When you work in music, and you listen to thousands of bands and go to hundreds of shows, there’s an inherently sad thing that can happen. At some point, there’s this neutralization effect in which every new band becomes the same level of “good.” Pleasant enough to listen to while you’re working, driving, or getting ready in the morning. Or a nice night out at a concert, as an alternative to staying in and watching TV — but absent is that special spark that stirs something deep inside of your core, the spark that pushed you into this all-consuming world of music in the first place.
So when you have an experience that reignites the spark, it takes you completely by surprise, punching you in the gut as a visceral reminder of the role that music plays in your life. The steel hit the flint for me this past Saturday during Phantogram’s set at San Francisco’s Treasure Island Music Festival. The sun had just set, and there was a damp chill in the air, with a thin layer of mist hovering above a throng of festival-goers who were bundled up in hoodies and thick coats. Looking out beyond the stage, the bay was like a sheet of jet black satin, rippling gently with the reflection of a twinkling night time cityscape.
The scratchy opening beat of “When I’m Small” began to resonate across the audience, Josh Carter’s somber, yet grooving guitar work elegantly intertwined with Sarah Barthel’s airy vocalizations of “oh, oh, oh, oh.” There’s an almost unearthly, completely mesmerizing duality to her voice; delicate, yet commanding as she sings, “Take me underground/take me all the way/bring me to the fire/throw me in the flames.”
Suddenly out of nowhere, a swarm of artificial, glowing white jellyfish floats through the crowd, completing the mystical atmosphere that Phantogram has conjured in the span of less than an hour. Every single layer of sound swells into an all-consuming moment of pure sonic bliss at the song’s climax, Barthel pulling at your heartstrings and clawing at your soul as she mournfully declares, “I’d rather die/I’d rather die than to be with you.” And in that one single moment, everything is perfect.
To say that I used to be completely, utterly obsessed with The Strokes is a bit of an understatement. As a 16 year-old high school girl in 2002, once I heard "Hard To Explain" and "Last Nite", I never looked back.
I joined their official fan club. I went to as many of their concerts as I could. I posted on their music forum. I bought every single music magazine that featured articles on them. I devoted nearly every single blog post to them. I proudly wore their t-shirts. They were even the muses for my high school art assignments:
But, like many young bands on the scene, nothing is permanent. As I grew out of my teeny bopper Strokes-obsessed phase, the band produced two more albums, before pretty much disappearing over the last 5 years.
They never officially split up, but most of the band members were busy with side projects, and it seemed like The Strokes might not ever produce music together again.
Undercover Of Darkness
That is, until today. For the first time in 5 years, The Strokes have released a new song: "Undercover Of Darkness."
This is the first single off of their forthcoming album, Angles, which will be released on March 22nd.
While I was waiting for the song to download (it's available for free for the next 48 hours on their official website), all of those giddy, 16 year-old teeny bopper feelings came bubbling to the surface again.
Even upon listening to the first few notes of the song, and to Julian's distinct, yearning-yet-gritty voice, crooning away ambiguous lyrics, little goosebumps actually formed on my arms.
"Undercover Of Darkness" has the classic, Is This It?-era Strokes sound: upbeat, jangly guitars and a feeling that is simultaneously nostalgic and melancholic.
You know that feeling that you get when you meet someone new, but you feel like you've known them forever? Yet, you're still excited about what they're going to bring to your life, so you want to hang out with them as much as possible to soak up their awesomeness.
"Undercover Of Darkness" is like that new person, and my iTunes is getting a very hefty dose of it--repeatedly!
Hopefully the rest of Angles will live up to the expectations set by "Undercover Of Darkness." In the meantime, "I'll wait for you!"
I distinctly remember the first time I had ever heard The White Stripes. It was over 7 years ago, when I was 17 years old, and it was the summer before starting my senior year of high school. At this point in my life, I wasn't the music geek that I am today. I listened to whatever was on the radio, or whatever my friends listened to.
