Friday

Bruce Springsteen in Barcelona, May 2016: a weekend with my dad

It’s a muggy Saturday night in Barcelona. There are 64,000 Catalonians crammed into Camp Nou. On the stage is Bruce and the band, belting their way through the first song of the night: Badlands. And next to me? My dad. Grinning. BEAMING. Jumping like a kid high on sweets.

He wasn’t supposed to be here.

Dad has taught me lots of great things. How to ride a bike;  how to fall off a bike; how to win at Monopoly (buy everything). Music. Bruce Springsteen.

But then there’s the one thing he hasn’t taught me: how to travel. Sure, we’ve been on holidays – my childhood dotted with camping trips to Flamingo Park in Yorkshire, lilo wars in Spain and that banana boat in Malta. But it’s not what he loves. He doesn’t obsess over the next place he wants to visit, he doesn’t spend hours online searching for cheap flights to Europe, and he definitely doesn’t do Springsteen abroad. Or standing. (Our first Springsteen concert together was sitting watching the full Born to Run album from the stands in Coventry.)

So when I asked him to come on a last-minute trip to Barca to see Bruce he said no. Absolutely not. There was no time to arrange it. And what would the crowds be like? Too crazy, he said. I deleted the email, huffed a bit, sighed a bit, stropped a bit and decided to go on my own anyway.

And then a few hours later he emailed again. “I’ve made a plan,” he said. (He likes plans.) We’d get the first flight on the Saturday morning, back on the Monday before work. “We’ll see Bruce, drink beer and eat tapas.” It would be our first trip abroad together since I was 12 years old.

You’ve seen the setlist, read the reviews. Plenty of The River album dotted through a semi-random selection of tracks. Was it the best run of Springsteen songs in the world? Maybe not.  But getting to see my dad hear them for the first time, in a Catalonian crowd that was soooo happy, friendly and welcoming? I felt so lucky to be there with him, seeing those 36 songs in that order in that city.

Bruce Springsteen Camp Nou Barelona May 2016

When dad tries to take a selfie


In the middle of Glory Days. The person behind me - I know that feeling




The next day we sat on an open top bus tour (I’m easing him into this travel thing), drank beer, ate the tapas, walked. Dad, unsurprisingly, loved it. And I think it’s triggered something – not a crazy desire to fuck it and book flights at the last minute, but enough intrigue that he'd do it again.

This year I’ve had loads of people tell me they are taking their sons/daughters to their first Springsteen concert, or that they are being taken by their now grown-up child. But then I have people telling me that their children won’t go with them to concerts.

This. is. Madness.

And I hear it far too much.

So parents, please let me have a word. I hope I can help.

Because they need to see you at that Bruce Springsteen gig.



Tuesday

James McAvoy, burgers and Bruce Springsteen

Why read my words about burgers when you can read James McAvoy's words about burgers?

I interviewed McAvoy about his role as Professor X in the latest X-Men film (link to the feature below).

After some obligatory film chat I asked him about his favourite burger in London, natch. His response was... colourful:

"I love burgers. Shake Shack is my favourite burger. It's awesome, it's amazing. I could lose myself to Shake Shack. I could have an affair with a Shake Shack burger."

I told him about Lucky Chip, and how they name their burgers after Hollywood actors (the Kevin Bacon, etc). He liked that. "Faaaaantastic," he said (imagine a slow, yet enthusiastic, Scottish slur).

Then I suggested he tries Bleecker St burger, one of my favs in London. He's seen them on the South Bank, but not committed yet. "You MUST," I told him. He said he will. I think he will, he really loves burgers. Especially greasy ones. He wants to sleep with some of them.

As for Bruce? Well, his knowledge isn't too shabby.

"Where’s he from, he’s from New Jersey isn’t he? Wow, have you been to New Jersey and had a burger?"

"Yes yes yes," I say.

"OKKKK niiiiice," he says.

"I like him," he adds. "I’ve never been a humongous fan, but I’ve seen him live at the Emirates and that was pretty cool. It was awesome actually."

"But I think burgers… and Bruce Springsteen… is a holy combination."

Who am I to argue with James McAvoy?

Read the full interview with James McAvoy in Square Mile magazine.


James McAvoy interview and burger chat
Bit awk



Sunday

The River Tour - Bruce Springsteen in Albany, NY - 10 February 2016

I wrote the majority of this blog post on the Amtrak train from Albany back to New York.  There are better places to write about Bruce Springsteen, but then there’s no easy place. You see the problem with Bruce is that he’s impossibly hard work. High maintenance. Yep, I love him – his music, his energy, his lyrics. But how can I ever really convey that feeling in a blog post? Are there any words good enough? How can I do him, the band, and their shows justice? I always feel like I can’t.

Luckily I’m writing for an audience that also *gets it*. Sure, there’ll be a few people passing through this space for burger recommendations – and for that there are many. And finding words about burgers is simple enough. But Bruce? Oh man. So hard. And for that reason, and coinciding with a pause in touring, I’ve had a looooong siesta from blogging about Bruce. In one sense it’s been quite nice to not feel that weird pressure, but at the same time it’s been a big old hole in my life. Like Bruce, I love dem  tours.

So when the River tour was announced there was no question that I had to go. I HAD to! Off I went to New York on Friday 5 Feb, spent a couple of nights trotting around the city, eating burgers, drinking beer, kayaking on the Hudson river (try it!). And then to Albany.

A photo posted by Hannah Summers (@burgersandbruce) on

“Why Albany?” people said. They said it might be boring. They said it had no redeeming qualities (their words). It’s certainly no hotbed of cool dive bars and burger joints, but it is the fifth-oldest city in the US and the town that invented perforated toilet paper. Beat that, Philly.

So this was my first time doing the lottery system in the US, which if you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a system where you go to the venue on the day and get a wristband with a number on it, then they pull a random number out a hat/bowl/bucket and the first 300 or so after that number (depending on the size of the pit) are let into the front section. Now, if this all goes your way (and we tried to do a lot of maths, I think there’s a one in fiveish chance it will?!) then you’re laughing all the way back to the Holiday Inn Express. If it doesn’t – well, it’s still brilliant isn’t it. But hopes are often set on the pit. 

Anyway, there I was in Albany with my pal Steve (@GreasyLake on Twitter), his wife Lucie and my friend I’d met in Kilkenny, Anne-Marie. The angst! Knowing that your ‘Bruce fate’ is in the hands of some random number being picked is mega unsettling. BUT if you’re quite along the ‘what will be will be/everything happens for a reason’ mindset – which I try to be because it’s the most positive way of coping with the largely important but still shitty stuff –  then the day is a little easier to stomach. All outcomes are great, that’s what you gotta remember. 

So we queued up to get our wristbands, and I saw that they were purple. Purple! My favourite colour; I’m Bruce-level obsessed. And – call me a hippie – but that’s when I knew we were in. I just knew. We came back at 5pm (snowy, chilly, pizza-filled) and they picked out number 148. I was number 240, so we were within the first 100 people into the pit. Lucky, lucky purple. Lucky people, too.

With Steve @GreasyLake on Twitter

I don’t think I need to give you the song-by-song account – we all know what this tour is about: The River. In the run up I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I love Bruce for his spontaneity, for the highs and lows that his carefully curated setlists – dotted with random curve balls – provide. And when people ask why I go to his concerts so much, I can tell them that I never know what I’m going to hear. Well this year I do. But I’m OK with it. And I think, although some fans have reservations, we’re all ultimately united in the fact that the band is still touring. I’ll take everything I can.  

Meet me in the City is a blinding opener, and I love it we’re getting to hear it like that. We're all familiar with that feeling you get when Bruce walks out and you just KNOW what you’re about to experience; how you’ll strut out that concert with clarity, believing you can achieve anything, and with a greater understand of your, er, 'life direction'. It did that. I did that! Then The River – Sherry Darling (a song that I’ll admit I really haven’t liked on the album, but live it’s so fun and energy-packed) and the intro to Point Blank – I mean COME ON!

