Partying in Madrid: In the pursuit of forgetfulness and fun

Whether it’s the music, the drinks or the dancing, each aspect of partying provides freedom for Madrileños

By Sarah Carroll

MADRID – Night life has a wholly different meaning in Spain. When many people are starting to get ready for bed, for Spaniards, the night has not even begun. Partying until sunrise is the norm. It’s no wonder that Madrid is often referred to as one of the top party cities in Europe.

“We do everything later. We eat later, we drink later, we go to party later,” said Arancha Perez.

But as appealing as the flashy clubs and bars may seem, looks can be deceiving.

With the economic crisis still going on in full force, leaving one in four people out of work, many Madrileños may turn to partying as an escape.

“At some point, it’s like filling up some empty space in your life. Trying to forget about things you don’t like. It’s a way of…evasion? Work sucks; life sucks; it’s a way of not thinking,” said Samuel Titos, a musician in Madrid.

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In addition to making music, Samuel Titos also
enjoys creating art in his studio in Madrid.
(Photograph by Sarah Carroll)

The night life of Madrid has not “flourished in a happy way” as a result of people losing their jobs, said Titos.

“It’s not, ‘I lost my job so I’m going out to have fun. I’m going to the theater and see shows.’ You don’t have money to do that. I think it’s more like a sad, subtle feeling going underneath that. . . . You see people, in their 40s and 50s, people who normally have jobs and have families, roaming the streets in the morning drinking. That’s not night life. “

According to Titos, for younger people, partying is a way of releasing energy and letting go of frustration.

“It’s a way of rebelling against Monday morning and all the things you have to do.”

However, despondency cannot fully account for the intense party culture in Madrid. Titos gave his personal philosophy of going out.

“You gotta be professional about it. You have to ask yourself, do I want to go out or do I want to go to bed? I’m a professional. When I go out, I go all night. You can’t quit. You just go for it.”

Titos is a member of Dover, an alternative rock and electronic pop band. There are four musicians: a singer, guitarist, drummer and Titos, who plays the bass. While Dover often plays for large audiences, Titos said he also enjoys giving more intimate concerts in places like Sala Sol, a venue for “conciertos pequeños” (meaning small concerts), in Madrid.

According to Titos, a typical night out for a young, urban Madrileño would begin around 10 p.m. with tapas, which are traditional appetizers. While drinks may be consumed during this time, a bar or pub commonly follows. Around 12:30 a.m. people start lining up at clubs and discotecas. Since the metro closes at 1:30 a.m., and does not open again until 6 a.m., many Madrileños will stay out until 7, 8, or even as late as 9 in the morning.

Finding freedom through music

For Titos, who got involved in bands as a teenager, creating rock and punk music offered liberation.

“When you are young, you don’t agree with many, many things going around, the way society is built and the way everything is pointed to you and what you have to do and what your future is going to be . . . To me, rock and punk meant freedom. To do what you like and not what people expect you to do. When you are young, it’s like . . . this is what life is about.”

According to Titos, music provides the ability to forget, which is a freedom in its own way.

A band called Los Caramelos, performing in
Sala Sol, Madrid (Photograph by Sarah Carroll)

“Music is perfect for not thinking. Which is fine. I think . . . it’s not good to be thinking all the time. It’s good to forget about everything and enjoy.”

For Nieves Sanchez, a college student from Madrid, dancing to good music is the best part of going out.

“The raw energy that music can have is why I do it [go out]…I love what I study, but it can be stressful. When I’m dancing, I’m not worried about anything.”

Another outlet: swing dance

For Elena, dancing is her outlet. She goes to a squatter home, an abandoned building up for public use, every Monday to swing dance. She, as was everyone else interviewed at the squatter home for this story, was unwilling to provide her last name.

“When you start the week you are angry and stressed about work. But when you come here, it’s like medication. You don’t think. You just feel the movement and hear the sound. It’s perfect.”

Ricardo, a friend of Elena’s, said that dancing is the perfect activity for after work. He works as an engineer, a mostly sedentary job that requires concentrating on a screen for long periods of time. Ricardo said that while dance gives you the ability to forget everything, that’s not all there is too it.

“The thing I love about swing is joy, the joy that is translated. It’s a way of expressing with your body.”

Gloria, who originally wanted to take rock n’ roll classes but ended up finding this place near to where she lives, had similar reflections toward dance.

“I feel free. It’s a way of expressing what you have inside. I can move however I want, I can do whatever I want. I just close my eyes and follow the music and I feel free. But it’s not an escape. It’s having a passion for something.”

Seemingly for every reason Madrileños choose to go out, there is a diverse array of options to select from. Even a desperate economic situation has not stopped them from hitting the streets. The importance of forgetting life’s daily trials, albeit temporarily, seems to be a value that Madrileños are not quick to surrender.

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