Bomba de Tiempo has become something of an institution in Buenos Aires over the years. Once a week in an unassuming concrete warehouse, something magical happens. An event that brings together thousands of enthusiastic revellers ready to cut loose and dance their worries away.
Bomba de Tiempo, the name of both the band and the show itself, has grown into a truly mainstream affair. It’s gained worldwide recognition and the group claim that a whopping 5 million people have been to watch the show.
The group have shared the stage with big name acts like Kevin Johansen, Calle 13 and Café Tacuba. They’ve toured their brand of exuberant, pounding rhythms all over the world, releasing music, both live discs and studio cuts along the way. Bomba de Tiempo now draw huge crowds to festival sets and make regular television appearances.
What began as a bit of a cult, hippy get-together has turned into a bona fide cultural phenomenon. And they show absolutely no signs of slowing down.
If you’re in Buenos Aires on a Monday night, there’s simply no better way to usher in the week. Here’s everything you need to know about this kick-ass spectacle.
What is Bomba de Tiempo?
If you’re in doubt as to exactly what Bomba de Tiempo is, don’t worry. When people tried to explain it to us, we didn’t quite get it either.
My brother described it as “a group of drummers that have a couple of guests join them onstage each week”. Honestly, it didn’t really inspire a great deal of excitement.
But it’s so much more than this. For a start, the group is huge – there’s 17 of them. They look like some kind of free spirited ghostbuster cult, all garmed out in identical, bright red, short-sleeved boiler suits.
There’s not really a suitable description for the kind of music Bomba de Tiempo play. It includes elements and influences from across the globe and also depends in some part on the guest performers.
But unless you don’t have a pulse, it’s impossible not to move your body to the relentlessly hypnotic rhythms. The stage is a mass of flashing lights illuminating the furious drumming of the group.
Incredibly, the show is improvisational, with a conductor at the front leading with a set of over 90 unique signals. They switch up the person that’s directing but whoever it is uses their hands and body to orchestrate the rhythms.
Each week there’s a different guest invited to collaborate with the group. This is a great feature of the show because it means you could go every week and it would be completely different each time. It’s common for visitors to BsAs to enjoy it so much they go back more than once during their stay.
The couple of thousand people packed into the space are all there for a good time, creating a festival atmosphere. It generates a truly euphoric ambience with people swaying, skanking and jumping in time to the beats.
Bomba de Tiempo Times and Schedules
The Bomba de Tiempo show happens each and every Monday, unusually, regardless of the weather. Buenos Aires residents are famously fair-weather devotees, so much so that a downpour generally means plans are widely cancelled.
Bomba de Tiempo, on the other hand, goes ahead come rain or shine. Depending on what time of year you go it’s held in two different spaces within Ciudad Cultural Konex.
In spring and summer, the show takes place in the Patio de Konex. This is a large, uncovered outdoor area with brightly painted, graffiti covered walls.
In autumn and winter, Bomba de Tiempo play in the Hall of the Columns. This is a large indoor space which kind of resembles an underground carpark but is crucially undercover.
In both spaces it’s standing only and there’s no ticket hierarchy. You can squash your way to the front if you choose, or enjoy more space further back from the stage.
Doors open at 19.00 and the crowd quickly begins to swell, the show itself starts at 20.00 sharp. It’s best to get in there plenty of time to bag your space and grab a beer.
How to Get to Bomba de Tiempo
Bomba de Tiempo is in the neighbourhood of Abasto which is probably best known for the huge shopping mall of the same name.
The Bomba de Tiempo show takes place in the Ciudad Cultural Konex. It’s a vast space that’s home to one of the city’s best cultural centres. It showcases theatre, dance, art, and obviously music.
It’s relatively easy to reach from anywhere in the city and you have multiple options on how to get there.
If you’re heading there on the metro there are three stops close by. Estación Carlos Gardel on the Red Line B is the closest just a couple of minutes walk away. Alternatively you have Corrientes on the Yellow Line H, or Plaza Miserere on the Light Blue Line A.
There are literally dozens of buses that will drop you off in the vicinity. Which one you get will depend on where you’re coming from. Numbers 2 / 5 / 7 / 19 / 24 / 26 / 32 / 41 / 52 / 61 / 64 / 68 / 71 / 75 / 86 / 88 / 104 / 111 / 115 / 118 / 124 / 129 / 132 / 151 / 165 / 168 / 180 / 188 all stop nearby.
Cabs are also widely available in Buenos Aires, relatively cheap and will instantly know where Konex is. You can also use Uber although be aware it’s not strictly legal in BsAs. You’ll need to be discreet and make sure one passenger gets in the front seat.
