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Posts Tagged ‘Blues’

Aaron Thomas

It’s a well known fact that the nightlife centre of Tenerife is Playa de Las Américas…or is it?

Well, as far as many of the people who holiday on Tenerife year after year are concerned it certainly is. The area known locally as ‘The Patch’ is choc-a-bloc with live venues staging tribute bands, comedy acts, drag shows and karaoke. Now reduced to a small area but just as popular as ever with the young contingent, the area of Veronicas and Starcos is where a heady, hedonistic cocktail of top sounds, cheap drinks and exposed ‘white bits’ plays out nightly.
And for those with a more sophisticated entertainment palette, Costa Adeje provides chic venues such as El Faro Chill Art where your wallet might feel like it’s been mugged, but it’ll enjoy the experience.

Interestingly, what many of Tenerife’s millions of visitors rarely discover is that there’s another world of nightlife in the north of the island, one whose nightclubs are packed to the rafters every summer weekend with locals and holidaying mainlanders.

Kenny Neal

In the capital city of Santa Cruz and the charismatic harbour town of Puerto de la Cruz, the nightlife is only just beginning as many of the south coast holiday makers are wending their way back to their hotel beds. Discos pump out Latino, Reggaeton and Salsa intermingled with top UK and US dance, Indie and chart sounds until the first churros of the day emerge crisp and fragrant from the fryer at 6am, ready to be doused in sugar and dipped in hot chocolate by the tired clubbers on their way home to bed.

And as the days grow longer and the evenings grow warmer, both Puerto de la Cruz and Santa Cruz stage street festivals of top notch live music to modest audiences who enjoy the entertainment for free.
Last month alone audiences were treated to a European Music day in Puerto which included the extremely talented singer/songwriter from Tasmania via Madrid – Aaron Thomas. And in Santa Cruz the fabulous Annual Blues Festival of Santa Blues saw audiences enthralled by the likes of Larry McCray and Kenny Neal.

This month the extremely popular Heineken Jazz y Mas festival hosts concerts across venues in Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz between the 8th and the 18th July and features ten concerts from traditional, through modern and improvised Jazz to a Billie Holiday tribute night and the amazing African singer Angélique Kidjo.

So, the nightlife centre of Tenerife is Playa de Las Américas…? Well, let’s just say it’s one of the places where you can enjoy good music this summer.

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Larry McCray

It’s got to be one of the coolest venues on Tenerife.
Standing beneath the crimson boughs of flamboyance trees at the foot of the tower of Iglesia de la Concepción in Santa Cruz while cool Blues fill the night air and rock the hips of the assembled audience.

Rojas Blues Band ft Esther Ovejero

Saturday was the culmination of three nights of sultry sounds, electrifying guitar riffs and soulful lyrics bringing the Deep South to the island’s north, and like every year the standard of musicians and their performances has been outstanding.
Beginning with the European day of music, weaving it’s Midsummer Way through the San Juan beach parties and culminating last night in the capital, Santa Blues 2010 tops a week in which excellent live music has featured heavily.

On Thursday night Barcelona band The Rojas Blues Band ft Esther Ovejero split the night air with their wailing guitar and funky bass lines backing Esther’s polished vocals.
Next up was the big man, Larry McCray from Michigan who gave us a set infused with echoes from the Delta Blues originals of BB King to the Allman Brothers, McCray’s easy style belying the excellence of his playing.

Tina Riobo Quintet

Friday was declared a much-needed R and R night in the Real Tenerife household and the Gospel Blues of Sandra Hall were sacrificed for a night in front of the telly.
Then on Saturday night we were back beneath the flamboyance trees to see the high energy Jazz/Blues output of The Tina Rioro Quartet hype the crowd up to dancing mode in readiness for the incredible swamp-blues talent of New Orleans’ Kenny Neal ‘family’. Featuring brothers Darnell and Frederick on bass and keyboards respectively; and nephew Tyree on second keyboards with a side order of a ripping two number hard-core blues mini-set on guitar and vocals, this family has talent like other families have arguments.

Kenny Neal

Together with the pulsating beat and dancing snares of  drummer par excellence Bryan Morris, the Neals produced a set that had the crowds rocking, whooping and sweating into the early hours, emulating Kenny’s prophetic lyrics of bop ‘til I drop.

With my back feeling like its transition from aching to broken was hanging in the balance and my ears still ringing with Kenny’s doleful slide guitar and haunting harmonica riffs, I lamented the fact that I had a whole 51 weeks to wait for Santa Blues to come round again.
Oh well, just the rest of the World Cup, the July Fiestas and, oh yeh, the whole summer to look forward to…I guess I’ll manage.

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The largest British ex-pat population on Tenerife lives in and around the south of the island, predominantly around the Los Cristianos, Playa de Las Américas and Costa Adeje areas. So being involved in English language business, regular trips south are an occupational necessity.
Last Thursday was one of our ‘down south’ days when we leave our home in Puerto de la Cruz and spend the day in the south trying to fit all the things we have to do into one day.

