Thursday, December 04, 2008

When The Music's Over

Following the killing of an 18 year old in a Madrid disco a couple of weeks ago, the municipal government has suddenly launched a crackdown on a number of venues throughout the city. The club where the killing took place was apparently in breach of all sorts of regulations, but continued to operate for years without any problems. It seems that several other venues are also in the same situation and operate in this very Madrileño twilight zone of licensing restrictions. With the ongoing "Guateque" corruption scandal still working its way through the legal system, the latest events simply underline that the whole system of licensing bars and clubs in the city works in an arbitrary and opaque fashion. Which is of course what made it so easy for bribery to become an easy route to getting your papers in order or keeping them that way. Some places can operate for years competely illegally while others are never able to get started.

At least two of the venues closed recently, Riviera and Macumba, are regular live music venues as well as being nightclubs. Several significant concerts have had to be cancelled as a result of a crackdown which appears to have nothing to do with the incident that sparked it. Apart from anything else it emphasises just how badly off Madrid is for medium sized concert venues - a situation which together with geographical factors helps to account for the dearth of concerts in the city compared to Barcelona. The Riviera, with its plastic palm trees, may not be the ideal venue for live music but take it away and there is really nowhere else in the capital city for those rock concerts that attract 1500-2000 people. Madrid's administration is now trying to (ab)use this situation to promote the privatisation of the licensing service - the best possible way to ensure that transparency and control of corruption will simply never happen.

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