It was one of those hot and sticky summer days in Santa Clara, the kind that makes you feel like a Kirkland Signature ham, glistening with sweat instead of a sweet honey glaze. The kind where your ghetto air conditioning (aka spraying a cold water bottle into a fan) just doesn't cut it. On those types of days, my mom and I would escape to the air conditioned confines of Valley Fair Mall.
I remember walking into Macy's Men & Home, looking up at the television screen, and seeing this music video:
At the time, I had no idea who the band or what the song was. But I had to find out. It was so different from everything else that I listened to, but something about it resonated with me.
Later that evening, after probably Googling something like "what's that lego video?", I discovered that the band was called The White Stripes, and that the song was "Fell In Love With A Girl."
A subsequent trip to Rasputin Records, and I was officially the proud owner of "White Blood Cells." I don't know how many times I listened to that album that summer, or since then, but it remains one of my all-time favorite albums.
Candy Cane Children
Come September, I had the chance to see The White Stripes at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. And it was only my second concert ever.
To this day, after going to hundreds of concerts, this is still one of the all-time best live performances that I have ever seen. The chemistry between Jack and Meg was electric, the songs sounded so raw and explosive, and the audience--a sea of red and white-clad people--was hanging onto every note.
I'll never forget how The White Stripes helped set me on the path to a fantastic music scene, or how their music makes me feel.
Like many other 'Candy Cane Children' out there, I'm devastated to hear that they've split up.
But, as they say, the music lives on. Even though I'll never see them live again, I know that I can pop in "De Stijl" or "Get Behind Me Satan" and relive those memories.
RIP, The White Stripes!
“My name is Daniel, and I'm here for the Gang Bang!” It's less than ten minutes into my interview with The Postelles' Daniel Balk (vocals, guitar) and John Speyer (Bass), and somehow we've stumbled onto the topic of the little-known McDonald's secret menu. We're sitting backstage at The Independent, the location of this New York City band's first-ever concert in San Francisco, and the band seems eager to show the Bay Area hipsters what they have to offer.
And what they have to offer are succinct, endorphin-inducing songs that sound like the brainchild of The Strokes and Phil Spector after drinking dozens of Tom Collins and playing vigorous rounds of canasta.
After being in San Francisco for just a few hours, I ask the guys what excites them most about the city, and what they've had a chance to see so far.
Daniel: We've heard it's a great city, so I think everything excites me right now. John: I think it's also like a really rich city, in terms of musical history. D: And rich people. J: That's what's really exciting, we're hoping to meet some rich people! (laughs) What have you guys seen so far? D: We got here an hour ago, so not much. J: We saw this Jordanian kebab place (laughs). D: We saw you! J: We got some great coffee. It was really good coffee! (Note: It was at Bean Bag Coffee House on Divisadero) J: Yeah, at the bean place. It was really good. I got the Sumatra blend. Ooh, fancy. Was it like Fair Trade, and organic? J: I hope so, because I only drink that. 'Cause that's really easy on tour. I guess so. J: No, it's not at all! (laughs) Organic food is the hardest thing to buy on tour. D: McDonald's is easy! Did you know that McDonald's has a secret menu? J: No, like In-N-Out? I dunno, I was reading this article and I saw that they have one called 'The Gang Bang.' D: The 'Gang Bang'?
J: "Hi, welcome to McDonald's, I'm here for the gang bang!" (laughs) D: Are you sure they were talking about McDonald's?! Yeah, apparently it's like a Big Mac with a chicken sandwich stuck in the middle. J: Can you order it animal-style? "Can I get the Gang Bang, animal-style?" I dunno! D: "I'm here for the Gang Bang...animal-style!" It sounds better in my voice. J: Yeah, you are the singer. It's more natural. Your vocal quality is higher. I think you guys should sing that tonight. You should make a song about the Gang Bang. D: When I walk on stage I'll say, “My name is Daniel, and I'm here for the Gang Bang!”
Getting Poked By Chuck Berry
Feel like getting gang banged by The Postelles? You can try your luck on Twitter. Like many up-and-coming bands these days, The Postelles are no strangers to the power of social networking. So how has new media has affected their interaction with fans?
D: It makes it more personal. Because immediately after a show you're already getting a few responses like, “Great show!” J: Or, “Terrible show!” D: Yeah, “Terrible show!” And then we say, you know, “Fuck you!” back (laughs). No, it definitely makes it more intimate. J: I think the coolest thing is we went on Facebook and asked where should we go. And people actually told us. D: We literally went on and said, “Where do you want us to play?” J: And half of them were St. Louis for some reason. D: Probably because of the Kings Of Leon. J: Oh yeah. So we were like, “Ok, we're going!” And we went! D: It was funny because there were like 70 responses and we were like, “I dunno. Should we go to St. Louis?” And the next response was from Chuck Berry. And he was like, “Yeah you guys should come to St. Louis!” (Jon laughs) And then he poked me! Wait, Chuck Berry poked you on Facebook? J: That should be your headline! This is breaking news! D: And then I poked him back. (laughs) J: He's totally lying. I actually have a friend who works at Twitter who's coming tonight, so there you go, social networking! D: Nice change of subject! Jon's actually a pathological liar. J: You're a pathological liar. Twitter's actually gonna be here! I'm gonna tweet my friend from Twitter, here, from the stage. So how was Chuck Berry? D: It was awesome! Supposedly he “dug” us. He dug you? J: According to the keyboardist. We're telling everybody that! Are you gonna put that all over Twitter? J: Chuck Berry says, “I dig you!”
D: I actually tattooed it to my chest. That is a good tattoo to have. J: You don't wanna know where it is. D: I said chest! J: Yeah, but that's not true. (laughs)
Their Milkshake Brings All The Boys To The Yard
True or not, it's hard to imagine Chuck Berry not digging The Postelles. Because what other band would play my ridiculous photo game?
What is the photo game? Let's start with a brief background story:
I found a used roll of film in a camera at a charity shop in London. A small donation later, and the mysterious roll was mine!
Last week, I finally made the trip to CVS to get it developed.
The following photographs were the only pictures on the entire roll of film. Let me just reiterate that I have no idea who these people are, where these pictures were taken, or even when they were taken.
So I've asked Daniel and John to look through the photos and decide what music these people might be listening to in each one.
D: I would say “YMCA” by The Village People. J: Yep!
J: The second Girl Talk album! D: I would say “YMCA” again!
D: Ooh, “My Milkshake Brings All The Boys To The Yard”! J: Yep! Yep, definitely.
D: Uhh...”Thong Song”! J: “Thong Song”! (laughs)
(Both are momentarily consumed with laughter on this one.) D: I would say “Smells Like Teen Spirit”! J: That was sweet! D: That was a fun game, can we keep playing that game?
The Postelles: Coming To An Underwater Venue Near You! (Maybe)
The photo game may be over, but it's never too late for the money game.
Ok, so if you had all the money in the world... J: Which we do. D: Yeah, because we're robbing a bank tomorrow, like we said before. What would be your dream gig? I'm talking location, line-up, everything. J: We would probably play underwater. Like, accessible only by submarine. And, uh, you know that John Lennon is still alive? He would probably headline the festival. John Lennon would headline the festival? D: Huge, breaking news! J: Dude, he's been living in Argentina all this time! D: Juan Lennon? J: Yeah, and Elvis is still around. He's old. D: And where does he live? J: In Argentina! Yeah dude, and Tupac! So John Lennon, Elvis, and Tupac would headline the festival under the sea, accessible only by submarine. And Roy Orbison would probably open for us. D: You did not answer that question, at all! You know what? You're a pathological liar! J: You're an avoider! D: We're breaking up! So much breaking news in one interview! D: This will be the first night we're not sleeping together in one bed. J: That's true. Aww, separation anxiety? D: We both have girlfriends, and when we get back to New York we have to tell them that we won't be sharing a bed with them. J: For two nights! And then we'll do a four-person bed. D: And so the girls will have to stand on the side of the room and just watch while we hold hands and cuddle. I guess that kind of answers my next question... D: Do we have girlfriends? Yes, we have girlfriends. No, how do you unwind on tour? J: Cuddle! D: Well, I like to preserve water in the shower. Let's put it that way... J: Billy (Cadden, drummer) and I do crossword puzzles. Or I try to do Ab Ripper X. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERR5Sdm7mA8&w=480&h=390] P90X? J: Yes! Well, this is more hypothetical. Billy's like, “You know what? I'm gonna drink a lot tonight and then go home and do Ab Ripper!” D: But we have gone to the gym. J: Yup, we have been going to the gym. What, the YMCA? J: No, we've actually gone to the gym! It's hard on the road to stay in shape, but we try to do it. Brian, our tour manager, is actually our life coach. D: Our life manager! He's like the Tony Robbins of the tour? J: Yeah, and he's also an amazing driver.
