Archive for the ‘music’ Category

The band tuned up in preparation for the fortieth birthday party due to take place in our neighbours’ garden.

The first notes were all too familiar. It was a song, or a variation of, that I used to hear at just about every suburban fortieth birthday party I’ve ever been to. It was My Guy. Why, no matter in what decade, era or century a person was born, does the music at a fortieth nearly always have to be a) Motown, b) The Beatles and other sixties stuff and c) really annoying pop pap long past its sell by date?

It’s a question that has baffled ever since it first occurred to me at a party in 2000 when the mainly 60s music being played had actually been in the charts long before the person celebrating their birthday was a teenager. What they should have been playing if they had, like many people, been musically stuck in their formative years, was music from the 80s.

Then one night I was watching the Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the answer became clear. At some point in many people’s lives they fall asleep and are replaced by something grown in a pod in the garden. Something that makes them discard everything about who they were to become someone who, at their birthday parties, likes to hear songs from way before they were born.

From that point I became nervous about falling asleep in the company of these doppelgängers. If you’ve seen the movie you’ll know that they always, always bring pods – usually hidden in the boot of the car- to convert those who aren’t like them.

Over the years I’ve worked out another easy way to spot someone who’s been replaced by a pod.

It is when someone comes out with the phrase ‘the music today is rubbish, it’s just a lot of noise, not like when I was young.’

Don’t people realise when they come out with that one that they have become their parents. It is such a cliché, yet I hear it over and over again and want to shout ‘can’t you remember your parents saying that…and your parents telling you that their parents said that to them.’ But of course to do so would give the game away that I hadn’t succumbed to the whole pod business yet. I remember my mum telling me she wasn’t allowed to watch Cliff Richards (although in that case it’s damned sound advice when you think about it).

Recently I heard someone in their early 50s come out with the phrase and did a bit of maths. When this person was 20-ish punk was at its height. PUNK!! Conclusive evidence that the pod had been at work.

Back at the party the band finished tuning up and a DJ began the first set of the night and surprise, surprise My Guy was replaced by some loud, sweet, jazzy, modern chill-out music. As it turned out this was a forty year old who hadn’t been replaced by a pod. I smiled and sat back, wine in hand, to enjoy some brilliant sounds safe in the knowledge that later I could sleep without worry; no-one in the vicinity was going to try to sneak a pod into my garden this night.

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Thursday night is R&R as far as Tenerife carnaval is concerned. It allows revellers one night to recharge for a big final weekend of merrymaking. We were relishing the idea of not having to go out anywhere…and then we heard that talented young Chilean jazz saxophonist Melissa Aldana was playing a gig at Lago Martiánez in Puerto.

We’re not jazz aficionados, although we used to go to the Brecon Jazz Festival every year, but we like to check out local concerts especially when they’re offering something different from the usual Latino fare…and the Lago at night is a pretty stunning setting.


So we dragged ourselves down to the lake to find that the organisers had squeezed the stage and seating into a narrow area between César Manrique’s Homenaje al Mar sculpture (affectionately known locally as La Jibia – the Squid) and the main lagoon. By the time we arrived it was standing room only; good to see that some ‘alternative’ music could draw a decent crowd.

Don’t ask me to describe the music – it was modern jazz and half the time I struggle to tell when some modern jazz musicians are tuning up or have actually started their set. All I know is that with the multi-coloured fountain as a backdrop on one side, the illuminated La Jibia on the other and the sweet sound of Melissa’s sax accompanying the moonlight, it felt like a mighty fine place to be…even if I was mentally calculating how long it would be until we could just enjoy a quiet night in.

This week, for the first time ever, I nearly walked out of a concert. It wasn’t because the performer was bad; quite the opposite. The singer, Angélique Kidjo, was sensational…it was the audience who were appalling, or some of them anyway.

A few weeks ago another Tenerife blogger, Islandmomma, commented on the incessant and disrespectful chatting by some Canarios at the Santa Blues Festival and whilst I’d been vaguely aware of it there, it had only just entered my radar. At the Heineken Jazz & Más concert in Puerto de la Cruz on Wednesday night, the noise of people talking not only entered my radar it blew it to smithereens in a cacophony of noise.

