All photos by Reilly Ryan.
Weeknights in Chacarita are pretty quiet. Apart from the few parillas filled with hungry families and empty buses zooming by, the streets are empty. But just past a fluorescent petrol station on the corner of Santos Dumont and Av. Corrientes, one warmly lit window buzzes with activity. Whether you trek the shaded streets purposefully or just stumble on it casually, Martes De La Grande welcomes all visitors brave enough to peek inside the door.
What began as an experiment in improvisation by music veteran Santiago Vázquez, has since evolved into a wonderful weekly event. Every week the eight-piece band La Grande takes over Santos 4040 in Chacarita to host a concert, live art show, and general hangout for those willing to shell out $50 at the door.
Different guest artists join the band weekly and the collaboration, led by Vázquez, is something unique and definitely worth seeing. Speaking to the Indy, he explains that what visitors hear at Martes De La Grande is a mix of “composed music and improvisation.” The band learns pieces at rehearsals but mostly focuses on playing from hand signals that are a part of a “systemised rhythmic language”. The language, which Santiago created for La Bomba de Tiempo 12 years ago, allows the band to jump from different melodies and rhythms with the flick of a wrist. The resulting sound is something between a concert and really great jam session: jazzy, inviting, and just the right amount of cool.
It’s easy to pick up on “the great chemistry” Vázquez describes of the group from just one visit. Band members exchange raised eyebrows and jokes between songs and groove right along with the crowd. The general inclusiveness that emanates from the spontaneous performance is something Vázquez hoped to achieve with an informal weekly show, and something the band does well.
Santos 4040 is just as cool as La Grande’s music. The large industrial “artists’ space” is airy, with couch-lined walls in the front room, a long bar and stage in the middle, and a handful of foosball and ping-pong tables in the back. Cocktails with hand pressed juices, craft beers, and glasses of wine range from $50 to $80, and if you’ve come straight from work, there are even a few sandwiches to choose from too.
A DJ, whom Vázquez explains is typically a friend or someone who La Grande admires, follows the band’s set to keep heads bobbing until 11.30pm or so. Two weeks ago DJ King Coya brought a small troupe of dancers who moved around the crowd clad in outfits as funky as their dance moves.
If there’s any time to escape the humidity and check out what all the hype is about, the Tuesday night gathering celebrates its first birthday tonight (17th November) with what is sure to be an extra special set. DJ Villa Diamante will be there alongside live performance artists and painters and organisers are suggesting arriving early as it’s expected to fill up fast.
If you can’t make it this week, La Grande will be happily entertaining a crowd of friendly twenty to forty somethings every week until March or April 2016 (when Vazquez speculates the band will break to come up with some new material).