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Up Close and Personal

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View Channelling the Cane Spirits in South America on Jeremy T's travel map.

Thursday 06.12.07

There are places in this world where the alcohol flows like water, where perfect strangers get along, cultures come together (though often nullified within moments) and no-one complains too much if you come home stinking drunk and a little noisy at 7am. I'm talking about the typical youth hostel. For those who have never backpacked, it might be a fairly alien concept, but it does become your home when travelling, albeit one you share with a few dozen or more like (or loose) minded individuals.

Single travellers make up the broth of the hostel soup, the core ingredients of which tend to be of English, Australian, Kiwi or Irish stock; a handful of Scandinavian, North American, Israeli and those of Germanic roots are then thrown in and a sprinkling of other nationalities adds the final touch. The English and Irish are happy to get drunk every single night, and usually spend their afternoons watching football on TV. The Aussies and Kiwis will be scouring the town come evening for nightclubs they haven't been kicked out of yet. They sleep all day. Everyone speaks English, and there are always more males than females. You will hardly ever run into a person from France, Spain, Portugal or Italy at a Latin American hostel, even in Buenos Aires. Since bathroom, bedroom and living room are shared; belongings litter the floor; and beds, clothing and hair often stay unkempt for the whole day, it doesn't pay to obsess that your roommates' personal hygiene portfolios aren't as impeccable as yours.

Not all hostels are the same. Some tend to be quiet affairs - somewhere to stay while studying or escaping everyone else, meanwhile others are the complete opposite, encouraging group excursions and long-lasting drunken orgies where one may not see the light of day for more than half a week. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Buenos Aires, where the two hostels Lime House and Milhouse stand on opposite banks of huge Avenida 9 Julio. The Milhouse rates very highly with many English and Irish travellers, because here the alcohol to weight ratio is very good. For non-vampires though, the Lime House offers somewhere light, relaxed and a lot more worldly, but still with a lively social scene.

The weekend saw Buenos Aires play host to another big music festival, Personal Fest. Me, Anahí and her friend Camila all had tickets to the Friday night show, which kicked off for us with Tego Calderon, a famous Reggaetón artist who was accompanied by a couple of sexy African dancers. In the interim I took the others to see the Dandy Warhols, proponents of cool psychedelic prog-rock before we headed back to catch Electronic Tango group Gotan Project on the main stage. We fought our way through the crowd, filled with tattooed Latino gangsters (in clothing ten sizes too big) waiting at the same place for B-Real from Cypress Hill. Surely this couldn't be right - the stage was double-booked, and when finally Gotan Project's members, immaculately suited in white took the stage, it was to jeers and whistling from the crowd. The organisers had made a big mistake, and the several thousand-strong audience turned on the Tango group, hurling water bottles and the glow sticks that had been ironically handed to every paying punter. During their third song, the lead singer was struck by a pink torpedo in mid-note and they walked off the stage in disgust. Boldly they returned minutes later and finished their set to greater applause than they had begun with, all the while deftly sidestepping the remainder of the glowing missiles.

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I wandered off to catch some electronic music, and returned after an hour or so to the main stage to watch B-Real. With bi-lingual rhyming over funky beats and old-school stoner hits that everyone knew, he rocked the place, all while smoking joint after huge joint. With most of the crowd having BYO'd especially for the occasion, it's a wonder the fire brigade weren't alerted by nearby residents.

I migrated back to the dancefloor where seminal New York tech-heads Fischerspooner played an hour of great tunes and then returned for Snoop Dogg, but having had my fill of the crowd, I sat on the grass at the back. Without warning, two hundred people or more began running in my direction, and I did the only thing I could - I bolted too, hiding behind a tent as others leapt fences or fell over in the dirt. It was over as soon as it had begun, but only a few minutes after everyone returned it happened again, and then a third and final time. No one around knew what had transpired until after the event, when we found out someone had been stabbed. The Snoop Dogg show went on, and in typical fashion, he kept the crowd chanting his name repeatedly in several different ways throughout all his famous tracks for over two hours.

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A Kiwi friend Ricky joined me on Sunday evening to meet up with Anahí and another friend Elisa at a lake in Parque Tres de Febrero in Palermo. The streets winding through the park were lively at this time, devoted to joggers, rollerbladers and bike riders. Rented four and six-seater cycle buggies trundled past, often filled with singing or guitar-playing porteños, but the lake they had all flocked to definitely looked cleaner from a distance. The four of us departed to Palermo Hollywood in the later portion of the evening, and there was a feeling of finally breaking into the Buenos Aires underground music scene as the Afro Mama Jam session began. Rapping, singing and beatboxing were layered over improvised funk, while guitars, brass instruments and drums changed hands and rhythms. A pair of tapdancing twins augmented the eclectic collection of sounds and the crowd, squashed in between the bar and stage, held dance-offs of their own until management finally told everyone to pack up at 4am.

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Posted by Jeremy T 11:13 Archived in Argentina Tagged events

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