Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age


Santa Blues 2011

Don’t you wonder why it is that life is always feast or famine?  There’s nothing going on for a month, and then you have 3 events from which to choose the following weekend?

The summer solstice here really does herald the beginning of summertime and all sorts of al fresco events and concerts, and, before you ask, yes, there are outdoor events all year round, but I suppose the planners want to be totally sure of good enough weather, and, of course, lots of the events and festivals are down to traditions too.

The Santa Blues Festival is a new tradition.  I think it’s in its 7th year now, and I look forward to it all year, although getting to listen to live Blues gets a bit easier as time goes by. As I mentioned last year, when we first came to live in the Canary Islands I didn’t hear a Blues riff, other than my own tapes, for years and years. And the feast or famine thing? In addition to Santa Blues, last night there was a Blues night in a bar about twenty minutes drive from here too.  Had I been able to go up to Santa Cruz either Thursday or Friday I might have been tempted to find out what that was all about, but a migraine plus a reaction to some antibiotics I taken for the final part of my dental treatment had me in bed most of the day Thursday, and not feeling too bright on Friday either.  Plus I had to be up extra early yesterday morning, but that’s a whole other story.

I’d already missed Thursday night’s bonfires for fiesta de San Juan, one of my favorite celebrations here, so despite the super early start to the day I didn’t think twice about zooming up to Santa Cruz after a bit of a siesta yesterday.  I love crisp and bright early mornings, and I love balmy summer nights and yesterday I was able to enjoy both – obviously I was born in the wrong country, this afternoon siesta lark is me down to a T! Jumping ahead to Santa Blues (I’ll come back to the reason for that early morning tomorrow.  It’s a longer post, and I’m still a bit tired from the late night!) – I’m always surprised when I arrive that there aren’t more people, though a part of me is secretly happy because I can be grumpy in crowd situations.

Local band Three Bones were halfway into their act when we got there a bit late.  I say local band, because they were billed as being from Tenerife, but if I’m not mistaken the singer said that it was their first time playing here, though when I checked, I see they played in Fuerteventura recently, so perhaps they are Canarian rather than from this, particular island.  Whatever, they were very good, and  popular with the audience, singing in French and English as well as Spanish, and with huge enthusiasm in all three.

By the time Zac Harmon and his band appeared, dusk had given way to  dark, but the crowd had swelled, so that the breeze which occasionally wafted the banners behind the band had no effect on us, but if it was warm in the audience, it was HOT on stage.

They launched full tilt into consecutive instrumental numbers which had the crowd with them from the first beat. The set was all about upbeat, raunchy numbers, with lyrics very much in second place, and packed with classic numbers like Mannish Boy and I Got My Mojo Workin’.   I realized that, of course, this was the way to play this kind of gathering.  It dawned on me when I heard people trying to sing back the words “I got my mojo workin’,” it came out nothing like that at all.  People were there for the music, not the words. It also worked when they introduced a reggae number Bob Marley’s “No woman, no cry”, everyone knew the chorus.

Zac Harmon is not only a terrific bluesman, but he knows how to work an audience too, remembering to play to the folk at the side of the stage as well as those of us out front.  We shuffled our way from a couple of places back to right in front of the stage.  It’s always an exciting place to be if your ears can take it, but Harmon made it especially so, as Maria said afterwards, there were plenty of times when you felt as if he was singing just for you.  Definitely a far cry from last year, when I was standing towards the back where, on Saturday night, all the young bucks out to get drunk gathered.  Last night they were not so obvious until the last couple of numbers.

Con-summate professionals that the band were, they covered for Harmon when he broke a guitar string and disappeared backstage for quite a while to try to fix it, and at the end they pretended to leave the stage, but turned  for an encore without stirring up the audience too much.  The second time they pretended to leave a bit harder, but returned for a second encore, and promised two songs.  The second one turned out to be a Spanish popular song I didn’t know, though everyone else clearly did.  It was clever.  It left the crowd happy that they’d done a Spanish number, but it lacked the intensity of Blues, and it took the atmosphere down a notch.  It was a signal it was over, and most people realized that.

The only thing which slightly puts a damper on going to anything in Santa Cruz is the drive back.  I know in the States and in Australia people are used to driving hundreds of miles and back on the night for a concert, and I don’t complain about the driving itself.  It’s just that standing in the warm summer air listening to a throbbing blues beat is so much nicer with a cold beer in your hand, but after so many years without Blues, how could I possibly complain about that!