The city of fury
Buenos Aires was home to – and inspiration for – Latin American rock icon Gustavo Cerati. From neighborhood hangouts to musical milestones, this is the city of Soda Stereo’s late frontman.
Text: Mauro Libertella | photos: Emiliana Miguelez @emilianamiguelez
When Gustavo Cerati died on September 4, 2014, the electronic signs on the Buenos Aires subway began the day declaring “Gracias, totales” (Thank you, totally), the musician’s famous farewell to his fans at the end of Soda Stereo’s final concert in 2007.
The city thus paid tribute to one of its favorite sons, an artist who had struck a deep chord in the hearts of its people. This symbolic gesture also brought closure to a long and profound relationship between Cerati and Buenos Aires, an intensely personal story that begins with his family home in the neighborhood of Villa Ortúzar and ends with the massive performance at River Plate Stadium.
A Fast-food Debut
Villa Ortúzar is a peaceful neighborhood, full of trees, the occasional cobblestone street and buildings that don’t blot out the sky. Cerati grew up here, on Calle Heredia near a small plaza. In fact, the family home has never been sold: the musician’s mother, Lilian Clark, still lives there. Just a few blocks away, you’ll find the Colegio San Roque, where Cerati studied through high school. The mural in his honor was painted in 2012.
Cerati’s first apartment on his own was on Juncal and Azcuénaga, in the charming neighborhood of Recoleta. Later, he moved to Belgrano, which really influenced the musician; all his friends associate him with this part of the city. But Buenos Aires truly opened up to Cerati when he began to play around town as part of a rock band called Soda Stereo. Their first gig was at a place that no longer exists: the Airport discotheque on Avenida Cabildo near General Paz, which marks the border between the capital and the Province of Buenos Aires.
Just steps away from Pumper Nic, the band posed for the photo that would become the cover of Doble Vida, the band’s fourth album. It’s a classic city postcard image, with tall buildings in black and white, the perfect look for their first album fully recorded in New York.
Starting from Zero
Another spot Rosso recalls was Bar Zero on Calle República de la India in Palermo, near the zoo. What The Cavern was to the Beatles, Bar Zero was to Soda Stereo: the place where they gained experience, playing again and again, until they made it big. Today, a cold office building stands in its place.
Gustavo Bove had been friends with Cerati since the 1980s, and in 2015, he published a book sharing their conversations entitled Cerati, Conversaciones íntimas. “One neighborhood I associate with Gustavo is Belgrano,” Bove recalls. “He lived all his life on Calle Heredia, two blocks from the club New York City, in an area that some people call Belgrano and others, Villa Ortúzar. At one time, he lived alone in a place on Figueroa Alcorta, right across from the River Plate pitch. The first Soda Stereo practices were at Charly Alberti’s house, four blocks away from River’s playing field. They said their goodbyes and had their reunion at the same place. I best remember hanging out with him at Freedom on Avenida del Libertador.”
Figueroa Alcorta was such an important street in Cerati’s life that he even put it in a song: “Avenida Alcorta / A scar / Today, I came home tired / Of talking about myself.” It all happened here. At River Plate Stadium, the band said goodbye with two historic farewell concerts in 1997, which were recorded for the album El Último Concierto. When Soda Stereo met for a reunion, ten years later, they came back to the same venue in the neighborhood of Núñez.
“I met him in the apartment across from River Plate. It was a little old. There was a small room where he set up a mini studio,” says Leo García, a musician and close friend of Cerati. They would hit the Buenos Aires nightlife hard. “We’d go to El Cielo, to Pachá, to Morocco. That was in the 1990s. Later, after 2000, the scene shifted to Palermo, where we’d go to El Roxy and Belushi.”
Zoom in on Buenos Aires
Palermo is also home to ROHO. Located on Calle Malabia, it’s a favorite hairdressing salon for rock musicians, and where Cerati would come to hang out with his friends and keep his stylish looks fresh. Then there’s the beautiful dome of the Buenos Aires Planetarium, where the video for the song “Zoom” was filmed, with dozens of young people kissing on the grass as the band played.
A person’s life can be read as a growing map that moves and changes. Cities also change, just like people: as they grow, they transform. The Buenos Aires of Gustavo Cerato is several cities at once, each layered on top of another.
But Belgrano, Villa Ortúzar, Núñez and Palermo mark an invisible line, a thread that links all the urban experiences of the musician. This is the city of an artist who made a huge mark on Latin American music, who traveled hundreds of thousands miles, but always came back to his home, his family and his friends. The city that upon Cerati’s death paid him a heartfelt homage in his own words: “Gracias, totales.” in
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