Tag Archives: barcelona

Primavera Sound 2010 Festival Line Up

It’s that time of year again! As Barcelona’s winter continues to fling a surprising array of nastiness at us, we’re already getting the occasional day that lets us dream of spring. And spring in Barcelona means one thing: the Primavera Sound festival. This year’s festival takes place from the 27th to the 29th of May, at the Parc del Fòrum.

This is the line up so far. It’s pretty much final, though a few more acts will likely be named. The big names so far appear to be The Charlatans, The Fall, Gary Numan, Orbital, Pet Shop Boys, Pixies, Wilco and Wire.

A Sunny Day In Glasgow
Apse
Atlas Sound
Beach House
Beak>
Ben Frost
Best Coast
Bigott
Bis
Biscuit
Black Lips
Black Math Horseman
Boy 8-Bit
Broken Social Scene
Built To Spill
Camaron, La Leyenda Del Tiempo
Circulatory System
CocoRosie
Cohete
Cold Cave
Condo Fucks
Crocodiles
Delorean
Diplo
Dr. Dog
Dum Dum Girls
Emilio José
Endless Boogie
Fake Blood
Florence + The Machine
Fuck Buttons
Ganglians
Gary Numan
Grizzly Bear
Half Foot Outside
HEALTH
Here We Go Magic
Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions
Japandroids
Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard
Joker featuring Nomad
Junip
Lee “Scratch” Perry
Les Savy Fav
Lidia Damunt
Liquid Liquid
Low performing “The Great Destroyer”
Major Lazer
Marc Almond
Matt & Kim
Mission Of Burma
Moderat
Monotonix
Mujeres
Nana Grizol
No Age
Nueva Vulcano
ODDSAC
Orbital
Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy)
Panda Bear
Pavement
Pet Shop Boys
Pixies
Polvo
Real Estate
Roddy Frame
Scout Niblett
Seefeel
Shellac
Sian Alice Group
Sic Alps
Sleigh Bells
Spoon
Standstill
Sunny Day Real Estate
Superchunk
Surfer Blood
The Almighty Defenders
The Antlers
The Big Pink
The Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77
The Books
The Bundles
The Charlatans performing “Some Friendly”
The Clean
The Drums
The Fall
The Field
The King Khan & BBQ Show
The New Pornographers
The Psychic Paramount
The Slits
The Smith Westerns
The Wave Pictures
The XX
Thee Oh Sees
Titus Andronicus
Tortoise
Ui
Wilco
Wild Beasts
Wild Honey
Wire
Yeasayer

New ‘drunk girl’ theft scam being tested in Barcelona for MWC!

Yesterday was Gemma’s birthday, which we celebrated with tapas, cake, cava and beer at Glaçiar in Plaça Reial. We left at about 2am, and headed through the passage way back onto the Rambla dels Caputxins, emerging onto that stretch with a taxi rank between Ferran and Escudellers, also known as pickpocket central. Here is the basic info you need to know about the ‘drunk girl trafficked’ scam:

People involved: At least 3 people take part. Firstly, a young blonde woman who appears to be drunk – she’s eating a kebab and with her podgy body and blonde hair could have been English… from her accent we think she was more likely from he former Soviet Union; secondly, one Latin-American man with a mobile phone, and a Spanish-looking man with a pony tail.

What happens: blonde girl approaches from the centre of the Ramblas. Apparently drunk, she collapses and nearly drops her kebab in front of bemused locals/marks who tut and then try to help her out of the road. Meanwhile, two men apparently unknown to each other join the melée, eventually making it appear that they’re both tying to take the girl away. Ideally, civic attitudes and ‘having heard of people trafficking’ kick in, making the marks attempt to ascertain whether the ‘victim’ really knows her new friends. Of course she does, but not it’s not how it looks!

At this point, the girl dropped her kebab. Looking back, this could either have been a genuinely convincing piece of acting, or it was a signal to move on to phase 3.

While Gemma’s aunt continued trying to establish if the girl was OK, one of the guys managed to move behind me. As he made a grab for my wallet, he nudged me – certainly accidentally – and alerted me to their intentions. I barked “We’re going!” in Catalan to Gemma’s aunt, and dragged her into the waiting cab. We got away safely and without anything missing.

