Melbourne Music Juggle 2 – Johnston St Fiesta 2013

I booked to go to Melbourne in mid-November for AWME.

Johnston St Fiesta - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.comJohnston St Fiesta - Melbourne - www.beaveronthebeats.comI’d forgotten that Johnston St Fiesta was on the same weekend…in my beloved Melbourne hood of Fitzroy.


So really, what was a poor time-limited Beaver to do but juggle some of its music, dance and food into her Melbourne days and nights too?

With AWME on (+ usual Melbourne just happening), I only caught some of the Fiesta gigs – but all of them, and the musicians who played them, were pretty great.


Celebrating Las Culturas Latinas y Españolas

Johnston St Fiesta – called the Spanish Fiesta by many – and most formally called the Hispanic-Latin American Festival. It’s a celebration of Latin and Spanish cultures and language – all of which are well represented in multi-cultural Melbourne.

Johnston St Fiesta - 2013 - Melbourne -

One block of Johnston St closed to traffic, filled with many, many people – trying to move up and down the street amongst 2 lines of food stalls cooking traditional Latin and Spanish food delights. The Fiesta’s popularity outgrew its street space long ago.

The most quiet time

The calm before the storm of people

Music & Dance

Johnston St Fiesta - Melbourne-

The Fiesta has one stage for bands and DJs at night, and for teachers giving dance classes to the crowd throughout the day.  I was unlucky enough to be at the Fiesta during the only reggaeton class of the day.

I caught a great show by Melbourne’s salsa/cumbia big band Quarter Street Orchestra on my way to Ngaiire’s awesome AWME gig in the city on Saturday night :).

Quarter St Orchestra - Johnston St Fiesta -2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.comQuarter St Orchestra - Johnston St Fiesta -2013- www.beaveronthebeats.comQuarter St Orchestra - Johnston St Fiesta -2013-






 Video from the Quarter Street Orchestra show here… 

If you can find your way out of the main street crowd and into one of the usual Johnston St bars, there are other music and dance shows on offer.

Kanela Bar

My favourite one of those bars for quality music/dance experiences is the cosy, homely, family-run Kanela Flamenco Tapas Bar.

There you’ll find Australia’s best flamenco group, four-piece Arte Kanela performing a few times daily.

Arte Kanela

Arte Kanela

Go back to Kanela Bar later in the night for good Latin music gigs played by a mix of musicians from other Melbourne bands.

Sometimes at the gig, like the one I caught at the end of the Fiesta, you might find top Australian male flamenco dancer Johnny Tedesco, playing cajun in the band…with none of the solemness of flamenco and a big smile.

Oscar Jimenez & Johnny Tedesco - Kanela Bar -2013-

Johnny Tedesco

Sunday night’s gig was led by Oscar Jimenez (Watussi) before he left Australia to launch his Vibrating Planet project in South America – with Emiliano Beltzer (Funkalleros &  Santa Taranta) on bass, and Jose Nieto on vocals and harmonica.  Their music made me feel happy.

Oscar Jimenez

Oscar Jimenez


Emiliano Beltzer

Emiliano Beltzer


Jose Nieto

Jose Nieto








Video from the Oscar Jimenez & Co. gig here…

Saturday night at Kanela Bar (on my way back from Ngaiire’s show) I caught Rumberos‘ band leader Leo Salvo and his ‘Band With No Name’…who I want to name.

Leo Salvo - Kanela Bar -2013-

Marcelo Salvo (Rumberos) on bass and hand percussion – Cristian Saavedra (Quarter Street Orchestra, Del Barrio & Latin hip-hop band LABJACD) on percussion – Jonothon Cohen (Del Barrio & Rumberos) on keys – with Elizabeth Obando (Del Barrio & Son3) on bass and vocals and Oscar Poncell (Son3 & Kunataki) on percussion in some songs.

Leo Salvo - Kanela Bar -2013 -

Marcelo Salvo - Kanela Bar -2013-

Leo Salvo - Kanela Bar -2013-

Check out some videos here…


To battle, or not to battle Johnston St Fiesta crowds?

Melbourne has a huge number of talented musicians playing Latin music. If you’re in the city when the Fiesta is on, it’s worth trying to get through the crowds to hear them and other visiting musicians play.  If you don’t think so, don’t worry – you’ll find most of the Johnston St Fiesta musicians playing gigs somewhere else in Melbourne one or many nights in any other week :).

Johnston St Fiesta - Melbourne -

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