Wednesday, July 6

Suede makes a festival worthwhile

Madrid in summer is that dry land in which macrofestivals do not take root. Neither Festimad nor Rock In Río nor Summercase managed it. Even the Benicàssim Festival tried it with an audience flop called Saturday Night Fiber. Primavera Sound is going to make a new attempt in 2023 in Arganda del Rey, in the same venue used by Rock In Rio, using the Madrid-Barcelona double formula that Summercase already rehearsed. Currently, there are two dates that are fighting to fertilize the square: MadCool and Tomavistas, the first with a more massive ambition than the second. But in the capital it is not customary to stay here for this type of event, and they also do not receive as much support as other initiatives that public administrations in other locations defend tooth and nail as part of their tourism campaigns. Rather than being supported or encouraged, in Madrid macrofestivals are tolerated, allowed. In addition, conflicts due to noise are wounds that easily become infected: either the event is moved to the middle of nowhere, where transportation does not arrive, or it is done around the city, where there will always be houses nearby.

Tomavistas, held this weekend, has not been an exception in this conflict. The festival needed to grow and extend the schedule to locate a poster with greater projection than previous editions. Despite moving from the Tierno Galván park to the Madrid Fair, the residents of the neighborhoods located two kilometers away, such as Hortaleza and Canillas, complained on social networks about the volume of some concerts that did not last beyond 1:30 of the night. On the other hand, in the venue, the sound was frankly low for what is expected, and needed, from a show like this. In this city, there is a lack of not only institutional support but also citizen support to defend that events, costly and complex, be integrated into the life of the city; that they are not only tolerated but also appreciated.

The arts scene and also the managers of cultural policy should not be oblivious to a current debate about what business model, but also an artistic one, the music scene needs: if the macro-festival format —which did not arrive in Spain until the second half of the 90 but which in 20 years has been generously implemented—or the investment and care of the micro musical fabric, where concert halls and other types of more unique venues allow artists and the public to develop their careers in a sustained and sustainable way.

Betting only on the macro-festival of good weather, which requires large sponsors, high income from bars (with prices, therefore, high), a certain environmental impact, logistical over-effort and an offer that goes beyond music, is too similar to risk of gambling everything on one card. On the other hand, festivals are exciting and fun events, where a collective and empathetic energy is generated that is rarely found outside. In addition, it is a common way for groups to reach different audiences, make themselves known and gain experience in circumstances that may be technologically adverse. For some musicians it is a frustrating experience while for others it is the leap they need to take.

A careful organization

The Tomavistas festival is dedicated to an audience that in recent decades has come to be called ‘independent’, without it being very clear at this point what that means. two monsters from britpop like Brett Anderson (Suede) and Jarvis Cocker (Pulp, with his new project Jarv…Is) outlined this year the character of a poster that cannot necessarily be crowded, but that does give for an audience of a respectable 7,000 or 9,000 people, in a comfortable venue, with green areas to rest, where boys and girls are welcome and the concerts barely overlap, which is appreciated, compared to the MadCool model, where everything happens at the same time.

Of the two stagings that Suede has right now —the review of his successful album from 25 years ago, coming-up— and another format that combines great successes with more current themes, but not too many, they brought the second of them to Tomavistas. Suede is a group that has grown up in the festivals, that knows its weaknesses and strengths. They put on an overwhelming, tireless, powerful and electrifying show that begins with She Trash Y Animal Nitrate in one go, reclaiming a throne they’ve never lost. Brett Anderson throws himself to the ground, sings looking from there towards the sky, climbs on the monitors, claps his hands with his traditional movement of the hips —the audience screams—, shrieks, drags himself on all fours, like a tense cat, through the edge of the stage. He does an amazing performance of So Young. It alludes to some newer topic like sabotage. culminate with Metal Mickey, Beautiful Ones and the encore with NewGeneration.

Both Anderson and Cocker proved to be still stage animals, despite their experience. Who has seen them act in the last 30 years recognizes that, logically, they have less voice than in their youth, but they continue to maintain the charisma that made them the great characters they were when the United Kingdom was the main exporter of Anglo-Saxon pop and everything revolved around the same market. Today the music is not so much like that and the sound is much less homogeneous. There are many Spanish groups that could be ascribed to that ‘indie’ label, although it would be anachronistic to describe them as such, but they dress up the festival poster, give it contemporaneity and a much younger audience than the average Suede fan, such as Carolina Durante, VVV [Trippin’You], La Plata, Putochinomaricón, Cariño, Confetti de Hate, Biznaga, La Trinidad, Kokoshca or Camellos. The latter suffered, by the way, the loss of their concert due to an episode of rain, which went away as quickly as it came, on Saturday night. The main affected concert was that of Kings of Convenience, which was completely canceled and whose members tried to offer a consolation prize by singing acoustically from the photographers’ pit.

The festival would have its reasons for stopping the performances during the rain and it would not be responsible to make an organization look ugly due to excessive precaution, but it was difficult to understand that the rain could necessarily paralyze the activity of bars and stages, when many other festivals have not been off despite the water. El Tomavistas, apparently, was not prepared to continue in the face of inclement weather, which was unexpected in Madrid in May with August temperatures. The Norwegian group Kings of Convenience has communicated that they understood the decision but that they hoped there would be a way for “the public to get their money back” and that they could play Madrid again soon. The organization of the festival has not answered in this regard. Another criticism of the organization has been the long queues to order at the bars early Thursday afternoon, something that was resolved the rest of the days. However, it should be noted that the festival had installed free drinking water taps, where there were no queues, one year ahead of the obligation established by the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

A festival forges its identity with the conditioning of the venue, the personality of its poster and its survival over time. It is not easy, but overcoming the inconveniences each edition, and in this case even two years of absence due to the pandemic, in addition to gathering the support of the public and the city in which it is located, is the only way.