Tag Archives: music

Sala BarCo

Madrid half emptied for Easter – and walking around the centre of town over the weekend was very pleasant as the rushing and bumping and elbowing that normally occurs was absent. It also meant most of the cafes, bars and nightclubs weren’t packed to the rafters (as is usual), so myself and four friends took the opportunity on Friday to make a proper night of it in our old hunting ground of Malasaña.

We started with drinks and tapas in plaza de San Ildefonso at Restaurante Conhache. Too cold to sit at the outside terrace, which was deserted, we went inside, which was also deserted. This is almost unheard of as Conhache is the only drinks establishment in the square and is thus SUPER popular. For dinner (at a suitable Madrileño time – i.e nigh on midnight) we went to Madrid Madriz, a popular cafe close to metro Tribunal. Again, this can be a very popular spot because it’s cheap, stays open late and the food is good quality and served fast.

Suitably prepped, we headed off into the maze of old, narrow streets that make up the Malasaña zone and wiggled our way to Sala BarCo.

Located on calle del Barco (geddit?) and open most nights it’s best known for live concerts on the funky-jazz-blues side of things, with some flamenco fusion. But after 1.00am (and we arrived at 0200hrs) it’s DJ time, playing funky hip-hop with a latin tinge. 8 euros to get in but you get a drink with that. The crowd were 20s to 30s mostly, dressed casually but fashionable and digging the music.

Again, because of the holidays, the place was not full which meant we had lots of room and getting to the bar was easy. Maybe this lack of crush influences my thoughts about the place, because I thought it was great. My compadres told me that it can be absolutely rammed at weekends and I’m not sure that I would like that. One other thing in its favour – it has the best acoustics and best sound equipment I have heard in years. The ceilings have been properly covered with sound insulation materials and the speakers, amps, mixing desks etc. were top drawer. Clear, crisp top notes, profound and well formed bass – it really augmented the experience.

Trawling around YouTube I found loads of videos of concerts at Sala Barco, but I thought this one (below) was quite cute. You gotta dig the Spanish accent singing Dr. Feelgood!

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El Junco

So, it’s a Tuesday, it’s midnight, but you want to carry on drinking and listen to some good music. What are your options? Well, in Madrid, there are lots. This city specialises in late night music bars, late night fun and late night assignations. It’s a late night / early morning kinda place.

One of Madrid-Uno’s favourite spots for mid-week partying is El Junco, a jazz bar and long-standing refuge for the the night birds of Malasaña. It’s open every night from 11.00pm to 6.00am and will usually have a live band on until about 3.00am (modern jazz or blues plus pick-up sessions) followed by the resident DJs (mixing jazz with funky house and classic soul). At weekends it’s usually DJ only and tends toward the more soul music side of things (think James Brown / Rose Royce).

Located on the corner of Plaza Santa Bárbara (Metro: Alonso Martínez) its position makes it ideal for those wandering back from the town centre or those heading into it, and so on Friday and Saturday nights it’s usually rammed – with a long queue to get in if you arrive any later than midnight. But for, say, a Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday it’s usually OK.

This particular night was a classic example of how it works: Madrid-Uno arrives at midnight and walks straight in, grabbing the last remaining spot at the bar and ordering a whisky-coke. Half an hour later is in deep conversation with a couple of lovely ladies who are ‘gastronomic journalists’ (nice work if you can get it) and the place is slowly filling up. By 2.00am it’s virtually full, the three-piece band for the night are now joined on stage by some of their jazz friends (inlcuding an excellent saxophonist) and our group has grown into about eight people – four Spanish, a Puerto Rican with one of those rings people put through their nose, a Frenchie, a completely plastered Austrian who is clearly on a mission to obliterate himself, and M1. A couple of hours flash by, more drinks, the DJ takes over from the band. Some people are slipping out for a few breaths of fresh air (and others to toke) but there’s no-one on the door so no issues with tickets or anything. By 6.00am, chucking out time, the place is still 3/4 full and some of my new compadres are heading off to shower up and get ready for work. Austrian chap has collapsed in the flower bed outside. Puerto Rican nose-ring babe is snogging the DJ, and M1 gets a ride on the back of a moped all the way back to his pad from an acquaintance of the journalists – even though he’s only met me for a couple of hours.  Complete lunacy for a school-night but so typical of this city.