The set up for the Jazz & Más concert is a bit strange to start with. For most of the concerts in the town they set up a stage and that’s it – the audience are free to mingle and dance wherever they like. But for the jazz they put out a whole load of chairs which makes it feel a bit more formal. I don’t know if they think that jazz is enjoyed by a more mature age group and, bless them, they need somewhere to park their bums or they’ll fall over.

Actually, it’s probably not far from the truth because by the time we arrived nearly every chair had been taken by a good majority of what was clearly a mix of mature Canarios and visitors. Not that we would have sat down – that would be an acceptance of growing old and I’m in complete denial about that one whatever my creaky back and bitchin’ legs tell me.

However, the chairs being set out are like Field of Dreams’ ‘build it and they will come’. In this case it’s ‘put out seats in front of a stage and any old bugger will sit on them’. A case proven when modern jazz guitarist, Yul Ballesteros started his set. Once they realised he was actually playing and not still tuning up there was a bit of an exodus by some of the older Canarios in the audience who clearly didn’t realise they were at a jazz concert despite the banners everywhere.

By the time Angélique Kidjo was due to appear a sizeable crowd filled Plaza Europa and the place buzzed with lively chatter. Unfortunately when she started her set the lively chatter didn’t stop. If anything it got louder and louder.

Being an international artist, she spoke to the crowd in English. I don’t know if this made a difference to how the crowd behaved, but when she told stories of her childhood in Africa and then spoke of her father who had died only a couple of years ago, the trendy Canarios standing around us simply spoke louder and louder. When she dedicated a semi-acoustic song to her father it was a toss up to who I could hear the most; the non-stop, inane chatter or her beautiful voice. It was a disgrace and was completely disrespectful. I was embarrassed to be part of such an ignorant crowd.

It couldn’t have just been the language…I mean the visitors in the audience who didn’t speak Spanish, didn’t all start talking loudly when Gran Canaria’s Yul Ballesteros was doing his thing so I’m not having that.  So what is it? I’ve never really noticed it before, but then most concerts involve thumping Latino bands and I wouldn’t hear anyone screaming in my ear at any of them.

The loud talking was so bad and I was getting so pissed off with the disrespectful behaviour that I was on the verge of suggesting to Andy that we should leave. Then Angélique did something which changed everything. She gave a little speech about the importance of respect in life (I don’t know if it was coincidence or she was aware of the noise) and then she made the audience part of the performance. She came down amongst us and into the heart of the chatterers, singing all the way and encouraging everyone to chant African lyrics. Suddenly the talking stopped and everyone started singing and dancing along with Angélique. It was magical and from then on it was party time in Puerto.

It turned out to be one of the best concerts I’ve been to in years…despite the dumb ass behaviour of some of the crowd.

I know the Spanish and Canarios like to talk. Most of the time I love the vibrancy and life that their animated conversations add to plazas and restaurants etc. But sometimes, just sometimes BASTA YA is the order of the day.

You see hombres, if you never occasionally shut your mouths and listen, you never learn…and that in itself can speak volumes.

The Sardinada Stall - you'll be smelling of grilled sardines for days

Two things occurred to me as I was doing my customary shuffle, which masquerades as my version of dancing, to dodgy music at San Telmo during the ‘Sardinada’ last night.

The first was that I remembered that I actually originally liked ‘I Will Survive’ before women in Britain turned it into an anthem celebrating the fact that they were crap at choosing the right man. Here there are no screams when ‘First I was afraid, I was petrified…” starts to blast out of the speakers, immediately followed by hordes of girlies rushing to the centre of the dance floor belting out the lyrics with heartfelt emotion. Here it’s just another song. Well, actually it’s still a gay anthem, but that’s okay – that doesn’t make you feel that you’re responsible for doing the dirty on every woman in the vicinity just by virtue of your sex.

