical of the image these "boy bands" tend to present.

About ten minutes before departure, a strong-looking African American man, about six feet tall and twice my width, appeared at the hotel entrance, looking for something. As there were several shuttles parked, I approached him.

'Excuse me. Are you from Brockhampton?'

'Yes I am,' he replied, approaching and extending his hand.

'I’m Will. I look after the boys.'

I shook his hand, a bit surprised by the formality with someone who was just a driver.

'Hi. I’m Alejandro. I’ll be your driver for today.'

Before continuing, let me tell you that when I lived in England, I usually told English speakers my name was 'Alex' to make it easier for them, although only friends and family use that name. But years ago, I decided to tell everyone my name was 'Alejandro.' In Spain, I saw how Spanish speakers struggle with 'Hs' or consonant clusters in English names, making an effort to pronounce them correctly, so why shouldn't they also make an effort with my name? At first, it was amusing to see them wrestle with the 'J', but the result was always positive when they also made an effort to pronounce that sound.

'Hello Alejandro. Some of the boys are running a bit late. Hope that’s Ok?' I noticed he pronounced the 'J' almost perfectly, so I knew he spoke or knew Spanish quite well.

'Not a problem. Don’t worry, we have enough time,' I replied.

When the boys started to arrive after a while, I was surprised. They were much younger than they appeared in the photos, looking between fourteen and seventeen years old. Seeing them, it didn't surprise me they needed a caretaker, even though they all behaved very formally. Even the last one apologized to Will and his companions for being late.

We left the center of Bilbao and, already climbing the first slope surrounded only by trees and bushes, I heard someone in the back seats say:

'Sir? Excuse me, sir?' I thought he was calling Will, their caretaker/bodyguard. After a few seconds, he repeated it.

'Sir? Excuse me?' I looked at Will, who was sitting in the passenger seat, but he wasn't paying attention.

'Sir? Excuse me, sir?' On the third call, I assumed he was talking to me.

'I am sorry. Are you talking to me?'

'Yes. Sorry to bother you, but may I ask you a question?' he asked very formally while his companions continued their low conversations.

'Sure. No problem,' I replied.

'Are there wild animals around here?'

His question caught me by surprise. But of course, we were out of the city, climbing a steep hill surrounded by trees and some bushes clinging to the rough descent to our right. I couldn't let this question pass without cracking a joke or teasing him a bit. I thought of a witty comment about a politician from the PNV or Revilla that crossed my mind, but that kid coming from a city across the pond wouldn't understand, so I continued in English:

'The only thing I can think of is wolves.'

'Wolves?' The silence in the van was instant. I realized I had probably gone too far with my response. Will gave me a look that said, 'You're joking, right?' so I quickly winked at him without the boys in the back seeing. He turned to the right and continued looking out the window, probably hiding a smile, but I knew I had gone too far. It had been an honest and serious question, so not to scare them, I continued:

'Well, not really here. A few years ago, a lone wolf was seen a few miles south, but don’t worry. In Spain, wolves are terrified of humans, so with the concert, it's impossible for them to come around here or many miles from here.'

A little white lie, but somewhat true. Two or three years earlier, someone saw a wolf between Karrantza and Cantabria, and it caused a stir. Among the comments that wolves were reaching the towns, surely someone even said up to Bilbao, and as the news spread through social networks and newspapers, huge hunting parties were organized in several places to kill the wolf. In the end, the wolf was smart and never showed itself again.

'Thank you,' he replied. 'A few months ago, we performed on the outskirts of a city in the United States, and they warned us to be careful of bears. I thought they were joking, but apparently, bears come looking for food and can attack people.'

I was glad I had fixed the teasing. From the perspective of a North American teenager from the city, it had been a totally honest and realistic question. I say from the city because I know perfectly well that a non-city American wouldn’t ask that.

'When we get to the concert site, you'll see it's very safe. It's big and full of people. There's security and even police. Forget about wild animals and have fun.'

'Thanks,' he responded.

'We will,' another boy said. The others had been listening attentively to the conversation.

We arrived at the VIP backstage without any problems. Will had gone up earlier to see what it was like, so he already knew the place and where everything was. I left them there and went to pick up my next passenger.

I returned about two hours later to take them from the backstage to the stage for their first concert. They seemed like different people. The change in attitude and clothing made them look older and much more confident. We arrived at the back of the stage, where, as usual, there were many people doing all sorts of things. Some were unloading boxes, others carrying drinks, and others coordinating things by phone and tablet in hand. All in constant motion. The boys got out and went up a ramp to the stage entrance. Will approached me and said:

'Can you wait a while?'

