Friday, 14 March 2014

Credits

The Brazilian Neurotics
(named this way as they were originally meant to be the only backing band)

The Brazilian Neurotics in their 'Tour bus'.
Left to Right: David Moore - Drums and backing vocals,
Steve Drewett - Lead vocals and guitar,
Demente - Bass and backing vocals
Thiago Lopes - Bass and backing vocals
Bass duties were swapped during the set and who ever wasn't playing the bass at any one time provided extra backing vocals, both were excellent. This provided a rich backing vocal layer to the sound that added an extra element to the set.

The Basilia Neurotics

The Brasilia Neurotics
Left to Right: Uri Formiga - Drums,
Steve Drewett -Lead vocals and guitar,
Caio Braga - Bass and backing vocals
A three piece line up which reflected the traditional structure of the Newtown Neurotics. As well as being a great band, Caio's backing vocals were exceptional and I had a lot of fun adding some new elements to some of the songs.

The tour organisers


Isabella Cordaro
(Instigator and co-ordinator)

Demente (Sao Paulo leg)

Gilmar Santos (Brasilia leg)







Thursday, 13 March 2014

Every journey ends with a single step.

Because of the severe traffic problems in Sao Paulo, it was decided it would be better this morning to take me to an airport closer to us, and then I catch a bus to the one I am meant to depart from. The bus has a dedicated lane and so will get me there on time, where a car could not. Here, bus lanes make all the difference.
Last night I had undertaken a series of emotional goodbyes especially to Thiago and David who all said it was not a goodbye, for we are a family now and that I will be back.
Demente had dropped me off at the bus station and we talked in a similar way, we would not let the threads that bind us drop away, it was too important for that.
Then he drove off and left me alone with...

Isabela

It was the 5th July 2013 outside the Das Nyx venue in Bonn Germany, she was in Germany to visit her sister and her husband who was working in a nearby town. So knowing I was doing a solo gig not far away, they came to see me. Outside, after the show, we all had a great time chatting and laughing and then Isabela said to me.

"Would you be interested in playing in Brazil?"
I said "yes" (but there is a million miles between a declaration of interest and something happening, and the logistics was something I could not even comprehend). I can think of so many times that things like this have been suggested for other parts of the world, by other people, and then never happened.

But this was Isabela

She said she had never done anything like this before but she thinks she might know a few people who could make this happen. Now, I avoid offers of gigs or tours by people who have never done it before, because it is opening yourself up to potential nightmares. I could easily do without the hassle.

But this was Isabela and I trusted her.

She had come to see me play in Harlow, London, Blackpool, Venice and now Germany, she had become the Neurotics greatest fan and now she was about to hand over to me, one of the greatest experiences of my life and turn from fan to friend.

Isabela, Thank you!

And thank you too, the chain of people that made it happen, Demente for the Sao Paulo leg and all those that helped him pull it together, and Gilmar for the Brasilia leg and all those that helped him. I just could not believe how lucky I was to have two fine bands and luckier still that they became two fine groups of friends. Thank you all.

Isabela waited with me to make sure there would be no confusion on what bus I got on, and finally it arrived. After I had loaded my guitar and bag into it, we hugged.

I don't remember what I said, it was barely the scrapings of what I felt. I was tired and over emotional and somewhat overwhelmed.

I said my final goodbye and I was gone, but she was with me until I landed in Britain, they all were, in my heart and in my mind.

At Heathrow with little more than an hour's sleep out of twenty four, I wandered with my trolley, disorientated, looking for the way to the 'Heathrow Express' but getting out of the lift on the wrong floor. I was in Departures. I needed to get back to the lift again.

I took a single step to the left.

And I came face to face with the coffee shop that I, and around five other people, spent the early hours of the morning all those weeks ago, trying to stay awake, waiting for the first 'Check in' to open.
Then, the concourse was empty and I was a cold and anxious man, now as hundreds of travellers swarmed around me, I stood in the same place...

A man transformed.






Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Genie is put back in the bottle.

We are now on the road, flying out of the city of Sao Paulo, heading for the Teatro Universitario in Curitiba and I am feeling pretty good considering how little sleep I have had. I feel well and there is a certain contentment on how much has been achieved in these past few weeks, and that I am about to do the final gig. I feel satisfaction at my adaptability, something I didn't realise I could do so well, and I have done a whole range of very enjoyable gigs with two bands. I feel like a touring veteran now so I am not that anxious about what we might find at our next destination.
The Brazilian Neurotics in their 'Tour Bus'.
Left to Right: David Moore, Demente,Thiago Lopes,
 Steve Drewett
That is despite Demente telling me that at a Psychobilly gig at the same venue a few days ago, there was massive trouble because the event was stuffed full of Nazi's. This resulted in was one punk and three Nazi's in hospital with stab wounds. As me and this band Juventude Maldita who are playing tonight are left wing, he hopes there will not be an act of retaliation this evening, either from them or interference from the cops.
I put it out of my mind and watch the beautiful landscape that we are beginning to drive through, full of banana plantations and mountains, I originally thought I would use this opportunity to sleep on this long journey but now I do not want to miss the scenery.

