14 Sep 2020
Brian Kehew’s Offstage Blog: Locarno, Switzerland, 14 July 2006
Moon & Stars Festival, Piazza Grande, Locarno, Switzerland, 14 July 2006
I recall this one quite distinctly, as the city has such a unique place in our touring schedule. We were on the rather long Endless Wire tour, without question the longest run The Who ever had. Nearly a year and a half, I think (my memory is half accurate, roughly!) from 2006 through 2007. All around the globe. The European leg was varied, from indoor arenas to wild outdoor festivals all over the continent.
We came into Locarno, which is in the Alps, the Italian side. I recall vividly the bus ride down a very steep mountainside, the kind of ride where you imagine a bus rolling off a ledge and never being seen again. Literally, these were some of the tallest, steepest mountainsides I’ve seen. We rolled into a small town/village, which was Locarno itself. The hotel was nice but modest, right across from a huge lake (Lake Maggiore). The lake was surrounded by mountain peaks on all sides, and the city has been built up alongside the lake and into the steep hills.
The city itself is worth a visit. Locarno is not one of the places you’d see on most traveler’s agenda when going to Europe, but we all agreed coming here was a wonderful, memorable thing. The town has cobblestone streets, lovely homes and shops (especially the amazing gelato!) You’ll see our guitar tech Alan Rogan here meeting a classic St. Bernard on the street. As we walked about, we learned of a convent/monastery way up on one of the mountainsides. The Santuario della Madonna del Sasso. Some of our crew took a funicular car (angled railway up the hill) to the mountain top where the monastery experience began. For a bit, we didn’t realize it was a currently-working facility! Until a few monks came around a corner, full-on Friar Tuck outfits, shaved heads and ropes around their brown robes. The view from the monastery was incredible, out over the city and lake across to the distant mountains.
Inside, the chapel was dark and quiet, but it was quite unusual. All around the walls were small oil paintings. It took us a while to discover what they were all about. Each painting depicted a different way someone might die; drowning in the ocean, being run over by a horse, falling off a cliff. Then we realized each one depicted an actual death – there were recent ones, with too many details to be imaginary. So it seems that people had done them as a memorial to family members, etc. In each painting, however, the Virgin Mary was coming out of the clouds above, stretching her arms out to come bring the poor person “home” again to Heaven. You know . . . “On top of the sky is a place where you go if you’ve done nothing wrong . . .” The big shock was seeing the funicular rail car we’d just ridden UP the hill, crashing to the bottom in one painting, killing all aboard! As we got back on the train to go down the mountainside, we said “If anyone sees the Virgin Mary coming out of the clouds, warn us ASAP!”
The hotel had bicycles you can borrow for free, so several of us took those out as well. As I went by the lakeside, I saw various boats, and one said “Lake boat for rent, parties and other occasions.” Hmm! I asked the pilot, who was sitting onboard, how much the rental was. He said “It’s a bar, really, so if you’re buying drinks, I’ll take you out just for the bar tab.” Grand news! Back at the hotel, we passed the invite around and a good portion of the crew came out. We had a lovely run around the big lake, listening to music and talking, between an hour or two, while the sun set behind the mountain peaks. Literally a Top 10 highlight from the whole long tour, that lake boat experience.
Our show was the next day, in the center of town. For the summer season, they host concerts from the major touring groups. (We remember seeing Clapton posters all around.) Piazza Grande is the central square, with shops, houses with balconies. The show – which you will have seen by now – is in a fascinating location. The day started so hot and summery. And yet the main memory we have is of the rain coming down; we just barely prevented our onstage equipment from flooding with some tarps and luck. It was a sloppy, fun mess in a great town. Go see it, it’s really quite lovely there.
Onward . . . someday!
I Can’t Explain
The Seeker **
Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere *
Who Are You
Behind Blue Eyes
Real Good Looking Boy
Greyhound Girl *
Mike Post Theme *
Baba O’Riley *
Naked Eye *
You Better You Bet
My Generation **
Won’t Get Fooled Again **
Pinball Wizard **
Amazing Journey **
See Me, Feel Me
* Songs streamed on Week Five: Join Together @ Home
** Songs streamed on Week Six: Join Together @ Home
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