The rock ‘n’ roll princess

Beyond the confines of the royal household, Letizia is a big fan of indie music She attends concerts around Spain with a group of close friends

Mábel Galaz
A portrait of Princess Letizia on the occasion of her 40th birthday last year.
A portrait of Princess Letizia on the occasion of her 40th birthday last year. CRISTINA GARCÍA RODERO

Princess Letizia continues to be Letizia Ortiz as often as she can. Ever since she arrived at La Zarzuela palace nearly 10 years ago, she has struggled to keep at least part of her private life intact.

At first she found this very hard, but by now she has devised ways to make quick getaways, and it is increasingly common to get a glimpse of her at restaurants, stores, movie theaters and concerts, by herself or in the company of either her husband Prince Felipe, the heir to the Spanish throne, or a group of close friends.

Letizia’s latest escapade was to FIB, the supersized summer music festival at Benicàssim, which caters principally to a young British audience and welcomed around 35,000 people this year.

The crown prince’s wife went to see The Killers. The quartet from Las Vegas, whose indie rock has a massive following, appear to be one of her favorite bands. She celebrated her 40th birthday last summer by watching them perform at the Dcode festival in Madrid.

Letizia’s top picks

EELS. The princess likes the band led by the eccentric Mark Oliver Everett. She attended the concert in which they presented their new album Wonderful, Glorious in Madrid in April and also had her picture taken with Everett on her iPhone. She also loved his humorous biography Things the Grandchildren Should Know.

LOS PLANETAS. The Granada band is one of the pillars of the local indie scene. Their distorted guitars, narcotic melodies, Jota's voice and classic albums such as Una semana en el motor de un autobús (A week inside a bus engine) marked an entire generation that came of age musically in the 1990s. Letizia went to their concert in Madrid last winter.

THE KILLERS. The Las Vegas band led by Brandon Flowers focuses on danceable rock that aims to fill stadiums. The princess has seen them perform twice in the space of a year: last summer in Madrid and last weekend at FIB Benicàssim.

This time, Letizia — who was wearing blue shorts and came in the company of two friends — chose to blend in with the crowd. Marawold, FIB’s managing company, confirmed her presence only after the festival was over.

Letizia follows her own personal protocol when she goes to concerts. She buys her own tickets and always comes with a couple of friends, besides two women from her security detail and the operations chief who always supervises her outings.

Letizia only warns the organization about her presence at a concert a few hours ahead of time. She does this so she will be allowed inside, since for security reasons she walks in when the show has already begun.

Iago Fernández, head of the editorial department at VICE magazine in Madrid, recognized Letizia at the concert of another US band, the Eels, at a popular Madrid venue called La Riviera on April 28.

“A friend and I found a spot near the bar at the far end of the room and that’s where we spotted Letizia. She was there with a couple of friends, and there were a couple of bodyguards in the distance,” Fernández says.

“People were watching her and making comments, but nobody went up to her to say hello. When I came up and introduced myself, she stopped talking with her friends, one of whom is the owner of Sala Costello, and chatted with us instead.”

Letizia asked the couple whether they were big fans of the Eels and recommended reading Things the Grandchildren Should Know, the memoirs of band frontman, Mark Oliver Everett.

“She also told us that her husband isn’t into that type of music much,” he recalls. “Later, the princess took out her iPhone from her purse to show us the picture she took of herself with Mark Oliver Everett backstage. Before saying goodbye, Letizia recognized my friend, an actress, because she’d seen her in Diamond Flash, a movie that’s so underground and obscure that we couldn’t believe she’d seen it. She replied: ‘What’s so odd about it? Can’t I watch movies?’”

Letizia’s indie side is something she doesn’t share with Prince Felipe

Letizia’s musical tastes are wide-ranging. Her indie side is something she doesn’t share with the prince — when they go out together, it is to watch more commercial performers such as Hombres G or Luz Casal. It’s only when she’s with friends that she seems to focus on her real tastes. She has three friends from her college years whom she introduces as “my music buddies,” and go with her to indie concerts. All four of them showed up at Primavera Club to see Los Planetas.

“Shortly before the concert began they warned us that she was coming,” explains a spokesperson at Heart of Gold, the festival promoter. “She showed up with three friends her same age. She had her ticket, but asked us to let her through because the concert had already begun. You can see she knows what she needs to do to move around in places like these.

“She took up a spot towards the back, near a wall. She didn’t have a lot of security and she was very discreet. She asked me to please, please tell no one that she was there. She refused to go in the back door, and used the front door instead. ‘I want to see everything,’’’ she explained to me. “Very few people realized she was in the room. Just a few turned around and asked: ‘Is that Letizia?’ She didn’t accept a drink, either: ‘We’ll get them ourselves,’” she replied.

Los Planetas did not know that the princess was among them. They found out later that she’s a fan of one of Spain’s biggest indie acts. Letizia’s iPad has music playlists that she listens to on flights. But the content of those lists is a secret that she only shares with her friends. The royal palace provides no information about her tastes or her outings, since this is considered part of her private life.

It has emerged, however, that Letizia was at the Bon Jovi concert at Madrid’s Circo Price theater on November 2010, and that she also went to see Shakira, Alejandro Sanz and Amaral. Does the princess have any other appointments with rock on her summer agenda?

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