Looking for a rock club in Barcelona? Two words: Magic Club. It’s the spot that rock freaks flock to en masse when they realise that they’ve fallen for the traps and lies of the modern world, or just when they feel like getting drunk and dancing to the Dictators. Since its opening in 1976, Magic has seen it all: counterculture, punk, new wave. From the mid-'90s up to the last decade the club led a double life as a concert hall. Johnny Thunders, Hellacopters, the best of the world’s high-energy rock set the tiny stage on fire. Now, by city law, the venue only serves as a club, welcoming the pop-wearing into its open rocker arms. It’s a little microcosm where you can dance out the weekends in perpetual darkness until 6 in the morning on the two dancefloors.
Barcelona's definitely got its share of scars – growth, tourism and institutional planning have long been favoured over quality of life of the locals, often leaving residents ever so slightly jaded. But the city has a remarkable ability to regenerate; there's always something boiling just below the surface, and as one restaurant closes or a city block is collapsed, there's a queue of budding entrepreneurs chomping at the bit to fill the gap.One such gap is the former headquarters of the General Elèctrica d'Espectacles, near Drassanes, where there was once a seedy brothel (like so many in the 'Barrio Chino'). The glory of the famous Criolla in C/Cid, also nearby, had vanished decades before and no one has given it a second thought since. Then it was a Dominican bar. In its latest incarnation it's known as the Hey Ho! Bar, a quiet little place where you can relax and listen to punk rock, hardcore and metal. A place where, if it's Tuesday between 7pm and 10pm and you show up with your skateboard and do a trick deemed worthy of them, you get five shots. A place where you can eat meaty or veggie sandwiches till midnight, and they welcome acoustic concerts and show Barça matches. Glasses of beer on tap are a euro till 11pm, and you'll get a nibble to go with that (olives, peanuts, etc.). Maxi and Sun, who also own the skate shop of the same name on C/Ferlandina, and Twin Wolf singer Ramon who used to host the Moog guitar nights (gone all too soon), do their best to keep locals happ
When Magic Club had to stop putting on live shows, the rock scene was left wanting; Rocksound grabbed the torch and has been pulling out all the stops since then. This small room brings in big concerts from local and international bands. When you walk in, you're at once enveloped in the dark rock vibe: elbows glued to the bar, the scent of long-ago smoked tobacco and stale beer already breaking down inhibitions and calling you to do all the crazy and borderline illegal things you hear about at rock concerts. Antoni Celeiro, a carpenter by trade who became a promoter and entrepreneur, only books rock acts – in all its forms: rockabilly, hard rock, country rock, blues ... The stage has been awash in the sweat of such promising international artists as Zach Williams and the Reformations (southern rock), as well as veterans like New Yorker Sonny Vincent, one of the forefathers of punk. There's live music from Tuesday to Saturday, starting at 9pm.
The entrance to Sala Monasterio is easily missed; go in through the bar at street level and descend to this low-ceilinged, bare-brick cavern to hear all nature of jamming and live music on a great sound system. There are singer-songwriters on Monday and rock jams on Tuesday; Wednesday sees Brazilian music, Thursday blues jams, and there's usually a jazz jam on Sunday nights. Friday and Saturday tend to be reserved for a more eclectic range of gigs, from Catalan rock to Bowie tribute bands.
Blondie, so called for the bottle blondes and of course, Deborah Harry, icon of the seventies and eighties, frail and cool at the same time, like a neon light. In Barcelona, the girl with the fair skin and full lips is a bar in the Barri Gòtic, its ceiling of fluorescent drinking straws and a small showcase of art, from a city where it costs two kidneys and a liver node per square metre. Greeting me is this little showcase of sorts, which seems to be filled of toys stolen from someone's little brother and displayed as objects of art, all limited-edition, of course. They've collected together a transistor radio, the Incredible Hulk groping Barbie, some Star Wars Pez dispensers, a Rubik's Cube (completed!) and a snapshot of Barack Obama as if he were the fifth member of Kiss. I start thinking about what I'm wearing and realise that it might be better to go home and put on my Dangermouse T-shirt. But I head in anyway, because I'm a risk-taker and a bit self-destructive like that and I know that the eighties had that 'anything goes' attitude. My eyes are drawn to a wall of photos of various famous blondes such as Annie Lennox and Kurt Cobain, along with some blonde inflatable dolls. Also staring back at me are faces from another time: Blondie in their 'Heart of Glass' days, Keith Richards, Elvis Costello... Also featured are a pair of electric purple platforms that speak to anyone who have done the walk of shame after a big night out. Amidst this collection are countless photos o