July 25th, 2015

Monaco Journal July 20-23: George Benson, Spelunkadunking, Hiking, Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil

Well, friends, I am in Monaco until the middle of August. I’m back for a 2nd year, performing in the house band of the Monte-Carlo Summer Sporting Festival. We’ll be opening for an unbelievable slew of artists like: Santana, Sting, George Benson, George Ezra, Anastacia, Enrique Iglesias and more! I’ll be chronicling the adventures here when I can! The band is: me (guitar), Justin Caldwell (lead vocals, guitar, percussion), Courtney Jaye (lead vocals, guitar, percussion), Ian Miller (keyboards), Taylor Jones (bass) and Ross McReynolds (drums, percussion). Follow me on Instagram or Twitter for more timely posts.

July 20-23: George Benson, Spelunkadunking, Hiking, Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil

I have to start the recounting the last few days with a bit of a bummer. The Mika show I was so psyched about in the last post is now not happening. Well, it’s probably still happening but we are not involved. The powers-that-be were trying to move the show a couple of weeks later but it just didn’t work out for us to be in the mix. I’m a little bummed, but I also didn’t even know this opportunity existed until a few days ago so I’m trying to keep that in mind!

Aside from that small amount of bad news, it’s been a pretty bitchin' few days.

On Monday we opened for the legendary guitarist and vocalist George Benson. Even though some of his ballads can veer into the cheesy territory, he and his band did not disappoint. He’s an incredible musician all-around impressive performer.

George MFing Benson.

A video posted by DJ Phillips (@djphillipsmusic) on

He even gave me a pick!

Thanks, Mr. B!

A photo posted by DJ Phillips (@djphillipsmusic) on

Turns out the pick doesn’t make you magically play like him, though, so I still have to practice. Dumb.

George Ezra was originally scheduled to play on Tuesday, but he canceled a little while ago giving us a double day-off. DOUBLE DAY OFF.

To take advantage of this rare true “weekend,” we rented a car in Nice and used our apartments here as a home base for a couple of day trips! Luckily, Taylor is a Man For All Seasons and Cars and took charge of all vehicle handling.

ce fut ma balade autour France pour les quelques derniers jours. pas mal.

A photo posted by @taylorujones on

It was a lot of awesome adventuring in a short amount of time and I spent a vast majority of it at least a little bit nauseous.

The first day, Ross, Ian, Taylor and I went to an incredible spot with a clear river winding through wind-swept canyons called Pont de la Cerisé (or “Cherry Bridge”). On the way up, we stopped at nearest town – a quaint village called Gilette. Much to our chagrin, they did not hand out free razors at the town’s border.

We pulled over to take in the view and have a tasty lunch before heading the rest of the way to our swimmin' hole. We parked along the road and took a long, downhill path to the river. We caught breathtaking glimpses of the gorge and river from above on our way down.

I don’t have much photographic evidence from the rest of the day because it wasn’t what you’d call a phone-friendly environment. We spent the next couple of hours climbing barefoot over smooth, wet rocks, fighting mild river currents and jumping off of small cliffs into the clear water below. I should clarify that Taylor, Ross and Ian did all the jumping and I treaded water below shouting things like “BE CAREFUL GUYS!” We made it downstream to a wide clearing with a taller cliff and spent a good while chilling on rocks and jumping off the cliff with a family that had also made it back that way. Afterwards, we made our way upstream, swimming and climbing against the current and on the rocks alongside the river whenever possible. This was a bit more challenging. Once we made it back to the spot where we stashed our stuff, we rested on the smooth sunlit rocks for a while before taking the now-uphill trek back to the car. A storm rumbled in over head while we were about halfway up, but it it’s threat was for naught and I never felt a drop.

The following day, Ross, Ian and Courtney stayed home while Taylor, Justin and I made our way up into the foothills of the Alps to visit two historic villages.

The first was Sainte-Agnès, a small commune with interesting remnants of two very different ages. Most famously, Sainte-Agnès is home to the Fort Maginot de Sainte Agnès, which is a large bunker built into the mountain between 1932 and 1938 when I think France may have been having some small disagreements with Italy. The complex of tunnels, barracks & artillery is now a museum and it was really cool both literally and figuratively.

At the top of the same large peak is the ruins of a 12th century castle (parts of which apparently even date back to the 10th century!). It was fascinating to walk around and check out the crumbling remains.

Taylor captured a nice collage of the visit.

le fort sainte-agnès

A photo posted by @taylorujones on

Taylor the Redeemer

View from the castle

Panorama Saint-Agnès from the top of the hill

We then zipped around the winding mountain roads to the village of Peille.

Zippin' through them Alps like…

A video posted by DJ Phillips (@djphillipsmusic) on

Zipping around the winding mountain roads to the village of Peille.

Peille itself is a beautiful village perched on the rocks and overlooking a mountain gorge. There is also a crazy-ass rickety ol' bridge that you can cross if you’re a lunatic.

Village of Peille

Climbing around the French Alps today. Incredibly charming medieval village Peille.

A photo posted by Justin Caldwell (@justincaldwellmusic) on

Crazy-ass bridge replete with lunatics

We made it back alive and then back home to Monaco. They had to pretty much pry the rental car out of Taylor’s hands the next day when he returned it.

On Thursday we opened for Brazilian bossa nova legends Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. I have never heard of them but Courtney was extremely pumped about it. They were a little too mellow for my tastes but I can deny that they were some smooth dudes. And who can dislike someone whose stage set up looks like this?

Opening for two legends of Brazilian music tonight Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. This is all legends need onstage.

A photo posted by Justin Caldwell (@justincaldwellmusic) on

Yesterday, we had an amazing Èze hiking adventure, but tonight we open for Sting and I’ve gotta go get ready (I should make a collection of ridiculous sentences that I am typing about this gig)! More soon!