Photo by Jordi Cané
Whatabout Music is a Barcelona-based record label, started in 2006 by American radio and music producer Dave Bianchi. In his time, Bianchi has done everything from building guitars to organising live events and working as a sound engineer. After a 12-year career producing nationally-syndicated radio programmes such as Live From the Lounge with Ryan Seacreast in the US, Bianchi needed a change, and moved to Barcelona.
Bianchi says he came here for the same reason as many other artists and musicians: “There is a strong underground music scene and the city is a hub of creative energy.” He wanted to be a part of it. His first goal was to open a recording studio—which he did in 2006, dubbed The Emergency Room—and said that the Whatabout Music record label then “kind of happened by accident.” In the past eight years, it’s released 55 albums from 35 different bands hailing from various countries around the world.
Whatabout Music’s newest creation is the Sowhatabout Live music series. It was started when Milene, the owner of the Sow What! Association in Poble Sec, asked the label if they would be interested in collaborating to host a live music night.
The Sow What! Association is an independent arts centre and a cannabis club. “This particular space in Poble Sec got my interest when I went there for a concert because I just really liked the vibe,” says Bianchi. “The fact that it’s a ‘club’ that you have to join adds to the feeling that you’re going to something special.”
He decided that, rather than organise traditional concerts at an untraditional space, he would keep things “interesting” by putting the names of all the musicians on his label into a hat and, by drawing random names, put together duos and trios to play live together for the first time. “It could be people who have never met each other or played with each other, from different scenes in Barcelona, different styles of music—and they could play whatever they want; covers, original music, a jam, experimental, anything! On top of that, I record all of the shows, and we are planning to release a live album of each series,” he says, enthusiastically.
While some people are attracted to the venue because you can smoke inside, “at the same time, you’ll find many people in the audience who don’t smoke or care about the whole cannabis side of it, but they still enjoy the atmosphere,” Bianchi says.
These social clubs are a relatively new phenomenon in Spain and are becoming more common in Barcelona, as clever entrepreneurs have found a way to exploit a loophole in Spanish law declaring that it is legal to grow a certain amount of marijuana for private consumption—up to two plants—but it is illegal to sell it. The clubs or ‘cafés’ charge their members a yearly fee, usually about €20, to have the clubs grow their plants for them; hence, the clubs are not ‘selling’ weed, they are merely looking after their members’ own private crop.
Bianchi says that not all associations of this kind are the same. “They can be quite different from each other: creative spaces, cultural centres or just a place to buy weed. Sow What! is definitely one of the former.” It costs €5 to become a member if you come to one of the Sowhatabout Live events.
The next Sowhatabout Live shows are on September 13th and 27th, October 11th and 25th, November 8th; artists TBA. More information is at www.whatabout-music.com. The Sow What! Association is located at Salva 7 in Poble Sec.