But the crowd was having too much fun to seem threatening. Fans hopped arm in arm, shouting chorus lines like war chants. Even upstairs, people danced so much that the balcony shook in rhythm to the mix of ska, reggae and punk.
I had not seen a club so charged up since I was in Havana 10 years ago at the peak of Cuba's astounding salsa boom. Before he closed, Muguruza thanked his fans in Spanish, acknowledged the solidarity between Basques and Catalans, and offered a plea for "un mundo nuevo para todos," a new world for all.
What an exciting way to top my visit. I could go home satisfied. Or so I thought.
The next day, I met with famed Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, who moved to Barcelona some years ago, married the owner of the Venus Delicatessen, his favorite hangout in the Gothic Quarter, had two children and settled down.
Many Cubans are moving here, Sosa said over lunch with his family at Cal Pinxo, their favorite seafood place at the city's revitalized marina, across from its acclaimed aquarium. Even his famous percussionist, Miguel "Anga" Diaz, has relocated here from Paris, where he lived for years. On Sundays, when he's not touring, Anga plays jam sessions at a Cuban restaurant named, appropriately, Habana Barcelona, also at the marina. The singer is his brother, El Indio, formerly with the seminal Elio Reve Orchestra in Cuba.
When I heard that news, I nearly canceled my departure because Cuban musicians of this caliber don't play the States much anymore.
So that ticket taker at the Apolo was right. I really should have stayed through Sunday.
Barcelona, I'll be back.
To hear samples of the music mentioned in this story, go to latimes.com/barcelona.
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The city that never sleeps
From LAX, direct service (stop, no change of plane) is offered to Barcelona on US Airways, and connecting service (change of planes) is available on Air France, British, Delta, Lufthansa and US Airways. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $780.
To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 34 (country code for Spain), 93 (city code for Barcelona) and the local number.
WHERE TO STAY:
The Ritz Hotel, 5 Gran Via Corts de Catalanes; 510-11-30, fax 318-01-48, www.ritzbcn.com. Luxury hotel located on a major thoroughfare. Good example of the Modernist architecture of Barcelona. Doubles begin at $460.
Hotel Condes de Barcelona, 73-75 Passeig de Gracia; 4450-000, fax 4453-232, www.condesdebarcelona.com. Doubles from $183. Great central location, good service. Not luxurious but definitely comfortable.
Hotel Espana, 9-11 Sant Pau; 3181-758, fax 3171-134, www.hotelespanya.com. Doubles $98-$166. Near Las Ramblas. Lots of musicians and other artists stay here when they're touring.
WHERE TO EAT:
Venus Delicatessen, 25 Avinyo; 301-15-85. Good place for a light lunch or snack or coffee and pastries in the Gothic Quarter. About $11 for lunch, about $4 for a pastry.
La Singular, 50 Francisco Giner; 237-50-98. In the Gracia neighborhood, frequented by the young, hip crowd that's breathing life back into the area. Limited seating. Salads, lots of fresh fish (tuna and salmon), but the menu will vary depending on what is freshest. Entrees $7-$13.
Restaurant Hispania, 54 Carretera Real, Arenys de Mar; 791-04-57, www.restauranthispania.com. Fairly far out of town. This very traditional restaurant specializes in Catalan cuisine with an emphasis on seafood. Main dishes $22-$46.
L'Auditori / Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, near the Placa de les Glories Catalanes, 150 Lepant; 306-57-00, www.tnc.es. This 2,500-seat concert hall is the new home of the Barcelona Orchestra, with a smaller room for chamber music. The neoclassical national theater is next door.
New York Club, 5 Escudellers (just off the Placa Reial); 318-87-30. Loud, crowded and rockin'. The club features bars upstairs and downstairs.
Jamboree, 17 Placa Reial; 301-75-64. This underground cavern club for international jazz bands also features dancing to DJs after live music sets.
Palau de la Musica Catalana, 2 Sant Francesc de Paula (east of the Placa de Catalunya); 295-72-51, www.palaumusica.org. A regal venue for classical and pop music of all styles.
La Paloma, 27 Tigre; 301-68-97, www.lapaloma-bcn.com. A French-style, turn-of-20th-century ballroom for seniors by day. A hip club for the younger set by night.
Sala Apolo, 113 Nou de la Rambla, corner of Avenida del Para.lel; 441-40-01, www.sala-apolo.com. Defies its traditional decor with contemporary live music and top DJs for the late-night crowd.
FNAC El Triangle, 4 Placa Catalunya; 344-18-00, www.fnac.es. Large retail store a la Virgin Megastore. Extensive sections on Latin music, including Barcelona-based artists. Helpful staff dispenses sound advice.
Discos Castello, 3 Tallers; 318-20-41, www.discoscastello.es. Two doors down is a shop that sells vinyl, but this one is a modern, large music store, again with helpful staff. Extensive Catalan music section.
TO LEARN MORE:
Tourist Office of Spain, (323) 658-7188, www.okspain.org.
-- Agustin Gurza