Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy Hour Again: Mallorca Rocks

Mr. Zoë Ball, aka Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim will be one of the star attractions during this summer's season of concerts at Magalluf's Mallorca Rocks. A midsummer night's dream on 21 June. But not a dream for everyone.

In its second year of operation, the Mallorca Rocks' diverse programme will range from the old school of the Madness nutty boys through the rap of Dizzee Rascal, Plan B and Tinie Tempah, to the rock of Biffy Clyro and the dance-punk of Friendly Fires. It is an ambitious schedule of some of the leading names in British music and some very much at the cutting-edge from what has arguably been the most ambitious development in Mallorca for years. Its very ambitiousness and innovativeness are what has caused not everyone to be happy.

The unhappy ones have been the association of tourist businesses, Acotur. Last December, it sought a meeting with the hotel association in Palmanova and Magalluf. It was questioning the legality of Mallorca Rocks, while it considered its very presence to be unfair competition for bars and other entertainment establishments. The hotel association disagreed, describing Mallorca Rocks as innovative and as adding value. Acotur had previously denounced the concerts at the hotel.

The hotel association was absolutely right. While Acotur may or may not have had legitimate grounds for complaining, one had the strong sense that behind the objections was more than just a feeling that it had been caught on the hop, and not just the hip-hop, by a development that was bold and new.

Mallorca doesn't generally do bold and new. It likes to hold onto the status quo, so much so that Status Quo might be considered to be innovative. The geriatric rockers have of course played in Palma, if playing is the right word. They were symbolic of the has-been nature of Mallorca; tired, formulaic, worn-out and not very good. Mallorca Rocks has come along and smashed that image, like punk tearing down the dinosaurs of prog and replacing them with the remarkably named Orlando Higginbottom, aka Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, who will be supporting Fatboy Slim.

Mallorca Rocks has been a case of catch-up, most obviously with its progenitor, Ibiza Rocks. Following in the foot and dance steps of Ibiza, Mallorca stumbles towards more of a club scene that, despite BCM and its own Pachas, has long been the domain of the island to the south. Mallorca has never had the chic cachet associated with the likes of the Café del Mar or Ibizan clubs that helped to create the British dance scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The boldness of both Rocks has been to make live music a facet of the summer season; live music which is genuine, star quality, international and new, as opposed to bands doing covers, trib acts and the embarrassment of playback. The other boldness has been to re-invent the hotel with a theme. In the case of the Fiesta Trópico, it has become the Mallorca Rocks hotel. Just one reason why Acotur in Magalluf and Palmanova has been getting agitated is because other hotels have been eyeing up the success of the theme and contemplating their own.

Impact on bars and clubs from Mallorca Rocks there may well be. It could be both positive and negative, but most importantly, the arrival of Mallorca Rocks has represented wholly new directions in terms both of entertainment and hotel style. But the island's tourism industry is suspicious of new directions. It finds it hard to adapt or to change, so when something comes along that creates an upheaval, it holds up its hands and cries foul.

And the specifically youthful direction that Mallorca Rocks has taken is one that many within the industry fail to acknowledge or to want. Yet, youthful or more mature, live music accords with what surveys have been telling us - that tourists, of different ages, like having nights out. It's a message that gets lost because the industry prefers that it is lost, amidst the inane clamour for alternative tourism, one that suggests a holidaymaker should suffer for his holidaying art, rather than actually enjoy it.

The midsummer night's dream of Norman Cook in Magalluf should be an occasion for everyone to celebrate and on which they should be happy. Happy that here is the future, and not the past. They should revel in a night and not just a happy hour of the Housemartins' one-time bassist, but they won't, because they'd rather it wasn't happening.

Any comments to please.

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