Rocking and Gothin’ about in Barcelona

It doesn’t take the most thorough perusal of this blog for the gentle reader to guess that I am an individual who participates in the goth music subculture, among others. Ok, no point in dissimulating, I really don’t mind being called a goth as long as there is no reductive stereotyping involved. Anyway I am an enthusiast of gothic rock, deathrock, post-punk, industrial, metal, punk, shoegaze, darkwave and the myriad finicky subgenres found further down and around the family tree. Let’s just say I’ve spent my fair amount of time sinuously and seductively (ahem) grooving to Bauhaus in smokey dark rooms festooned with fake cobwebs, and that I’m no stranger to the make-up section of the pharmacy.

So, another post about Barcelona, this time a little guide on how to party darkly in Gaudi’s city. Barcelona’s goth scene isn’t large but there’s enough interest to maintain a few competing options.

Let’s start with the big one. The UNDEAD DARK CLUB is the main hangout of Barcelona’s dark crowd, being open every Friday and Saturday. I say, big one’, though not so big really, one decent sized dancefloor and a narrow bar area. One of it’s great advantages is that it’s a dedicated goth club rather than a venue that hosts a goth clubnight ever once in a while. This means that the place is well decorated with statues, paintings, gothic candelabras and the like, and can do a decent variety of theme nights to spice things up. One night a week is the ‘standard’ Dark Session with resident DJ Luismi. Theis is a decent mixed session on offer between guitar-based goth rock old and new, post-punk, industrial, EBM, some neofolk and even a splash of metal (obvious fits like Moonspell, Rammstein, Nightwish, Paradise Lost and Within Temptation, but even more straight up metal like Megadeth, Metallica and Sepultura can pop up). As is typical for the biggest game in town, the music tends towards the commercial side of the genre, but Luismi has an extensive collection and there have been many times when I’ve been impressed by a deep cut or rarity. If you’re into anything more specialised, typically one of the nights a week has an overiding musical them e.g. Heavy Metal (Hellfire Sessions) or EBM (Uberbeat). A particular favourite of mine is the ‘Zombie Party’ co-hosted by Luismi and LadyStardust (Eva from local band La Peste Negra), normally on a Friday. It’s a night of oldschool goth, deathrock and post-rock rooted in the batcave traditions. The more specialist nights are about once a month, so it’s worth checking online before you go. You’ll also find movie nights and open markets hosted there from time to time. Cover is usually 5 euros (inc one beer/soft drink) on a Friday, 9 euros on Saturdays (inc 2 beers or one cubata/mixer). Bar is well stocked and the prices are average for a non-high end Barcelona nightclub. A sore note with me personally has always been that they stock some of my favourite tipple (absinthe and mead, but not together!) only as shots. Many of the staff and regulars are a friendly bunch once you got to know them, and there’s a nice familial atmosphere on the nights when it doesn’t get too busy. Co-owner and regular presence behind the bar LadyMorte also fronts a ‘medieval’ rock band Trobar de Morte (definitely check them out, I shall be covering Barcelona based bands in a future blog post). A must-try, Undead was a weekend staple of mine throughout my time in Barcelona, the scene of much drinking, dancing, romancing and other foolishness, and one of my first stops for the weekend whenever I’m back in town.

VIRUSS Is a good alternative nightclub for those who prefer a more electro-dominated, modern musical focus. Spain doesn’t really have much of a cybergoth culture, but the Viruss nights are the closest you’ll get in Barcelona city. The aesthetic preferred here leans towards the glam/camp/decadent and an effort is made on behalf of the promoters to make the night a more stylish and sexy option. The music played can often verge too much on the Ibiza-esque for my tastes, but Viruss is well worth a try.

DEMONIX might a little out of the way for those in the main city, but well worth a visit from time to time. The decor is a nice industrial cyberpunk-y contrast to Undead’s trad goth drapings. Always check what kind of night is going on before you go though, as it’s not a dedicated goth club and the most common nights there are in fact house and techno. It has a variety of alternative nights in rotation, from metal to goth to indie. My favourite is their 80s night, which is thankfully light on pop cheese (without skimping altogether) and heavy on the dark new wave classics.

