J and J Books and Coffee in Madrid

If you have the hankerin’ to read some books in English, the friendly folks at J & J Books and Coffee will be more than happy to help out. The homey cafe/pub on the street level has seats at one of the small tables or the bar. Here you can chat, browse books, connect to the Internet (wi-fi) or play board games. Some might be relieved to know that there is no video screen present to turn otherwise friendly patrons in TV zombies. In place of sports or videos, J & J offers a range of more engaging activities such as intercambio evenings and pub-quiz nights. (Intercambios: Wed – Fri 8 to 11; pub: quiz Fri 11)

Downstairs J & J has an impressive used-book collection featuring sections from sci-fi to children’s books, non-fiction to romance and TESL materials to classics. The books are reasonably priced and punch cards are available encouraging you to come back.

J & J Books and Coffee
Espiritu Santo, 47
Metro: Noviciado (but a ten-minute walk from Tribunal, Callao and Banco España)
Mon – Thurs 11-midnight, Fri – Sat 11-2, Sun 4 – 10 (Please note: hours may be seasonal)
T: 91 521 85 76

La Ochenta: an 80’s bar

80´s music bar

La Ochenta dance bar deftly accomplishes what so many bars attempt to do. They dish up all your favorite 80’s music without making you feel like you are in some cheesy theme bar. The pink and baby-blue walls capture something of the kitsch, faux-innocence of the decade, while the large-scale black and white photography provides reminders of the epoch’s grittier artistic side.

The crowd is very mixed, tending toward the alternative, but the vibe is friendly (read: no looming gothic egos to contend with). On the spectrum of dancing bars to standing bars, it ranks just in the middle – you can pretty much do as you please.

The drinks are on the cheap side, allowing you to chug away as you drift into syncopated Nina Hagen reveries.

La Ochenta
Calle Sombreria 8
Metro: Lava Pies
Wed – Sat 22:00 to 3:30

To go back to the main Music Venues and Clubas page click here

The Moon

The Moon is somewhere between your average Madrid nightclub and an after-party. Though it doesn’t stay open until mid-afternoon, its closing time of 07:30 makes it very much a post-nightclub experience. Turn up before 03:30 and you’ll find it relatively empty.

As you walk up calle Aduana you might notice some atrociously designed day-glo-coloured pieces of cardboard at your feet. Armed with one of these you’ll be allowed in for free before 03:00 or pay a reduced entry price of 8 euros with a drink (full price: 10). Subsequent drinks are 7 euro, which seems fair for a Madrid club. Anyway, if you don’t see any of the abominable flyers on the ground, there’s usually a melancholy soul at the bottom of the street handing them out (in Madrid, these people are amusingly referred to as PR).

At first, you’ll find yourself in a corridor lit by lamps continuously changing colour; there’s a lounge bar here, and beyond is the dance floor. As is true of many Madrid nightclubs, this is where your lungs take a beating. The dance floor is equipped with all the trappings of a techno/dance nightclub: lasers, dry ice, go go dancers (sadly not the kind that take their clothes off) and what must be a football net hanging from the ceiling.

The people to be found here, as in any place open later than usual, are a real mix. The Moon has the reputation of a gay bar, though despite the odd transvestite or man wearing only his underwear, the reality is far more varied (though most of the people seem ridiculously horny. Come armed with a stick). Trying to engage in conversation with the punters is hit-and-miss due to the fact that at this time of the evening people are often on completely different planes of existence. If you don’t feel like dancing, there are always plenty of places to sit and chat.

A great place to go to if you enjoy emerging at closing time, bleary eyed, stumbling into the weak morning light, stinking of cigarette smoke.

The Moon

C/Aduana 21

915 223 561

Metro: Sol or Gran Via

Michael Beeson

To go to the main Music Venues and Clubs page click here

La Alarma


La Alarma
Sebastian Herrera, 13
Lunch: Sundays after 15:00
Metro: Embajadores

Note to self: Don’t wear your leather jacket next time you go to interview people at an anarchist-vegan squat (“casa okupa”, in Spanish, short for “casa ocupada”).

The squat scene in Madrid is always fervent with activity as cascupas pop in and out of existence in the never-ending-game of hide-and-seek they play with the authorities.

In spite of their tenuous existence, the newest addition on this front has no intention of maintaining a stealth existence. Instead, they have started advertising themselves – “Three-euro vegan lunches on Sundays!” Not surprisingly, they have chosen the inconspicuous name, “La Alarma”.

The locale, south of Embajadores, is a generously-sized space that is so thoroughly deconstructed its original incarnation is not discernable. Large concrete pillars are spaced throughout and the collective has decided to go with that post-industrial, “exposed” look that all the casacupas are doing this year: exposed brick, exposed, pipes, exposed, wires, exposed elevator shaft (don’t worry it’s blocked off). Various slogans grace the walls: anti-drug, anti-capitalist, etc. Education is also a big emphasis with lots of pamphlets/zines on the front table and large presentations of current political issues on the walls.

Anyway, the lunches are a friendly affair. Lots of dred locks and mullets, hooded sweatshirts and converse shoes – notice not many leather jackets, though. Three euros will get you, for example, lentejas, salad, fruit, and water – juice is extra.

The space looks promising as it’s already outfitted with a stage. For more information see: www.laalarma.tk.

MC Escher: El Arte De Lo Imposible


Sala de exposiciones Canal Isabel II

Santa Engracia, 125

Metro: Alonso Cano
Daily – 10.00 to 21.00

4€ general admission, 2€ students
Until 15 April 2007

Years ago, like any good fifteen-year-old stoner, I was well acquainted with the work of MC Escher. In those days, my artistic critques were limited to, “Whoa, dude, the fish are like… turning into birds. Trippy!” But eventually I pawned my Grateful Dead CDs, got a responsible haircut, took the Escher posters off the walls, and forgot about him entirely. When I heard about the exhibit coming to Canal Isabel II, I was suspicious. Was he really an artist, or was that an illusion created by my muddled teenage mind? I went along not expecting much.

I was completely unprepared for what I found: a truly impressive exhibition of work from a man who is doubtless one of the masters in the history of printmaking.

The earliest work displayed is a long series of Italian villages and mountains, albeit from strange perspectives and portrayed with a geometric perfection that is somehow disturbing. Later he progresses into his more famous work with paradoxical architecture, mosaics of lizards, and even the ubiquitous metamorphoses of fish into birds.

However, one of the most impressive parts of the exhibit is its presentation within the Canal Isabel II space – strange lighting effects and walls that meet at unconventional angles have the same effect on the viewer as one of the master’s lithographs – it’s disconcerting, disorienting, but in the end irresistable.

Daniel Welsch