Responding to clamours for an update to the blog (my mum asked why I hadn’t made an entry in a while, I wish I had friends), I return to tell all of my experience of La Mercè, the parties I mentioned in my previous post. Having been told by my colleagues on a Friday afternoon that I would not be seeing them at work again until Wednesday, I was very much looking forward to seeing what the city’s parties had to offer. With no idea what to expect, I was at the very least enjoying the prospect of a 4-day weekend.
It turns out that the principal way in which La Mercè is celebrated is through music. The weekend consists almost entirely of massive outdoor concerts, to which thousands of Spaniards flock. Friday night, my flatmate and I took to Plaça d’Espanya to meet up with a few of his friends and to see the famous M Clan play in front of a plaza which, upon our arrival, was absolutely heaving! It goes without saying that prior to the night’s main event, M Clan’s big concert, that I had never once heard of them before. The flatmate and co informed me that they were a very famous rock band in Spain, but were past the peaks of their careers. They were not lying…
So they were getting on a bit, this did not alter the crowd’s enthusiasm one jot. As we weaved our way towards the stage, it occurred to me just how many people were here in the plaza to see this concert. Score after score filled the area and the atmosphere was just vibrant. Headed towards the stage, I looked back to take in the sheer volume of people in attendance and was amazed. What I’m getting at is that it was quite busy, if we hadn’t already established that. As we neared the stage, beer in hand, I was able to catch a glimpse of what all the fuss was about. The lead man (pictured right) was sporting a shorter, slightly greyed trim and some absolutely fabulous sideburns, capturing the essence of fashion (a cheap jibe, I’m just jealous of his sideburn-growing abilities)! The crowd was buzzing with anticipation for the concert to get going, all eyes fixed on the stage emblazoned with the title of La Mercè:
Admittedly, not my best work, but I did make concerted effort to capture how excited everyone seemed to be… to no avail. Once the Clan got started, it very quickly became clear to me that either their entire fan-base had turned up for this one concert during Barcelona’s festival or far more likely, that this was a very, very popular band. Song after song, the crowd were lapping up every minute of their performance, it certainly was a sight to behold. One of the girls in our group leant over to me at one point to ask me if any of the numbers being played sounded similar to me, to which I regrettably replied that they did not. With the truth being out that I was, in fact, a heathen and not a fan of M Clan, she explained that their music was great and very easy to dance to. She was not wrong. Arms were waved, girls were dancing on shoulders, it really was a fun place to be. The hits, including ‘Carolina’ and ‘Llamando a la tierra’ were sung by band and crowd alike as I was left to try my hardest to decipher the lyrics, yet more importantly to take in this amazing atmosphere and seemingly it all it meant to the citizens of Barcelona. As the music came to an end, and the masses began to filter out of the plaza, I without doubt counted myself a fan of La Mercè.
With another night came another concert, this time in the company of Allie’s English-teaching colleagues. Meeting first at Plaça Catalunya and with the English contingent (the majority) demanding beer, myself included, we met with a few others and headed towards the next concert. The more secluded Rambla de Raval, where we befriended a hyperactive magician and awaited the next band to start, provided a different scene to the weekend’s previous event. Equally popular, everyone was a bit drunker, a bit younger and treating the evening more as a street party than just a concert. The music was more experimental as far as I recall, with an English speaking MC claiming at one point that ‘we would all know this one’. We didn’t but I liked it regardless! I did on numerous occasion attempt to film various parts of concerts over the weekend so readers could get some impression of proceedings but none of my attempts really did them justice. I did enjoy this picture taken below purely for the expression of Spain’s answer to Johnny Depp as he unintentionally photobombed my shot of the stage.
Each night of La Mercè offered something different, and the city came alive with the celebrations. I generally think of myself as knowing Barcelona fairly well but when it came to these parties, I was enjoying a completely novel experience which has reaffirmed to me that I made a good choice in coming out here (just as well, I’m sticking around for a while!). The weekend was a welcome break from work, which is proving to be more demanding than I had anticipated (in a good way, of course). When I was informed during my first week that I would be the sole author of an official IGS report examining key US health policy initiatives and assessing their transferability to EU systems, I began to think that I had been thrown in at the deep end of health policy research, unable to swim and without armbands or any sign of a flotation device! Now, feeling much more confident about my budding research career in Barcelona, I look back to La Mercè with great fondness as it proved simultaneously to be a lively and relaxing break!
My only regret came on the final day of the parties, Tuesday, when I made the decision to watch the boys in blue (Chelsea) run out in the League Cup against Swindon at County Ground, when my flatmates chose fairly understandably not to join me and instead go out to see the fireworks display marking the end of the festivities. The win for Chelsea was a fairly sure thing (in which Juan Mata finally got a game!) and whilst I was more than happy to see the team win, I knew full well prior to the game that they would. The opportunity cost of my decision was in that instance fairly high, but there was always the most remote of chances that Swindon could have emulated Bradford’s feat against Arsenal last season and dumped Chelsea out of the cup… I should have seen the fireworks! Regardless, I was thoroughly entertained throughout the weekend’s fiestas and I had the cherry placed firmly on top of the cake by seeing a Chelsea win!
As my working week began on Wednesday last week, I had to wait just one day before the arrival of my dearest girlfriend to Spanish shores. Tough life I lead…