Posts Tagged ‘music’

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Over the years I’ve worked out another easy way to spot someone who’s been replaced by a pod.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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I had a little moment last night when I fell in love with Puerto de la Cruz all over again; a woman with a face as wrinkled as a bowl of papas arrugadas who had a submarine-sized cigar protruding from her mouth stared down at me from a poster on the wall; in front of me a girl who clearly modelled herself from head to toe on Shakira swivelled furiously, desperate to show anyone who was watching that her hips didn’t lie; it was 2.30am and the atmosphere was hot, sweaty and electric. My favourite bar in the world had re-opened and we were once again able to take a trip down the rabbit hole to downtown Havana without stepping foot outside of our adopted town.

Despite suffering from a debilitating disease picked up in Lanzarote (i.e. a bit of a sniffy nose but hey, I’m a man so obviously my symptoms are a lot more serious than anyone else’s), I dragged myself from my sick bed (in front of the TV screen – more poetic license) for a night on the tiles.

Friend Roberto (Bob when he’s at home in England) is a swallow; someone who spends part of the winter on Tenerife. He’s been coming to Puerto for 25 years and we got to know him whilst watching Man Utd games at the Beehive. Like many regular visitors to Tenerife, he goes to the same bars and restaurants every trip, so when we heard there was a Michael Jackson tribute band at one of our favourite night spots, Blanco Bar, we decide it was time that Roberto was plucked from his cosily familiar environment and thrust into the nocturnal world that we inhabit.

The Fragata Bar is ideal for making the transition from bars frequented mainly by visitors to bars that are frequented by Canarios, Spanish and South Americans. At 10pm the bar is full of ex-pats and Northern European holidaymakers. At 11.30 there’s a change of shift and the Canarios arrive, boosting the atmosphere with their noisy, bubbly chatter. A couple of cervezas and 20 minutes of being book-ended by two tables of young Canarios and Bob was sufficiently acclimatised.

Blanco Bar is the coolest bar in town, but you can’t tell it from the outside. Walk through the soundproofed glass doors and you enter a world of crisp lilac lighting and sleek and sexy furnishings complimented by the equally sleek and sexy people lounging on them. It’s the sort of place where you might feel that unless you look like Brangelina you’re spoiling the picture. But this is Puerto where nobody gives a damn about age, size or looks; it’s one of the things that we love about the joint.

I’d had the heads up via Twitter that Michael Jackson had been cancelled and replaced with One Love – a tribute to Bob Marley. Even better as far as I was concerned especially as the band, helped by a guitarist who injected a heavy dose of R&B into familiar reggae riffs, were pretty damn good. It sounded like Marley, but with a whole new dimension added and Blanco rocked as just about everyone joined in ‘One Love’ et al with mucho gusto.

For a brief chill-out we swapped venues and made the short trip to Limbo. The band there had finished playing but we were met with a bit of Free which was nice. Limbo’s most popular area is its outside terrace and whilst it was busy-ish, the cool 14C temps meant that it wasn’t its usual sardine can packed. As we downed another cerveza and Bob surveyed the old red tiled rooftops opposite, the Havana Rum billboard looming above us and the huge palm tree silhouetted against a clear sky and a sea of stars, he said something strange.

‘Wow, I really feel I’m in Spain,” he shouted above the music.

Twenty five years of visiting and those two bars inspired him to say that. It spoke volumes about the Puerto that some British visitors see and the ‘real’ Puerto that we know and love.

If he thought the first two bars were foreign, Azucar was about to blow him away. The atmospheric Cuban bar in a former gentlemen’s smoking club has been occupying its lower floors for over a year, but at last its upper floors have re-opened and we entered to the usual maelstrom of whirling, twirling and suggestive thrusting that can make you feel slightly voyeuristic. Of all the gin joints in all the towns I’ve toasted salud, slangever’d and bottoms up’d in, Azucar is my favourite. Azucar’s get down and dirty personality and thumping Cuban vibes make me want to clamp a cigar between my teeth and down a mojito in one thirsty gulp…without removing the cigar of course.

Andy and I threw in the towel at around 3am, leaving Bob, who had been completely seduced by the bar (and relaxed by cervezas), watching chicas and chicos make love fully clothed on the dance floor i.e. any free floor space in the bar.

