One of the biggest transitions from viewing yourself as an expat as opposed to a long-stay traveller is developing routine. There is nothing quite like walking down the street in a new city with your yoga mat or reusable grocery bag. Satisfied that have found your new favorite studio or grocery store; secure that you have made a tangible connection to your new local.
A nightime routine is equally important to establish. Spain has a very social culture, so if you don’t find some way to engage you can feel especially isolated. My personal goal was to find the perfect live music haunt. Recommendations on Yelp led me a jazz club near the Alonso Martínez metro called El Junco. El Junco is a charming little club, perfect for venturing out alone or with a few new friends. It is a tiny place, so you feel at all out of place as a newcomer.
The space is divided into three different sections: the bar to the left of the entrance, the stage to the right and a very small lounge area directly in front of the stairs. There is also a tiny space to the right of the stage where you can stand if you want to be close to the performers.
On Tuesday and Thursday nights El Junco hosts a jam session where anyone can jump on stage and rock out to an original composition or create a new take on a classic tune. As the club touts itself as a jazz and blues space, most of the music will be from one of those genres, or their derivatives: soul, R&B, etc. As is such, nearly all the songs will be sung in English–something that is very popular in Madrid at the moment. So, on your first night out don’t be surprised if you hear a classic from your childhood. It is just another aspect that will make you feel right at home.
This all convergences in a high octane way on Thursday nights at El Junco in Madrid. Here you fill find musicians of the highest caliber popping up on stage and delivering professional level sets at the drop of the hat. The songs are generally much more high energy as everyone is getting excited about the upcoming weekend. Tuesdays are generally more mellow with smoother, jazzier tunes. It is also a great time for first-timers or beginners to jump onstage and test out their chops. There is little pressure, if any at all, and the audience is engaging and supportive.
Madrid in many ways is a musician’s city. Dotted all over the city are rehearsal spaces for musicians and there is a large number of spaces for one to jump onstage and get down. There is generally very little ego involved in this process. No one is vying for a record deal or trying to get signed to a manager. There are no A&R representatives in the audience and no one is secretly wishing for stardom. Instead, there is community and encouragement from people who wish to play or sing solely for the love of music. And there is no better place to experience this than at a little club called El Junco.