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.
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.
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.