In all, this little piece of street theatre took about one minute to unfold. It must have been carefully planned and although I think I’ve heard of something similar, I can’t find any references to the scam at the excellent Kovaks PI website. This, like all the most pernicious scams, is based on manipulating a person’s built-in civism (rather than, say, their greed or lust, when in my opinion the mark gets all he deserves). As soon as the girl fell over, we were probably at risk of losing our bags/wallets. The fact that my man with the ponytail messed up his move on my wallet suggests that either this particular iteration of the scam is new, or the guy was new to it. It might well be that they thought they’d practice the scam on Saturday night because from today until next weekend, BCN will be rammed with sales executives packing expensive mobile phones and American-style wallets full of cash.

The thing to do, of course, when a girl falls over in the street, is call for the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan police force). Likewise, if two men seem to be fighting over a drunk girl who doesn’t know either of them, the thing to do is call for the Mossos. Shouting “Mossos! Policia!” might make you look like a berk but there are lots of cops around there and they’ll turn up in no time.

Some useful info for visitors to Barcelona:

Catalan police phone number: 088
General emergency number: 112
Police officers on Les Rambles will always be in uniform and will always have an ID card (and normally a gun!)
Kovaks P.I. – the #1 resource for Barcelona street scam stories. Worth a read even if you’re not coming to Barcelona

In Support Of The True Fiesta Nacional

One of Spain’s greatest and oldest cultural traditions is in danger of dying out completely because of EU legislation. The European laws, designed to protect citizens’ ‘liberty’ were introduced without a moment’s thought about the impact they’d have on this crucial feature of Spanish culture. I am, of course, talking about Spain’s true Fiesta Nacional.

Ever since the 1st century BCE, Spaniards have enjoyed the spectacle of gladiators locked in combat, fighting until one (or ideally all) of them dies a heroic death. Indeed, recent evidence proves that a Spaniard was himself the very bravest of Rome’s gladiators – he killed a nasty emperor and temporarily saved the empire from something.

But all this is now under threat – because of a bunch of killjoy lawmakers obsessed by destroying Spanish culture. EU legislators introduced so called ‘human rights legislation’ many years ago, but it is these laws that might now be used to stop us from enjoying one of the great cultural pursuits this country has to offer. And the sad thing is that this could all be prevented if the do-gooders understood that live gladiator fights aren’t really about men killing each other for the enjoyment of a crowd of baying monsters. You see, gladiator fighting is about so much more than that.

For those who haven’t yet had a chance to enjoy the spectacle of a gladiator fight, I’m going to explain a little of what makes it so special. First of all, there’s the amphitheatre it’s held in: these grand stadia have their roots in Roman architecture and are designed so that wherever a viewer sits, they can see the action. Amphitheatres used to litter Spanish cities like discarded sunflower seed shells, but now only a few remain. It’s worth remembering that Barcelona had loads of the places, while Madrid (which didn’t exist when the Romans occupied Spain) had none. Why that’s worth remembering, I’m not sure… but remember it, OK?

Next up is the sense of ceremony that surrounds the whole event. The gladiators are held in a sort of pen just before they’re released into the arena, and when they appear in their beautiful costumes, you can almost believe you’re watching ballet rather than deadly combat. Actually, I’m not sure about that: ballet exists as a way of interpreting violence, passion and the human experience by way of dance. Gladiatorial combat interprets violence by way of goading men to murder each other. But it’s still quite full of movement, I suppose.

The deaths, while certainly not the focus of gladiatorial combat, are really cool! Some of the best gladiators can make a rival’s suffering defence last for up to an hour, drawing the process of killing their opponent (which is not the main focus of the fight at all) into what seems like a true fight between equals. Of course, the truth is that the professional gladiators always win because their competitors, dumb and useless beasts that they are, are often drugged, underfed and tortured prior to the main event. Well, you wouldn’t want the star to die, would you?! Anyway, the death isn’t even the most important bit.

The most important bit is… everything. Of course, everything is geared in a way that it climaxes in the death… but that doesn’t mean it’s just about killing. You can buy an ice cream from the little man who sells them… and if he stands in the way of a good killing, just tell him to get the fuck out of the way. Because the death, while not the most important bit, is a moment so wholly Spanish – so ancient and lovely – that you really shouldn’t miss it. Yes, the death is not the most important part of the gladiator fight. It’s the killing.

