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After Rod's Diary, Todd's Diary and Hojo's Diary ...Faro's one is coming from me, Mary. Just so you know who I am and why I've been let loose on a Diary... I work for Rod at the Iron Maiden Management Office. I've had the pleasure of meeting many of you over the past few years, particularly on the Bruce Air flights during the Somewhere Back In Time Tour. Prior to my job here I was at EMI International where I was lucky enough to work not just on Maiden projects but also many of EMI's great catalogue of rock bands including Deep Purple, Thunder, UFO and Jethro Tull.
Anyway... back to now... and Faro... I took an Easyjet flight from Gatwick, arriving the evening before Thursday's show. The hotel was right by the seafront. A beautiful location. Rod and the band had settled in there since they left Russia earlier in the week. It was one of the few times this tour they'd had a chance to grab some downtime days between shows so I wasn't surprised when I checked-in to find there were two Reception Desks in the lobby; one for "Regular" guests and one for "Golf" guests. I sensed I would not be seeing much of anyone during my stay... and was then proved completely wrong when I got to my room, threw open my balcony doors overlooking the green, and saw Nicko and Dave careering past in a golf-buggy! At least I know I'm in the right place.
Thursday, Show day. I jumped a lift with Gaddsy down to the Faro Moto Meet at noon. The hotel was about 30 mins drive from the festival site and Gaddsy wanted to check the route inwards so when the band arrived later that day he could be sure they would have a clear drive in. The Promoter had everything completely in hand and Gaddsy went back to the hotel happy. I decided to stay onsite and have a look round. I was curious to see how this Festival differed from music festivals. Firstly, and most obviously there were the bikes. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. Converging on this dusty field in a corner of the Algarve from all over Europe and beyond. It was a spectacle in itself just watching everyone arrive. The bikes themselves were works of art, jaw-droppingly beautiful machines manned by hardened and grizzly bikers.
Secondly there was the Festival layout. It was very well organised. The campsite was in one field, the festival site was in the next field. The entry to the festival site was manned by the local bike club who merrily waved everyone through without any bodysearches or bag-checks. Most of the regular festival-goers are there for the whole 4 days so people would arrive, pitch their tents and then just head into the Festival site. I'm told by friends who go to the Moto Meet every year there is very little crime or petty theft and people can safely leave their belongings in their tents with no expectation of being relieved of it. Plus, this being Portugal, it's so hot, and everyone is so laid back, I don't think any would-be thieves would have the energy to go pilfering. Maybe we should have more Bike Clubs running festivals...
Inside, the site was laid out pretty much like a Sonisphere or a Donington. Stage at one end, beer tents at the side, ample toilet facilities, stalls round the periphery etc. The one huge difference was an enormous sand sculpture of Eddie -- it was the first thing you see when you get into the field and mightily impressive!
The organisers also had the good sense to erect large covered seating areas (also selling beer -- the Portuguese think of everything) around the back of the field so people could meet up and have a chat without getting sunstroke. In the interests of bringing you this Diary however, I was that Mad Dog & English(woman) who went out in the Midday Sun. I went for a wander around the stalls. From a distance they looked like your average festival stalls selling t-shirts, jewellery, hats etc. It was only on closer inspection I noticed halfway down the row, a stall emblazoned with the words "Sadomasochism -- Enrol Here". Even in the searing heat of daytime Faro, I can vouch there was a queue... seems these bikers don't just talk the talk, you know. I also noticed a stall selling leather belts, hats, cut-offs etc with an alarmingly tiny lady sat behind a full-sized coffin which helpfully doubled as a table for her beer and cash-register. I was going to take a photo but as everyone else seemed to think nothing of it, I decided that might seem a bit lame. Plus, for a very small person, she looked like she wasn't to be messed with. I bought a faux-snakeskin keyring instead and went on my way.
It felt quite strange roaming around the site as although there were a huge number of people in Maiden t-shirts, I still felt conscious that this was predominantly a bike festival and we were the guests. I didn't feel that way for long... by the time the sun went down, the lights went up and Maiden took to the stage, there was no doubt as to who owned that field.
The place was packed and everyone was well into the spirit of the occasion. There was also a magnificent full moon which added to the theatricality of the whole event; when 30,000 people started singing Fear Of The Dark -- which seemed a particular favourite with the biking community -- even though it was still really hot, I got goose-bumps all down my arms and back of my neck. And that wasn't because of my vantage point on the mobile bar, hoisted by a crane and swinging precariously 30metres above the ground!
I just felt so privileged to be there, with this wonderful fraternity, standing side by side together in a field watching Maiden giving their all, with the crowd giving it right back, and some. I thoroughly recommend anyone who is in the Algarve in 2012 to check out this quirky, crazy, friendly Festival. Steve Harris said he'd always wanted to play at the Moto Meet having met the guys from the MC Club through mutual friend Manu da Silva, the late manager of Eddie's Bar in Faro. Manu was a great favourite not just with Steve but the rest of the band too and when he sadly passed away a few years back, Steve felt that playing at the Moto Meet Festival would be a fitting tribute. He was so right. The fusion of Bikers and Maiden fans, and the band on top form, made this show a truly unforgettable experience. I'd like to think Manu was looking down on the whole proceedings with a big smile and feeling very proud.