Breaking News (again!)
Ok, so you guys have probably heard that Coachella has sold out. D: No, breaking news! Yes, breaking news again! How would you go about sneaking into Coachella? D: It'd be nice to actually play Coachella. J: We'd dress up as a band, probably. Just walk right in. D: People always say I look like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, so I'd probably just walk in and say I'm Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
J: Billy looks like everybody. Billy's one of those people that people always say he looks like someone, every attractive person. So what's been your proudest band moment so far? D: Wow, good question. I would say playing in Iceland was really cool. J: Yeah, Iceland was cool! And finally, what's next for The Postelles? D: We have a show in like, twenty or forty minutes. That's literally what's next for us! Well, we're gonna be touring a lot. Our debut album comes out in April.
Thanks, guys! To hear the full, unedited (but shitty audio quality) interview, click here.
The Postelles are Daniel Balk (Vocals, Guitar), Billy Cadden (Drums), David Dargahi (Lead Guitar), and John Speyer (Bass). Be sure to check out their website here to stay up-to-date on the latest news, and to listen to some sweet tunes!
Wordpress has a fancy new feature where you can use your cell phone to directly post audio content to your blog. I interviewed The Postelles last night at their debut San Francisco show. The following is the full, unedited (albeit questionable audio quality) interview: [audio http://amandavanwest.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/audio-post-2011-01-28-04-32-12.mp3|titles=Audio Post]
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiAxiGZKpGQ&fs=1&hl=en_US&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b] Remember this tune? For anyone who grew up in the 90s, hearing the familiar, bleepy "doo doo dooos" can instantly transport you back to the days of playing Nintendo, watching Saturday morning cartoons, and swilling hefty portions of sugary, crack-like Kool-Aid through crazy straws.
For up-and-coming act, MidiMidis, mixing nostalgia with crazy electro rock is their name of the game. Their music is entirely composed of 8-bit and midi melodies. Imagine a British version of Julian Casablancas stroking himself with a Duck Hunt gun while watching "Tron", and you'll have some sense of what MidiMidis sound like. Or, y'know, you can just listen on their Myspace page.
The band were opening for Delays at the intimate Relentless Garage in London. An odd combination of bands, but they seemed ready to take on the challenge by performing with raw enthusiasm and fervor.
But despite giving an energetic performance, complete with brilliantly garish stage lights, the crowd was only mildly receptive. Perhaps they'd be more suited to opening for a band like Klaxons or Late of the Pier, rather than Delays.
Although, oddly enough, their performance seemed to have a Viagra-like effect on an older couple standing next to me, inspiring the man to gratuitously squeeze the bottom of his partner while she listened on to the bleepy, shouty spectacle going on in front of her.
Bottom line? MidiMidis are the perfect soundtrack for either your next crazy electro-rock warehouse party, or for people in their 'frisky fifties.'
Delays: Still Rockin' After All These Years
Six years is a long time to wait to see one of your favorite bands in concert again. The last time I saw Delays, I was just starting my first semester at USF. So naive, so innocent (but still with a kick-ass taste in music).
They've released three albums since then, including the recently released "Star Tiger Star Ariel." And judging by the crowd at the Relentless Garage, they've managed to maintain a strong fan base of hardcore followers.
The venue was packed with their most dedicated fans; the fans that can sing along to every single word whilst fist-pumping and pogoing up and down to every song.
Musically, they've come a long way since releasing "Faded Seaside Glamour," but they've retained the same freshness and exuberance in their live performance. And, somehow, they don't seem to have aged at all in the last six years. I'd like to know their secret!