Oh and, before you bring it up, no we really don’t see the killing as cruel. I mean, most of these guys are losers and criminals anyway. Sure, they’re doomed to die terrified but imagine how they’d feel if they caught lung cancer from second hand smoke. That’d be a much worse way to go… so you see, they’re really the lucky ones.

Can we really afford to lose this ancient, lovely and cool spectacle? To me, it seems self-evident that gladiatorial combat is above silly modern notions like ‘humanity’ or ‘law’. Clearly, amendments should be made to this legislation to ensure that future generations can enjoy the killing with their own eyes? As has been pointed out, these fights exist: it’s up to the opponents of gladiators killing each other to prove why it’s suddenly wrong.

So, dear reader, I call on you to join with me in defence of this noble pursuit. Together, we can preserve barbarity in these perplexing times.

thebadPoll: what’s correct: Catalonia or Catalunya… or Cataluña?

This new poll is borne from a post I read today at Jeremy Holland’s From Barcelona blog. But it’s also, I must admit, something I’ve probably grumbled about before.

Among the people writing about Catalonia in English, there seems to be little consensus as to what we call the place. I always use the English form ‘Catalonia’, Jeremy uses the Catalan ‘Catalunya’, Graeme at South of Watford uses the Spanish ‘Cataluña’… doubtless someone out there (Trevor?) uses the archaic ‘Cathalunya’.

My reasons for using the English form are fairly simple: firstly, consistency. In my guise as a sort-of-managing-editor, I spend plenty of time making sure that everyone writing for our website writes as consistently as possible. That is, we have a house style which should always be applied. So we write in American English, generally try to avoid jargon – sometimes a difficult task when writing about technology, and use the same naming conventions when referring to organisations, places or people. The idea of consistency in such writing is that a reader should never have to trouble themselves as to why we’re suddenly using a different word to describe something. I use ‘Catalonia’, ‘Spain’ and ‘Seville’ because I’m attempting to maintain some sense of consistency in the way I write (though a quick search shows that I have used ‘Sevilla’ a few times!). I feel that the majority of news organisations and works of reference would agree with me when I say that as a rule, toponyms ought to be written in the same language as the rest of the article.

The second reason I prefer the English form of the name is that when I’m writing in English, I’ll use an English word wherever possible. This has nothing to do with any kind of linguistic conservatism: though my ‘trade’ involves the constant use of English, I’m the first to proclaim that one of its great strengths is the lack of an Academy that protects it from foreign influence. I do, however, broadly agree with George Orwell’s Six Rules for clear political writing. As far as I’m concerned, ‘Catalonia’ is a perfectly decent English word that has been in use for hundreds of years and, like ‘Spain’ does the job admirably well. So why opt for the Catalan version? To me, it sounds like an affectation, particularly when this exception – this break in consistency – is applied only to ‘Catalunya’, and not to ‘Spain’.

Jeremy makes a couple of points when explaining why he prefers the Catalan form. He’s right to say that using ‘Catalunya’ hardly makes a piece of writing harder to understand. Pretty much anyone reading either of our blogs would be perfectly comfortable with the Catalan toponym. He also talks about the fluidity of English and its willingness to absorb words from other languages and cultures – something I mentioned above. But he does rather cloud the issue I thought we were talking about: whether there’s a correct way to name the place in English. He also introduces something of a red herring: street names and people’s names. To me, calling Joan, ‘John’ is incorrect… and calling the Plaça de Catalunya ‘Catalonia Square’ just aren’t the same thing as calling Catalunya, Catalonia.

But I may be wrong. Jeremy has promised that he’ll change and start using the English form if that’s what most Catalans say they prefer. I’m not going to change the naming conventions I use, no matter what you say. But I am interested in hearing what you think. So the question is: when writing in English, what’s the correct way to refer to the place? Catalonia, Catalunya, Cataluña, or something else entirely? As always, vote early & often to the right >>>

Less than 30% turnout in today’s Catalan independence ‘consultations’

TV3 is reporting that of the 700,000 people eligible to vote in today’s referendum/consultations, 200,000 voted. If that number is correct, the turnout stands at just under 30%.

