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October 4, 2022

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Ice Ice Billy

Seeking Fame in Barcelona

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Paul Shortino performs with other band members during song rehearsal for "Raiding the Rock Vault" in the LVH Theater at LVH on Wednesday, March 6, 2013.

Paul Shortino is a rock star. He has rock star hair. He has rock star clothes. He has a rock star glasses. He has a rock star voice.

And for as recognizable as he is, and even though I have his rock star phone number, I can't seem to find him in Barcelona.

Paul, who played rock deity Duke Fame in the riotous cult classic "This is Spinal Tap," has taken a one-month break from his newest gig as one of the power vocalists in Las Vegas's super rock group at "Raiding the Rock Vault" at LVH.

His tour in Spain with Spanish blues guitar aficionado Javier Vargas was a prior commitment, and Paul — being a man of his word — wasn't about to let down the Vargas Blues Band or its followers.

And so here we are together. But apart.

It's a perfect Saturday afternoon in the coastal city of Barcelona. I now sit in a bar called "Dos Trece" in the adventurously hip — or delightfully seedy — El Raval neighborhood just south of La Rambla. It's a bar I know well. I have written things here before, things that I will never share. Some things, some day, I might.

The bar and El Raval are chameleons to one's mood. Today the mood is, well, terrific. I'm drinking a beer and the lovely Erica is drinking cava, Spain's sparkling wine.

As Erica reminds me that she likes robots and aliens, Paul texts me through a Wi-Fi-based app that he has just landed in Ibiza. Ibiza is beautiful, but it's an island that is a short flight from the chatty "Dos Trece" that features bed-headed hipsters behind the bar and a perfectly volumed sound track best described by Erica as "tasty-ambient-electro."

Paul's tour schedule — seemingly branching out from Barcelona — and our day-trips out of the city have caused as many near misses with Paul as there are occasions to give the "Rock Vault" boys a standing ovation. For those yet to see the mighty near-nightly concert, that's a lot.

A casual analysis of the multitude of text and voice messages that have been held hostage by cellular connections and Wi-Fi signals shows we have passed each other on the way to and from towns on the Costa Brava, on street corners and past music venues.

As Paul was heading from Lloret de Mar to Barcelona, we were heading toward it — where we would encounter Tossa de Mar's ever-present Pedro at Bar Don Juan (a character deserving of a blog its own). As we headed back south to Barcelona, Paul was traveling back north to charming Girona for his next tour stop.

Social media has kept us up on each other as well. Erica and I have posted pictures and updates on Twitter and Facebook. And so has Paul, including his thank you for birthday wishes, and his observance of the third anniversary of his pal Ronnie James Dio's passing.

And so, even separated by technology and schedules, Erica and I raise a glass to each of those posts. We've scoped out Barcelona's Enormo Dome. We scan the sky for a rock star soul, and we keep an eye low for Paul's rock star hair, rock star clothes, and rock star glasses.

There is about a week left of each of our trips here. Paul is scheduled to play in Barcelona on Sunday night. But, at about the same time, we have tickets to the FC Barcelona match.


There is always Monday and Tuesday. Failing that, there is the next night of rock and roll at "Raiding the Rock Vault" in Las Vegas — just a text message away from Barcelona.

Billy Johnson is the president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Wranglers.

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