Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Spanish Trilogy - Barcelona - An Idea for an Illegal Festival

In the year 2000 I lived for a period of four months in Barcelona. It were the last months of the year. It also felt as the very last days of the twentieth century. Streets were dark and shiny with rain. Sidewalks changed into urban wasteland every night. There was a smell of othercountryness. Illegal immigrants from African countries slept on the main square, under cardboard, side by side.

Manu Chao was in his height days. An admirable person, who rejected to be called a leader of a subculture, because - in his own words - leaders couldn't stop themselves of becoming assholes. But the kids who lived at the very margins of existence suddenly were filled with pride. The street was their courtyard.

Repression by law was waiting just around the corner. Barkeepers came running after you when you walked out with a beer bottle in your hand; it was not allowed to drink outside. Shortly after midnight street cleaners would appear with a fire hose and chase everyone away.

Luckily it was still allowed to organise concerts in small bars. And that is how I got to know the Lem-festival. It went on for months, and every weekend another small bar would host a show with some kind of music. A chance meeting with one of the artists, resulted in an initiation in the art of sound.

Six years later I'm back. I carry my vintage Walkman cassette players, the fourtrack, a mixer and a box full of cassettes in a little rucksack. Another sack with my clothes, and there is the picture of an artist as a tramp. Whatever! I had two shows in Barcelona coming up. Victor Nubla, one of the team that organises the Lem-festival had been helpful providing addresses.

We meet in his favourite hang-out in Barcelonetta, a cosy old fisherman's bar with a lovely view on the sea. It has a very warm atmosphere. The waiter calls Victor by his first name. We drink some robust red wine from the Rioja area, eat some tapas. The first sunbathers are out. every now and then we stop talking to watch a beautiful girl walk by. It's a wonder that Victor finds time to compose music and help organising a festival as well.

The Lem- festival that I encountered doesn't exist anymore. It's a logical consequence of hard work and the continuous offer of high quality artists. LEM-Festival works closely together with the town council. There is young people working, open minded, ready to respond to and support good ideas. The organisation doesn't occupy itself exclusively with the festival. Other initiatives are under construction or already existing. They point at helping emerging artists or to give a richer flavor the cultural wildlife, in bringing disciplines as diverse as gastronomy, poetry and music together.

Unfortunately also the LEM-festival suffers from the repression of the law. Most acts have to be presented to a larger audience. That`s why only bigger venues can be taken in consideration. LEM 2000 was free. Now you pay. Not too much, but enough to make you realise what you're doing: Pay to listen! I emphasize this, because there are enough soundicians who pay to play.

LEM is still negotiating with the town council to change the law that forbids bars to organise a concert. In dealing with the town council, LEM has to respect any outcome of these negotiations. This is a difficult situation, because the Festival doesn't want to loose their underground character.

Underground has to do with margins. Those who live and act there, and I'm not talking about criminals, explore these margins. Willfullingly, sometimes unconsciously, they try to find out if a bit more tolerance towards outsideristic behaviour wouldn't improve society. It is also a way to define freedom. Lem-festival could encourage this research in accepting smaller and even one-man organisations. The extra concerts can be held, as in 2000, in smaller bars, before a smaller audience, for free.

I don't have to explain what kind of impact it would have on the festival.

Lem Festival : http://www.gracia-territori.com/index.htm

Monday, April 17, 2006

Spanish Trilogy - Madrid – An Idea for an Invisible Festival

The last-days-of-our-lives atmosphere that I encountered in Madrid could be easily suppressed. Laws are like ghosts that suddenly take possession of people and places. They live in frowns and in future decisions.

Spain is considered one of the loudest countries in the world. I experienced this when living in Malaga. Deep in the night the street cleaners came washing the streets with gallons of water. Early morning the market people came to unload their merchandise.

This has to stop, so says the new law. Bars have to close early. New licenses are hard to get. Concerts are harder to organise. Enrique Vela of tronicdisease, organiser and my host during the days in Madrid, told me, that in Spain everything happened two hours later. I thought this was a very comfortable position.

Maybe some people in E.U. Headquarters think differently.

In those two hours spare time an initiative has come alive and settled in a building. The Caja de Madrid, one of the biggest banks in Spain has set up a cultural centre. It gives space to a wide range of activities, among which there is experimental music.

The very good thing about it is that they book artists from the very obscurity of the marginal world of 'some kind of music' and in this way visualise the peak of an enormous pyramid.

They risk, however, to become the only visible representative to the town council, because other organisations are – almost – forced to go underground and organise 'illegal 'concerts. La Casa Encendida, as the cultural centre is called, cannot be blamed if this will happen.

But maybe they can help in some way. Concerts of some kind of music can be defined lectures in sound, or exhibitions of found sounds put together in a prelinguistic way. I performed in three different places. Legal or illegal, there still are numerous places where performances can be organised. There is no money before the concert, but afterwards thanks to donations or contributions by the public. Most of the time it can cover travel expenses and pay a falafel and a beer.

The invisible festival is a festival that exists only in its non-existence. This sentence is not the result of my ten days stay in France. Festivals are events in time and space that produce a lot of secondary noise like visitors and propaganda. They are like the tents of a peaceful army that occupies the city for a restricted period. They need visibility for reasons that every one can make up for them.

An invisible festival can last a whole year. It can be held in different places indoor or outdoor. It can be held in places that already are organising concerts for soundicians. It can become a kind of ghost, unlike the ghost that occupies bars and forces the owner to lock the doors or close down for ever. It can become a voice that suddenly goes around town. It can become visible and make some noise.

An invisible festival can even be sponsored by the Caja de Madrid. They only need to contact those who are already working in the margins and give them something like 100 euro a month. Money makes the world go around; it also helps the travelling soundician to arive at places.

perfoming in Madrid: