• sarah.bb@eatsdrinksandsleeps.com

Eating and drinking my way through life and learning all the while

Rock bars are cleaner than I remember pre-COVID-19

This is a month of lots of post COVID firsts. Last night, we went to the first jam session in Madrid post lock down and it was good, great in fact.

It was at Sala RockVille near the Bernanéu stadium in the northern part of Madrid – a great spacious venue all set up for a socially distanced jam. Smaller venues I imagine may struggle more in these times.

Proper precautions are being taken, temperature checks on arrival – not sure I’ll ever not flinch at having a temperature gun aimed at my forehead – hand sanitiser at the entrance and wearing of masks at the bar, when walking around and going to the bathrooms.

The first thing that struck me was how bloody clean everything was, admittedly I’ve not been here before so can’t speak to whether there used to be a level of grime I usually associate with rock bars and music venues here. I do love a spit and sawdust kind of place though and for years lamented the passing of the Astoria, a grimey, sticky music venue in Soho where I saw my first ever metal gig.

The grime was part of the allure and made it real. When it was announced The Astoria was shutting as part of a compulsory purchase order due to the Cross Rail development and was to be replaced with a brand spanking new venue we all thought this new venue would never be the same. In fact it never materialised! The sticky floors and dripping sweaty ceilings were part of The Astoria’s charm and have been lost to history.

But with music venues struggling to survive even before COVID – a sanitary space is a small price to pay to keep live music alive. And whilst I love the grimey vibe of these old joints, in 20 years of frequenting rock bars the one thing I have never understood is why it seems impossible for the bathrooms not to be a mess. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a rock bar toilet that has a functioning lock, toilet roll, a toilet seat, hand soap and drier. In most places you’re doing good to get 2 out of 5 of these luxuries!

But I guess, as one of my twitter pals said, it took a global pandemic and the threat of imminent death to prove these things are indeed possible.

I’m not saying the bathrooms were bad at Sala Rockville before, this is my first visit, but last night they were surprisingly sparkling, they looked brand new – only one lone piece of graffiti adorned one of the stall walls. 
But back to the night…

Jam sessions can sometimes be hit and miss but the standard last night was high. I have a feeling many of the people getting up were in fact professional musicians who haven’t gigged in months and were eager to be back on stage in front of an audience.

Whilst my husband is a guitarist, I’m always more drawn to the singers. The highlights for me were the amazing chica covering 4 Non Blondes ‘What’s Up?’ and this incredible dude, who I assume must be a front man for some band given his awesome stage presence and energy, who did a phenomenal rendition of the blues standard, ‘Have You Ever Loved A Woman’ by Freddie King.

It’s a shame dancing was banned as there were some seriously good groves going on, I had to settle for singing my heart out and cheering instead.

Not sure when the next one is yet but my husband will be joining in, and getting his ass on stage which I always love to see.

Sala Rockville is a great venue, we’ll definitely be back for shows and future jam sessions, the house band were excellent and the vibe really open and friendly, which seems to characterise our experience of Madrid to date.

Sala RockVille has a full line up of gigs this month and next, on the way home we stopped for a drink outside Moby Dick’s club which is also hosting a good schedule. 

It’s actually strange that Madrid seems to have a better live music scene than London. London venues have been closing at a rate of knots a real problem for the industry as Clash magazine rightly points out, you don’t just go from playing pub gigs to academy style venues – you need these smaller size venues in order for bands to create a following and be able to sell out larger spaces.

The music industry will be poorer for losing these smaller music venues so it’s great to see them alive and well in Madrid. 

So live music is back in Madrid and now Jam sessions too. ¡Madrid vuelve! Life is slowly returning to somewhat normal. And, I no longer have to cross my legs when going into a rock bar or music venue, the toilets for the first time are functional.

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