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Spanish Views from a Small Town

Thoughts about life in a small Spanish town from a transplanted American, commenting on things that catch my attention.

Not So Fast, 32 - 35. Concert-Going in Covid Times
14 August 2021 @ 11:27

If this had been a regular year, the Son Do Camiño festival would probably have taken place back in June at the Monte do Gozo venue, an open air amphitheater outside Santiago. Since this is a Jacobean Holy Year, big names would have come to the bash, which would have had record crowds. However, these are not regular times, even though it is Holy Year. The big names will have to wait for next year. 

Instead of a solid four day crush of concerts, they have been strung out into various weekends from July to August, with a maximum of two groups each Saturday evening. There is no tent city, no food trucks, no stages to choose from, no crush of people. Last night, Loquillo was on stage. We bought tickets for his concert, warily, not completely sure that in these times we should crowd into an amphitheater, even with our vaccinations complete. 

Loquillo is an old rocker from Spain's glorious movida years, those 1980's of explosion of youth and music, the first generation to grow into their teen years without the gray sky of the dictatorship over us. I never lived it except in short bursts of summer vacations, but the music still catches my soul. It was my husband's youth fare. So, we decided to go.

Gates opened at quarter to eight. We arrived about a half hour earlier, since everyone had assigned seats. In normal times, we would have allowed ourselves at least a two or three hour wait at the gates, so that in the rush for the choicest spots, we would have had a running chance. Back when Bruce Springsteen played at the Monte do Gozo in 2009, it turned into a mad dash past the guards, who wound up letting people in without checking bags, just to prevent a crush. We got nice spots that time, just to the right of the stage, looking down. But such was the lack of control of the organizer, that more tickets had been sold than people could fit, and angry ticket holders were left outside the gates. But that was pre-Covid.

There weren't many people at the complex when we arrived. The Monte do Gozo also houses a large pilgrim hostel, run by the regional government, with small pavillions lining straight paths leading up to a large restaurant and cafeteria. Most of the people about the area were pilgrims, not concert goers. It was surprisingly uncrowded. 

We went to the gates at opening time. The first singer, local Carolina Ruidosa, was to begin at quarter of nine. We followed the indications down to the gate we were supposed to enter by. Our tickets now contained our names and seat assignations. I had even had to enter our telephone numbers when I bought them online. The amphitheater was also split into different sections, divided with metal barriers. Each section had their restrooms and their bar. When we went in through our gate, an usher wearing a bright yellow raincoat showed us our row and explained we couldn't leave our section, couldn't smoke, and we had to wear our masks at all times, except when we were eating or drinking. To prevent a crush at the bar, there was a QR code on a sticker on the seat of our chairs through which we could place an order and then pick it up when it was ready. 

Not exactly a festive feeling was generated by these restrictions. But they were necessary. It was either that, or no concert. So, we sat in the seats I had reserved. When I had paid for our tickets, there were other seats around us that had been reserved, though, ultimately, not occupied. It wasn't a bad spot, just above the pit, slightly to the left of the stage. There would be no heads in front of us, just a clear view, except for the top of the barrier in front of us. The seats were separated by twos or threes, according to the groups of reserves made. No one would be seated excessively close to us. 

The problems were in the refreshments area. The QR code led to an app I had to download. When I did so, the app wouldn't open. Fine. Looking over to the bar, I didn't see many people, so I got up and went over to see what sandwiches they were offering. I should have packed one. My husband wasn't feeling peckish, but I was, so I bought an industrially prepared sandwich in its plastic holder. It was that or a hot dog. What they did have plenty of was beer, though. Estrella Galicia, the regional beer empire, had invested in the concerts, so they got the chance to sell as much of their product as they wanted, to the detriment of everything else, while plastering their name everywhere.

When the sun hid behind the trees, the freshness of the night hit us. I was wearing shorts and a long sleeved blouse. I pulled out a light sweater, but realized that the night was more proper of September than of August. In fact, the entire week had been highlighted by low temperatures and rain. We were lucky it had cleared up for the concert, but the temperatures hadn't had a chance to return to normal, yet. And we couldn't jump and dance to keep warm, either.

The first singer, Carolina Ruidosa, was okay. There was still plenty of daylight when she came on, so the stage lights didn't shine their magic, yet. She had some nice songs, others were nothing special, but she's starting out, so the nice songs might multiply themselves. I looked around the area, and saw many seats still empty. Two years ago, when we had gone to the Son Do Camiño concert one Saturday, the place was a sea of heads, watching both the main stage, and then the secondary stage between Vetusta Morla's and Iggy Pop's performances. Yesterday, it was a sea of empty seats except for the central area. To my left, two groups of chairs remained empty. Immediately behind us, there was no one. The closest people were to the right of my husband, and they were about two meters away. 

At practically ten on the dot, the music started to roll, and Loquillo came on stage, his toupée now white (he is 60) and wearing his usual black slacks, black t-shirt, and black jacket. He started in with, mostly, his newer songs, and gradually, the ambient started to heat up. By the time he got to Rey del Glam, and El Ritmo del Garaje, people were giving the chairs a workout. He passed through Chanel, Cocaína y Dom Perignon, various other songs, and wound up with Cadillac Solitario, with which he said good night. In the second half of the concert, some concert goers had so much energy, they had to stand and jump in place, waving their arms to the music. The yellow-clad ushers had their work cut out. At the last song, most of those who had contained themselves, stood up in their spots, clapping along and singing. Despite the restraints, the music was good, and watching one of the last rockers of the breakthrough years of the movida was worth it.  

After the lights on the stage went out, we were allowed to leave in different order, so as not to create jams of people at the exits. We walked down the hill to our car, which we had parked quite close. In fact, we had parked it right next to an empty field where I remember parking my father's car when my husband and I had gone to our first concert together, while we were still dating. That was in 1993, when Bruce Springsteen was not yet the music icon in Spain that he later became, the second time he came around, and it took a bit of time for all the people to fill the pit, and overflow upward, till filling the amphitheater. We had sat on the first concrete seats above the pit that time, just meters from where we sat last night. 

Maybe next year we can push through crowds of people again, though it was also nice not to have to do so.

Life continues.



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