MILAN, Italy – The via Padova part of town in Milan, is apparently a little bit of the seedy corner of things. But I didn’t notice any of that last night as I took part in the coolest jam session I have yet been in in this otherwise not very musical – in the pop music sense – city. Oh, once upon a time I had another fabulous jam similar to this, at the anarchist’s club not far from the location of last night’s jam at the Spazio Ligera. And it should be no surprise, then, that the way I found out about this regular, if occasional, jam at this music bar/venue was thanks to my friend Emiliano Laurenzi – who plays the didgeridoo – the very man who had organized the anarchists’ jam at the Circolo Anarchico Ponte della Ghisolfa seven years ago!
Seven years between amazing jams? Of course, I’ve attended the blues jam at Frontera regularly since then, but that is a blues jam. The Chitarrata at the Ligera last night was a jam the likes of which I have only really run into before in Sao Paulo, with everyone gathering around a table and spread out throughout the café and playing whatever instrument comes to hand, with any song that they feel like. Last night I heard more Italian songs in one single night than I’ve ever heard anywhere, and they ranged from pop to rock to the song of the resistance against fascism. But there was also Bob Dylan, 4 Non-Blondes and everything you can imagine in between from the 60s on up to today.
Third at Ligera in Milan
Emiliano was there, too, with the most bizarre didgeridoo that I have ever seen: A mini, snail-shaped, or spiral, handheld didgeridoo that seemed to have a voice as big as the long, encumbering instrument we know so much better. There were at least four guitar players, a bongo, a kazoo and I don’t know what all else. And vocalists galore. Amazingly, I was never really intimidated by a situation that usually makes me feel a little ill-at-ease, playing with no microphone. But it was best to find a vocal that could be belted out very loud above the din of the joyous gathering of people at the Ligera.
Second at Ligera in Milan
The walls of this underground café are covered with photos and posters of crime movies, and other interesting pop culture phenomena – I also noticed some kind of Stratocaster hung up high on the wall above our head – and I regret that I missed my chance to delve into the cave to take a look at the regular concert space, which in the photos looks like a typical European vaulted cave room. (Think “Cavern Club.”) It is there that Ligera usually holds its gigs with local bands. On occasions when there is no gig lined up, they often decide to hold an open jam like last night’s on the ground floor of the bar.
Fifth at Ligera in Milan
Incidentally, the café is also called a 70s café, whatever that is. All I know is that it was a fabulous cross-section of people attending, and there was as much warmth coming from the jam as there was from the other people in the bar there just to talk, occasionally listen and occasionally sing. It completely and totally lifted my previous sense of Milan as a pretty stuffy place musically speaking into being as capable as any other city of having a very cool and musically vibrant scene.
First at Ligera in Milan
It also confirmed my desire NEVER to jump to conclusions about a city’s musical environment when I have a very poor grasp of the language and cannot therefore easily find the musical get-togethers. To say nothing of my unfortunate timing in Milan in early September when everyone and every venue is still contemplating summer at Lake Como or some cooler place. How could I possibly have found out about this “Chitarrata” without a little help from my friend….