The Lung Brothers

Hanging out at the extreme end of the long tail ...

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Obits and Pieces Nº. 1 – The Guitar Bar.

As mentioned previously, my intention with this series is to pay homage to all those wonderfully grungy dives that the Elder and I used to frequent during our first heady years in Barcelona and which tragically no longer exist.

The first instalment will deal with the most recent of these to close its doors to the world and the taste of tragedy is therefore still fresh on our palettes. We don’t even know what the dive was really called or if it even had a name, we just refered to it as the Guitar Bar and with good reason.

It stood (or rather slouched) on the Rambla Prat in Gracia, right in front of the Bosque cinema. The façade was so discrete that it bordered on urban camouflage and you would have passed it without a glance, lest you were specifically looking for a tatty pit for casual music. The windows were covered from the inside with a bizarre collage of glossy photos which had long since turned light blue with age.

One entered the establishment by descending several stone stairs into a semi-lit space in which everything seemed to be charmingly tinted in sepia. Charming that is until you realized that the tone came mostly from filth and the years. If my memory serves me right, the floors were checkered with black and white tiles, there were crates of empty bottles in the corner and the walls were the colour of a chain smoker’s fingers.

Ancient photos and newspaper articles of blues artists would stare in around you as you took a seat. The table tops were chipped marble and no two wobbley chairs ever matched. Behind the bar, there was one of those lovely old floor-to-ceiling brown coolers where the bottles were stored behind little door hatches. Just imagine a mortuary refrigerator from the 50s made out of teak.

An upright piano, which we assumed was broken, stood perpendicular to a wall and upon it rested a disorderly pile of magazines from days gone by. I kid you not, we once found a MAD magazine from 1974 there. For some reason I decided against stuffing it into my jacket pocket – one should never commit sacrilege in so glorious a temple.

The proprietors were an elderly couple. I don’t remember her well but he was an old shaggy bear with a beard and bushy mop of hair which grew whiter with the passing years. He quietly sat at a small table beside the bar and always seemed to be writing in some sort of ledger. You had to rouse him from his scribbling in order to ask for a couple of bottles of Estrella and if the fancy took you, a guitar.

And THAT was the most spectacular feature of the bar. As you walked in it was impossible not to notice the slew of guitars hanging by their necks from the ceiling like a gaggle of throttled geese. Upon receiving the order, the owner would lazily return with a couple of opened medianas and then apathetically reach up and pluck an instrument from this inverted forest of frets. If you were lucky, the thing would have a full compliment of strings and all you needed was to spend ten minutes tuning the bejesus out of it.

Usually you were not alone in the bar and someone else would be knocking out a tune at another table. If your musical tastes coincided, you would end up joining this stranger in a laid-back jamming session. Names were rarely exchanged and the acoustic strumming and plucking was never so loud as to stifle conversation. All in all, it was a very difficult place in which to feel in any way stressed.

So I salute you Guitar Bar, for your likes will not be seen again.

Next installment – Chez Popov