Archive for April, 2009

It never ceases to amaze me how effectively the Tinerfeños manage to safeguard their culture and identity.
Despite 500 years of being at the crossroads between Europe and the Americas and 50 years at the heart of mass tourism, very little of northern European or North American culture has left its mark on this society.
But what’s most surprising to me is the way in which so much mainstream music has entirely by-passed these islands. It’s not just a marked preference for Latino and traditional Canarian with the only new kids on the block being rap and hip hop, it’s the virtual absence of any reference to UK and US charts sounds everywhere outside of the bars, clubs and discos of the purpose built tourist resorts.

So when Jack suggested we should go along to the Festival de Músicas Alternativas en Canarias (‘alternative’ music festival) in Puerto on Saturday night, I joked that we might even get to hear some Indie rock.

Mento - a polished performance

Mento - a polished performance

Arriving at the harbour at 9.30pm for a scheduled 9pm start, the stage was still being set up and a handful of people were milling around the mixing desk so we decided to go for a stroll around town to give them Canarian time to get under way.
When we arrived back in Plaza Charco we could hear that the first of the bands had started their set and we laughed as the sounds of garage music came drifting across the fishing boats. I was close.

On stage, Mento were in full flow rocking out the volume with some throaty Jim Morrison style vocals from the lead and augmented by dry ice, lasers and a cine reel. Around us, a hundred or so twenty-somethings were foot tapping and head shaking and below the stage a tie-dyed hippie was reeling and wheeling across the space.
When Mento finished their set, DJ Carlos Robles took to the stage.

This Drama - high on energy, low on melody

Flying in the face of the traditional DJ role of setting the audience alight with heart stopping volume and epilepsy-inducing lights, Carlos slipped quietly into the shadows behind one of the stack systems and slid ‘The Killers’ onto the turntable at the sort of volume Aunty Barbara would approve of.
A quick burst of some White Stripes and an improvisation of something that sounded suspiciously close to folk and the young DJ exited as discreetly as a roadie.

Unsurprisingly, most of the audience hadn’t even spotted DJ Robles’ appearance and carried on chatting until their attention was garrotted by the livewire appearance of ‘This Drama’. To an ear shattering explosion of chords above an aggressive drum beat, these punk rockers catapulted themselves onto the stage causing a tidal wave of excitement that sucked the audience to their feet in its undercurrent.

To a backdrop of a scene from ‘Quadrophenia’ the lead vocalist pogo’d across the stage, his skin tight jeans belted below his buttocks and his sleek, black Mod hair covering one eye.
Below stage a group of lads got caught up in the euphoria and began pogo-ing and hurtling into each other like guided missiles on mescaline, desperate to disguise their dancing as anarchy (boys…).

Impressively tight timing and high energy output culminated after just one minute as the first number came to an abrupt end.
Over the next twenty minutes, This Drama belted out a dozen songs, all remarkably similar, lacking any discernible tune and each lasting no more than a minute and a half. Then they were gone.

We headed back to the car park where the usual Saturday night crowd of Puerto’s teenagers was just getting its partying off the ground and every neon-lit, alcohol filled car we passed was belting out Latino and rap.
It might be a while yet before so much of what is considered here to be ‘alternative’ makes it to mainstream gatherings like this one but it’s good to know that when it does, there’s some raw local talent waiting in the wings to be heard.


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I’ve been updating the prices in our independent guide to car hire in order to take into account the reduced value of Sterling against the Euro and I’ve discovered a few surprises.

Some car hire firms have actually increased the Euro price quoted on their websites; an interesting marketing strategy. Most are unchanged which means the cost to British hirers has effectively increased.

But some have made significant reductions so that if you’re coming from Britain and want to hire a car while you’re in Tenerife, there’s no difference to the price you’ll pay now than the price you would have paid six months ago, despite the falling value of the pound. Which is very good news indeed.

However, the really good news is reserved for anyone travelling from the US to Tenerife and wanting to hire a car. With the reduction in prices, combined with the strength of the Dollar against the Euro, there are some fantastic bargains to be had. For example, you can now hire a car for a week from as little as US$109, and that’s with a company who gets consistently good feedback on its service.

We’ve done all the work for you; all you have to do is compare and decide.

