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Fiesta Mayor 2008 highlights

30 August, 2008 (10:37) | Living in Europe | By: admin


Men dressed in revolutionary attire carrying big guns start off the fiesta this morning with their huge bangs at 8 am.

The opening of Fiesta Mayor is unique. The devils and the drummers start marching down the streets, some devils are in red, some in blue, some wearing black. The dragon is there too. A lady rings a large brass bell to warn everyone that the dragon will start spitting fire, and would then raise its head in the air, would spin around and explode.

The devils all take turns gathering in the middle of PlaçaTaulet. The red devils first. They gather around one crouching devil who holds the fire. The red devils all have long metal sticks with explosives on the end and the crouching devil lights them all. Then a huge spinning screaming smoking chaos of fire starts as the devils run around with their flaming sticks not caring if sparks shower on the gathering crowd, (typical Catalan professional devil – with so many festivals a year these devils are good at their trade). The drummers then make a huge drum circle and the devils dance in the middle.

Everyone assumes that everything happens at night but from 9:00 am on there are all kinds of random events going on. We encounter a big presentation in the Gitano neighborhood, guys with mics are saying things and people cheering. Then we see our first giant puppet. This one looks just like a person, a big fat Catalan, and it dances around to the bagpipes and a drummer. Very cool. They start marching up and down the streets and eventually end up in our very own Plaça Taulet. We follow them and hang around Plaça Toulet hoping something would happen. It does. A Lithuanian marching band plays out-of-tune Robbie Williams covers. Ha!

It is a blessing that our street is not decorated this year. Last year, of all the decorated streets competing, ours was the cheapest looking. Not much imagination went into our street. But the decorations in the Gitano neighborhood were absolutely phenomenal. A lot of talent, team work and hours went into their construction. The same energy went into that neighborhood this year. Our street is selling out to a new verve of expats pretending to be Spaniards, but the Gitano (gypsy) neighborhood (4 blocks from us, and the barrio where Mark takes flamenco guitar lessons) has retained its original integrity. This Festa is a big deal to them, and they take great pride in making the 4 square block gitano barrio a total multi-eye-candy event. Through our musical ties we are bonding with the gitanos.

Here is a casual photo of Mark with his gitano guitar teacher Antonio, who is one of the patriarchs of the Gracia Gitano community:

I took an afternoon bike ride with my camera to share some of the streets decorated this year, so click on any of the thumbnail photos below for a closer look at any one photo:

THIS MIGHT BE THE BEST SHOT I TOOK DURING FESTA MAYOR, CAPTURING THE INNOCENCE AND CUTENESS OF THIS FESTIVAL. Festa Mayor is an extremely mult-generational 1 week long party. The doting mom and also the abuela (gramdma) were also shooting this same photo, from their angle.


The action is near Plaça Taulet. This street has a giant corn head in the front end of the street and in the middle of the block is a stage with a Catalan electronica band playing with virtuosity and elàn. Catalan eletronica, wow! They are good! The singer is great, jumping around the stage (moving like Jello Biafra and sounding like The Wall of Voodo singer). But the backing music is all computers with a big digital video screen behind them showing videos timed to the music. They also have a live guitar player who is accomplished. And they are pure Catalan, they all have the lovable goofy look, a bit like John Belushi.

Then we go to another Plaça where a huge crowd has gathered. It’s a very mellow and friendly, just a fun and nice grouping. It has a big stage and a Catalan heavy metal band is playing. The singer is a fat-ish guy in a Mexican Wrestling mask and leotards, the rest of the “musicians” are just hair-swinging Catalan heavy metal guys. Smoke machines and lights and wah wah guitars.
All Catalan. Very impressive!

I don’t take any photos at night because I want to be free to dance. One night we happened upon an excellent Hip Hop band that happened to be Italian. They were great! Another night an incredible cuban salsa band had me dancing like an idiot. What fun!

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Mark and I have been having a blast all week, dancing our pants off on quite a few nights, showing friends around the hood on other nights. Lots of memorable moments. Tonight we were home from our night of dancing and roaming the streets, sitting on our couch, out of steam. It is around 3:00 am. We are fairly speechless and breathless, when we hear a lovely and haunting sax melody coming towards our place. I can hear it approaching from the top of our street. I grab my melodica and begin playing along, opening the front grate that leads to the street. As I do I lean against the corner, halfway in the house, half way on the street. I continue to play along to her melody. The girl on the sax is enchanted. Once she reaches our place she stops for awhile and we exchange licks and melodies, until Mark comes out with his guitar and plays along too. As we are about to run out of ideas Mark medleys into a rocking blues progression and this girl, who proclaims not not be a blues player, plays beautifully. The three of us riff off a standard blues progression for about 15 minutes before we end the song. A small gathering of passersby clap when we finish. She bows to me, I bow back, and her friend (who also has an instrument in a case but he never busted it out) comes over and kisses first me, then Mark, on both cheeks. We hug the sax lady and they continue off down the street, passing musicians in the night… This little improvised musical jam interlude was for me the most magical moment of this year’s festa mayor.

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