Lunch consisted of a sandwich while sitting on a bench overlooking the beach in Los Cristianos in between getting photos of restaurants for a customer and a lengthy meeting of Tenerife Magazine in the afternoon.
Then it was more restaurant photos, a quickly bolted down pizza and up to El Faro Chill Art in Fañabe for a 7.30 pm launch of Tenerife’s new radio station, Pirate FM.

The stylish roof terrace of El Faro Chill Art

Climbing the stairs to the chic roof terrace of El Faro, complimentary champagne flute in hand, I looked around at the gathering. I had heard that the event was operating a black and white dress code to complement the pirate theme and so I had chosen to wear white pants and a black T shirt, but there any similarity to the way the assorted female guests looked ended.
Hair was perfectly in place, lips were painted, eyes were freshly and liberally made up, outfits were glamorous and heels were sexy and high.
I, on the other hand, had left home over 8 hours before, during which time my hair hadn’t seen a comb; any pretence of mascara had long since melted into submission; my T shirt had lost its freshly clinging appeal to be replaced by a sadly hanging one and I was wearing flip flops.

At one point Jack took a photo of me sandwiched on one side by the über-attractive Head of Sales and Marketing for Pirate FM – Clare Harper – and on the other by the freshly showered and changed, dapper-looking John Beckley. Even as the lens pointed towards us I could feel my body shrinking in anguish, a clear premonition of the contrast between Clare and I asserting itself firmly into my brain.

Spot the "Oh no! I'm not even wearing lipstick!" expression.

Sipping a first class red wine with Eric Clapton’s Some day After A While spilling its Blues magic over the stylish surroundings of the roof terrace, I gazed out over the lights of Puerto Colón and Fañabe and then back at the perfumed, glamorous gathering. I remembered vividly how I used to look when I attended similar functions in Britain. My job dictated that I regularly attended gala dinners and glamorous functions and I always looked fabulous; full make up, perfect hair, high heels and sexy clothes. I thought about what vast sums of money I would now be earning had I stayed in Britain and what beautiful outfit I’d be wearing and how I’d look, and for a little while, I wondered if I regretted giving all of that up.

But then I realised that it wasn’t really the lifestyle I missed, it was my youth, and no matter how much make-up I wore or if I traded my flip flops for some killer heels, my youth would still be behind me.
But how much better for it to have been lost in our house beside the banana plantation, in a culture where ageism doesn’t exist and an occupation where I’m judged not by my looks, but by my words.

On the other hand, I wish I’d put some lipstick on…

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Beneath the gaze of a shimmering moon, in the shadow of the tower that guards the cross placed in the ground by Spanish Conquistadores and after which the city of Santa Cruz is named, on Thursday night it was the turn of the Irish to conquer the city.

We arrived at the top of the Noria district on a hot and sultry night to a crowd of a couple of hundred people milling around the small park beneath the spreading boughs of the flame of the forest trees.
Leaving Jack to find pole position for his photography, Jesús and I headed off to JC Murphy’s to get the beers in.

The Deans

The Deans

It was the start of the Santa Blues Festival and a young Irish band called The Deans were scheduled to open the festival. I’d read reviews and listened to the discography on their website and was pretty certain we were in for a treat.

The usual chaos and inefficiency reigned at the bar of JCs which, combined with Jesús’ “it’s okay, Man, it’ll happen when it’s supposed to” hippy drippy attitude to getting served, meant that by the time we got back to Jack, the 3 lads from Galway were already on stage and the audience had swelled and shuffled quietly closer to the action.

I knew the guys were young but I wasn’t quite prepared for the baby-faced, hat toting, Arlo Guthrie looking youngster with his long frizzy black hair, orange shirt with green neck scarf and sash and his suede jacket, who pulled his guitar strap over his shoulder, smiled at his handsome bro’ on bass and ripped into the opening chords of what was to be a heart stopping, incendiary performance.

With all the professionalism of seasoned circuit-tourers and the freshness of first timers, Gavin (Arlo Guthrie) Dean, his bassist brother Gary and drummer Gary Keown took Santa Cruz by storm.
From classic blues rock numbers to songs off their new album ‘The Album‘ (couldn’t think of a name, eh, lads?) including ‘Snakes and Ladders’ and the anthem ‘Carnival Blues’, The Deans reminded us what great performances are all about; the sheer joy of the music shone from their faces and carried them on a wave of euphoria that surfed us all along in its wake.

You know youre getting old when the band looks this young

You know you're getting old when the band looks this young

From the opening ‘Whoa!” to the impromptu leaping onto a stack system by Gavin (much to the annoyance of a roadie who really should get a job in the Inland Revenue) and whipping the audience up into a frenzy, The Deans were breathtakingly sensational.
“We’d play all night if they let us!” Gavin screamed into the mike, and you just knew he wasn’t kidding.

Suitable elated and feeling even hotter from the closeness of the now considerably larger crowd that The Deans had gathered it was time for my hippy friend and me to negotiate the frustration that is getting served at JC Murphy’s.
Even as we turned our backs on the stage and began pressing through the crowd, the Vargas Blues Band were already on stage and tuning up.
Time was of the essence.

