Gig Week Lima (s1e1)
This past weekend in Lima, Peru, I finally, gleefully, filled my nights with a variety of sounds from Lima's indie rock scene. 3 nights. 2 clubs. 1 festival and a whole lot of amps! I'll give you the rundown of the shows, the bands and the clubs to help you get a taste of what you missed, as well as what you avoided.
Friday, 13 April
Well enough known in the scene to remind me of the glory days of CBGB in New York and Club Spot in Seoul as well as still active venues like Club Sharp (also in Seoul) and ROAR in Cape Town, Hensley is a punk rockers' dream venue with a black-clothed, smoke-filled (regular and happy) entry alley that culminates with the beer bar and a classed-up chilled side to the left that u-turns toward the cocktail bar and culminates with the most garage-like stage I've seen in years. The first time I found it over a week ago, I knew I was home. The staff is friendly with that delicious punk edge that keeps you amped and ready to rock and the drinks are strong and, relatively, cheap. In short, I love this club. That being said, I hate the stage. Recessed at the front of the second alley is more of a raised box than a stage, with amps crowded around the band and two big amps aimed squarely at two load-bearing cement beams, the sound from even the cleanest of bands crashes around itself into a wall of noise from which the audience can barely auscultate a solo. But don't get that wrong, these people LOVE music. They're just caught in that never-ending struggle of too little money and far too little space. Some day, hopefully by the time you get to see this haven, they'll have the rights to neighboring space and a chance to expand their legendary club into a full-blown venue. But for now, we takes what we can gets.
Friday night, we took in some Lima street punk.
Now, street punk is not really known for being the highest quality music, but energy aplenty, and that's exactly what we got. A stream of hard-working, over-energizing, still developing musicians. If you long for a night of inaudible yells, two-minute songs and smoky, sweaty walkways, you missed a hell of a night. But if you were looking for tight riffs and pitch-perfect tone, you were better off waiting a bit. That being said, we had a few classic moments mixed in there, most notable being when a member of the audience, or so it seemed, grabbed the mic and stepped up to let out some melodic growls to fill in the emo-instrumental punk-metal that had been filling both hallways for the previous 15 minutes. Plus, the incredible emotion poured out from the various lead singers.
Saturday, 14 April
A second home? Just maybe! I loved this place from the moment I sat at their classic yet classy bar top to try my first taste of Lima local craft beers. I only drink the in-house stuff, and I can't get enough of the Summer Season. Just enough hops to ignite your tongue with a delicious, addictive, finish. Beers aside, this bar boasts the nicest staff of anywhere I know in Lima. Add to that amazing pizza, and that should be enough. But they go one step further here and put on the occasional live show. Earlier in the evening, we caught a lovely acoustic session with a local indie artist who sang beautifully and captivated the tight-knit crowd that sat quietly admiring his talent. While not technically amazing, he delivered a crowd-pleasing set and was a wonderfully humble yet confident performer. The open seating and wide, but low, stage make this a wonderful starter venue for a raucous night of music, or a pleasing cooldown after said night.
If Hensley reminds me of CBGB, then La Noche has got to be the Fillmore. Or for you Korean rock fans, Hensley = Spot, La Noche = Rolling Hall...with beer. If you're a Cape Town rocker, it's ROAR vs Mercury. The point is, La Noche, in the back, is all class and high-quality sound. the stage is enormous and the seating/standing area is far wider than it is deep. The sound system is crisp and clean while staying warm and intoxicating. Add to that arena quality lighting and you've got a world-class venue nestled on the edge of the hippest street in town. Of course, if you enter the main area instead, La Noche feels like a street festival after party with exhausted beer-filling bartenders and droves of singles clammering for tables. In short, this is not only my 3rd home, it's also a night-owl's easy go-to anytime you're out after 11. The shows generally start between 10 and midnight and the bands are, apparently, always top-notch. For my Saturday night, that meant Laguna Pai grooving out on the stage with impressive skill and stellar tone. Reggae is not my usual scene, but they do what they do well and the impressive crowd of countless die-hard fans made the show a wonderful experience to split my weekend. A few of the songs even featured the t-shirt-wearing crowd on the verses and the energetic stage presence of the oft-mellow band made it a hell of a show. After the last raffle and the requisite draughts with friends, I took a short walk home taking in the sights, sounds and smells of late Saturday night in Lima's music central, Barranco.
Sunday, 15 April
See above for Hensley's deets. But for this night, it was all about angry, political, rebellious punk rock, and it was damn impressive considering the difficult sound and stage setup at this underground-esque club. The festival, entitled "Ruido Contra las Dictaduras Fest" (Noise Against the Dictatorships Festival), featured a rocking collection of 6 passionate, angry, punk and rock bands lighting up the little stage from early until late. We heard about this one from our new friends here, Apagon, a quartet of all that is awesome about punk. As politically-driven artists, they got an invite to this fest and opened the festivities with quick, electric, aggressive songs and some seriously impressive tone out of Nick on lead guitar. The stage really doesn't do anyone any justice, but it was still easy to see just how good these guys are. Plus, they're post-grad activists working for women's rights, prejudice, you name it!
You'll hear more about them with interviews, videos, and more in an upcoming feature.
After that, the stage was a non-stop attack on the amps with heavy-hitting bands tearing up the stage, the floor and the fans. It isn't easy late night in these dark clubs figuring out who's who, especially so new to the scene, but I know for sure that I'd be happy to check them all out again soon. Especially with their minds set on tearing down the dictators!
There you have it. Our first Gig Week weekend review, featuring the Lima indie scene in all it's dirgy, dusty glory!