Somewhere in upper Rocafort, there is a bar hiding a dark secret in the basement. ANTIBIOTIC may at first glane look like your standard neighbourhood boozer, but little bits and pieces of dark paraphenalia hint at what lie beneath. Go downstairs and there is a second bar underneath the main one, all dressed up in spooky trad-goth stylings. Unfortunately, not every day is halloween and for the better part of the month not much is done with this area. However, a couple of times a month there is a really good clubnight in the basement bar. At least there was. As of the time of writing one is still going on, and it is the excellent TRANSMISSION with DJ Sandman. A perfect night for the dark hipster in you, Transmission’s music is a mix of modern darkwave, witch-house, shoegaze, dream-pop, trip-hop, dark ambient and experimental music (think Tropic of Cancer, In Death it Ends, Ulterior, Soft Moon kind of thing). The drinks are cheap and the bar is candlelit, setting a great, chilled out ambience for you to wallow in your profound darkness (or chat with your friends and load up on booze before hitting the clubs).

The hip upper neighbourhood of Gracia, while a fun area with lots of bars, isn’t normally a place you’d go to get your goth or rock fix, but there are a few places. The NECROPOLIS sessions are held in a place in Gracia, with a very versatile resident DJ in the form of Wax Ecstatic. Wax is good for all kinds of rock-based music, punk, metal, shoegaze, post-punk etc and will normally pair up with another DJ or 2 to make a theme night every week. ‘Anti’ DJ Chevy is also usually on the decks, with a fantastic spread of lesser known dark musical gems from all over the world. Normally Necropolis has a goth/post punk focus (at least it was when I was spinning there), but occasionally you’ve have other themes, like punk or rockabilly. Necropolis sessions are unpretentious and typically generous with handing out free shots, heartily recommended for your weekend pre-club warmup.

Other places of interest in Gracia include the KGB club. Popular with the older crowd, KGB isn’t one of my favourites but it’s worth checking out as every now and then they have an interesting gig or session. RELICS (Carrer de Francisco Giner, 23) is a nice stop for the metal minded in Gracia. A pretty low key little place with few bells and whistles, it does have decent imported beer. Finally, Gracia also has it’s own secret in the ATELIER DE LA MUERTE NEGRA (Torrijos 14). A private abode chock full of gothic horror knickknacks and fixtures arranged with an eye to the humorously macabre. It does have a little bar and the owner proves to be a genial host when the mood takes him to open the place to the public for some event. If you do see something advertised there, it’s well worth checking out, you will only get a handful of opportunities a year!

For the main heavy metal parties in Barcelona, a good option is the Poble Sec area. There you kind find the beating heart of Barcelona’s ‘True Heavy Metal’ crowd rocking it like it’s the 80’s on the Sunset Strip (so I imagine). Music is strictly NWBHM, thrash (known amusingly in Spain as ‘trash’, but more because of difficultly pronouncing the word than any insult meant) and classic heavy metal a la Manowar, Iron Maiden, DIO, etc. This bar is HELL AWAITS, and it commands a large and loyal clientele who are generally welcoming to all adherents of things loud and heavy. The decor, involving fake flames, and sculptures of such icons as Maiden’s Eddie is impressive, though perhaps a little over the top guady for some, they certainly fit the style of the music. If you’re there early enough for dinner, the kitchen’s patatas bravas are excellent. Unfortunately the music almost never varies from the range outlined previously, so if your taste in heavy music is anything more extreme, experimental, or modern, this isn’t the place for you. Even for fans, it can get repetetive. A good follow up to Hell Awaits on a weekend is the BUNKER CLUB. Bunker dabbles in a bit of everything, but it is run by metalheads on the weekends, and Fridays and Saturdays will typically have a metal clubnight on at least one of their floors. Check the site before you go to find the specific flavour. Sometimes you’ll find such incongruous combos as 80s glam metal on one floor (DJ Lostboy, an name to look out for if this is your style) and dubstep/dnb/jungle on the other. Other times it’s the best place to get the extreme metal fix that fans of the more brutal or dark sounds would be itching for. True to the name, Bunker is small, dark and reasonably minimalistic, but the fact that its off the beaten track makes it the go-to place for new alt.parties looking to shake things up. Always one to watch. Also in Poble Sec, HEY HO skater bar (carrer de mina 2) offers punk and metal with an eye for using DJs with a passion for underground and Spanish language tracks. At my time of leaving this place was starting up, and very popular. Hope it’s still going strong.

