Sans Souci lacking the king of sound engineering; a few tandas at La Comedia; and bed at 6am

Being Argentina, there are some complications around time. The country is located at a longitude that would properly put it either four or five hours behind GMT. But the place decided to temporally relocate itself some considerable distance to the east, and have a time zone just three hours behind.

Additionally, Argentina may or may not observe daylight saving time, depending how it feels. The national government decides this on a year-by-year basis, perhaps by rolling dice or flipping coins – but, either way, individual provinces are free to either go along with that year’s result, or adopt their own daylight savings policy …

The good news about the three-hour time difference is that there isn’t much actual jet-lag involved in a trip to BsAs. The issue for tango dancers, of course, is that we don’t operate on Argentina Standard Time (AST), but rather Argentine Milonga Time (AMT). We typically arrive at an evening milonga around the time a London one would be closing.

Today was a case in point. I went to two milongas: arriving at Sans Souci at 11pm; La Comedia at 2.30am; and went to bed at 6am.

The day started with some very welcome rain!

The heatwave had ended, but 26C is still on the warm side for me, so I was very glad of the accompanying cool air.

Sans Souci

Having finally managed to turn up on the correct day, I was all set for some wonderful dancing to Los Reyes del Tango playing live at Sans Souci. For the second time, I was recognised and greeted by name by the host, and shown to our shared table by the stage.

Oh, and I found I’d become part of that week’s Sans Souci promo video – well, about one second of me.

The differential pricing controversy continues

Organiser Pablo Boneo has very strong feelings about the differential pricing issue. This notice was placed in two places it couldn’t be missed: the entrance door, and outside the bathrooms (click/tap to enlarge).

On Facebook, he went further and directly called out the milongas which have implemented higher entry fees for foreigners, complete with an, uh, uncompromising graphic.

Parakultural has adopted a slightly different approach. Apparently Marabú wouldn’t allow them to have two different entry fees, so they instead issue locals with a loyalty card they can show for discounted entry.

Before the band

Alessandra accuses me of choosing geriatric milongas, and I had to point out that the average age at our table was about 28 before we increased that number significantly by joining it (granted, I played a bigger role in the maths).

We arrived a little after 11pm, with recorded music preceding the live set. The DJ – whose name I couldn’t find on their Facebook feed – was absolutely fantastic! Perhaps I’m now easier to please, enjoying a wider range of music than before the trip, but I loved it all, and danced a lot.

One of my tango journey truisms has been that, if you have an unhappy experience of some kind in tango, the solution is always to dance again as soon as possible. If you have a bad tanda, go have a good one. If you have a bad night, go out at the next opportunity. That’s a given here, of course, so after last night’s tango desert, it was wonderful to be having so many beautiful tandas here.

The outer ronda got increasingly crowded as more and more people joined, so I decided to take my life in my hands and try the inner area (there wasn’t enough room for a second ronda, so it was a free-form space). Remarkably, despite the fact that some were attempting an inner ronda while others were dancing in place, everyone cooperated enough that it all worked just fine. Indeed, the differing ideas about whether or not to progress within the space meant that everyone had to be super-alert, and I actually found it fun! I mostly headed straight there in future tandas.

The London gang kept arriving!

Los Reyes de Tango, but not of sound engineering

After about 90 minutes, they band was announced. They played the opening song, but the piano couldn’t be heard. Things came to a stop after that song, and there was much scurrying around the stage checking cables and twisting mixer knobs and the like.

I’m no sound engineer, but unless there’s something I’m missing, I would have expected a logical approach, testing one variable at a time. Make sure that channel is selected and the level turned up. Check that the keyboard is working by connecting it to one of the known good feeds. Swap out the cable. Switch to another channel. I mean, I’m sure there are more variables than this, but I’d expect one thing at a time to be checked; instead, there seemed to be much panicking and two or three people simultaneously trying different things.

Time went on. After about 15 minutes, the DJ restarted the recorded music, which meant dancing could resume, but also made it harder to test the complete feed. After about half an hour, they finally succeeded in getting the piano feed working, only … all the messing around had completely ruined the sound balance and levels. The sound quality was absolutely terrible, and even sounded out of phase. I had trouble convincing Alessandra that the band was actually great, it was just the sound system which wasn’t!

I danced some tandas, but it was hard to get immersed in the music when it sounded so awful, and when those around you were struggling too. To make matters worse, once the live set ended, whatever they’d done to the sound affected the DJ’s feed too. I soon decided it was time to move on, while I could still remember the wonderful tandas early in the evening!

I did at least get some inspiration on the way out: she’s 78, and wearing the shortest skirt in the room; he’s a claimed 106 (though I suspect birth records likely got lost along the way).

Life goals.

La Comedia

This was a milonga Alessandra wanted to try, and which I think Diego also recommended. It was a young demographic, with I guess most people there in their 20s and 30s, but very friendly.

My record of running into friends everywhere continued, though only just this time, as they were leaving as I arrived!

There was a small live band, playing rather avant-garde versions of tango classics. Sufficiently so that I was somewhat reticent about dancing to them, especially given the very high level of the dance, but ordered a glass of Malbec, took a few sips and then decided to dive in.

It was a lovely experience to dance there. There were very few couples on the floor at any one time, meaning plenty of space, and the prevailing style was slow and elegant, which isn’t always the case with the more night-clubby milongas!

It was, though, very much like Bilongón, at least, at that late-ish hour: people were there to socialise first, and dance second.

That meant very little opportunity to cabeceo, as most people were clearly not looking to dance, and I had three tandas in the 90 mins or so I was there. However, the quality made up for the quantity for sure!

Alessandra also enjoyed it. The light levels were very low at this point, but this is her, honest!

I left at the official end time of 4am, while Ale stayed. She still hadn’t bought a Subte card, having discovered that they are relatively optional: you simply ask someone on the bus to tap their card for you, offering them 100 pesos to do so. That essentially means you’re paying their fare too. It does more than double the cost of bus rides to around 20p, however! I decided to do that, and sure enough, it was no problem at all.

I got to bed at 6am, and slept a few hours, but was awake before 11am, and eventually gave up on getting back to sleep. That left me rather zombie-like for the rest of the day, so I cancelled my milonga plans and decided to call it an official rest day. Ale went off to have her local barrio experience out in the suburbs, much like the one Tina and I accidentally had last year, and had a wonderful time.

A two-milonga day tomorrow, I think!

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