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a city by city guide to the best indie clubs, bars, record shops and local bands

Barcelona, Spain

by Ian Watson and Cris Crepes


Best known for the bustle of La Rambla and the otherworldly architecture of Antonio Gaudi, Barcelona is also a hotbed of indie and indiepop activity. The annual Primavera Sound festival, held in May, has grown from a small, mostly electronic affair (the inaugural bash in 2001 featured Carl Craig and Armand Van Helden) to a seaside celebration of all forms of guitar-based underground music (2005's fest took in everyone from New Order and Iggy Pop to the Arcade Fire and Tortoise), while the club scene in the city manages to be vibrant without sacrificing its cool. You'll find multi-roomed megaclubs like Razzmatazz, which regularly fly in big name guest DJs such as Jarvis Cocker, and smaller bars like Fantastico and Mond, who like to do things on a more intimate level. Throw in a host of cool second-hand clothes stores, record shops and bars, an appetite for partying long into the night, and a glorious climate - and the capital of Catalonia is hard to beat. (IW)


Calle Pamplona 88, 1-5am (Fri/Sat), Admission: €12, including one drink,
Barcelona's very own superclub, Razzmatazz features five areas with five distinct types of music. The Razz Club hosts the big name guest DJs, The Loft and Lolita offer electronica, The Pop Bar plays exactly what you'd expect, and Temple Beat caters to more gothic tastes. (IW)

Sala Cibeles, Calle Corsega, 12.30-6am (Fri), Admission: €12, including one drink
A less glitzy alternative to Razzmatazz, based in an old dance hall around the corner from Gaudi's La Pedrera. Expect to hear anything from new wave to northern soul. Watch out for hipsters wearing Mond's distinctive "Pet Sounds" styled t-shirts. (IW)

Passatge dels Escudellers, 10.30pm-3.30am (Wed-Sat), Admission: free
More of a bar than a proper club, although there is a small dancefloor in the back. Music varies depending on the guest DJs. We've had excellent nights in here grooving to Pavement and Stereolab, but on our last visit we ended up hoofing it sharpish when someone decided to stick on the Stereophonics. (IW)

Calle Ramón y Cajal 80
Recommended by our friend Rupa with the words: "I saw Diane Cluck and Be Brave Benjamin there and it was one of the highlights of the trip. Intimate to the point where I swear I'd seen the chairs around my grandmother's dining table and, hey, that's the same rugged red wall I have painted in my room." Sounds wonderful. (IW)


Calle Sant Pau 65, 10pm-2.30am (Mon-Thur), 10pm-3.30am (Fri/Sat)
Legendary Ravel bar boasting the finest indie pop jukebox on the planet stuffed with obscure McCarthy b-sides, signed Postcard-era Orange Juice singles and ten copies of "Tigermilk" on Electric Honey ... no, hang on, we think we might have had a few too many shots of this bar's speciality: absinthe. Gorgeous, atmospheric old hangout. (IW)

Mond Bar
Placa del Sol 21, 8.30pm-3am, daily
Super hip rectangular bar smack bang in the middle of the bohemian Gracia district, the little hermano to the Mond club listed above. Music varies from classic soul to whatever the guest hipster DJs from London have in their record bags.(IW)

Bodega Kenobi
Calle Notariat 7, 7pm-11pm (Wed/Thurs/Sun), 7pm-1am (Fri/Sat)
Cool kitsch abounds in this Raval bar. Mountain scenes, hulking old valve TV sets, Hawaiian Leis (you know, the flower necklace thingys), and the like jostle for space with sofas and armchairs. If Stereolab really had had a space age bachelor pad, it might have looked like this. (IW)

Manchester Bar
Valldonzella 40, (esq. Joaquin Costa), 7pm-late
A nice cheap (bottles of Estrella were EUR1.50) little backstreet bar in its own right, but also a shrine to Manchester indie music. The owner plays a constant stream of The Smiths/New Order/Electronic etc off his laptop and there's a weird little statue of Bez in the corner. On the chalk board outside, in place of cocktails it just has the names of bands. (CQ)