What does this mean for Catalonia? There are several points to take into consideration (which affect any interpretation of events in various ways):

  • The consultations were non-official and therefore certainly not taken as seriously as an official referendum would be. This means that the approx. 30% who did take part probably come from more politicised parts of Catalan society. I suspect that pro-independence elements will have voted more strongly (based on the fact that only the pro-independence movements seemed to be drumming up any support for the ballots). The other 70% of the population would likely include far more anti-independence voters than today’s result will indicate.
  • The consultations were carried out in largely rural towns and villages, which traditionally demonstrate a much stronger level of support for Catalan independence. Barcelona and its suburbs, along with Tarragona and environs have large numbers of voters, including many with a more Spain-centric (and sometimes right-wing nationalist) point of view than will likely be seen in today’s results.
  • The consultations seemed to go without mention at all on TVE 1 this morning. For an official referendum, we can imagine that their coverage would have been different.
  • The consultations allowed votes from anyone over 16 and registered in the municipality concerned. An official referendum would likely follow Spanish/European electoral law and limit the electorate to Spanish citizens aged over 18. I’ll add that I’d like it if 16-18 year olds, and non-Spanish citizens were allowed to vote in elections. But they’re not.
  • The consultations have happened at a time when general support for Spanish PM Zapatero is very low (as was possibly intended). A PM from the Partido Popular would likely increase the pro-independence vote. A more popular Zapatero (or alternative) might well reduce it.

It remains to be seen what effect these consultations in the form of a referendum will have on Catalonia’s political future. My bet is that whatever the result, ERC, CUP and the CdC will claim it as a vote in favour for an official referendum within the next two or three years.

Barcelona, if it ever manages to hold a similar consultation, will always be the decider.

13D: Some of Catalonia votes for independence tomorrow

This weekend, 700,000 people in Catalonia are eligible to vote in the region’s first ever referendum on independence from Spain.

Or at least, that’s how the BBC has it. Tomorrow will be interesting because the turnout will give everyone an idea of how far CUP, ERC and even CiU can run with independence as a vote winner. But Barcelona and the more ‘Spanish’ suburbs (like Cerdanyola) aren’t taking part. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere: we all know that if it were up to Vic, Catalonia would have declared independence years ago.

I’ll be watching tomorrow’s results with some interest. But I’d rather they had a proper vote, and we could all be done with it.

Guardia Civil is the new arbitrator of jazz

It’s not clear whether the Guardia’s elite Jazz Investigation Unit was sent out to Sigüenza or if they simply consulted its Contemporary Arts Bureau.

For what it’s worth, I don’t like genre labels as they always end up being exclusive rather than inclusive. Here’s hoping that the Anti-Folk Brigade don’t get called out to tonight’s Jeffrey Lewis gig in Barcelona.

Spanish corruption news round-up

I’ve been off work for a few days due to a wicked cold, which has left me thinking that probably the last thing I need to do is spend more time in front of my computer. But all the same, there are a couple of stories developing in Spain which deserve something of a recap.

Firstly, Gürtel. This case of corruption in the Valencian PP has moved on quite a lot since the courts ruled that it was unlawful to ‘archive’ the case. The PP itself has moved from dogged support for anyone and everyone connected with the party to a few pre-emptive and yet also belated amputations. Top of the list is Ricardo Costa, general secretary of the Valencian PP. President of the Comunitat Valenciana Fracisco Camps seems to have had his hand forced by PP head office and has announced that Costa will be out in a few days, all the while noting that he trusts and backs him implicitly. This is the first major head to roll in the PP but it likely won’t be the last. Esperanza Aguirre, president of the Comunidad de Madrid has also forced the exclusion of three regional PP names, Alberto López Viejo, Alfonso Bosch Tejedor and Benjamín Martín Vasco – all linked with the Gürtel case.

Aguirre, suave political operator that she is, seems to be using this corruption case to make another push for control of the party. It remains to be seen how successful she is in this enterprise… but the idea of her leading the national party is slowly becoming a terrifyingly real possibility.