The other thing that occurred to me was that we were seriously starved of good music. No, that’s unfair. We hear lots of really good Latino and traditional Canario music all the time. It’s just that every now and again we’d like to hear a bit of Faithless, or the Kings of Leon, or the Killers…or even Robbie Williams. But the DJ who preceded the Latino band San Telmo last night was stuck firmly in the early eighties. He started well enough with a bit of Amy Winehouse, but within a few lines changed it to ‘Black is Black’ and a Stars on 45 medley that they used to play in discos when I was 18.

It didn’t matter, it wasn’t Latino, or Canario, it was something different and when the Bee Gees started singing ‘Staying Alive’ I felt Tony Manero course through my veins and suddenly it was 1979 and I was imagining I was John Travolta again. Luckily enough I hadn’t downed many cervezas, so there was no embarrassing attempt to actually replicate his moves from Saturday Night Fever (not this time anyway), but I did sing-along with mucho gusto as did Andy.

DJ in Puerto - If Gene Hunt time travelled to Puertos Sardinada - would he know hed time travelled at all?

DJ in Puerto - If Gene Hunt time travelled to Puerto's Sardinada - would he know he'd time travelled at all?

And so it continued as Karma Chameleon was followed by YMCA (the crowd here don’t spell it out) and then some really bad Spanish Euro pop which the crowd of twenty to fifty some-things lapped up. Ironically the teenagers opted to congregate on the promenade above San Telmo waiting for the Latino band to strike up before they swamped the natural dance floor overlooking San Telmo’s rock pools. The DJ finished his set with ‘Song 2’ by Blur – almost the most up to date sound he played all night (Amy didn’t count).

It was kitsch music, but it was really good fun and Puerto was buzzing with an infectious fiesta atmosphere.  Before we’d musically time-travelled, we’d forked out our €3.50 each for a plate of grilled sardines, a chunk of anis bread and a cerveza and sat on the wall peeling the sardine’s delicate and salty flesh away from its bones as a stream of stylishly dressed young Spanish and Canarios paraded by like models in an unplanned fashion show.

The Sardinada is only the ‘warm up’ event for Embarkation Tuesday, but it’s a wonderful experience in its own right and shows Puerto and its people’s joie de vivre at their best. It was one of those nights that make you wonder is there a better place on this earth than this town.

Where does time go to in this odd place? It disappears like smoke from a puro on the breeze; a slight aroma in the air the only clue that it ever existed…

Note to self: – When watching a concert in Tenerife, don’t stand next to the group of trendy españoles chain smoking reefers; you know you can’t handle it.

ST Fusion - Jazz and Japan

ST Fusion - Jazz and Japan

Last year we’d caught some of the Jazz Festival down by the harbour in Puerto de la Cruz. It was nice, easy trad jazz which had the mainly mature audience tapping their feet in appreciation…this year’s was completely different.

First up on Saturday night was ST Fusion – a mix of traditional Japanese and improvisation jazz. I realise modern Jazz isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Armada Sur’s ‘General’ Chris Todd likens it to a piano crashing off the stage and I can see what he means.

The first time I saw improvisational jazz at the Brecon Jazz Festival, I was still waiting for the band to start playing when the rest of the crowd were shouting for an encore – I thought they’d been tuning up.

However, although I don’t really understand it, I like it. As the hauntingly classical Japanese rhythms segued into anarchic and seemingly random riffs from the double bass player I was seduced by the energy and originality of the music.

ST Fusion were followed by the James Taylor Quartet. The name alone induced thoughts of Dixieland and men in purple shirts and panama hats, but once you know that James Taylor was once signed to punk label Stiff Records, you realise that safe, foot tapping Jazz wasn’t likely.

James Taylor Quartet - there were six of them!

James Taylor Quartet - there were six of them!

James Taylor positively demanded that the audience dance to the Quartet’s (actually it was a sextet on this occasion) Jazz Funk Fusion sounds and the crowd responded perfectly.  It was a Hi-Energy performance from both band and audience and the first time I’ve seen a crowd dance to improvisational jazz – everyone humming along to the ‘Starsky and Hutch’ theme tune was particularly bizarre.