I checked my schedule on my phone and replied in his language, 'I can give you thirty minutes. Is that enough?'

'Yes. I think so. I'll let you know,' he said as he turned and followed the boys to the stage.

I don’t know why he asked me that, but I suspected there was a possibility that I might have to take someone back to the dressing rooms. Years later, I read that the group was starting to break up at that time, so it could be that due to internal quarrels, someone didn't want to perform, but I didn't know that then, although it didn't matter. My job was to provide them with the most efficient transport service possible, and that's what I would do. I sent a WhatsApp message to the shuttle coordinator, letting her know that I would stay there for half an hour at the request of the group's manager. She replied that it was perfect.

I locked the van and spent some time snooping around the place. It was the second time I was backstage, but now at a large stage. The bustle of people that never stopped, I now understood, had a certain order. Everyone was doing their part, and everything fit together so well that I stood out, and a security guard approached me and told me that if I had already dropped off the group, I should leave now. As with most security guards and police officers, you just have to respond very confidently, in the style of 'These are not the droids you're looking for,' so I replied very confidently, 'In my case, I must stay another half hour.' He said something I didn't understand, as the music had just started, and he returned to his spot next to the entrance door.

I wasn't surprised that he walked away, as we were right next to the speakers, and the bass literally made your stomach move. A very strange and somewhat unpleasant sensation for your stomach to dance on its own, so I also moved away and stood closer to the stage where the boys were performing. Seeing them, I understood why they had to be so young. They didn't stop dancing and jumping in sync constantly across the stage. The audience, not more than a meter from me, followed them, singing and dancing with them. We were separated by a fence about two meters high, covered with that green cloth they sell in garden centers, but with many gaps, so I could see them perfectly. The vast majority were very young women, almost all with the standard one-liter cup hanging from their necks. So absorbed by the music that they didn't see all the hustle and bustle of the backstage less than two meters away from them.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder, and it was Will, telling me that it was no longer necessary to wait, that we would see each other later and also tomorrow. He thanked me and returned to the back of the stage. I checked my schedule for the next day on my phone, and indeed, they would be the first ones I had to pick up in Bilbao.

I left there and went back to the VIP and dressing room area, where I picked up an important British music producer, or at least that's what they told me, and took him to his hotel. The conversation on the way was interesting. At one point, the topic came up that current music is only based on the money generated. That the original spirit of rebellious music that wanted to change its own reality had been lost. So I gave him my opinion that producers like him should also give support, at least a little, to alternative groups so that their music reaches people who would otherwise never be able to hear it. He replied that in the end, everyone goes for the money, but I replied that it was normal in a materialistic and capitalist society, but occasionally groups like the KLF appear, who burned a million pounds they had earned because money was not the reason for their music. We continued chatting until we arrived at the hotel, and he thanked me for my opinion. He had liked my vision of the music industry, where support should be given to those who value art over money. Even if they are few.

I returned to the macro concert and went straight to the backstage of the stage where Brockhampton was singing, to take them to the hotel. When I arrived, they were still performing, so I took the opportunity to finish eating my sandwich, which was my 'main meal of the day,' along with a fruit juice and roll a hand-rolled cigarette, which is supposed to be better quality tobacco with fewer additives.

The music stopped, and after a while, the boys came down with Will. They looked very tired but still exhilarated from having done something well. They didn't stop talking and commenting on things I didn't understand. We left there, driving very carefully not only to avoid the mountains of trash but also because the road was full of people, many of whom seemed to have had a few too many drinks. At one point, as we passed by a dark, somewhat steep hill, one of the boys shouted:

'Look! There are people having sex over there!'

I could feel the van tilting slightly to the right when everyone leaned out the window to see where he was pointing.

'Where?'

'There. Among those bushes.'

'I don't see anything,' said another.

'Liar,' said another voice.

'I think he's pulling our leg!' A third voice shouted from the back.

'I swear I saw them!'

'What exactly did you see?' Will asked, turning around.

'Well, the truth is I didn't really see people having sex, but I did see a butt going up and down. What else could it be?' He replied.

The laughter was general as they returned to their seats, and the van was level again. A little while later, I dropped them off at the hotel, still laughing about the butt going up and down. They would be my first pickup the next day as they were performing earlier.

