Sunday, 30 March 2014

Flamenco Tres

Warming up for a 13:30 show at El Paraje, I bought stamps, watched the seafood vendors chat with three people and gut six merluza at the same time and, once I realized I was listing, sat down for a noon hour beer. I took my time but still got to the venue 45 minutes early, picking a spot at a stand-up table behind 20 or so chairs, with standing room for 20 more. Others showed up at a more civilized 25 minutes early, taking a quick glance (though can a glance, I might ask my students, be anything but quick?) at the performance space and pulling up at the bar for a sherry and tapa. Soon the joint was jammed and club-noisy, though the voice-guitar duo didn’t seem to mind. Their performance didn’t get too far off the ground, so to speak. Still, the scene was a marvel of interplay between performers and audience. People seem to need flamenco here, as if flamenco’s the charge and they’re the ones with the (de)vice.
After that, I slipped back to the hotel for a baguette and siesta, to get ready for . . .

Flamenco Cuatro
at Peña Buleria, 5:00. This place, a beautifully renovated courtyard, looked a little more formal—stage instead of a corner, spots instead of house lights. Photos and prints for flamenco legends on the walls. Again, a voice/guitar duo, with a pair of long-haired twins coming up to clap once in a while.

Now this was a trip. Think of “testifying” in the blues sense—the vocalist bringing the news and affirming what we already know. Tease-tifying, too—as in, how can you surprise us and olé when you do. I could see bliss on the faces of the aficionados, especially a small gallery of what I gathered were retired performers off to one side. When prompted, flamenco clapping broke out through the audience (flamenco flatcap nodding and sandal clicking in my case). I have no idea if the songs were traditional or contemporary, but the performance style seemed traditional—vocals delivered in breath-long streams by the singer’s entire body. Especially at the ends of songs, he would stand up and almost stagger toward the audience, as if to collapse, at which the audience would burst into olés and applause.
Again, fabulous interplay among performers and audience. And these guys could swing the up-tempo pieces. In the look-alike department, it was Charles Bronson on vocal and my nephew Mark on guitar.
That does it for flamenco in Jerez. Today I’m off to Sevilla to catch a show back at the joint that blew me away three weeks ago.

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