We left Azucar happy in the knowledge that as well as enjoying a top night we’d given another friend the keys to a magical kingdom. The bars he’d frequented before will just never seem the same again. Bienvenido to the real Puerto de la Cruz, Roberto.

New Year’s Eve in Puerto de la Cruz is Groundhog Day.

Every year the drill is this – people dress up to the nines; go out to eat; head to the main plaza at around 11.30pm; salsa a bit (unless you’re me, then you shift from foot to foot with no rhythm whatsoever); move to the harbour; eat 12 grapes when it’s midnight; make a lot of oooh and aaah noises at the firework display; drink cava until your head’s as fizzy as the stuff in your plastic glass; then salsa some more (after the cava even I believe I have rhythm) until you die…or dawn arrives.

Simple really.

With Andy wearing a vintage Red or Dead number (Sex and the City is great for coming up with new ways of making old clothes fashionable again) and me in a smart but casual jacket and jeans affair we joined the revellers in town.

The Ape in the Garden
We kicked off the night with neighbour Nicole and her son Sebastian at a little place in the fishermen’s district. Not the best joint in town, but decent enough fare.
Nicole is very French in a 50s Bardot sort of way. Seba on the other hand is straight out of the French Foreign Legion…possibly literally. We always have interesting discussions about life and politics in France and also about his experiences as a young ‘outsider’ growing up here. Nicole likes to talk about herself and ‘amour’ and gets tired if the subject moves onto something less mundane such as politics.
During the course of the meal there was a rather disturbing revelation – that we have an ape buried somewhere in our garden. It happened before we moved into the house and the story of how it got there is quite incredible (involving guns, police and broken noses) but I’m saving that for another time.

The Annual Grape Eating Fiasco
At 11.30pm we left the restaurant for the plaza, watched a few people salsa sexily (it’s really just public foreplay) to the live band, then moved to the harbour to get in place for the firework display and the annual grape eating fiasco.
If you don’t know about grape eating in Spain at New Year, it’s a good luck thing. As soon as the first bells chime for midnight, you eat one with each chime and down the last as midnight strikes…otherwise you might as well hide away in a cave for a year until the bad luck dissipates.
The trouble with this tradition in a más o menos culture is that no-one is ever sure when the first bell should chime (in Puerto it’s a firework for each chime) and this year there was a mini panic as the plaza clock struck midnight and there was no firework. Then someone on a balcony above us popped their party poppers, setting off an epidemic of premature grape eating in the crowd – but still no firework. Andy and I wobbled as people all around us broke, but we held our nerve even though Seba insisted it was midnight…and then, finally, the 12 single fireworks started their countdown and Andy and I gobbled our grapes furiously hoping good luck was assured for the next 12 months.

A Moment of Insomniac Elation
Nicole and Seba went home about 1am leaving Andy and I on our lonesome. The band in the square was replaced by a guy on a keyboard and his two dancing little girls. It’s difficult to describe them without sounding cruel, but I’ll just say the girls looked exactly like Gabby’s daughters in Desperate Housewives. It was an appalling act, so we took off for the clubbing area beside the old custom house. By this time the area was full of young girls in short, shiny, strapless evening gowns and lads in suits. Whereas the girls looked stylish and sophisticated, the local lads  still insist on sporting Derek Zoolander haircuts – it was a piss take guys – which doesn’t do them any favours at all.
Almost as soon as we got there familiar sounds sent a surge of adrenalin through our veins as the DJ pumped up the volume with the Faithless classic Insomnia. It made our night and our arms punched the air…for all of thirty seconds before the DJ reverted to the obligatory Latino beat.

Looking at the plague of Zoolanders around me it suddenly struck me why it’s always Latino, Latino and more Latino even in the clubbing areas. Whenever the DJ strayed from Latino, they were lost. They attempted to do something resembling salsa to the thumping dance beat before giving up and wandering away from the dance area. The only time they got really excited was when the Latino came back on and they were back in familiar territory.

It’s quite sweet in a way and I respect how traditions are maintained but Andy and I like a bit of international music now and again. We lasted until 3.45 by which time we were Latino’d to the eyeballs and it was time for the long walk home.

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.

