By Robin Graham
Much is made of Madrid‘s live music circuit – the jazz, the burgeoning flamenco scene, the big international acts – but the city’s most remarkable venue is a real surprise and genuinely unusual, in that it’s both impossible to find and fairly difficult to miss.
Impossible to find because it’s constantly on the move, and difficult to miss because the performance space is divided into tunnels and arteries that dissect the entire city. As an audience member you can find yourself drifting off to the opening bars of a blues lament somewhere around the central Puerta del Sol, then realise with a start, as the number draws to a close, that you’ve reached the train station at Atocha. A string quartet might even get you as far as the airport.
I speak, of course, about the city’s extensive metro system, and its buskers. Standards here are high, and although users of London’s tube or indeed of any metro system anywhere, will have come across buskers before, I was surprised, and pleasantly so, to find that in Madrid they carry on into the train carriages, entertaining travellers – whether they like it or not – as they hurtle along between stations.
Mostly, they like it. As I said, standards are high; my first encounter was with an accordion player, who could really play, and on the next journey a mean harmonica guy, but it was the third act that day that really raised the game. A live band – a couple of guitarists, a flautist, an amp and percussion, rattling their way through a rendition of some old Cuban standard as we rattled along the tracks, toward the end of Line One for a stroll in the northern suburbs.
Take that, guy with dog on string and broken down guitar! Busking has moved on.
We’re in a position to enjoy all these acts because we’ve paid the very reasonable entrance fee of €25.40 for a five day pass, giving us use of both the metro and the city’s excellent network of bus lines for the five days we’re here, as well as trains if we needed them. Although Madrid is a lot more manageable than, say, London or New York, it’s an excellent way to take the stress out of getting from Malasaña to Huertas, Las Latinas to Chueca, joining the dots for the visitor who wants to enjoy as many of this city’s diverse barrios as possible.
Look for the abono transporte turístico for transportation around town and free concerts. More here.