Ahh, Buenos Aires – where a dank, grimy rock scene thrives in a friendly atmosphere. Somehow this description doesn’t evoke the Buenos Aires of guidebooks and Discovery channel specials, but Tango, steak, and Malbec don’t tell the whole story. If you checked out the Buenos Aires Festival of International Music in Palermo Hollywood this week, you’re aware there’s a live music scene here in BsAs outside of Lily Allen at Luna Park. BAFIM hosted a wide range of bands from the raucous Quarteto/Ska of Los Pericos, and hipster favorites Los Alamos, to the gorgeous percussion and vocals of Mariana Baraj. There were four stages and bands all day from Thursday, August 29 through Sunday, September 2.
I showed up Thursday and checked out the booths of record labels, music sites, and production services. I came back and caught shows Saturday and Sunday night – each time the crowd had grown until Sunday night’s line was impenetrable and I skipped going into the warehouse and enjoyed the main outdoor stage in the park across the street. Los Pericos drew a huge crowd of all ages that spilled out into the street. I hung out next to a mom and three small kids bouncing around to trumpets and reggae rhythms.
BAFIM is to the BsAs rock scene, what a formal tango show is to the BsAs tango scene. It was commercial and well presented and gave a smattering of the art that lives in the local scene. To get it in its natural setting, you have to go to the cavernous venues that thrive throughout the city like Salon Pueyrredon, Unione, or your friendly neighborhood cultural center.
This is a city where gorgeous, old theater spaces and government parlor rooms become backdrops for mosh pits. Where Harrod’s of London went bankrupt and closed up shop and now the city uses the vacuous, chandeliered department store to host music and art shows. My own favorite is Ciudad Konex, a large warehouse, factory-turned-boliche. On Tuesdays Konex impresses with “Mr and Mrs Rock” on the outdoor stage, replete with swings and psychedelic projections. In the hub of Palermo nightlife, Niceto club sometimes hosts local bands and visiting groups from Brazil, Chile, and Colombia.
To discover your new favorite band, there are a few trusted sources for great underground happenings. The bimonthly publication “Wipe” keeps you in the know with music listings. Keep an eye out in Palermo for street flyers predicting the homemade parties that pop up in parilla back rooms and in bars off the beaten path. But, like in any other town, the best source is local word of mouth – so brush up on your Castellano and make friends with some Porteño rockers. Or skip the tango show and ask the guy at the hostel how to get to the local Centro Cultural.
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