When you’re going to be sharing a beach with upwards of 17000 other revellers, it takes some serious tactical planning to choose the right spot. We’d been here plenty of times before and knew that a wrong decision can put you in the flight path of the hordes of sea bound San Juan-ers intent on reaching the shore to bathe in the magical Midsummer waters.

As the sun goes down, the candles are lit

As the sun goes down, the candles are lit

This year we got it perfect. A small palm tree with a view of the stage and the bonfire and equidistant from the sea and the toilets (you have to take all things into consideration when planning a campaign of this magnitude) acted as our base.

The Noche San Juan celebrations in Puerto de la Cruz are always a major event with families descending on Playa Jardín from around 6pm. We like to get their early to stake out our patch, dig our hole, decorate it with flowers and candles and chill out before the evening’s entertainment hits full swing. That usually means nosy-ing at what else is going on; like the guy in the worst swim shorts ever…I mean Speedos with skulls on them…where are the fashion police when you need them. The oddest person on the beach was a very smiley elderly woman with badly dyed black hair. She wandered up and down the beach pausing to smile at the decorated excavations, ours included. Nothing odd in that except she clearly had an obsession with pink. Pink T-shirt, pink ankle socks and get this, she also was licking away at pink ice cream.

Sunset at San Juan

Sunset at San Juan

You’re always guaranteed a good show in Puerto and this year was no different. Somewhere around nine the first of two traditional Canarian bands started and as darkness descended candles were lit all across the beach and the magical night really got into its swing.

With San Juan, the atmosphere heats up as the night progresses. The sand fills up with people around you and laughter and singing fill the night air. There’s always an ‘arty performance’ included and I reckon any savings on this year’s event must have been made here. Whereas last year’s involved an elaborate show and a horde of acrobats suspended above the waves, this year’s offering was one bloke swinging from a high pole above the castle, but it seemed to be the only concession to the ‘creesees’. The firework display to music might not have been on a Tatton Park scale, but it was still spectacular.

Hot night on the beach

Hot night on the beach

Ironically what really ignited this year’s fiesta was the rock band Los Salvapantallas from La Palma. I say ironically, because what usually rings the bell of most Canarios, young and old, is the island’s traditional music, so it was a surprise to see the crowd go wild to the best of 80s rock anthems. By the time the band struck up a rock version of ‘Mamma Mia’, the beach was a bikini clad boogie land.

The band’s electric guitars were still screaming by the time midnight arrived and Andy and I stripped down to our swimwear and negotiated our way through the crowd to the magical waters and another first.

I can honestly say that I’ve never stood waist deep in water at midnight with hundreds of bathers all of whom had their arms in the air clapping a rhythm to ‘We will, we will, rock you…” as multicoloured strobe lights raced across the sea lighting us all up. It was one of those delightfully bizarre little moments.
The water this year was much more temperate then previous years, so a lot less goose pimples and shrivelled bits…which was a bonus.

Rocking the Beach

Rocking the Beach

The band were so popular that they were called back for 4 encores before the official entertainment ended and the bongo drums and guitars were brought out around us. Before we knew it, it was 2 am. The atmosphere was still seductive, but we wanted to see ‘el baño de las cabras’ (goat bathing) in the harbour the following morning and so reluctantly dragged ourselves away.

I had one last thing to do though.  I wanted a shot of the beach from the jetty which reaches out from the Castillo San Felipe. I left Andy and set up my mini tripod and within a few seconds was surrounded by a group of sloshed Gomeran lads who, spotting that I wasn’t Canario, were keen to educate me about the fact that Canarios weren’t Spanish, they were Canarios, which was a lot better.
Funny how having a couple of beers and a few glasses of rosada does wonders for language skills. Whereas I have some days where my Spanish speaking seems to fly out the window, with the lads I had one of those times where I was able to understand and converse easily.
Don’t ask me how, or why…it was them directing the conversation, but in the space of a few minutes we covered La Gomera and silbo, the Scots wearing skirts, Catholics and the use of Durex, homosexuality and finally the English versions of Spanish swear words before they invited me to a party at their house which I declined.

That’s the Noche de San Juan; full of fun and odd little experiences; I love it…but if anyone saw a group of lads wandering across Playa Jardín shouting “mootherfoooker’ at each other it had absolutely nothing to do with me.

The Midsummer waters

The Midsummer waters

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.