I wouldn’t want to incur the wrath of Trevor by failing to mention the Palau de la Música Catalana case, here in Barcelona. This story, though nowhere near as politically damaging as the Gürtel case, is still serious enough to warrant a proper full-length blog post some time in the future. Essentially, the PMC case is a classic story of misuse of public funds (aka ‘stealing a shit load of cash’). Boss of the Orfeó Catalan, Felix Millet, has more-or-less admitted that more than €3m of Palau funds went missing under his stewardship. He seems to have spent the money on himself (and his business partner Jordi Montull). It seems that among other things, the pair used some of the money to buy a building which they then sold on at a €1.5m profit.

The larger crime in the PMC case is that the bill for refurbishing the Palau a few years back was a massive €22m, even though it actually cost less than half that. So Millet seems to be willing to admit the ‘smaller’ crime in the hope that everyone will just forget about the other €13m that he nicked. Sadly, this could just happen: this case should have been in the courts years ago but for some reason only seems to have made it there now.

The political sides of this story are twofold: firstly, Millet is a big player in Barcelona’s political-cultural axis. The position of head of the Orfeó/Palau is extremely prestigious and Millet also served on the board of FC Barcelona and was a recipient of the Generalitat’s St Jordi cross. All that, and he seems to have donated about €500,000 to the Fundació Trías Fargas, a politico-cultural organisation which is effectively a part of the CDC, which itself is a constituent party in CiU.

The second controversy (and arguably by far the more important one) is that the courts in Barcelona received notice of presumed corruption, lots of €500 notes and various irregularities in the Palau, five years ago. It seems that they’ve done very little to prosecute the case since then, until now. Why? I suppose that would be the corruption.

Barcelona sex mayhem – stories from Sunday night

Now I don’t know how late Giles Tremlett filed this story about Barcelona. But the Guardian has it timestamped at 1938 Madrid time, which is certainly late enough to have come after a very hearty lunch indeed. One clue suggesting that this is the case comes in the form of the article’s shortness. Tremlett isn’t the most wordy of reporters but all the same…

Another oddity is Tremlett’s insistence that “Although Las Ramblas has always attracted prostitutes, they used to occupy a small area near the port”, which is, as a local travelling tinker muttered to me, “a complete load of bollocks”. I’m not sure when this golden age of non bollock grabbing Rambline strolling is supposed to have occurred but it was certainly not very recently. Barcelona has always been packed to the rafters with ladies and gentlemen of the night (and plenty of lady gentlemen too). Indeed, it’d be hard to walk down a single street in the city without passing some brothel or other (even if you don’t realise it).

What this whole story really represents is the latest development in a late-summer-nothing-to-publish episode, where El País shocked our sensibilities (and had us checking again and again) with some pictures of a long-haired tourist making the beast with one back with a prostitute round the back of an overpriced market. Noted local newspaper, 20 Minutos (oh, yes I did!) interviewed various pillars of the community the other day, asking them whether they thought that Les Rambles has a major problem with prostitution. General opinion: it’s a hell of a lot better now than it used to be.

My feelings: Mexican sombreros and €7 a beer are far more offensive and nearly as exploitative.

Arenys de Munt independence ‘consultation’ banned

A non-binding public consultation on Catalan independence, which was due to take place in Arenys de Munt this September 13th has been banned. A judge in Barcelona accepted the Madrid government’s argument that only they have the authority to operate public consultations. The court also ruled that a town may not have a consultation that includes issues that are not wholly municipal, and that the Ajuntament (town hall) was too involved in the event, which is also illegal. The pretend referendum is being organised by MAPA, the Arenys group for Catalan self-determination (not by the town hall).

The vote gained widespread attention because fascist throwbacks, the Falange de las JONS announced a plan to protest against any movement for Catalan independence. In Arenys de Munt. On the 13th. Because that wouldn’t be remotely confrontational.

Anyway, what we see here is further use of the PSOE’s favourite tactic for disallowing democratic processes it feels it cannot control. The government typically waits until around a week before the event in question and then deploys its legal arguments, knowing that an appeal would be costly and would have to be done quickly. They did the same thing with their attempted criminalisation of Iniciativa Internacionalista and they’ve dealt with Basque political parties in a similar way.

As one commentator has asked: why all this effort to not hear what people want?

Organisers of the consultation have put a brave face on it: they reckon that a postal vote is still permitted. This story ain’t over yet.