If you come from a place where skinny boys in even skinnier jeans roam the earth with low-slung guitars, shoes means Converse All Star and alternative music means anything from Fleet Foxes to Franz Ferdinand or Forward Russia, you might be a bit disappointed with Santiago.
Photo courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/adactio/
Reggaeton rules the dancefloors and airwaves here and at first glance, it can seem as if the city offers slim pickings for shoe-gazing Smiths fans.
Indie-lover Rodgrio Elgueta sums up the scene by saying “In Santiago, you have to go out and look for good music, it won’t find you.”
However, help is at hand. We’ve scoured the internet and the dimly-lit back streets, twiddled with the radio dial, spoken to the DJs, promoters and fans so that you need never hear Daddy Yankie again.
The Internet is your friend
First up, get online. Some of the best nights in town don’t happen every week and even Blondie has been known to sack off indie in favour of ‘Madonna night’ or ‘non-stop Britney’. Our advice is to join the Facebook groups for the bars and club nights listed below and keep your pretty, well-trained musical ears to the ground.
For new music releases, gigs and interviews, you should also check out: www.super45.net, www.extravaganza.cl, www.192.cl and www.nnm.cl is one for the nu-ravers. If you’re near hysterical with excitement on the eve of a big gig, go to the forums at www.last.fm. It’s quick off the mark for announcing upcoming tours too.
Clubs & Bars
Blondie, the behemoth of indie and gay clubbing in Santiago, was closed down by the mayor at the start of winter 2009
Photo by Ana Topoleanu
and rumours abound as to when they’re re-opening. When it does, Blondie will be your Mecca.
One huge room moves to the beat of Britpop and New Wave (be warned: they really, really like Depeche Mode here) while two smaller dance floors can play host to anything from cheesy gay anthems to live bands and 80’s pop. While the club is out of action, Blondie has been hosted nights across the city and it has a little sister by the sea in Valpo.
Bal le Duc
Home to an older, straighter crowd than Blondie, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is the club that time forgot. 80’s and 90’s pop feature heavily here, which means there’s usually a good helping of Morrissey, Pulp, New Order and, yes you’ve guessed it, Depeche Mode. Spread out over two floors, the goths and industrial fans often get given their own room to brood in.
Bar El Ático
This is where your people have been hiding. Behind an unassuming doorway in Nunoa is the promised land for indie music buffs. Here, the DJs not only know who Sonic Youth are, they play them too. Stairs take you up to the spacious bar, where local 20 and 30 somethings lounge around on black and red sofas and drink Brahma for a luca.
Photo by Ana Topoleanu
Videos provide the soundtrack, while downstairs on the weekend you can throw shapes to the likes of Interpol, Arcade Fire, CSS and Dead or Alive. The dance floor is miniscule and it’s smoky as hell but who cares when it’s this good. Join their Facebook group for weekly updates.
Club Cultura Alternativa
If you like your men to wear eye-liner or your women to wear kinky boots and PVC (even when they do their weekly shop at Jumbo), this is the place for you. Tucked away on a back street in Providencia, Club Cultura Alternativa is a bolt-hole for those who like it dark.
A bar for pre Bal-le-Duc drinks, CCA plays Dark Wave, Industrial and Goth. Although you might hear anything from Front 242 to Bauhaus, you’re more likely to get a dose of Suicide Commando or Combichrist. Leave your neon sweatbands at home.
Photo by Ana Topoleanu
If you can put up with the high drinks prices, pretentious bar staff and the scary woman who controls the toilets with her all-seeing eyes and an iron mop, Bar Constitución in Bellavista can sometimes delight.
Go there on the right night and you’ll get the Ting Tings, the Killers and Kaiser Chiefs. If your luck’s out, you’ll get bad techno and a middle-aged software engineer trying to feel you up.
Other venues that sometimes host indie nights, bands or play a few good tunes are:
After Hours Bars (Clandestinos)
Back in the 90’s, indie and metal bars were ten a penny in Ñuñoa. Then came the property boom and suddenly bars and clubs were being forced out and alcohol licenses became harder to find than a 25 year old Chilean that doesn’t live with his mum. Thankfully that didn’t stop the party people of Santiago. Over the years, a string of illegal after-hours clubs (clandestinos) have reportedly sprung up in old buildings across the city. We can’t tell you where they are, but we’ve heard that some of them play the best music in the city until very late. Next time you’re out and have overdone the Red Bull, ask like-minded locals where to go next, or look out for people flyering at kicking-out time. Most don’t get busy until around 5am and go on until 9am.
Xpress Music Chile
Join these people on Facebook and they will annoy by sending you a million messages per day, but you will forgive them. Why? Because these young whipper-snappers put on blinding indie nights around town and they know their stuff. We went to their ‘MusikNonStop’ party back in August and wept real tears of gratitude on the dancefloor. Not only did they play the likes of Foals, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, My Bloody Valentine and Vampire Weekend, but they had a Sigur Ros special. Sigur Ros I tell you! Ok so we felt about a zillion years old and had to be helped back to our chairs when we over-exerted ourselves to Hot Chip, but it was fabulous. Xpress Music Chile: we salute you.
If you’re just getting cueca, reggaeton and salsa out of your radio, you’re just not twiddling your knob right. Top of the pile is Radio Horizonte who will wake you up with Death Cab, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Radiohead.
So my guitar-loving friends, step away from the empanadas. You've got skinny jeans to squeeze into. Put all that bumping and grinding behind you, let's go dance to Joy Division.