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Everything about the town felt different.
For one thing it was 10 pm on Saturday night and there wasn’t a space to be found in the vast open-air harbour car park where a thousand cars can comfortably fit. I’d never seen it like this before.

And everywhere I looked there were neo-hippies; handsome bearded men with dreads tucked into battered top hats, their ubiquitous dogs trotting quietly by their sides. And long haired women in harem pants and fitted velvet jackets, their Indian jewellery tinkling as they walked.

There was a festival mood in the air; different from the flamboyant Carnaval atmosphere of a few weeks ago or the boisterous fiesta emotion that summer will bring. This was a laid back, bohemian affair, unhurried despite the crowds, all smiley and slightly sweet smelling.

The finishing touches to an Artistic Hairdresser creation

The finishing touches to an Artistic Hairdresser creation

From a small booth set up just beyond the statue of the fish wife, Beatles hits of the sixties were blaring out and a sizeable crowd were gathered. On stage, two women were dressed like latter day pantomime dames with metre high hair the shape of a sheaf of wheat. Amidst stacks of fluorescent, rainbow-coloured accessories, the Artistic Hairdressers were at work, teasing, plaiting, wiring and spray-dyeing volunteers’ hair into elaborate head sculptures.

At the top of Calle Quintana, two surreally large, silent ‘thugs’ were attempting to break into the BBVA bank, their incompetent efforts being witnessed by a shifting crowd whose amused delight had a distinctly nervy edge to it, scattering like sheep whenever one of the thugs made a move towards them.

Slowly working my way through the mass of spectators I made my way to Plaza Europa where in the now constant drizzle a man on a rope and a woman doing incredible things with hoola hoops were playing to a large audience of umbrellas.

The ominous presence of a seven foot thug outside the BBVA bank

The ominous presence of a seven foot thug outside the BBVA bank

When the rain stopped I took my place alongside the growing crowd near the front of the main stage to await the arrival of The Chanclettes. For the next 30 minutes I was good naturedly jostled and squeezed from pole position to side line by a never-ending stream of people pushing their way through to the front of the stage. It’s an odd contradiction in the Tinerfeños; given a queue at the bar or the Correos or the cake shop they will happily allow any number of people to push ahead of them. But give them a spectacle of any sort, a concert or a parade, they will worm their way through the smallest of non-gaps to get to the front.

By the time The Chanclettes took to the stage I had shifted imperceptibly until my unobstructed view had turned into

The fabulously un-pc Chanclettes

The fabulously un-pc Chanclettes

a stack system and four square yards of stage. But there’s no room for resentment when you’re watching four incredibly professional drag artists stage an hilariously irreverent piss-take of movies, TV commercials and celebs over the past forty years. Despite losing a fair bit in translation, it was one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen.
At 1am I made my way back to the car through the neon lit, booze packed boots and interiors of the town’s usual teenage Saturday night car park rave and headed towards the exit where a steady stream of cars was still queueing to get in.

Despite the rain, 15,000 people visited the town over the weekend of the Mueca Festival. Low season? Economic slowdown? Not so’s you’d notice in Puerto de la Cruz.

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The Deans

The Deans

I’ve just had a tip-off from a comment on ‘Santa Blues’ that The Deans are going to be playing this year’s festival in June 2009. Three young lads from Galway, brothers Gary and Gavin Dean and friend Martin Sheanon, these guys play like veterans of old school Blues and Rock. Gavin Dean’s Stratocaster was clearly raised on Rory Gallagher, Jimmy Page and Gary Moore. By all accounts their gigs crackle with raw energy so they should raise the Santa Cruz summer night a few more degrees.

They’ve already made a name for themselves in Ireland and their reputation is spreading in the UK and Europe.

If this is the standard of what we can expect at this year’s Santa Blues, roll on June and tell JC Murphy’s bar to stock up on the black stuff.

There’s no agenda yet so I don’t know which night they’ll be playing but if you want a sweet, soulful taster of what’s to come, check out their sound here:

PS. I’ve now been corrected by two different sources who assure me that Martin Sheanon is not actually a band member anymore and in fact Gary Keon is on drums. So there, consider my research skills well and truly found wanting and the real Deans line-up now put straight.

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