Hotel Melía looks like a cool, hyper-modern whale’s mouth ready to swallow us.
Inside, it’s a cool hyper modern man cave. Males walk around like a tribe, women are young and placed strategically near the entrances in mini-skirts, handing leaflets that will be littered in a short while when a dustbin is found.
The corridors are corked by groups of distributors, dealers, traffickers of possibly anything, all assertive and laughing and talking loud, around whom a meagre procession of middle-aged, balding, sad-looking sods sneak to reach the next room, the next bad sound, the next time Diana Krall’s voice will come out, as boring as a sonic wallpaper seen a thousand times, of some boxes.
A few young men looking out of place and carrying a perplexed girlfriend by a firm hand go from room to room as if trying to understand what it’s all about. She must have noticed the average age. An even fewer business women talk even louder and act even more man-like. If one doesn’t look like a potential buyer, distributor, seller is invisible. Men stand on the threshold of their rooms luring the visitors inside, offering unique listening experiences the way they could be offering you a girl or a drug. Everyone of them swears it’s all about music, not HiFi.
A tall, slender young woman in a minimalist dress walks the corridors ignoring the procession of sods like me suggesting that this is what it’s all about. And it probably is. Eyes are glued to buttocks then moved to amps and speakers and you can’t tell the lust from one another.
A young man is trying to win the attention of a guy in his sixties who’s exploring an audio rack kneeling on the floor. He talks like a machine in a petulant voice, desperately rehearsing the speech he thought would be effective. Nothing can stop him, but the kneeling man is totally ignorant of him. Others are proudly ignorant of those who stop in front of their stalls looking at cables, valves, accessories, things of indecipherable nature that are sure to transform your listening experience. They don’t even seem to care if something will be sold. They read. They are there for some misunderstanding. They don’t belong to the Fair.
Still hip-looking, old mandarins of jazz walk an inch above the carpet and seem to pass through normal men who are, apparently, immobilized at Dire Straits and perhaps even the 1812 Ouverture. They know.
A young woman at a stall selling books and CDs of classical music is wondering, in a pleased sonorous voice addressing a colleague, if there’s one, just one, who understands anything about music.
Pink Floyd seem to dominate the exhibition the way Beethoven’s Fifth dominated last years’. Female voices out of audiophile recordings, intended to stir the remaining libido of sods like me, float in the air. It’s the most boring, predictable thing imaginable. Only JBL, in a regurgitation of Roughness’s Pride, is blasting The Dark Side of The Moon at a deafening level, trying to make older guys’ teeth fall. There’s a cue outside, waiting to be admitted to the sanctuary.
And then, the peripheral nostalgia department.
Old Revox tape recorders, Epicure speakers and even a glorious pair of AR6s, in the same exact state of AR6s never drawn out of the garage in the last sixty years. Tube amps just about to fall apart like Jake’s and Elwood’s car in front of the tax office. Things that challenge time, things that challenge credulity. The Audio Limbo of those designs that never reached heaven but neither deserved hell.
By the main door a tall Russian girl whom I superficially know suggests that I resist until lunchtime and, implicitly, have a hurried meal with her and my friend the dealer, her boss. I want to go home. She curls her lips in a fake sulky face. She’s half my age and the last sixty minutes have aged me twice mine. I’m off.