I woke up around four-thirty in the afternoon, showered, and had breakfast. With the sun still shining, I left calmly and went with plenty of time to pick them up at the hotel.

I parked a bit out of the way not to bother the other shuttles and prepared to wait the forty-five minutes I had left. Not even five minutes had passed when Will appeared at the hotel entrance and came to greet me. As always, the entire conversation was in English.

'Hello Alejandro, you arrived early.'

'Hello! Yes, I had time and decided to come earlier. I don't like to rush,' I replied again, noticing the good pronunciation of 'Alejandro.' I decided to start a conversation since I liked this huge and strong man who treated the boys with much affection and respect.

'Will, were you in the army or police? You move and behave as if you had had that kind of training, but on the other hand, you treat the group like a father.'

'Army, and we can also treat people well.'

'Yes, of course, but it's not normal in a job,' I replied.

'No, but I like these guys. They're good kids.'

I decided to change the course of the conversation, so I asked him:

'Where did you learn to speak Spanish?'

He looked at me for a few seconds, likely trying to remember if I had heard him speaking Spanish before. Realizing that I hadn't, he understood that I had figured it out just by listening to him and through observation. He replied:

'In school. I also have friends who speak Spanish.' He then continued, perhaps to show that he too was observant:

'Why do you have an English accent?'

I looked at him with a 'Touché' expression and smiled.

'I grew up there. My mother was a political refugee from Chile,' I said. His change in body language indicated he was aware of the historical context, likely knowing that the U.S. government had played a major role in the Chilean coup. He looked at me, lowered his eyes, and then, looking back up, he asked:

'Was it hard?' It was clear he wasn't asking about growing up in England, but rather about experiencing the coup and having to leave the country.

'For my mother, it was very hard. Jail, torture, and exile. In England, she missed her family a lot,' I replied, aware that he likely knew he was indirectly responsible for similar situations elsewhere in the world, simply by having served in the military.

'A difficult time for Latin America. Clearly, my country didn't help,' he responded, then asked, 'What was your experience like?'

'Well, I was just a child, but it was hard to see the adults so scared and to see how my parents were taken away, it marked me,' I was going to continue, but he interrupted.

'What I meant was, has your life been positive in England and Spain? Do you regret growing up in Europe?'

I initially thought he was trying to deflect, but his gaze was sincere, and that burden really wasn't his to bear. I liked Will; he was a good person, and good people should be looked after. So, I decided not to delve into the negatives of growing up as a political exile. For some reason, I suspected he already knew them well.

'Well, it changes the way you see the world. One of the first things you realize is that no country is better than another. Very useful when you live in different places, but overall, it's been a positive life. I have friends, married a very beautiful and kind woman, and have two fantastic kids. So, I can't complain. I'm sure I would have had a good life in Chile, but I wouldn't change the one I have now. And, after all, driving you guys around is fun,' I answered with a smile. He was about to say something when the group members started coming out of the hotel, and immediately, Will began to organize them.

I took them to the concert area, thinking about continuing the conversation with Will when I had to take them down, but that was the last time I saw them.

 

Rosalía

As I mentioned before, I was unfamiliar with almost all of the artists I was to transport, and this included Rosalía. I learned from my son that she was famous. The first time I saw her was in the VIP area for musicians. I was chatting with another driver when he suddenly pointed out — 'Look, there goes Rosalía.' I turned and saw a group of about four women. It was the one in front, about my height, well-dressed and very pretty, talking to the other three who were listening attentively to what she was saying. One of them caught my attention for how poorly dressed she was compared to Rosalía and the other two women; she wore bright pink sweatpants, a hoodie, and a red jacket on top.

'She’s pretty. What kind of music does she sing?' I asked another driver. He looked where I was looking and replied.

'A kind of contemporary flamenco, but it's not the one you're looking at. It's the one in the back with the pink tracksuit.'

'The one who looks like a groupie?' I asked, surprised.

'Yes. The other is her manager, who might be her sister. I'm not sure.'

So, even though she passed just a few meters from me, I didn’t know what she looked like, as I couldn't see her face. I only saw a young person with questionable taste in clothes, compared to the rest of the youth filling the macro concert, her face hidden by the hoodie.

The next day, walking towards the van, I crossed paths with her again. She was walking alone, but I recognized her because she was dressed similarly, and everyone was looking at her. Again, I couldn’t see her face because of the hoodie.