Hungry Heart came with crowdsurfing, obvs.




Fade Away, Stolen Car, Crush on You I LOVED (I’d read that that’s when people went off to get hotdogs, but I didn’t see any of that). And of course, Drive All Night. Pow!

I did feel a big song was needed and it was Badlands (Loose Ends was dropped). Now I’ve heard Badlands tonnes of times, but I can honestly say I really do love it more each time. It’s the song I stick on when I need a mega pick me up – the song that taught me to keep on dreaming. Yeah yeah, mock me! But seeing that song performed live, and the things it does to my health and head? I don’t think there’s anything better for me.

I think the crowd felt the same way, and assuming quite a few in the arena crowd wouldn't have been familiar with The River in its entirety, it just worked. Combined with Wrecking Ball, Backstreets, Be True (big love), Because the Night, The Rising etc, it kept the 18,000-strong stadium mega happy and engaged. Detroit Medley (the sign request) was THE NUTS, and considering signs have been largely ignored to date, I really didn’t see them pulling that out the bag (nor did Stevie by the look on his face). I’d love to see more outtakes in this point, but maybe it’s just not time yet. I really hope they'll come.

Then of course Born to Run… the song that started this whole thing for me via my dad, and Rosalita. Shout, which still remains one of my fav ways to end the concert, I don’t think I’ll tire of it.













Now Bruce of course was on point – the band, particularly Stevie, were loving it. But Jake. Jake was the one that was a massive WOW. He completely nailed every solo, and this tour, and album, is giving him a chance for his talent to really shine through.


Albany was a night I’ll never forget. It was a weekend I’ll never forget. I say this all the time, but Springsteen for me isn’t just about the music, it’s about the friends I’ve made along the way. I spent this weekend getting to know some truly awesome people even better, and met new ones, too – people from Twitter, couples who were travelling all over the US for shows, a couple of guys from England who add songs to their spreadsheet after each concert.

We all geek-out over Bruce in one way or another, and he rewards us for it.

The River tour 2016 – I'm coming for ya.

A photo posted by Hannah Summers (@burgersandbruce) on


Thank you Lucie and Steve, aka Greasy Lake, for the good times, and for sharing a couple of your pics for this post! 

Tuesday

The burger at the Outpost pub, Lake Louise, Canada

Lake Louise, Canada, is one of those one-horse town kinda places. Except calling it a town is quite generous – the 'town' consists of a car park with a post office (closed), supermarket (tiny) and a pub (more on the pub later). That's not a town, it's not even a village. It's just a car park. And there are no horses.

Anyway, people don't go to Lake Louise for the car park, they go for the lake (pictured below, it's real nice).

I was in Lake Louise and I needed somewhere to eat. I'm new to this hiking thing, and it makes me hungry! Finding somewhere to eat in a one-horse town is pretty hard, and I ended up in the only pub Lake Louise has: the Outpost.

In the pub there was a dude working behind the bar, and he was great – really kind and enthusiastic. I asked what he recommended and he said the burger at the pub was one of the best he'd ever eaten.

Now call me a burger snob, but I just didn't believe him. Not because I thought he was a liar, but because I thought that he obviously a) didn't eat many burgers, which would probably make this one amazing b) was trying to do a hard sell (why? I dunno) c) had a tendency to exaggerate. "Yeah yeah," I thought, looking around me at the pub. "The burger is blatantly dry and butters."

As I waited for my burger to arrive, I ate some seriously sexy chips, with cheese curds and gravy. This got my excited, because these chips were fit.


And then the burger. I mean – *wow*. I know it doesn't look like much (it was darkish in there), but it was exactly what I wanted my burger to be at that point in time. A hug in a bun. Just siiiiiimmple, saucy, warming, cheesed-up. No cutting corners with gritty frozen patties or old, wilting lettuce. Someone in that kitchen really loved making it. You know when you can tell that a burger has been loved?


This burger in Lake Louise *is* one of the best that the bar dude has eaten, because it's one of the best that I've eaten, too.

As for the lake and the hiking? They aren't so bad either.


