Sunday, December 3

Two years of pandemic from a DJ booth: from seated sessions to the rise of the afternoon

The irruption of the pandemic in our lives affected the economy unevenly: there were (few) sectors that experienced a boom; others (the majority) who suffered a major economic setback. And some just disappeared. This was what happened to Adrián López (A Coruña, 1975), a professional DJ for 20 years, an event promoter and a bar owner, who saw how all his jobs collapsed overnight with the state alarm and confinement.

A year of pandemic inside a Madrid tobacconist

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“When we were locked up, several DJs made a cheer about the date on which the clubs would reopen and you could dance the same as in 2019, without restrictions,” he recalls now, two years later. “Some said in May, others in June. I was the most cautious, I bet on September 2020 and they called me crazy.” Most of his colleagues trusted that leaving confinement would mean a return to normality. But instead of that came the de-escalation, the masks, the safety distances… and the cancellation of any type of event with live music.

“It was a disaster, especially for people who were exclusively dedicated to DJing, there were very few alternatives,” he recalls. One of those who suffered from this was Eme DJ, who left Malasaña due to the lack of job prospects. Adrián cites her as an example when it comes to weathering the storm in new formats: she opened a Twitch channel and created a community on Discord with a kind of live podcast in which listeners paid for her work. But it was the exception.

Adrián survived the first few months thanks to government aid for the self-employed, the freezing of mortgage payments and ICO credits granted to pay rent and salaries at his premises -the Picnic, in the Malasaña area near Pez Street- . “With this we surfed the wave of disaster for several months,” accompanied by the fear of uncertainty of not knowing what would happen when the sector reopened. When the time came to raise the blind, the accounts did not come out due to the reductions in capacity and hours, so many entertainment venues waited a few more weeks. His bar returned to activity on June 20, 2020, 101 days after its closure.

I was surprised that there was a lot of desire to party, but the people were also very obedient

The launch of nightlife in Malasaña -one of the most popular areas to go out in Madrid- during the summer of 2020 was slow, with many precautions on the part of the hoteliers and quite a lack of concern among the clientele, which forced to close again three weeks later. “There was not staff able to contain people at that time,” says Adrián. The next reopening was much more measured, with patrons generally following the restrictions in bars and early closings. Another thing is what happened outside: “I remember coming back from work at ten o’clock on a Saturday night, after strictly enforcing the rules in the bar. The streets were deserted, but I saw a lot of houses with parties and the music was blasting, it was depressing,” he explains, noting that there was an outburst of people looking for a party in these formats due to the desire to socialize, the lack of alternatives due to the closures and the economic crisis that forced young people to look for cheap plans in the form of a bottle.

DJ LeFreak’s first gig was in August 2020 at the Tomavistas Festival that was held at Ifema. “It was very strange, I was on stage giving it my all and the audience was sitting without masks. I didn’t know what was going to happen because a DJ has to make everyone move. But it went well, people responded, they danced without leaving their seats and the atmosphere was very good. I left quite happy”. In that performance he found two things: “That there was a lot of desire to party and that, despite this, people were very obedient, they assumed that those were the conditions to see my performance and they followed the recommendations without questioning why”.

The cameraman’s performance was just a mirage. The arrival of the second and third wave in the fall and winter of 2020 again canceled all performances. The first session organized by Adrián López as promoter was that of Flechazo in the Sala Maravillas, already in April 2021. From that moment, with vaccination on the rise and the end of the State of Alarm, live music returned, little little by little

Last summer, bowling resurfaced for DJ LeFreak: first through small events, which he used to keep fit, then he was invited as a resident at the Patio de Mahou… he even played in a VIP box during a Champions League match at the Wanda Metropolitan. He played for Atlético and Liverpool and drew from the British repertoire.

New ways to go out: the rise of the afternoon

The pandemic has changed many things in society. When it came to partying, the restrictions imposed unusual hours for dancing and drinks, which began after lunch and ended at dinner time. Many found advantages in these practices and, now that the limitations are over, some of the initiatives that were born during the pandemic have stayed and aspire to become just another Madrid custom. Like the one in the afternoon.

The first events in which Adrián played were in the afternoons. With the hotel industry closing before midnight (at some times even at 9:00 p.m.), venues and events adapted to its format, as did customers. “People started their weekend drinks at four in the afternoon,” he recalls about that time. In pre-pandemic times that would have been coffee time. At seven o’clock the beers would have arrived and from nine o’clock the rest. Schedules that were blown up with Covid-19, which has rewritten social norms.

An example of success in this type of format is Pompa, an indie music club that operates every Saturday from 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m., a slot previously only reserved for light sessions of discos for minors. Its abundant public -the session is full on many weekends- combines partying and a schedule that allows you to get up early the next day. “Everyone is going to dance and sing. You go out at twelve at night, it seems like it’s six in the morning but you end up going to bed early.”

Another of the changes that DJ LeFreak has detected from his booth is the change in the way of listening to music and also of a hit becoming popular. “Before there were fewer songs and fewer groups, it was easier to know what song was going to rock when you played it. But the democratization of digital has made the hits less and less so, because they reach fewer people, their impact has been diluted a lot,” he clarifies. A trend that happens at the mainstream level but also on the scale of alternative music.

Adrián says that, in his work as a musical prescriber, he always tries to give “two lime and one sand” in his sessions. That is, a couple of well-known songs followed by another that he thinks has potential, but has not yet become a hit. These last bets are less and less accepted: “Before there was much more permeability to new music in the halls, now people are much more conservative when it comes to listening and most want you to always play what they like”, he details. while he thinks that Malasaña is gradually losing the musical culture of its visitors: “Although it sounds a bit old cockthey are increasingly focused on the hits of the moment, the jack-horse-king of reggaeton, the Latin roll, and it is very difficult for them to delve into the history of music”.

Are you getting older? What expiration date does a DJ have? These are questions that assail Adrián when he blurts out these phrases and thinks about the train that has passed over the sector during the pandemic. He confirms that the public of what was the most rock and alternative neighborhood in the country is changing, but his commitment to music with Anglo-Saxon roots continues to arouse interest. He does it while he includes more and more young national groups in his sessions that have guitars as a reference, almost garages, in the style of Carolina Durante. They are asked for a lot. A few days ago he reopened Ochoymedio, the iconic indie nightclub in Madrid, and they have already called him for a session. Despite the panorama that he draws, he does not lose hope with his audience: “I like to think that some still come to discover things.”