Sometime around 2 a.m., the lights at the bar went dim. The guitarist and percussionist — who had been the ringleaders of something like a drunken neighborhood variety show for the past two hours — turned to the only source of illumination in the place, a shrine of the Virgin Mary affixed to the wall, and sang to it a sad, beautiful version of “Ave Maria.”
Then the lights popped on, the musicians started hocking their CDs, and I high-tailed it out of there — because Casa Anselma seemed like the kind of place where weird shit happens after a certain hour.
Last night appeared destined for a particularly Spanish brand of failure. My plan was to check out a tablao — a large flamenco hall where troupes of dancers, singers and guitarists perform highly choreographed and professional routines. Aficionados scoff at the concept, believing them to lack duende. That said, they do feature a level of mastery not seen in the neighborhood bars.
I made the 30-minute walk to my first choice, Tablao Los Gallos, only to find it closed until February. I next tried Tablao El Arenal, but reservations were required. Accepting defeat, I started back to my apartment and tried to stop at a tapas bar I passed on the way, but it was shuttered.
Strike three, you’re in Spain.
So it was midnight by the time I got to Casa Anselma, a legendary haunt in Triana. It’s a tiny place with no sign on the door. A half-circle of chairs two rows deep surrounds the stage, so you’re no more than 15 feet away from the action.
Once the two musicians started playing, every few minutes a new character would waltz in the front door, like a scene from “Cheers.” There was the old lady who sang sad soleas while playing with her hands and chided the crowd for not taking enough photos. The gregarious fellow who hopped onto a chair and clapped wildly while two women danced sevillianas. The dapper gentleman with the fedora, who busted out some surprisingly adept footwork on the dance floor. Everyone knew each other, everyone was having a great time, and everyone was hilarious, even though I had no clue what they were saying. Just a bunch of townies shooting the shit, and me playing voyeur.
Once it was over, I walked into the crisp night and grinned. Hardly anyone was on the streets but me — for the first and certainly last time on my trip, I had outlasted the famed Sevillian nightlife.
Except for whoever was still at Casa Anselma — who knows what was going on there.