It was also great to see Puerto buzzing with Spanish visitors; it gives the town a vibrancy during summer that isn’t necessarily found in other places on the island and is completely at odds with the sedate reputation that it has with some Brits.

On Sunday we had to head into Santa Cruz to pick up Gomeran Jo who was returning from the UK. Last time we saw Jo it was my Birthday; this time it was Andy’s.

Andy had wanted to spend the morning walking in the Orotava Valley and the afternoon on the beach, but as Jo only had one pair of shoes with her that were suitable for the streets of Manhattan but not the forests of Tenerife, the walking plans went west. Instead we spent a leisurely and sweltering day at the beach catching up and bitching about how women with flat derrieres really shouldn’t wear thongs and how it should be illegal to sell thongs to men altogether. If you’re a people watcher and a signed up member of the style police, Playa Jardín usually has loads of material to keep you occupied, especially if you deliberately choose a spot furthest from the olive skinned chicas with the perfect bodies (Andy and Jo assumed responsibility for choosing where to spread the sarongs).

In the evening we made a spinach and feta tart, cracked open a cava or two, stuck on some Massive Attack and Leftfield and sat outside chatting under a clear sky and watching the occasional shooting star streak across the universe until Jesús appeared clutching his right thigh and asked for a volunteer to stand on him.

So that was how Andy spent 30 minutes of her birthday; standing on our neighbour’s thigh as he lay prone on our terrace. It wasn’t a conventional way to celebrate your birthday, but hey, this is the north of Tenerife…conventional isn’t an option.

“What do you think of this generation?” Jesús asked Andy.
“I don’t know what you mean.” Andy replied, looking perplexed.
“All this smoking pot, drinking…partying.”
I could see from Andy’s expression that she was contemplating giving Jesús a clip around the ear.
“Don’t talk to me as though I’m your grandmother,” Andy snapped and turned away mumbling something about ‘every generation thinking they invented the wheel.’

Ritmos del Mundo

Ritmos del Mundo

I meanwhile was trying to focus my camera on the DJ and the bikini and swimwear clad dancers in Lago Martiánez who were gyrating to Michael Jackson and REM remixes. I say trying…a cloud from the spliff the guy next to me was smoking was adding unwanted affects to the scene and probably adding mellow effects to the atmosphere…on the other side a couple of diminutive elderly Canarians definitely had a stoned look.

There’s a rather disturbing trend going around the young lads of Puerto de la Cruz. Their hair is quaffed up a bit like a duck’s arse on the top of their head. It’s not exactly a gay look, more camp model…think Derek Zoolander. Add tight Speedos to the equation and it’s almost laugh out loud funny.

“Haven’t they seen the movie Zoolander?” I commented. Maybe they didn’t realise it was a comedy.

We were listening to the Ritmos del Mundo, a 13 hour DJ fest. Ritmos del Mundo means ‘rhythms of the World. Any other place and you might think that you were in for a WOMAD type event. In Tenerife world music usually means that it’s simply not traditional Canarian. And so it proved to be the case. The music was good and certainly added a thumping buzz to Puerto’s Saturday night scene, but the main age range in the Lago looked to be around 15/16 so we decided to stick to the fringe before heading along the promenade past living statues, the hair braiders, caricature artists and a hilarious life sized Canarian version of a Punch and Judy show to one of the coolest bars in town, Soho, owned by a friend of Jesús.

Lago Martiánez, Ritmos del Mundo

Lago Martiánez, Ritmos del Mundo

It was quiet in the bar, at 11.00pm it was still too early for the local populace, so we sat at the bar with a Peroni whilst Jesús borrowed ‘Bobbybob’s” iphone to show us some photos of him swinging an imaginary golf club at the Abama Golf Course. It was the first time we’d seen an iphone in action. MY GOD when did the future arrive? We realised that our humble little mobile was not even an abacus in relation to that sexy piece of technology.

