An opinionated history of Monkey Week/end

A monkey in need

November’s Monkey Week has been the indie music showcase festival in Spain since 2009*. Conceived to connect aspiring musicians with industry pros, it’s built on a very strong following with the Spanish indie-loving public.

One-hour sets of bright-eyed emerging talents and lesser-known but established acts come together with a spanking [sprinkling, surely?] of industry old-timer stardust. Venues tend to be small bars. A few bigger venues – mostly nightclubs – host the bigger “headline” bands. Plus, there’s a large free-to-view open stage in a plaza. Professional conferences, workshops and networking happen in the background as part of the festival’s Monkey Brain strand. This festival really does have a special air of musical vitality.

The special sauce of El Monkey, as it’s affectionately known, was always the location, El Puerto de Santa Maria. And its timing. [It’s always in the timing.]

Sad monkey

Back in 2016, the organisers deemed it a good idea to move the whole shebang to Sevilla. Bigger and better. More punters, more money, right? And on the first year in Sevilla, there were 16,000 attendees at Monkey Week. I’ve not found published numbers for any older event in El Puerto but would be surprised if it were to be much more than a tenth of that (Sevilla) figure. Monkey-money talks, right?

The central area point in Sevilla is the already very busy and funky/hip Alameda de Hércules area. Other venues can be a good half-hour’s walk away — a bit of a buzz-kill on a packed schedule. It’s a very cool part of the world, but of those that got to experience the original Monkey Week in El Puerto, nobody I know prefers Sevilla as the ‘new’ host city. Sorry – not locals, not metropolitans, not foreigners. Nobody. It’s just too big a city, and the festival has lost a big part of its original character there.

Happy monkey

2017 came and thankfully some order was restored to the universe. The organisers saw some sense. More likely, they realized they could have their cake and eat it. El Monkey came back to El Puerto for a second, shorter, annual showcase event in June.

The Monkey Weekend was born.

So, What’s with El Puerto?

The old town of El Puerto is a very pretty, historical coastal town. As with many towns and cities in Spain you have to skip through the thick outskirts – posh or rundown – which are modern and generally unattractive additions to get its heart. Boasting castles, bodegas, fine dining and great places to hang out it’s a bit of a jewel on the Cádiz coast. (Other jewels are available.)

Although it was a very important — and prosperous — town during the heydays of the Spanish Empire [wha?], it’s not exactly been a year-round bustling city for quite the long while. Peak activity is now national summer tourism.

High season, monkey weak

Unless it’s your thing… the high season (July and August) in El Puerto is rammed with monied Sevillanos and Madrileños. Their refined tastes are well catered to from traditional to the more hip. Good beaches with great beach bars; private beach clubs; guaranteed good weather; nightclubs and private parties abound. I suppose it’s a southern Spanish Riviera. A more new-world feel than Malaga/Marbella, perhaps. Anyway, during those two months, there’s an air of ostentatious yet conservative money. Very nice, but not really my thing.

Off-season, low-key, high fun

In the off season, the town regains its essential charm. It tends to be quiet, but the residual quality in the bars and restaurants remains really high. And it’s reasonably priced.

Then monkey **** happens. When El Monkey rides into town you can really feel it. A lot of indie music lovers make it their home for a day or three. It has mixed strata of indie music lovers –  enough of an older crowd to give it a sense of perspective and plenty of youth to bring vibrancy – a festival atmosphere where you can be sure the majority of the people that look like they’re there for the music actually are there for the music.

 


Been there.

  • Monkey Weekend 2019. June. The Flamin’ Groovies, Los Hermanos Cubero, María Yfeu, All La Glory, Exnovios, La U.R.S.S.
  • Monkey Week 2015, October: Núria Graham, Los Nastys, The Sexy Zebras, Steve Wynn with Paco Loco, Fumaça Preta
  • Monkey Week 2014, October: Pony Bravo, Suomo, Betunizer, Holy Fuck, Nelson Can, Furia,
  • Monkey Week 2013, November: Ice Cream Cathedral, BROKE, The Damned.
  • Monkey Week 2011, October (when I wasn’t paying enough attention) headliners were Hawkwind (rocking, nostalgic and funny) and Neneh Cherry (fabulous).