Perhaps it's the same source of magic that gives lead singer Greg Gilbert his androgynously siren-like vocals, as he wails along to the lush, ethereal melodies and beats of the rest of the band.
Like the veelas had the power to hypnotize unsuspecting men in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" with their song, Greg managed to get even the toughest-looking men in the venue to jump around like hooligans at a football match.
The band played a good mixture of songs from all of their albums, including "Long Time Coming", "Cavalry", and "Valentine." As the songs continued, hands shot up into the air like some type of religious spectacle at one of those weird churches in a tent, where people speak in tongues and pass out from the power of Christ.
Luckily, no one passed out here. The band expertly knew how to command the stage and get the audience going. It's obvious that Delays are a band that have been doing this for awhile, without the awkward or nervous onstage moments. Greg, Aaron, Colin, and Rowly all play with a noticeable confident attitude, somehow managing to simultaneously engage the crowd and blow them away at the same time.
And the crowd wouldn't let them get away without an encore, enticing the band to come back onstage by clapping in time and continuing the melodic "Oooohs" that Greg left off with.
Bottom line? Like Super Mario Bros, Delays are still just as amazing (if not better) after all these years!
Yes, I know it's a bit backwards to post the trailer after posting the full-length documentary... [vimeo 13407033]
"Ok, this next song is going to sound very Russian, and when we start it will become very clear why," explains Barry Hyde, with the same mischievous grin as The Grinch when he's slinking around Whoville, stealing all of the Christmas decorations. The lead singer of The Futureheads has successfully captured the attention of the crowd packed into the tiny Pure Groove Records shop and cafe. It's a quiet Thursday afternoon in London, and a mixture of students and young, suited professionals on their lunch breaks are gathered to catch a rare, free acoustic performance of the normally raucous Sunderland-based indie rock quartet.
As the group launches into "Struck Dumb" from their newest album, The Chaos, which was released in the UK on April 26th, the Russian reference becomes very clear indeed. Without the aid of electric guitars, band members Ross Millard and David 'Jaff' Craig harmonise "ra da-da!" sounds--making sure to heavily roll the R's--and occasionally display Russian-inspired dance moves, alternately squatting and popping back up with flailing leg kicks and arm thrusts. The only thing missing from the scene is black, furry hats and shiny, red voluminous trousers.
Hyde joins in by singing, "Misery, is a little line, of a little dash, it's a subtraction sign." Meanwhile, drummer Dave Hyde sits off to the side, providing a rhythmic beat without the aid of a drum kit.
With influences ranging from new wave and post-punk greats like Fugazi, XTC, Devo, and Gang Of Four, The Futureheads normally perform upbeat-yet-aggressive sets that often result in moshing, crowd-surfing, and pogo dancing. But despite not having the usual array of electric instruments, amplifiers, smoke machines, and brilliantly-coloured stage lights, their performance doesn't feel any less exciting.
The Chaos Here, the excitement comes from admiring the power of their voices and poetic lyrics, like "Every time I listen to my heart/It's like a cartwheel in my head but my legs are made of lead" from "Heartbeat Song." This is The Futureheads stripped down to their rawest elements.
And, today, those elements consist of one part concert, one part variety show--the band members seem to be in a jovial mood, joking around with each other and encouraging crowd interaction. It's not every day that a band turns one of their songs ("Hounds Of Love", from 2004's self-titled debut album, in this case) into an audience participation game. Millard's side of the crowd has been instructed to sing the "OH oh-oh"s, while Craig's side of the crowd has the dueling "oh-OH!" melody.
It's here where it becomes clear that this isn't your ordinary British indie rock band, with generic melodies and a pretentious attitude--the band's vocals alone intertwine in perfect harmony, almost like a throwback to a-Capella barbershop quartets from the turn of the 20th century.
Although the audience members may not possess the same level of vocal talent as the band, hearing the entire shop singing along to "Hounds Of Love" is a testament to the band's showmanship. Moments like this make you remember why you bother going to shows in the first place. It's easy to sit back and listen to an album on the bus, while working, or at a club, but without the smoke and mirrors of studio productions, some bands just can't cut it live.