The exact address is Ciudad Cutural Konex, Sarmiento 3131, Abasto and you can see the location on the map below.
Essential Tips for Bomba de Tiempo
There are a few details that are handy to know before visiting Bomba de Tiempo. These tips will help you make the most of your night and save you some time and effort as well.
Buy Your Tickets Online
It’s possible to buy tickets on the day on the door and it’s very rare that they completely sell out. This only tends to happen when it’s a very popular artist that’s accompanying Bomba de Tiempo onstage.
However, the queues are long! And there’s really no need to put yourself through the hassle of standing around for ages.
Instead, buy your tickets in advance online. It’s a pretty simple process, and not only are you guaranteed entry, but you get to jump the queue.
There’s one line for people wanting to purchase tickets and a much shorter one for those who’ve already done so. You can smugly walk straight past all of the disorganised revellers and virtually stroll right into the veue.
Buy Multiple Beer Tokens at Once
Once you’re inside you’ll immediately get the whiff of ganga. That’s right, much of the crowd will be indulging in a not-so-crafty puff.
Each to their own, and if that’s your thing it’s pretty easy to pick up something to toke inside. However, if you’re after a beer then unfortunately you’ll need to get in line again. Twice.
The system works on tokens with a couple of cubicles selling the coupons. Once you’ve bought your tokens, you head to one of the bars to exchange them for your tipple of choice.
To save queuing numerous times again throughout the night, buy multiple beer tokens in one go. That way you’ll only have to queue at the bar and not at the token desk again.
The Show Stops Abruptly
One thing you’ll immediately notice about Ciudad Cultural Konex is that it’s in a highly residential area. There are apartment buildings whose balconies provide a prime view of the show every week.
It’s apparently for this reason that the performance stops at 10pm dead. So don’t hang around expecting the dudes to come back on again.
However, not long after you’re out of the gates, you’ll hear the drums start up again on the other side. They simply take the party to the streets. Which seems to present a bit of a conflict with the idea of reducing noise pollution, but hey.
Grab a Snack and a Beer Outside
If you’ve properly gotten into the BsAs way of life then you’ll know that restaurants don’t get going until 9pm. This is just the normal time for people to start thinking about eating dinner here.
Because of this you may want to plan in advance where you’re going to get your grub afterwards. As mentioned above, the show stops at 10 on the dot, the perfect time to head to a restaurant.
However, you might find you’re a bit peckish when you rock up, or want to line your stomach before the show kicks off. There’s always a huge crowd lining the streets outside with punters who haven’t purchased online queuing up to buy tickets. And wherever there’s a crowd, there are enterprising people selling things to that crowd.
People wander up and down peddling sandwiches, empanadas, pastries and all manner of other snacks. You’ll also be able to buy a beer to wash it down with too.
The party atmosphere gets going before people are even in the door. So feel free to head down early to get yourself in the mood.
Where to Carry On the Party After Bomba de Tiempo
The finish time of 10pm at bomba de Tiempo is positively premature when it comes to Buenos Aires nightlife. If you’re planning on making a night of it you should have an idea of what you’re doing afterwards. Here are a couple of suggestions on how to keep the night going after the show.
Bomba de Tiempo After Parties
After the show, the party takes to the streets for a while with some of the drummers getting it going. They’ll then lead anyone who wants to carry on to a local club where the knees-up just keeps going.
These after parties are pretty legendary and go on well into the small hours. There’s not really any way to find out where it’s going to be in advance. Simply hang around afterwards and follow the crowd as they move on.
If you’re in the mood for some tango, one of the city’s best clubs is literally just down the road. La Catedral is a quirky, rustic space with an impossibly high ceiling supported by wooden beams.
It’s completely different to some of the other tango clubs in Buenos Aires that can get cramped and claustrophobic. In fact, it feels more like a huge old airy barn that an artist has converted into their studio.
The dance floor is surrounded by unmatching tables and chairs on three sides. There’s a stage situated on the fourth and at the end of the hall opposite the stage is a long bar.
Tables are decorated with dripping candles in wax-caked old wine bottles. There’s peculiar art and random objects haphazardly displayed on the walls and hanging from ropes attached to the ceiling beams. Boho-chic meets kooky eccentricity.
You can come and sit and just observe if your tango isn’t up to much. Alternatively you can try your luck on the dance floor.
You’ll have to figure out something to do for a couple of hours after Bomba del Tiempo finishing though. The milonga here doesn’t start until 11.00 and won’t properly get going until well after midnight.
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Travel lover, professional writer and football (soccer) obsessive, James loves nothing more than getting outside and exploring little known corners of the globe. He’s also very partial to a drop of Guinness.