Do you ever wonder why we are attracted to certain things? Music? Places? People? Why do I like pasta and you like curry, for instance? I’ve mulled over why Blues means so much to me thousands of times since I heard that first, plaintiff riff almost 50 years ago. I like jazz, but it doesn’t make my heart skip a beat. I’m learning to like opera, and there is the odd time when the purity of a note makes me want to cry. There are some pieces of classical music, and there are some pieces of rock music which thrill me, but nothing else comes close to the mixture of happiness and soul searching and intense emotion which Blues brings out in me. When I listen to Blues I feel at home. Goodness knows why that should be, my background couldn’t be more WASP, but I’ve stopped asking myself now.
For years, the only Blues I heard was on discs, despite the Santa Blues festival, it truly isn’t that popular here. Then, one night in 2003 or 2004 I went to an open air concert in El Fraile, which is where I first heard local band Cotton Blues, belting out Stevie Ray Vaughn like they were born to play the Blues. I distinctly remember being on cloud nine, logging on and telling friends the minute I got home. Since then there has been a bit more, mainly at the annual festival in Santa Cruz, but I still had no idea where to go to hear Blues played on a regular basis in the south of the island at least. Now I know!
Let me tell you a bit about the venue first. LavaBar opened last year, and for the brief time I had left in Los Cristianos then it was my local. It’s situated close to the International School of Languages in Los Cristianos, and that site was chosen carefully by owner, Geert Huylebroeck. Geert, who is Belgian by birth, but international by inclination, is a lover of languages (he speaks five that I know of, maybe more), art, and especially music, and I’ve had the great pleasure of knowing him for several years now. The subtitle of the bar is “Language Variety”, and daytime, it is a place for cultural exchange via language. If you’re learning Spanish, for instance, you can stick a note on the wall saying that you would like to practice speaking with a native speaker who, in return, is learning English, so you help each other out. Hence the site near the language school. If you call in during the day for a cup of one of the amazing choices of teas and infusions Geert offers, or a lush cappuchino and pastry, the tables are full of people chatting in what seems like every language under the sun.
If you pop in in the evening however, there is no telling what cultural delight might await you. Every weekend is a feast for eyes or ears or both. Other than music events I’ve been to poetry readings, photography exhibitions, dance demonstrations and art exhibits, all aimed at encouraging local talent. You can see the latest exhibit on the walls in the background of the photos here. This one was due to change today.
So, last night’s performance was by local Blues aficianodos Marcelo y Marcelo, and all I can tell you is that, at the end of the night my comment was that I didn’t think, had we been in Texas, we could have heard better Blues. These guys don’t just sing and play, they live each set as if it is their last. There were times when I got a lump in my throat, which is the way good Blues affects me. They played from around 8.30 to just after 11pm, with a very short break, but for me they could have gone on all night! Because this is a venue one can accurately call “intimate” the full passion of their playing so close-up was electrifying, and because they could laugh and joke with their listeners between numbers, it had the air of jam session, but with the quality of highly polished performance. Really – it doesn’t get much better than this!
The bar is welcoming and attractive, as you can see, but not too big, so there are times when it’s standing room only. Happily it was just short of that last night, but from the thunderous applause from the Blues lovers present, you would have thought there were ten times as many. It’s the sort of place where, once you’ve been, you are remembered, and have no hesitation in calling again on your own. One young man wandering by last night heard the music and stopped, and was made really welcome. He stood shyly outside on the terrace, listening, to begin with, but when a place became vacant at the bar he took it with alacrity. It has to be the best place in Los Cristianos to meet up with people if you are travelling alone. OK lone travellers would usually not find themselves in Los Cristianos, a tourist trap, but if it’s well worth a visit to come to LavaBar, and it’s a handy base for travelling about the island too.
Usually performances are Sundays and Fridays. It’s the sort of bar you find usually in bigger towns and cities, most often university towns, aimed at promoting art in all its forms. You won’t find your Elvis or Bon Jovi impersonators and the music is music for listening, not for background music. Frankly, I write with reluctance, it’s one of those places you really would like to keep just for yourself, but it deserves to be applauded and recognized so hence my ramblings.
If it’s Blues specifically you’re looking for, you can check out the Web site for up and coming events, or if you find yourself in the area, just drop in and give it a try……..I hasten to add that I write here, as my friend, Leslie, says, “from my heart”. I know I might sound like an ad, but I can assure you nothing has, nor will, cross my palm :=)