Julio Cesar Palacio is a writer and member of experimental band Sun Color based in Barcelona, Spain.
In the Catalan capital of Barcelona, the amount of music venues, summer festivals, and record stores has been drastically reduced over the past few years. Not long ago, the city was able to compete with other European capitals in their amount of music programming, but due to the huge economic crisis, things have changed. However, instead of dying, the local underground scene has risen from being hidden to transform these times of money hysteria into a complety fresh and exciting moment.
I must say that reducing this just to Barcelona is a bit simplistic because this DIY wave comes from all of Catalunya, in other words, Barcelunya.
One of the most important changes for music here came in terms of promotion. Before, we were deeply influenced by music that came to us from overseas as recomended or featured on influential sites like Pitchfork or ATP. So, there was always the idea that it was easier for foreign bands to get into festivals, venues, record stores and as a result, the local scene was a bit underrated.
Fortunately now things have changed, and the local DIY scene is taking the venues by storm. With the crisis, people have less of a chance to buy records, and with all the problems with illegal downloading, and fewer concerts from international bands, the people started listening more to what they had in front of their noses. And BAM! They just freaking LOVED IT!
Of course all this is not a new thing and this is not just about new bands with teenage fans.
There has always been an important underground scene in Catalonia with local heroes like the cult band Les Aus, who have being playing for more than ten years. Formed by Arnau Sala and Dalmau Boada, Les Aus have been experimenting with sounds from the lonely Catalan mountains, with a psychedelic touch of folk and rock.
Arnau also ran the incredible homemade label Ozonokids, which, for more than a decade, was supporting the best of the local and foreign underground.
Za! by Lorrenzo Cerrino
Some other bands that are just now being recognized internationally are also far from beginners like the crazy duo Za! and dirty garage rockers Mujeres.
It's undeniable that the face of music here is changing. The most established parts of the music scene are now clearing the way for a new style of doing things. Important venues are closing, often facing problems with neighbors because of sound. Record stores that have been open for more than ten years are shutting down as well.
But in these hard times, some people stand their ground and start projects no matter what the economical situation, such as record stores Discos Paradiso and Luchador Records. These two shops opened with veryyyy limited budgets, but with incredible selections of what they really love. And not just content to offer amazing musical jewels in their shops, they have also become DIY concert venues were there is no promoter, manager or any other kind of filter.
You have to do it old school if you want your band to play, by going directly there and talking with the guys – how cool is that? Also, all concerts at the Paradiso and Luchador are free and no money is involved aside from some promotion. The programming is always awesome because they only present bands that they really like.
Another important source for discovering bands are independent promoters A Viva Veu. Lead by Arnau Sabate, this crew takes risks in promoting concerts and artists not just from the indie world, but digging deep into the experimental scene too. This gives bands that have always been interesting their own opportunity to shine.
Another force of DIY light recently is the guerrilla radio program Hao!, hosted by the Colombia-native, Barcelona-based music savy DJ Maria Elisa, who bombs the ears of the people every Saturday.
I think everyone in the Barcelona DIY scene is pretty aware of the economical situation so the bands are no longer looking to earn a living with music, and this fact makes everything so much lighter and fresh. The bands are just focused on having fun, making the music they want, taking risks, and being as free as they want.
Les Aus, Za!, Mujeres, Naturalesa Salvatge, Borders, Sictor Valdaña, L'Hereu Escampa, Pegasvs, Sun Color, Granit, Furguson, Univers, Beach Beach (originally from Mallorca but Barcelona based), Aliment, Joan Colomo, Esperit!, La Orquesta de Caballo Ganador, Grosgoroth.
RECORD LABELS / PROMOTERS
Ozonokids (1998-2011), Nosotroslosrusos, A Viva Veu, La Castanya, Famelic, Sidewalk Bookings.
VENUES / RECORD STORES
Discos Paradiso, Luchador Records, La Milagrosa, La Felpa, Heliogàbal.