On the other side of town, the Marina area is famous for the gangs of metalheads that descend onto the neighbourhood to pillage and lay waste to all about. Or something. Truth is there are a few themed bars about but it seems to be that its reputation as a centre of metal activity might have more to do with tradition and nostalgia. BB+ (as in bebe mas, geddit?) is a decent bar in the area (Tánger, 15) with nice cheap drinks deals, music largely also along ‘classic’ lines with maybe just a little more leeway than Hell Awaits. Lots of space, worth a go for large parties. Nearby the SR LOBO nightclub is hugely popular, especially with young students, definitely one for the more mainstream rockers. A large dancefloor with raised platforms and poles, it’s the biggest of the clubs on this list, and usually packed. The music is pure hits, and runs the gamut from Lady Gaga to Rammstein, and unfortunately incorporates all the worst of alt. club trends of the last 3 decades, like nu-metal, emo, radio-friendly pop-punk, etc. It’s not all duds, exactly, but definitely runs too broad for my tastes, and I suspect it might similarly grate the nerves of anyone used to more underground fare. Still, might be a good choice to take a mixed group, or simply if you’re tired of small scenes.

The whole gothic district of the city (off la Rambla) runs thick with bars, many of them deserving of some attention regardless of the music hosted, but in the interests of brevity I’ll mention a few rock-oriented ones. Unlike the first places mentioned here, these won’t be cult havens, their central location means that hipsters, tourists and slummers abound, but it’s always healthly to mix it up a bit once in a while, and if you’re passing through they’re the best places to find other foreigners. Most are found around Plaça Tripi, and all within easy walking (or staggering) distance of each other. The most popular are NEVERMIND and BOLLOCKS (oh. I see what you did there), actually owned by the same people, so they share a similar aesthetic and price range. Nevermind is the older of the two and rocks a solid 90s/skater vibe, covered in graffiti, with projected skating vids. The musis is typically 90’s alternative nation, but occasionally puts on a guest DJ of some other rock variation. Decent absinthe and jaeger bombs to be had here, but it fills up quickly and can get pretty cramped. Bollocks has the same kind of decoration but with more of a heavier vibe going on, and is also much larger, with some decent cocktail deals, especially if you get there early. Along calle escudellers, one can also find TEQUILA (c/Escudellers 28), a red-lit bar popular with tourists that plays a decent spread of metal and rock tunes. Their main gimmick is the large over-ear headphones hanging at the bar area, which one can use to listen to the music played at a louder volume, if one is so antisocially inclined. It does confine one to the bar stool and stops one from rocking out properly though. Decent selection of drinks but the place is expeeensive. A little further down the street, ROCKANDROLLA offers an alternative for those who might find Tequila a bit too pretentious. Past Plaça Tripi, MANCHESTER BAR is a nice place with a basement dance floor themed around UK post-punk and indie rock. If that’s your thing, make sure to go early as it is another popular local that fills up fast, plus happy hour is pre-10pm. My personal favourite is a little bar in c/codols called REDROCKET. The decor is red-lit and characterised by a sprawling mural along the back wall, onto which music videos or vintage b-movies or fetish films are often projected. Music runs the whole rock-punk spectrum depending on who’s on the decks, but regular DJ Markcerock is one of the most popular and versatile plate spinners in the city. Chances are he’s got your audio poison, whether it’s 60’s, classic rock, metal, industrial, punk, glam, prog, darkwave or anything else tangentally related to the rock family tree. If you’re been parting at one or more of these bars and you’re too lazy or inebriated to go much further then SIDECAR (pronounced locally as See-Day-Car), a nightclub in Plaça Real, provides a variety of entertainments, with weekly rock and alt nights. Be warned that music will typically be mainstream and the drinks expensive but it comes with the other advantages of the central places (easy access and diverse clientele).

To anyone looking this up just be aware that Barcelona’s nightlife currently suffers under the financial crisis and it is with some sadness that I can’t mention some of my favourite spots of clubnights I frequented during my time there, as they met their demise at the end of 2012 (RIP, Valhalla, Monster, Abysmo). Still the party is never really going to die in a place like Barcelona and I hope the information herein leads you to some good times.

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~ by theserpentscircle on March 10, 2013.

4 Responses to “Rocking and Gothin’ about in Barcelona”

  1. Currently in Barcelona. Struggling as there doesn’t appear to be as much Monday to Thursday. I’m back in the UK after that…..

  2. Hi, are you still in Barcelona? Because this post is old and I dont know if it is close to the reality now. If yes, please contact me. Me and my husband have big difficulties to enjoy ourselves in this city. We live here for 2 years now……

    • Hi Lena, I no longer live in Bcn but I know that the nightlife has changed quite a bit since I wrote this. I know that the Undead club is still going, for gothic and metal music, but a lot of the bars near the centre have changed. If you like I can give your email to some friends that still live there.

  3. hey thanks for the great post. I’ll be in bcn in January and will stay there for at least 3 months. I want to meet up with other goths. I looked up meetups for goths but nothing came up yet. Any chance you could help me with that?

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