But whether they're playing an intimate acoustic set, or performing at Europe's largest festivals, The Futureheads have consistently proven that they can do more than cut it live--especially with the occasional, impromptu kalinka dance moves.
Discover where to find the most authentic flamenco performances, tastiest free tapas, and alternative hotspots in one of Spain’s largest university cities. Plumes of patchouli-scented incense smoke float languidly through narrow, cobble-stoned alleyways. Thumping, jangling Arabic music blasts out of stalls enshrouded in panels of opulent, jewel-toned, embroidered silk fabrics.
Rows of plastic bags packed with black, cardamom-spiced tea leaves sit on small tables next to ornately carved brass hookah pipes. An older couple, chattering away in a foreign tongue, maneuvers their way through the crowd to pick up freshly cut hunks of Halal meat from a burly butcher.
But this isn’t a bustling street bazaar in the middle of Morocco. It’s the Albaicin district of Granada, the capital of the province of Granada in Spain’s southern Andalusia region—and it’s the only part of the city’s ancient Moorish neighborhoods to survive torching during the Catholic Reconquest that ended in 1492.
Granada has had a long, violent history of power struggles between the Catholics and Islamic Moors. Situated at the foothills below the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and just one hour away from the Mediterranean coast, the city was the last Muslim settlement in Iberia to be taken over by the Catholic monarchs.
Since then, because of the prestigious University of Granada, the city has grown into a vibrant, multicultural university town—of the city’s 270,000 inhabitants, over 80,000 are university students.
Today, the biggest struggles in the city seem to be trying to decide where to enjoy the tastiest tapas, or which club is best to catch a truly authentic flamenco performance.
The Real Flamenco Although flamenco is often associated with the culture of the entire country Spain, it’s actually only native to the Andalusia region. Like the city of Granada itself, with the combination of Moorish and Catholic architecture, flamenco music and dancing is a passionate combination of gypsy and Spanish rhythms.
There’s no shortage of tablaos (flamenco performances) to enjoy in Granada, and the tourist office (Junta de Andalucia/2 C. Santa Ana) always provides a list of nightly shows. But many of these shows are overpriced and cater to throngs of tourists, with a feeling of being sold an image of Spanish culture rather than experiencing the real thing.
For a more authentic flamenco experience, and one that’s much friendlier on the wallet (there’s no entrance fee), Café Eshavira (2 C. Postigo de la Cuna) is an intimate bar that plays host to flamenco and jazz music. Hidden in an alleyway between Calle Elvira and Gran Via in the labyrinth of the Albaicin district, Café Eshavira’s clientele is a mixture of young Spanish students, gitanos (gypsies), dancers, and musicians.
Pushing through the heavy carved wooden door of Café Eshavira feels like walking into a different universe--an intimate, dimly lit, smoky atmosphere that feels eons away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. According to Gisela Remola, a Spanish university student, “After the professional flamenco dancers and musicians are done performing for the tourists [at other places in Granada], they come here to drink, unwind, and perform with their peers. They come here because they love flamenco and want to preserve the tradition, and not because they’re being paid to play.”
Impromptu Flamenco Walking down a short flight of stairs reveals a small, cavernous-like room with chairs and candle-lit tables dotted in front of a stage. Choosing to sit amongst the crowd rather than playing onstage, a musician—cigarette dangling loosely between his lips--starts flawlessly playing intricate flamenco rhythms on a classical guitar.
While his callused fingers dance and fly across the steel strings, an older gypsy man starts a cante flamenco gitano (gypsy song)—lengthening every syllable and varying his pitch to enhance the emotional depth of the lyrics.
A young woman stands up and starts dancing an improvised flamenco puro (pure flamenco), twisting her arms around like a charmed snake and stomping her heels into the ground while her friends shout out encouraging cries of, “Ole!”
Enjoying the Alhambra Flamenco isn’t the only part of Andalusian culture being preserved in Granada. Look up from almost any location in the city, and it’s hard to ignore the red, blocky Alhambra palace and fortress looming on top of the al-Sabika hill, with the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains as a backdrop.
