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17 abril 2024

Zaragoza’s concert halls, a sound attraction among the national elite

Zaragoza is not a big city. Its population is around 700,000 inhabitants, far from the figures of the big capitals, such as the 3.2 million people living in Madrid. However, without being London, Paris or Barcelona, the city has managed to position itself as a national and European reference with its circuit of concert halls, whose programming allows it to be at the height of the most important urban centers. As an example, just look at the figures of the Aragón en Vivo association, where 16 of the 19 member establishments are located on the banks of the Ebro. In 2023, these venues totaled more than 120,000 spectators and programmed 1,200 concerts.

“I think we are in an absolutely incredible moment for the halls, which we hope will last for a long time”, emphasizes Patxi Cano, in charge of Rock and Blues, a hall focused on American sounds, as its name suggests. This Bilbao native, who has been in Zaragoza for two decades and knows the city’s scene well, notes that the Aragonese capital, although it has not been hosting big stadium concerts as in the past, such as the well-remembered Michael Jackson or Bruce Springsteen shows, among many others, does offer a variety of sizes and styles with its venues, which allow most of the second and third level tours to come here.

“We have taken advantage of the fact that the city’s location is very good,” he explains, since Zaragoza is halfway between Madrid, Bilbao, Barcelona and Valencia, “and for bands that are passing through, it has become a reference point.

The importance of location

His point of view is similar in that aspect to that of promoter Chema Fernández, who considers that the situation “is quite good”. “The venues are programming more and more and people are responding quite well,” he describes. And he adds that, “in general, all the venues in Zaragoza have made an effort to be more or less well conditioned”, in addition to doing their homework in terms of programming.

A concert at La Campana Underground. PHOTO: Aragón en Vivo

Like Cano, he considers it evident that the city’s location on the map has helped this positioning. “Tours must have a geographical logic,” he says, so that for “a very high percentage of artists coming from abroad, both national and international, stops in Zaragoza are part of a tour.”

On this matter, he also argues that “more than half of the tours take place, fundamentally, in the northeast of Spain”, where the Aragonese capital occupies its center. “We take advantage of that, obviously, but the fundamental aspect of the quality of the programming is continuity”, he qualifies.

Thus, and apart from this good location on the map, for Fernandez this good moment also finds an answer in the fact that “a good job has been done and it has been achieved”. “Things don’t happen from one day to the next,” he emphasizes about the work developed by the halls over the years.

Performance at the Teatro de las Esquinas. PHOTO: Teatro de las Esquinas

As a sign of this good response and giving national examples, this past Friday the Rock and Blues itself hung the no tickets for the performance of La Perra Blanco, a situation that was replicated a month earlier at the Teatro de las Esquinas with the concert of Soziedad Alkoholika.

This programming offered by the city, specifies the promoter, can lead to 40 or 50 concerts in Zaragoza on a good weekend, “and that is not so far away from what there is in Madrid and is above Barcelona capital”. Cano also sees it similar, citing the 15 to 20 performances that Rock and Blues programs per month, “which is practically a programming room of Madrid or Barcelona”.

A circuit among the best in Spain and Europe

Therefore, and asked about the position occupied by the circuit of Zaragoza halls, Fernandez is blunt: “Among the best in Spain, no doubt, but I would say that among the best in Europe”.

This programming joins other advantages of the city, which makes it an ideal place to attract visitors. In that sense, Cano has noted that, week after week, people who have traveled from other cities, such as Madrid, Bilbao, Valencia or Lérida, come to his hall to enjoy the concert and spend the weekend in Zaragoza. In this regard, he notes that the prices of hotels and restaurants, compared to other places such as Barcelona, are not high.

And, on the other side of the stage, he points out that the bands see the Aragonese capital “as a very easy city, very comfortable”. “Once the band has made a flag in Zaragoza, they always want to repeat,” he adds.

Seedbed of bands

In addition to being able to enjoy a wide variety of live music, another of the virtues of having a cutting-edge program is the fact that seeing live music fosters the creation of a local music scene. For two reasons,” explains Fernández, “one, because people want to make bands by watching and listening to bands. And also, because being as it is a realistic goal -playing on stage in a hall-, many times we support the local scene by programming local bands”.

La Casa del Loco. PHOTO: Aragón en Vivo/Cintax StaFe

Zaragoza has on its list of musicians who have achieved success, with names like Héroes del Silencio, Amaral or Kase.O. Also, of others who perhaps did not reach levels of popularity as marked as the examples mentioned, but with great songs behind them and who were a reference for future professionals, such as Mauricio Aznar, now honored with the feature film ‘La estrella azul’ (The blue star). In the film, by the way, he appears playing on the stage of one of the most traditional venues in the city, La Campana Underground (formerly La Campana de Los Perdidos).

The young people is an aspect that Mike Ramón, the owner of the Sala Creedence, specialized in rock and one of the spaces more focused in programming new local groups, although in its agenda also national and international references. In that sense, he considers it necessary and “urgent” to attract young people to the concerts. “We are animals in extinction, despite the fact that we are in a good moment”, he warns about the possible future of the halls.

However, he is aware of the figures and the situation that the circuit of halls lives and, in fact, he misses that the institutions do not pay more attention to this circumstance and that live music in these venues is not one of the tourist projects of the city. “They should be supporting us,” he says.

On this issue, Cano also notes that, sometimes, the administrations only focus on the return of the big tours, “but if you start to see the number of concerts, with the public that adds up in the halls that are in Zaragoza and Aragon, at the end come out some very nice numbers”.

Numbers like those that probably reach the zaragozanas rooms this weekend with performances like the one of Lendakaris Muertos, on Friday, in the Teatro de las Esquinas, with all the tickets of track already sold. Or Demetrio at La Lata de Bombillas and Reverend Shawn Amos at Rock and Blues on Thursday. Calibre 91 and Sigilosa Baby, at La Ley Seca, Sr. Isasi, at Las Armas, Daniel Higiénico, at El Refugio del Crápula, and Skinny Flex, at the López, are more proposals that will arrive on Friday. And on Saturday, Joe Crepúsculo and The Violet Cluster will be the protagonists of La Casa del Loco and Creedence.

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