We’d only really popped into town to have a look at the ‘Ritmos’ fest, so headed back for home at a relatively early hour. Passing the top of our road we noticed that the restaurant which had formerly been The Swiss House, and La Chaveta before that, had re-opened. It’s a fantastic little traditional house with the most picturesque courtyard; the perfect setting for a restaurant.

This time it’s called Tres Casitas – ‘three little houses’ which is pretty much an accurate description. Personally I reckon the change of name from La Chaveta to the Swiss House had much to do with its previous decline, so Tres Casitas is definitely an improvement.

“Let’s pop in for a drink,” suggested Jesús. “After all, we’re almost neighbours.”

Jesús’ attitude typifies the difference between Spanish openness and British reserve.

“But it’s a restaurant not a bar and it’s late…and I’ve passed it anyway.”

I’d driven about 20 feet past the courtyard’s entrance. The road is single track and my reversing-along-narrow-lanes skills are woeful.

“Aww come on, man. It’s neighbourly.” Jesús insisted.
“Yeah, Jesús is right, let’s have a look,” Andy ganged up.

I reversed the 20 feet, a painful process to watch, and parked outside the bougainvillea covered entrance. There were only a couple of diners left and they were just about to leave. Jesús asked if the bar was open; an academic question as Canarian bars are open as long as there’s someone in the place.

The bar is in one of the casitas; sloping beamed roof, rough cerise walls, a huge black and white print of Ray Charles on the wall and music to match. The bar itself is gleaming polished wood which runs the length of the room. It was the sort of bar you could spend a lot of time in. We introduced ourselves and Andy and I listened as Jesús and the owner chatted about the menu and cooking, catching only about 70% of what was being said.

It’s quite a small menu, but it’s clearly quality and dishes like swordfish carpaccio; smoked cheese, jamon Serrano and strawberry salad and the house speciality – cochino asado (barbecued pig) suggest traditional Canarian cuisine updated for the modern palate. Some ingredients are grown in the casita’s ‘huerta’ (vegetable garden), whilst others are specially selected from elsewhere, like the pimientos brought in from La Palma because of their unique flavour.

We’ll definitely be going back at an hour which is more suitable for dining to try it out, but I’m willing to bet that it’s damned good which is great as it’s only a few minutes stroll away.

In a previous post I mocked the Echo and The Bunnymen website, which announced news of their gig in La Laguna with the headline ‘Echo and the Sunnymen’. La Laguna in April, sunny? Yeah right. And then along came the calima and probably the hottest weekend that La Laguna is likely to see this year.

Echo and The Bunnymen in La Laguna, TenerifeTenerife’s former capital was positively balmy last night as Echo and The Bunnymen took to the stage in front of Central Campus University.
Supported by El Guincho and The Mistake, they played an impressive set to an audience made up of mostly sickeningly stylish Spanish students and a decent number of the ‘baby boomer’ generation who were probably fans the first time around.
I was never a big fan, but after last night I’m a convert. Ian McCulloch´s voice has developed a rougher edge over the years which suits the band’s Doors inspired sounds and lyrics.

It was interesting to watch the mainly Canarian audience lap up a set which included a couple of new numbers (one of which Ian McCulloch sold to us as being ‘probably crap’ cause it was new),The Killing Moon, Seven Seas and Lips Like Sugar. One stage hand seemed to be in complete rapture singing along to that one.
One of the oddest moments came when the band finished their set. As they walked off the stage, there was enthusiastic clapping for sure, but no shouts of ‘more’, or even ‘¡otra!’, even though everyone had clearly enjoyed the performance. It was as if the audience seemed to think, that was it, game over. It was left to a small band of British fans to lead the way and their shouts of ‘Echo, Echo’ were soon taken up by the people around them. So at least the band didn’t have the embarrassing situation of reappearing for the obligatory encore without the audience actually demanding it. I can only put this deviation from the norm down to live gig etiquette being a wee bit ‘lost in translation’.

Still, listening to a good British band, even if they are Liverpool supporters, on a balmy evening in La Laguna was a great way to spend a Saturday night – and the bonus ball was that it was all free.