A photo posted by Hannah Summers (@burgersandbruce) on


Sunday

Four of the best burgers in Puerto Rico – yum time

I have burgered! I have blogged! 

For the last two weeks I've been sunning it in Puerto Rico. Why? Because I'm not sure about Christmas. Now that Santa's not bringing me toys Xmas just makes me feel claustrophobic. It makes me feel lethargic. It makes me feel like I don't know what day it is, even more so than when I normally don't know what day it is. 

Christmas, for me, is better when the sun is blazing; when you don't have Cadbury Celebrations chocolates for breakfast, because you're having a beer. Or two. It's Christmas!

14 days, four burgers, hundreds of deep-fried snacks. The Puerto Ricans love calorie-laden snackettes  cheese balls, corn sticks, fish nuggets and other unidentifiable crispy, oily, golden goodies served with a pinky mayo and a can of Medalla light beer. That's just for starters.

Burger one: Villa Cofresi, Rincon

Rincon is a surf town where everyone says "what's up, dude?"; where 60-year-old surfers have a better bod than you'll ever have (I mean me); where you'll hear a lot of Guns N' Roses and Bon Jovi. At Villa Cofresi (sounds really grand but it's just nice and normal) the tourists and locals mingle over coquitos – coconuts filled with rum, coconut water and cinnamon. And they eat burgers. These burgers:

burger Rincon Puerto Rico

Beautifully simple. Grilled patties topped with 'shit cheese', slithers of pickle and white lettuce that's trying to be green. You add your own smears of ketchup. At five dollars with chips, this was one of the cheapest, and the best cheeseburgers in PR. I think about it and it makes me smile. Because who needs fuss? Not me, not Bruce. (You read this blog, right?) 

Here are some more, in no particular order.

Burger two: Annie's Place, El Combate

El Combate is a town that has been fiercely fought over because of the salt plains that back onto the beach  neon-pink pools of water with white mounds of salt at the side. Back in the day, everyone wanted a piece of that sexy salt.

The beach looks like this. It's stupidly good.

El Combate beach Puerto Rico

Annie's Place is the village's best 'restaurant'  jammed with tables and chairs (sticky, plastic, groaning), it's a place where they play the music's so loud that you have to shout at your dining companion: "WHY DO THEY ONLY HAVE LIGHT BEER IN PUERTO RICO?/DO YOU WANT A COORS LIGHT OR MEDALLA LIGHT?/CAN I EAT THAT LAST CHEESE BALL?", etc.

Here's the burger:

Annie's Place burger El Combate Puerto Rico

It comes with two patties  thick, lightly seasoned, largely fuss-free patties topped with American cheese, a ring of raw onion and chips that  in a good way  taste like Burger King chips. Hundreds of them. It was huuuuuuge; so huge we had to split it in half  mental. I never share food.

Burger three: Bili, Vieques Island

Vieques is a little island off the coast of Puerto Rico, where wild horses roam free, standing in the middle of the road munching on a bit of leaf or something. This was the swankiest burger of my trip, but even then, it's not swanky. It's a beaut though  a 3cm-tall patty, dolloped with a sweet plantain chutney (yeah, chutney!), lettuce and blue cheese sauce. It's then protected by a barrier of sweet potato fries.

burger Esperanza Vieques island Puerto Rico

Burger four: Hortas BBA, Vieques Island

I had this burger at a BBQ place serving some of the best local food we had on the trip (we tried local stuff too, I don't only eat burgers). I LOVED this burger. It was biiiig, and I liked the Caribbean vibes with the sweet, fried plantain, which, combined with the salty beef, crispy bacon, cheese slices (two types) and tangy pickles, was a proper game changer for me. Should I eat banana in a burger back home? Hmmm. It came with tostades  crunchy, fried discs of plantain (the less ripe variety, so it tastes more savoury). I dipped it in the runny guava-BBQ sauce. Oh my!


Christmas + burgers + Puerto Rico = big fat yes.


I always try to write about the food I eat, but sometimes that's just not poss. That would be A LOT of words. You can follow my food- and Bruce-based escapades over on Instagram and Twitter


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...