2003. FLAMENCO FUSION STAGE
David and Goliath
Candela Olivo. Jerez de la Frontera, July 2003
Festival Espárrago 2003. Flamenco Fusion Stage. Friday July 25th:
Gualberto. Los Delinqüentes. Tomasito. Kiko Veneno. Saturday July
26th: Las Niñas. Chambao. Mártires del Compás. Navajita Plateá.
Jerez Racetrack (Cádiz province, Spain).
Flamenco Fusion Stage
Jerez de la Frontera, on the highway to Arcos.
Six in the afternoon. 104 degrees and not an inch of shade in sight. A couple
in their twenties is walking along the verge. They carry with them only a couple
of sleeping bags. They already invested thirty-five euros a head up front. A wristband
pass with the inscription 'Espárrago 2001' (recycling, you understand)
awaits them at the packed makeshift ticket office. They thumb a lift. A car stops.
Sitting out the tailback's easier in an air conditioned car than on an overcrowded
which costs an extra two euros.
"Going to see any group in particular?"
"No, no, we're going for the whole festival... but, well, come to think of
it, it'd be good to see los Mártires."
The Flamenco Fusion stage (under the banner
'Flamenco Viene del Sur') is located behind the main stand at the Jerez racetrack,
flanked by the 'Electro' stage on one side and the 'Andalucía' stage on
the other. On first impression, judging by the proximity and orientation of the
stages, acoustic chaos is guaranteed at this, the fifteenth edition of the festival.
The organizers maintain that the filming of racetrack footage just previous to
the festival drastically cut the time available to set up the festival infrastructure,
citing this as the reason for locating the stages in the parking lot rather than
on the track itself. It's a step back. But right now what matters more than the
technical difficulties is the searing heat beating down on the tarmac
temperature has just reached its peak on Friday July 25th 2003 and around a hundred
people, all evidently seeking martyrdom, have come to see the festival kick-off.
The girls in their bikinis. The guys stripped to the waist. The difficult task
of raising the curtain falls to Gualberto.
The time-honored musician from Triana plays a set pulled from the vaults and with
his distinctive rock and roll twist, electric guitar in hand. He's accompanied
by acoustic guitar, bass, drums, palmas and cajón. Flamenco shines through
in the structure of the music. Drawing some respite from a red promotional parasol,
he dives into alegrías on the sitar... But he's almost drowned out by the
soundcheck coming from the stage to the right, in the form of a recording of the
Police. "Oh my, that's rich
Thanks to a spray from a few life-saving hosepipes,
the audience starts to swell a little in number. In parallel with Sôber,
who have congregated their huge following at the next-door stage, the group Los
Delinqüentes - with a more modest but equally devout band of followers who
frantically chant, dance and jump around - do their thing on the flamenco stage.
Two opposing visions of in-your-face music side-by-side. Three guitars, bass,
drums, cajón, palmas and vocals combine to make up this youthful band with
its acidic influences, its raucous rumbas, playful burlesques and basement rock.
"La anticanción del verano" (The Summer anti-hit) is a treat,
just what the doctor ordered. "It's great here in the furnace!"
No sooner has La Mala Rodríguez finished
spouting forth her wailing rap from the 'Brandy & Sherry' stage - the only
one separated from the rest - than Tomasito
takes the stage. He brings with him Mariana de Pineda and El Fino, two of his
figureheads. It's hard to say whether it's down to the fact he's playing on home
turf, or that the sun's just going down or whatever, but the singer, cantaor,
bailaor and crown prince of Jerez rhythm kicks ass from the opening note. With
a tight accompaniment on drums, percussion, acoustic and electric guitar he glides
through his present and past repertoire: from 'Soleá Punk' to 'Sobreviviré
(y aquí estaré)', from 'Vicio' to 'Camino del hoyo' and 'Agradecido'.
And he jumps and crawls around, climbs the lighting towers, lies down, throws
himself into the crowd, sits down and slaps a rhythm on the cajón... And
and even makes time for seguiriyas. And he dances... and even takes
time out to stop for a few seconds. And it's time for bulerías, then it's
pop, then it's heavy metal, then it's rock, then it's time for his body-popping
Niño Robot act, then it's back to the singalong flamenco. And the group
is there with him. It's a supreme live performance, with perfectly fluid communication
between one end of the stage and the other. The performer gives his all, the audience
does likewise. No mean feat considering the constant battle against involuntary
musical fusion between Tomasito and the Guano Apes who perform on the next-door
stage, not to mention various technical problems such as the sporadic failure
of the lighting once the sun had finally set behind the vine-covered ridge.
Tomasito himself introduces the following
act: "Sir Kiko Veneno". With a war cry of "Buenas noches",
the singer-songwriter greets the audience. "Welcome to rumba with rock and
roll," he shouts, and launches into a flawless set, combining originality,
maturity, professionalism and his fresh approach, a rare combination of talents.
'Lobo López', 'Se han llevado las toallas', 'Blues de Memphis'... the songs
ring out one-by-one under a now starry sky... nothing like the edition which was
rained off, and which has left the festival in financial difficulties. Kiko
Veneno remembers it well as he sings the lines "Estaba lloviendo y yo
me mojé, pa una vez que llueve, ¿me voy a esconder?" (It was
raining and I got wet; it rains seldom enough, why should I hide?). The lyrics
from Veneno's past repertoire are magical. The set, perfectly suited to the occasion,
delights the audience, who have now got over the insult of, for example, having
to pay for a plastic cup to drink out of, or having to pay to park up in total
darkness on a piece of waste land (and be 'welcomed' by the police). Back to the
concert, with Rosendo playing alongside, with Pepe Bejines as a special guest,
Kiko Veneno plays 'Superhéroes de barrio'. The audience chants and applauds
to the last. Rosendo provides a somewhat surreal encore in an involuntary act
of fusion as his eighties rock anthems ring across from the next stage, the lyrics
not quite on the same level as Kiko's
Kiko Veneno and group
Past midnight and that's the end of the flamenco
until the afternoon heat of the next day. Some decide to refuel
potatoes, hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, slices of pizza... Some decide to
try their hand on the PlayStations, some try bungee jumping, some carry on getting
high, some have already taken it too far, some go buying trinkets, some get their
hair put into plaits, some take a late siesta, some get out of their minds...
but most decide to soak up the musical offerings of every flavor which ring out
until dawn. Dance music, Public Enemy, Los Ilegales, Narco, Mucho Muchacho...
it's a long night.