Luckily it was my round so there wasn’t going to be any nonsense about waiting for the vibes to work in our favour.
One look at the six-deep throng around JC’s bar and I turned on my heels and headed up Santo Domingo to a chic restaurant, through their doors and straight to the bar area. In two shakes of a lamb’s tail we were slopping lager all over feet on our way back to Jack and the distant dream of our places at the front of the stage.

The Vargas Blues Band

The Vargas Blues Band

Looking like The Deans’ granddads, the Vargas Blues Band exuded experience and professionalism. On lead guitar Javier Vargas wouldn’t have looked out of place in Glastonbury this weekend playing with the E Street Band. His Mark Knopfler fretwork sang through the hot night air while he coolly moved only his fingers and his jaw  bone, never breaking a sweat and letting his guitar do all the work. On vocals Tim Mitchell was two world class vocalists in one; Al Green and Barry White and both sat comfortably side by side. I have never heard such a range sung so sweetly; the guy went from tenor to baritone like flicking a switch. At one point he sang a duet with himself and you’d swear if you weren’t watching it with your own eyes that there were two different people on stage.
Through classic Blues rock, the occasional venture into Hendrix and a brief rendition of La Cucaracha, the Vargas Blues Band gave a flawless and soulful performance.

But for me, the night belonged to the Irish.
What do you think, Jesús? Oh, he’s not here, he’s still waiting at JC’s bar for the right Karma to come round.

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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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The Robert Cray Band play Santa Blues in TenerifeThe Tinerfeños are an incredibly easy going bunch of people. Other than when they’re behind the wheel of a car, they appear in no particular hurry to do anything and are quite happy to watch visitors (particularly those from a northern European country beginning with the letter G who are known for their penchant for queue jumping) make arses of themselves by jostling for position at every venue that requires waiting for service. It’s one of the endearing features of Canarios and long may it remain so…unless they’re waiting to be served at the bar of JC Murphy’s when The Robert Cray Band is about to take to the stage and I happen to be standing behind them.

This weekend was the opening of the annual Blues Festival in Santa Cruz, ‘Santa Blues’; a FREE festival financed by the City, and The Robert Cray Band were headlining the night on a stage below the iconic 18th Century tower of Iglesia de la Concepción at the start of the trendy Noria District of the city.
I arrived just before 10pm for a scheduled 10.30pm start which I was fairly sure would fit the usual pattern of Tenerife timekeeping and kick off somewhere around 11/11.30pm.

Having spotted a nice little gap underneath the tulip tree within touching distance of the left side of the stage, I set off to find the beer tent.

There were already a couple of hundred people milling and chatting around the venue, plastic beakers of beer in hand. As I made my way through them I noticed how ‘cool’ they were; here was long hair, dreadlocks, tattooed feet, hippies old and young, Boho chicks and students. Laid back styles, laughing eyes and languid hips belonging to people who were behaving as if they were at an open air party amongst friends. The warm night air carried the unmistakeable scent of good grass and I felt myself relaxing and smiling as I headed around the corner in search of a beer.

After much confused wandering and a failed attempt to get to the backstage beer tents, I finally discovered that the beer was being dispensed from inside JC Murphy’s and joined the queue for the bar. Unfortunately, the man I was standing behind was being resolutely Canarian and letting any number of people push in before him so I moved to the other side of the bar where a couple of lads appeared to be ordering drinks for the entire festival. By the time I got served and headed back to the stage area, the band was already on stage and had begun their opening number; clearly no-one had briefed them on the ‘mañana’ culture; not the first time such an oversight has occurred on this island.

Amazingly, my little spot by the side was still there and I had an uninterrupted view throughout the set which included ‘Poor Johnny’, ‘I’m Walking’ and ‘Twenty’ from the album ‘Twenty’; ’12 Year Old Boy’ and ‘Phone Booth’ from the album ‘Live – from across the pond’ and the classic ‘Right Next Door’ and ‘Smoking Gun’ from the early ‘Strong Persuader’ album.

Robert Cray’s voice was as strong as ever and his fretwork had the audience in raptures. Although looking like someone’s dad and doing a distinctly ‘dad dance’ to the Memphis rhythms, the keyboard player Jim Pugh provided sublime backing while Karl Sevareide kept a funky bass riding the air waves.

Ironically, although they clearly loved the set, the audiences here on Tenerife seem unaware of the need to ‘persuade’ the band to do an encore and my hands were sore by the time I’d illustrated the practice hard enough for those around me to take up the chant. But they soon cottoned on and shouts of “¡Otre!” (literally ‘again’) brought the band back for a three number encore ending with ‘Time Makes Two’.

In that intimate setting amongst those cool people, I had to keep reminding myself that it was real; that I really was watching these Blues legends from my formative years, live in Santa Cruz on a Friday night and I was just feet from the front of the stage. No jostling, no crowding, no idiots, just great Blues.

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