Constructed during the 14th century by Moorish rulers, the Alhambra—which translates as “red fortress”--is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Limited to just 7,700 visitors per day, it’s best to purchase tickets at least one day in advance (13 euros/www.alhambra-tickets.es) Should tickets to the Alhambra sell out, there are also garden-only tickets (7 euros) that allow an unlimited number of daily visitors and give access to El Generalife, which served as a summer palace for Granada’s former royals.
With sunlight filtering through towering cypress trees, the calming sound of trickling fountains, and the sweet scent of honeysuckle blossoms in the air, it’s easy to imagine what it was like to live as a royal in the middle of the 14th century.
To enjoy a free but more distant view of the Alhambra, follow the steep, winding path alongside the Darro River to the Mirador de San Nicolas. Here, tourists and locals alike—including Granada’s hippie population, known to locals as perras flautas (dog flutes) due to their affinity for playing wooden flutes and owning dogs—sit side by side to contemplate the infamous saying: “Si mueres sin ver la Alhambra, no has vivido” (“If you die without seeing the Alhambra, you have not lived.”)
Just down the hill, an impressive view of the Alhambra can also be seen from the rooftop bar of Funky Backpacker’s Hostel (15-17 Conde de las Infantas/mixed dorms starting from 15 euros per person, per night).
Oasis Backpacker’s Hostel (3 Placeta Correo Viejo/mixed dorms starting from 15 euros per person, per night) also has a rooftop terrace with views of the Alhambra and the Albaicin, and its price tag includes a free welcome drink—mirroring the unofficial granadino tradition of ‘when alcohol is involved, free things will come your way!’
Free Tapas Granada is one of the few cities left in Spain that still upholds the tradition of serving free tapas alongside drinks. Many of the city’s tapas bars observe a ‘you’ll eat what we feel like serving’ policy, but Cacao’s (12 Solarillo de Gracia) offers a wide range of typical Andalucian tapas to choose from, including albondigas (meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce) and salmorejo (a chilled, creamy tomato soup topped with chopped Serrano ham and hard-boiled eggs).
Black sculptures of branches and flowers against ceramic mosaic walls in shades of white, pink, and purple—alongside an ambient electronic soundtrack—make Cacao’s a hip and funky alternative bar to enjoy glass after glass of tinto de verano (red wine with lemonade).
Café Om Kalsoum (17 C. Jardines) also has a menu of free tapas to choose from, but pays homage to Granada’s Middle Eastern influence by offering dishes such as creamy, garlicky chickpea hummus, and spicy cuts of tender lamb meat stuffed into freshly baked pita bread.
Semana Santa As nighttime falls, the city starts to truly come to life. Students, locals, and tourists pour in and out of tapas bars, clubs, and cafes; ready to take advantage of Granada’s nightlife until long after the sun rises.
Even religion has a place in this setting—Semana Santa (Holy Week, leading up to Easter) processions are weaving a path through the city well after midnight, with members of different brotherhoods struggling to carry massive, gold-leafed floats of the Virgin Mary on their shoulders, down the pepita (sunflower seed) littered streets.
Drunken revelers stumble out of an Irish pub, and a few lines from a song by The Doors escapes along with them. Jim Morrison’s voice belting out “come on baby, light my fire/try to set the night on fire” is an oddly appropriate soundtrack for the candlelit procession, and symbolic of what Granada represents today—a city that simultaneously thrives on preserving its rich history, and yet openly embraces an amalgamation of different cultures and new traditions.
*How To Get There: Flights from London Stansted to Granada Airport, located 17 km outside of the city center, start from 19 GBP one way, not inclusive of taxes. Autocares J. Gonzalez (www.autocaresjosegonzalez.com) operates a bus connection from Arrivals to the city center for 3 euros, and the trip takes 40 minutes. Taxis are also available, taking 20 minutes to the city center and starting from 20 euros.
*Where To Stay: Funky Backpacker’s Hostel can be booked online at www.hostelworld.com/funkybackpacker Oasis Backpacker’s Hostel can be booked online at www.oasisgranada.com, or by phone at (0034) 958 215 848