As a writer, there's nothing not to love about Buenos Aires. The food, the wine, the literature. Borges, Cortazar... I doubt that any country anywhere in the world has a better literary culture that Argentina. There are 24 hours book stores, amazing selection, and everyone you see is reading and not Dan Brown, Macedonio Fernandez! Anyway, I digress. What follows is a blow by blow of some of the amazing musical sights that I caught of the city.
If you go, Gringos, you have to pay a $160 reciprocity fee to enter the country. Know that before you go, unlike me who had to find a printer in an airport, which is just as difficult as it sounds.
Lucy Patané and Marina Fages (Facebook)
If you don't want to travel like a tourist, the internet has made things much easier. Prior to going we picked up a good tip about Mercurio Disqueria, a music shop inPatio del Liceo, an artists collective. Which lead to the inevitable "liking" and then to Lucy and Marina, both co-owners of the story who played to a sold out Cafe Vinilo. The only way to describe their music is using the reference point of Juana Molina, the fantastic Argentine out-of-the-box musician and then throwing it forward a notch. Like Juana Molina meets Campfire Songs-era Animal collective. Lucy and Marina's show verged more toward modern dance at times than music.
Maybe most of it was because Marina's arm was in that cast, which had happened only a couple days before, but it did make for a pretty unbelievable moment caught in Instagram up there, where with another musician she played the ronrroco. Below you can find a link to their album via bandcamp.
And, if you're down in BsAs and want to hit up Mercurio Disqueria, which Lucy and Marina co-own, I highly recommend it. It's a very active place hosting Lulacruz a few days later. Best way to meet them is via Facebook.
La Catedral (Site)
Of course, most people go to Buenos Aires, musically anyway, for tango or its closely related dance, milonga. There are a plethora of places who want to make you dole out some substantial coins to see two people very in love dance very close and not look at one another (my own description of tango). It's worth it to make the trek down to the few good blocks of Boca to have a bottle of wine and catch a show, the big theaters aren't really to my taste, which is where La Catedral comes in. There, with the sacred hear to tango hovering over your head, couples and singles who want to be couples dance the night away with classes beginning at 6 and going until a bit before 1 am which is when the real party starts. Oh, did I mention that everything starts REALLY, REALLY LATE in Argentina? Well, it does. Don't expect to hit a concert until after midnight. Good thing they work in a sizable post-lunch siesta, which you need anyway, because you've just ingested half a cow. The upside of La Cathedral is that it's local people, just coming to dance, the most romantic and saddest dances of all time, but that's all they're there to do. Drink, dance in a huge (if a bit sketchy) milonga club among the people of Buenos Aires.
El Boliche de Roberto
If La Cathedral was the place to see tango danced, then this was the place to hear it sung. El Boliche de Roberto, literally Roberto's bar, dates back to the 1930s. And it feels like it, too. I picked that photo off the net, and let me tell you, that place is not even a quarter of that well-lite. And you wouldn't want it to be, because all those bottles are from the 30s, probably as well and have a thick layer of dust on it. There's not a more authentic tango watering hole in town. Theoretically, you could keep up with them on their Facebook, but that hasn't been updated in years.
The night we went, the group was Full of Shit Tango 4 Export a funny and gifted duo of guitarist and singer. With a wink, they seemed to know all about the over commodification of their national song and played up the dramatics while delivering fine renditions of classics like "Volver."
The Teatro Colon takes up a city block, holds 3500 spectators, and until the arrival of the Sydney Opera House was the biggest theater in the Southern Hemisphere. There are free shows Sunday at 11am (which works out well, considering you were partying until 6am Saturday night/Sunday morning). Tix are available on Friday starting at 10am.
We caught a pretty fantastic concert lead by Angel Frette, an Argentine percussionist who, along with his ensemble, worked his way through some pretty avant garde stuff before ending on a barn-burning medley of Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story.
In Palermo, the middle-class section of the city, I can recommend two record stores: Miles & Exiles Records.
Miles, like Mercurio, has a number of events and features mostly CDs though there's some use vinyl as well. It's right in the heart of Palermo's shopping district, so be sure and step in and check out some of the best Argentine bands of the 70s (like Pescado Rabioso) as well as newer releases from around the world.
Exiles Records is everything a record shop should be -- a place that treats music as a cathedral and albums as its high priests. It's an almost sacred spot with a very well culled vinyl selection, expert staff, and impeccable treatment of music.