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Live music: Wild Things! In Tenerife they make your heart sing
Live music Tenerife-style can get really wild at El Risco Hippie Bar
I usually write my column about the animals and plants I find on Tenerife here in the Canary Islands, but there's another form of wildlife on offer because "wild" is a good adjective to describe the party atmosphere and music at the El Risco bar in Los Llanos.
Friends in the south have been noticing I haven't been down that way so often lately and have wondered where I've been. I tell them I have been going to El Risco, an amazing bar in Los Llanos, or San José de los Llanos, to give it its full name.
There's proper live music going on there, I say. None of this singing over a backing track but singers with guitars and bass players and drummers - what I call real live music. Maybe a girl on violin or a bluesy harmonica player, bongo players, tambourines, people dancing and having a good time.
But where is Los Llanos, they ask? Near Erjos, I reply. Where's Erjos? I tell them to take the mountain road up from Santiago del Teide to El Tanque and to look out for the sign for Los Llanos on the right as you pass the freshwater pools of Erjos.
El Risco photos
El Risco or the Eco Bar
Also known as the "Eco Bar," El Risco is unlike anywhere else I have ever known. It is surrounded by forests and mountains and in many ways is more like a cabin in the Canadian or American wilderness than a bar on Tenerife. The trees in the woods around Los Llanos are mainly of pine like you'd find in Canada, North America or in Scandinavia.
To reach El Risco you drive up a signposted country road that leads you to a pathway to the bar itself. Outside you will see groups of people, dogs, children and the whole picture is a welcoming one, as is the reception you find inside.
Bob Dylan and Bob Marley songs
Every Sunday from around 4pm until late, there is a jam session hosted by Nico who is a brilliant singer and guitarist. Nico sings Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, David Bowie as well as rocking numbers by bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. There are songs in English, songs in Spanish and Spanglish works well too!
Like I said, El Risco is definitely a bar with a difference and it regularly hosts a display of artwork by local painters. There was a selection of multi-coloured and psychedelic looking paintings hanging on the wall and seemed just right for a bar where real rock music gets enjoyed.
And if you fancy a bite to eat while you listen to the sounds, there's a great menu and I hear that in season they even serve fresh wild Cep mushrooms (Boletus edulis) from the woods. Their Verduras Gratinadas (mixed vegetables with grated cheese) comes recommended by me, and it is served up with plenty of delicious homemade bread.
They even grow their own vegetables at El Risco and outside the entrance you can't help but notice the huge grey-green globe artichoke plants. They look so strange and alien - as if they just landed there like edible triffids!
If you are a nature-lover like me and want to do a bit of exploring of the countryside around about El Risco there's a wealth of wild flowers and herbs growing well there to see. It is a wonderful place fro foraging. I spotted Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum), Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Goosegrass (Galium aparine), Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris), all of which are edible plants. And the pretty Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus latifolius) is common in the area too.
My friends Emily and Fernando, whom I visited in Agua Garcia and wrote about in the last issue, asked me where they could get some Milk Thistle and now I could tell them. There were big clumps of the large prickly leaves with the creamy-white variegation that gives the plant its name and some had already flowered. I picked a flower head that had gone to seed and carefully avoiding the spines popped it in my guitar case. Milk Thistle is a well-known herbal remedy for anyone who has over-indulged in drinking so it seemed very fitting to find the herb growing so near to a bar.
All the wild flowers make it a great place for butterflies and other nectar-loving insects and I saw some magnificent specimens of the Canary Red Admiral (Vanessa vulcania), which is very similar to the Red Admirals you see in late summer and autumn in the UK.
I was just pondering on this when I heard and saw a donkey in a field making a loud braying sound and wondered if he or she heard the music and wanted to come to the party at El Risco. A huge but friendly Great Dane dog did and was right down the front where a guitarist was strumming and a drummer was drumming. I told you it was wild at El Risco - even the animals join in the fun!
Footnote: Previously published in the Tenerife Sun
© 2008 Steve Andrews