Enjoy the Sounds of Summer: Murcia Spain
Aquietude is cast over Murcia at around midday. The capital city, in the province of the same name, pinched between the trodden beaches of Almeria to the south and the heaving resorts of Valencia's Costa Blanca to the north, is dozing. Even the trees that line Paseo Alfonso X El Sabio, one of the sweeping pedestrianised avenues, seem in a state of repose. Al fresco cafe tables groan under the weight of chairs piled atop. Murcia's numerous lanes lined by honey-toned buildings see little activity and even its Gothic and Neoclasical plazas tussle for the admiration of the few sun-slackened people in the vicinity. The same goes for the city's elaborate main square goes for the city's elaborate main square, Plaza Belluga, and its sumptuous 14th century cathedral.
Rhythm and moves
But as the afternoon bleeds into the evening, the sun still toasting surfaces in this university town, suddenly, those few people swell into scores. Generations of friendly folk swarm through the marble plazas and feed pigeons by the gardens, Jardin El Salitre, adorned with bullfighting memorabilia. The staff in Reataurante Lizarran, in Calle Polo de Medina (a great haunt for excellent pinxos, joval staff and desperately cheap cider and sangria) start to move to a new boat.
A summer awakening
And so it transpires that, earlier, Murcia, was simply a town conserving its energy. A short walk out of the city centre, one of the first music festivals of the summer, SOS 4.8, begins to unfold. It showcases top-billing bands, thumping dance music, kinky cabaret and sangria by the bucket load, for two days, non-stop.
A relative newcomer on the festival circuit, SOS 4.8 is unpolluted by foreign masses. As a result, you get a heady dose of joyous, sunny, Mediterranean fun. It is evident on the faces of the 30,000 carousers, intoxicated by sun and San Miguel, many of whom pile into dodgem cars and ram into fellow revellers - no health and safety jobsworths spoil the good times here.
Embodied by art
In typical Spanish fashion, the party doesn't get kicking until the sun has well and truly gone. Until then, the early birds can knock off a couple of hours with some expertly curated contemporary art. This year, it celebrates music, sex, drugs, nightlife, money, beauty and youth - the artists have got it in one. Pull yourself away from the live music for the cabaret tent. The performers have personalities larger than the space they entertain in and the result is a diabolical hour of depravity that'll have you in a headspin.
Green creds, Grey matter
SOS 4.8 has a serious side. At times, while music throbs outside, a concert hall, which has previously hosted PJ Harvey and Tindersticks, also houses stimulating conferences to discussed different issues, and a series of stalls promoting matters of the environment, underscored by the festival's credential's as 'Green and Clean'.
Hot and Heady
Murcia's 250km of coast is aptly called La Costta Calida (Hot One). With more than 3000 hours of sunshine each year, it almost guarantees an all-over tan, and it says a lot for the disposition of the locals. "Spain, and specifically Murcia, are attractive for the gastronomy and climate, but if there is something special about Murcia is the friendliness of the people", said the festival's organisers.