This is definitely a recommended place, but I would avoid it for a Friday or Saturday night simply because it gets so completely full. There have been rumours that they water the drinks down but in my experience this has never been the case. I usually go for Dewars White Label and, whilst I’m no expert, I know my brand and what I got served at El Junco was definitely authentic.

El Junco – jazz, blues, friendly, funky, but liable to make work the next morning a difficult place to be.

Villa Rosa – Plaza de Santa Ana

¡Hola! ¿Qué Tal? Two boys, two girls. Three can dance one can’t and it’s two left legs Madrid-Uno who needs a stiff drink. On the corner of Plaza Santa Ana is Villa Rosa, reputedly the oldest bar de copas in Madrid and this is our destination. Guarded by 6 bouncers (do they really need that many?) with as many people spilling out as trying to get in this is clearly a popular spot. As we enter, Sabrina negotiates a free shot for the lot of us so it’s a good start. Opened in 1914 by some famous picadors the place used to be the haunt of aristos and celebs – Hemingway frequented – and was a centre for the art of Flamenco. Now it seems a tad more downmarket (hell, they let Madrid-Uno in! And he’s wearing trainers!) and is a standard nightclub, but Sabrina explains they still do flamenco here on special reserved nights. She points out the special floorboards in a part of the main hall which are slightly sprung veneered mahogany or other hardwood designed for professional flamenco dancers. The club is divided up into three main rooms. There is a smallish lobby bar doing the shots, a large dance hall with a couple of bars at the furthest ends and a small stage with dancers on, and a third bar area in an L-shaped square recess and where the VERY LOUD music is muffled somewhat by a wood trellice. The most amazing thing about the place is the walls which are covered in the most splendidly detailed ceramic tiles (azulejos) featuring Andalucian country scenes from the past. And many of the fixtures are made from delicately carved, dark veneered wood. The place reeks of history even if tonight it reeks of a Ritzy’s in Croydon or Cinderella’s in Romford. It’s Spanish pop music (pachanga), salsa, merengue and other latin american dances with the odd bit of euro-house thrown in for fun. Sabrina proves to be a wonderful dance teacher and after a half hour or so I can at least pop a couple of steps. Fair play, this style of dancing is great fun. It’s so liberating to actually work in harmony with your partner, to feel her body pressed against yours and to rock and sway in unison. Drinks are 7 euroweenies for combinados (cocktails / spirit combos) and 4E for beers and soft drinks. Open Wednesday to Friday from 8.00pm to 1.00am and until 6.00am on Saturdays.

Club El Sol

¡Hola! ¿Qué Tal? A gig at Club El Sol, just off Gran Via, featuring artists from the Madrid music label Pueblo Records, home to local bands ‘Insecto’, ‘Lava’ and ‘Dead Capo’ and a few other Spanish music groups. Pretty good sound system (Bose monitors are noted) and the club is packed – Madrid-Uno can barely get his mobile phone above the heads to record a segment onto the flash card. After the concert the place turns into a northern soul / indie club with DJs but we’re too busy in the ‘green room’ quaffing beers and complimentary nuts etc. Very nice Mexican stylist who impresses Madrid-Uno with her knowledge of Cambridge; apparently she did a language course there so we swap Parkers Piece and punting stories for a while. One of the percussionists from one of the bands is from Cuba and Madrid-Uno makes the mistake of telling him he’s glad that Fidel is on his last legs. Oh dear. Cue impassioned defence of Castro and all he stands for. Note to self: must learn Spanish quicker if I’m gonna hold my end up in this city. Later, outside the entrance, as we get our group together to move on to the after party, we are accosted by some of the ugliest putas Madrid-Uno has ever seen. “Papi Papi” they shout (more of Fidel’s compadres) as Madrid-Uno hold’s his jacket pocket tightly to his chest and feels their hands quickly and expertly frisk him. These ladies should do airport check-in duty not walk the streets. Terrorists wouldn’t get through with so much as a tooth-pick. We escape to Gran Via.