Cuarentena Fest, a 12-day virtual event happening through March 27, gathers musicians in Spain to perform during the country’s COVID-19 quarantine.
It’s so easy during a crisis—especially one on such a global scale—to become insular, and to assume that our anxieties and personal affiliations are incomparable. But the truth is, every new day that emerges during COVID-19 presents fresh challenges for all of us across the world. And in Spain, musicians and industry workers are coping with their country’s own unique challenges, resulting in Cuarentena Fest.
Through March 27, labels and musicians from all over Spain have come together to make the civil confinement established by the Spanish government more bearable with Cuarentena Fest. As of earlier this week, it’s been reported that Spain is currently the fourth most infected nation in the world after reporting 1,000 new cases of coronavirus, taking total infections to 8,744. The country is currently on full lockdown, with the third highest death rate per 1,000 infections after Italy and Iran.
“We are all at home, we can’t go outside, and the police can fine you if you don’t stick to the norm,” says Meri Lane, one of the organizers of the fest. “So, it’s strict, but we are trying to stop the infection as soon as we can.”
Lane, who works for Luup Records in Barcelona, teamed up with Sandra Blaya (Futuras Licenciadas), Dani Cantó (Snap Clap Club), Manuel Romero (Calima Comunicación), Rocío Saiz (Ground Control), and Joan Vich (Ground Control) to organize Cuarentena Fest. I spoke with Lane, Blaya, and Saiz via email about organizing and the effects of COVID-19 on their country and music industry. And despite not having yet met in person, they managed to organize over 50 bands across Spain and beyond for a 12-day virtual music festival. “That’s the wonderful thing,” says Saiz. “What has united Cuarentena Fest [is] that nobody separates it!”
Cuarentena Fest features independent artists who perform live from their most intimate creative spaces. “Daily shows, with a different kind of closeness, and a clear philosophy: don’t let the music stop, not even in times as hard as these,” reads the fest’s press release. Viewers can watch through the Cuarentena Fest website, and dates and times of performances can be found here. All donations made by viewers will be distributed evenly among participating artists.
“Cuarentena Fest is born as a playful platform that channels creation in a positive way, but also intends to open a debate about the economic disaster that, for a precarious sector always on the verge of bankruptcy, this crisis means,” reads the Cuarentena Fest press release. “We are fully aware that culture is not for free, and that’s why from our platform we encourage fans to collaborate financially, via donations, so we can distribute the full amount of those donations among the artists participating in the event.”
“The government approved a big economic law that is intended to help musicians and all the freelance workers to get over all the money loss and the gig cancellations,” says Lane. “But to be honest, I don’t really think if that is gonna work properly.”
Saiz adds, “What is clear is that independent record labels and small agencies will have a hard time getting out of this crisis.”
The idea for Cuarentena Fest was sparked by Cantó, who asked Blaya, Lane, and Saiz to be involved in the planning due to their involvement in Spain’s music industry. Blaya, who was born in Cartagena and now lives in Barcelona, co-founded Futuras Licenciadas, a record label that supports emerging bands from Spain and Argentina. She also works on the production, direction, and social media of Prom Fest, and is an ICU nurse in the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona.
“Work at the hospital is chaotic, frenetic, and stressful,” says Blaya. “We have some fear, it is a fairly general feeling among all the staff. The situation has made us take measures different from those we were used to, and also the lack of material is causing the protocols to have to be adapted—for example, we can no longer protect ourselves as much. We don’t stop all day. And above all, we have a lot of uncertainty about the future.”
Spain, unlike the US, has a universal healthcare system, and government officials claim that the quarantine is required for the stability of their public medical service.
Lane, who was born in a small town outside of Barcelona and currently lives in the city, has been working in the music industry for over six years. She is a co-founder of Luup Records and works mostly as a manager and booking agent for some of the bands on the label’s roster, including PAVVLA, Museless, and Kids from Mars.
Saiz lives in Madrid and works for Ground Control, a small agency that runs bands like Hinds and The Parrots. She also organizes with Keychange, an international initiative which encourages festivals and music organizations to achieve a 50:50 gender balance by 2022, and sings in the bands Las Chillers and Monterrosa.
When asked about future Cuarentena Fests, Lane responds, “We have some ideas, but we can’t say anything at the moment. We just had a meeting to discuss everything, and what we can say is that we are all enthusiasts of our work and we are always thinking of what [to do] next.”
Surely a sentiment that feels similar to the way many of us are feeling right now across the world: We’re all just waiting to see what each new day brings us—and, above all, don’t let the music stop.
Cuarentena Fest Recommendations
What better way to pass the days during a global pandemic, during which many of us have a lot of downtime, than by discovering new bands and supporting each other internationally?
“I have three of my artists [on Luup Records] playing, so I’m really excited to see them (Le Nais, Kids from Mars, and PAVVLA), but I also loved Casero’s gig and can’t wait to see El Petit de Cal Eril and Cariño on the 24th.”
“I can’t wait to see Las Ligas Menores, one of my favourite bands from Argentina. Also, lashormigas, with his amazing new EP. And Cuchillas, the last band joining my record label.”
“Yeah! I’m with Sandra. I love Las Ligas Menores. Also Lois, Alien Tango, Megansito El Guapo, and Papa Topo!”