If you think there aren’t many tourists in Havana at any one time, just got to a Van Van matinee: there they all are. The crowd at Casa de la Musica Galiano must have been 70 per cent dance teachers and their extranjeras.
It was freezing inside. I know it’s hotter than Mars outside, but does it have to be arctic in? I moved to the front of the stage when Van Van started, and had to quickly retreat from the blast of icy air emanating from the roof. I guess if the place had been jam-packed – as I had expected it would – the heat from the heaving bodies might have offset the chill. But as it was only comfortably full, I was left hugging myself for warmth.
They didn’t start until 7.30pm - there was a pretty ordinary support band first – which I thought meant they would only be playing for 90 minutes, which suited me fine, as Van Van tend to play a bit long for my liking.
They opened with Arrasando - Yeni, Lele and Robertón appearing on stage first, and Mayito arriving much later in the song, as if he were the star, and somehow better than Robertón. But of course, that can’t be right, so maybe he was just doing his hair and didn’t realise the band had started yet. Formell was singing coros in the front line with the singers and didn’t touch the bass all night.
Yeni followed with Tú a lo tuyo, yo a lo mío - I like Este amor que se muere much better, but she has such a lovely energy that I always love to watch her perform so I wasn’t grumbling. Mayito was up next with a rather dull song from Arrasando that I didn’t recognise then – whoop whoop! – Lele with Me mantengo. He was a little hoarse sounding but it still rocked. I fucking love that song. It’s almost grunge, it has so much grunt. A lovely turn from Robertón on Si no te quieres tú was followed by Si a una mamita which I adore - what a kicking jam that is. Very pleased to see it resurrected. Great for dancing. Then there was Yeni with Despues de todo. It’s funny how the guys leave the dancefloor for that one. I don’t mind: more room for me. An optometrist picked me up for a spin. He was quite a good dancer but I kind of missed Yeni’s performance. Should have danced with him to the dull Mayito song instead. There was Mi songo, which I actually enjoyed and at 9pm, when they started Anda ven y quiereme - another favourite – I realised that the matinee would be going long. Dale dos followed - another old beauty - then the curtain closing theme. We were at the two-hour mark by then and I was really ready to go.
It was a pretty relaxed crowd. Not too boisterous, just chilling and enjoying the show. I was very surprised there weren’t more people there, but I guess when you play every week at $20 a pop, it’s going to affect business. I wonder if they regret not doing the US tour after all.
I’ve had a quiet few days. I’m still working on the food situation and the heat is kind of interfering with things too. Last time I was here when it was this hot was 2004. I don’t remember being so bothered by it. I suppose I’ll acclimatise. I hope so. At the moment it’s almost impossible to spend hours roaming the streets – which was one of the sellos of my holiday – without dropping dead from dehydration. Plus side: I hardly ever have to go to the toilet.
Wednesday is traditionally a slow day, gigwise, unless you’re interested in Bamboleo, and even they are playing Varadero tomorrow, instead of Galiano, which says it is closed for the matinee. According to D-d-d-d-disco Fiesta, they’re also playing some venue called Palacio de la Rumba - obviously I’m not interested in seeing them but I’m always interested in a new venue. If anyone knows anything about it, please leave a comment.
Salsa Mayor and Azucar Negra both have matinees on Thursday – I’m team Ailyn (and Dayan), especially after the new demos, some of which are very good – so I’ll be seeing them. And I can see SM on Monday at Cafe Cantante. Still looking forward to Klimax on Friday. Their pianist, Dayramir, who used to sit in with Havana D’Primera, has been accepted to Berklee, and leaves in September, so this trip will be the last chance I have to see him with the band.