That night, after chatting with Will, I had left Brockhampton at the stage where they were performing. I had already taken a producer or group to some part of Mount Cobetas and was waiting a while to pick up Will and his boys and take them back to their hotel. It would be my last trip with them.

I parked the van and rolled a cigarette, but I hadn't smoked half of it when one of the shuttle coordinators appeared, looking worried and searching for something. She had been talking to a group of people that I couldn't see well in the darkness of the night in the parking lot. I took a puff of my cigarette, and she saw the light.

'Alejandro! When is your next trip, and with whom?' she asked.

'In about half an hour, I have to take Brockhampton to the hotel,' I replied.

'I'm sorry, but I have to change plans. One of the shuttles has had problems and hasn't arrived on time, so I need you to take that group there to the main stage right now.'

'But that means I probably won't make it in time to pick up Brockhampton,' I responded.

'I'll take care of that. Rosalía and her people should already be at the backstage of the stage. It's urgent.'

'Okay. I'll turn the van around, and they can come in,' I said, starting the engine and lights to position the vehicle in a spot where they could get in. I quickly did so and saw my boss talking to the group, pointing towards me. They immediately approached. I knew Rosalía was among those people, but as she was dressed normally now, and I had never seen her face, I didn't know which one she was. I would have liked to have greeted her since, despite not knowing who she was until now, the rest of my family did. My sister told me she had a friend who was also friends with the famous singer, and I thought it would be a good way to start a conversation, but the opportunity never even remotely appeared.

We left the VIP area. In the passenger seat was a woman who seemed to be responsible for logistics and was very nervous. As we approached the stage, with some of the mountains of trash on the road already reaching one and a half meters, there was little space for all the people walking in our direction. This forced me to drive slowly and carefully, which made the woman sitting next to me increasingly nervous. I knew they were running late, but under no circumstances was I going to rush the situation. The chances of accidentally running someone over were very high. The most I did was keep the high beams on all the time, and the majority turned around when they saw them and stepped aside. But everything was like in slow motion, which made the woman next to me say loudly:

'Beep at them and go faster! Let them get out of the way, damn it!'

I slowed down even more and told her, 'Here and now, I am responsible, and I decide how to drive.' She didn't say anything else.

We arrived safely at the stage, and everyone quickly got out. At no time did I know which one was Rosalía. Nor did I have much interest. Just to tell you that years later, a few weeks before writing this story, walking down Fuencarral Street in Madrid, my wife, who knows how little I care about celebrities, told me:

'Look at that billboard.' pointing to a huge billboard above a building with a Coca-Cola ad. In it was a young, quite pretty woman who was the main image of the ad. 'That's Rosalía,' she said.

Rosalía-CocaCola

I stopped in the middle of the street and stared at her. It was the first time I had seen her face. My brother-in-law cracked a joke about me stopping to look at beautiful women, so I told him that I had never seen her before but that I had 'worked' with her.

I left the main stage's backstage area and carefully made my way back through the sea of people to the VIP zone to look for Brockhampton, but they weren't there when I arrived. Someone had already taken them down to the hotel. I approached the office and waited for my next passengers. After returning from Bilbao, a guy who drove the van for the musicians' luggage and instruments came up to me and said,

'Brockhampton was looking for you to take them down.'

In response, I told him about the Rosalía situation.

'Well, they couldn't find anyone else to take them, so I did it.'

'In your van? But it doesn't have seats,' I said, surprised.

'They didn't mind. Every time we hit a bump, it was a riot. They told me it was a lot of fun,' he replied. 'They waited as long as they could. They wanted to say goodbye.'

I felt sorry that I couldn't do it. Especially because it happened due to transporting someone whose face I only got to see on a billboard years later. I would have preferred to take Brockhampton and chat a bit more with Will.

Epilogue

It was an unforgettable experience that I almost repeated when, in 2022, I was called to see if I was interested in the job again, as I had received good feedback from my passengers. But by then, I was already working in the field of information technology on a project that I couldn't leave, and I declined the offer. I still have doubts about whether I made the right choice in prioritizing my work. It's a job that, from an economic point of view, doesn't pay well, but has a priceless human side. If any of you have the opportunity to experience the world of big concerts from the inside, I recommend it. It's a separate universe, one that's worth living.

My thanks for all the support and the first reading of the original in Spanish go to Loreto Alonso-Alegre and to Dolores Póliz for that editing that adds a touch of perfection to the story.

Comments

Your opinions are very important to me and they help me keep writing.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright Alejandro Ahumada Avila