Buenos Aires is a city that lives music intensely. Its bubbling scene and its endless nightlife are magnified in an urban scenery, intertwined with old European traditions and new Latin American passions. The music rolls and rolls, of course, to enrich a unique cultural experience. And if it rolls on vinyl, even better. We’re here to get you in the know of the bars with the best sounds and vibes in Buenos Aires. Ideal atmospheres for having a drink, chatting, and dancing to the ultimate vinyl groove.
It’s not just about having a nice place and a good cocktail bar, it’s also necessary to invest in turntables and speakers. And good DJs to entertain the evenings, of course. This rule even goes for the best – or at least most awarded – bar in town: Florería Atlántico. This is how its founder and star bartender Tato Giovannoni understood it. Surely it’s his creations with native raw materials and his offer of drinks that keep his place in the ranking of The World’s 50 Best Bars, but the vibe that the music gives to the environment also helps.
Toasting a decade of opening this year, Florería Atlántico is located in the most decorous area of the Retiro neighborhood. A hidden door in a flower shop opens onto a large basement where this world traveler-themed cocktail bar takes place, somehow recreating the spirit of those old inns for sailors from the beginning of the last century. It’s a clear reference to the European migratory waves of that time that arrived by boat to settle in Buenos Aires. The music that is usually played, however, isn’t necessarily retro.
Florería Atlántico is strongly committed to groove, with a menu that goes from funk to electro, including disco, hip-hop, house and acid jazz. Its most frequent DJs are Carlos Alfonsín, Oliverio Sofía, Tommy Jacobs, DJ Buey, and DJ Il Fratan. “It’s a very special place. I also really like it because the turntables are at the same height as the cocktail stations, so drinks and music share the same side. You can sit at the bar to have a drink and talk to the DJ about records,” says Il Fratan.
If there’s a neighborhood full of bars, that is Palermo. But few, or none at all, resemble Club Lucero. The place is an old bocce club – an Italian ball sport similar to French boules – turned into a bar. The cane and wicker furniture suggests a tropical vibe that extends into the background, where a garden framed entirely by climbing plants completes an urban jungle setting. The bar tends to give a cultural identity to the days of the week: films are usually shown on quieter days, like Monday or Tuesday, while Thursday is dedicated to the vinyl format. That’s precisely the day assigned to Club Casabella, run by DJ Mariano Casabella, a master in the art of collecting and spinning vintage sounds.
Specializing in Jamaican music, including early reggae and the two-tone ska scene that sprung up in England alongside punk and new wave, Lucho Selector is one of those passionate DJs who take their vinyl bags to different bars. His regular partner in crime is DJ Seen Cadena: together they share the turntables of the weekly music evenings Martes en Vinilo that these days take place at Strummer Bar, a true rock pub in Palermo.
Selector Lucho plays different types of music as a DJ. He usually plays singles on 7-inch vinyl, which means a lot of the stuff you hear wasn’t easy to come by. “I have some two-tone ska sets. I have one of Jamaican music up to the mid-70s, and another set of music from there but more in the 80s,” he says. “I also have a power pop set. And I have other sets that include Colombian music, porro and cumbia sonidera, although I play more music from Peru, especially chicha and Amazonian cumbia.”
Selector Lucho had his epic moment when he was the DJ at a welcome party for Madness, his favorite band of all time, on their first visit to Argentina. That time, singer Suggs came up to the bar’s DJ booth to tell him he was the best DJ he’d ever heard. “That’s what my friend Sergio Rotman translated for me. Of course, I’m not the best DJ. But it was a nice lie that moved me,” he tells proudly.
Sergio Rotman is precisely another name that goes from here to there with his bags full of vinyl, although lately he has been based at Strummer Bar. Hyperactive artist, always up-to-date with multiple bands and projects, the saxophonist of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and partner of Mimí Maura usually finds time in his busy schedule to satisfy his appetite as a DJ.
Like Rotman, singer-songwriter and restless frontman Carlos Rodríguez, also known by his musical names Boom Boom Kid and Nekro, finds time to spin old vinyl, which he does under the alias DJ Iniciales BB. In recent years, he’s been dedicating himself to assembling compilations for vinyl reissues with the restored files of the traditional and almost forgotten Argentine label Music Hall. Iniciales BB is always hanging around the bar DJ circuit, including new food and drink spots like Chuí, in the Villa Crespo neighborhood, and Cervecería Figueroa, in Barrio Norte.
There are always curious spirits that venture outside the city limits. Thus, heading to the west of the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires, more precisely in San Antonio de Padua, we find Finisterre Social Club, a place that not only specializes in serving craft beers and exquisite dishes but also in hosting great DJ sets on Fridays and Saturdays. “Finisterre is definitely my favorite place, not only to play records but as a bar, to go for a drink,” says Selector Lucho. “It’s like a Spanish-style canteen, with a huge variety of excellent beers, drafts and packaged. There are also wines and they serve seafood, it’s like a fonda. We DJs love to go there to play records.”
Gris Gris is an amulet used to bring good luck and ward off demons, as part of the African magical imagery that slaves brought to America. It’s also the title of the debut album by the great Dr. John, a fact that Bruno Albano – as a good music lover – also took into account when naming his vinyl listening bar. Located in Palermo and opened just a year ago, Gris Gris is inspired by a Japanese tradition of cafés called jazz kissa – spaces dedicated to deep listening to jazz on analog and high-definition equipment. But here the offer of music and drinks is much broader, and silence isn’t a condition.
A well-known character in the rock fauna of Buenos Aires, as a former member of Banda de Turistas, Albano often invites friends to DJ and bring their records. And if not, he has his own collection that goes from psychedelia and 60’s rock to bossa nova, from Motown to Afrobeat. The music here is no longer in the background: it’s a listening experience. That’s why Gris Gris is the new favorite hangout for local musicians, including DJ and sound explorer Bárbara Salazar.
As a DJ, Bárbara Salazar came to travel to Los Angeles to put music together with Teebs on Alice Coltrane’s birth anniversary, sharing the stage with the Coltrane family, and with legendary jazz musicians like Azar Lawrence. She also spends much of his time putting together mixes for his online radio show. But nothing stops her when she goes out to play vinyl at an event in the city. “My set varies depending on the context, but it can range from jazz, which is something I really like, to contemporary ambient or experimental. I also usually play folklore, fusion, boleros, and more,” she says.