Record Shops

Wah Wah
Calle Riera Baixa 14, 11am-2pm, 5pm-8.30pm (Mon-Sat)
Looking for that hard to find soul vinyl treasure or super cool indie gem? You may well pick it up in here. Sylvie Vartan singles and signed Stereolab posters adorn the walls and the racks are an aficionado's delight. Nice bags too. Even if they are orange.(IW)

Revolver Records
Calle de Tallers 11, 11am-2pm, 5pm-8.30pm (Mon-Sat)
Downstairs is mostly CDs, but the real action is up the spiral staircase at the back to the vinyl floor. You'll find both new and second hand stuff here and there's decks too so you can give your prospective purchases the once over before shelling out your dinero.(IW)

Discos Impacto
Calle de Tallers 61, 11am-2pm, 5pm-8.30pm (Mon-Sat)
Another vinyl emporium on Calle de Tallers, this little shop is packed with second hand indie treats and cool bootleg albums. (IW)

Local Bands

Les Très Bien Ensemble
Named after The Beatles' "Michelle" ("“Michelle, ma belle, sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble”), this Barcelona-based five piece play swoonsome acoustica in the vein of Belle & Sebastian. They started life covering the likes of Polnareff and Gainsbourg, but 2005 saw the group realase an album of their own dreamy classics, all topped by the French language vocals of singer Suzette. Gorgeous. (IW)

La Casa Azul
La Casa Azul play great bubblegum/sunshine pop mixed with a bit of europop too. They have a mini-album ("El sonido efervescente de La Casa Azul") and an album ("Tan simple como el amor"), both released by Elefant Records. One of my fave bands in Spain right now, and great friends too. (CC)

Astrud have three albums and a lot of singles, and they mix stuff like The Smiths, The Magnetic Fields, The Carpenters and almost anything good you can think of in a really personal way, mostly acoustic guitars with sampled stuff. I think their first album is the best ("Mi fracaso personal"). They're now on the Sinnamon records label, but their first two albums were released by Virgin Records, and should be easy to find in an HMV from what I've been told. (CC)

Zola released an album ("Siete maletas") on Jabalina Musica two years ago and will soon release their second one on Discos de Paseo, a new label from Barcelona. They make beautiful, quiet stuff, and though I preferred them when it was just guitar, piano and bass, they still make great songs and the singer's voice is so calm. (CC)

Cola Jet Set/Los Fresones Rebeldes
Cola Jet Set come from Los Fresones Rebeldes, and if you had to choose a band responsible for indiepop coming alive again in Spain it was them. Though Cola Jet Set haven't had as much press as Los Fresones Rebeldes, their album "Contando historias" (which is how "Storytelling" translates in Spanish, a funny story that doesn't have anything to do with Belle and Sebastian actually) was produced by Guille Milkyway from La Casa Azul and is a great record, great songs that get inspiration from anything from Blondie to Motown. Check out Los Fresones Rebeldes too, they had two albums ("Es que no hay manera" and "Exitos 99") and a compilation of rarities, everything on Subterfuge Records. (CC)

Fine! is also a band that split-up, but, at least their first album ("Now that we're alone") was just great, similar to a lot of Swedish stuff like Cinnamon and early Cardigans. I don't have their second album so I can't tell you anything about it, but everything was released by Strange Ones. (CC)



Primavera Sound, late May, prices vary
Although, as mentioned above, Primavera Sound started as a mostly electronic festival, it now offers a superb line up of indie and alternative bands and DJs. 2005 saw everyone from Iggy Pop, New Order and Sonic Youth to Anthony & The Johnsons, Acid House Kings, Arcade Fire and The Wedding Present play the new Forum complex, a few miles to the east of the city centre. Concrete abounds but with a line up of this calibre and the sea twinkling behind the bands, it's easy to fall under Primavera's spell. (IW)

Additional review by Colm Quinn

If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

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