I fall asleep.

It was a lovely day when we started but then as we got higher into the mountains, the mists descended and then we found ourselves in the pouring rain again. This is the fourth gig in a row that has had rain that could potentially reduce the audience numbers. The only good thing about this precipitation is, according to Demente is that the Nazis don't like the rain so don't come out to maim or murder when it is wet. Bless em, they should buy umbrellas and rain hats. Then the darkness fell and we at first struggled to find the venue.

Eventually, we located it, it was below street level and to approach it we needed to descend some steps. I could see there were a lot of punks gathering down there and as I came down to their level, people began to realise who had just arrived. One man breaks out from the crowd, cups his hands over his heart and then kneels down and prostrates himself to simulate kissing my feet.
I am stunned, I have no default position on people doing this, I don't want anyone revering me to this extent, I don't believe in the hierarchy of dominance that keeps people in their place.
This is ridiculous, and as I didn't have the language or experience to defect this sort of reaction, I let it continue but, instead of it re-enforcing any idea of my stature in this country, it blew it away and stripped me of any pretentiousness I may have accumulated on my journey through this land.

I'm just Steve Drewett, playing some songs and very lucky to be able to, that's me, in a nutshell.

Eventually the man gets up and I shower him with many 'muito obrigado's' to help counterbalance his reaction.

Ace designer Lyn Nimtz and Steve Drewett
The next person I lay my eyes on is a woman I was very much hoping would be here, Lyn Nimtz, she created a series of posters for my tour that I believe defined it before I'd played a single note in Brazil. In my opinion, and many others, a very fine piece of design indeed. She is from Brazil but did the design in Portugal where she was working and she sat and watched the excitement of everyone on Sao Paulo and Brasilia building up knowing she could not be a part of it. Being a big Neurotics fan, that must have been difficult. But rumours started getting to me that she was going to try to return to Brazil to catch one of the shows. Then the night before this gig, I see a locational post on Facebook saying she was at Lisbon airport and I then knew, she was on her way.
And here she was, so at last, I could thank her personally and suggest that she could so some work for me in the future. She and her companion in turn gave me a present of a couple of really good Brazilian speciality beers. A photo session then took place to prove what had taken place.

When we get into the hall, we can see that the PA and the onstage equipment were of a very high quality and the stage area was generous too. We had our own dressing room which even had two mirrors with light bulbs all around it like you find in Theatres. There was also beer, water, wine and food put out for us. Great.
We got there just in time for Demente and his band Juventude Maldita to kick off. They play a really good set and before I knew it, it was time for me to take the stage.

So this was it, the final gig in Brazil, the final time on this tour the single stabbing note of  'Wake up' would disturb the air in this country. As I was playing the intro I began to feel sad knowing that everything was drawing to a close.
The other thing was, I had just come back from a different line up of the Neurotics and now I'm back with my original Brazilian crew, the changes in approach are strange and I need to adjust a little before I can click in. However, we only have this gig so I have to adapt fast, also, these guys haven't played with me for a week and we had no refresher rehearsals. So on a wing and a prayer, once again we rock.
The set is good, it is not perfect but it is very enjoyable and we decided early on that we would do the full set, everything we had rehearsed together was going to be played, not so much for the audience but for us. Because it was the last time.

'Oh No' got played, it was originally rehearsed to be played especially for Isabela as it was a favourite of hers. Discarded by me as a minor 'b' side, Isabela's love of it and Thiago proclaiming that it was a 'beautiful song' with many nods and mumbles 'yeah really beautiful song' from the rest of the band, encouraged me to give it a go. And it came out sounding better than it had ever done, and on this night, this final night, we played it brilliantly.
Demente, Thiago, David and myself had become close friends in a very short space of time, and on this final gig it really felt like old friends playing together, the audience lapping it up, our vocals were entwining in a way that suggesting the potential of a longer relationship. Just like the Brasilia Neurotics, we had achieved so much so quickly, this really was like living life in the fast lane.
We roared, we sweated, we played our hearts out, hovered for a dizzying moment or two in the reggae section of 'Living With Unemployment' and I never wanted it to end.
But end it did and when the last chord came to a final 'blam' we disappeared in a puff of smoke, the genie was placed back in the bottle.
We had created great magic together but now we had run out of spells and there was no flying carpet to take us home, we had a six hour journey to do (maybe less at night but still daunting).
No after show party, no end of tour party, no hanging around outside with admirers, it was back in the car and back down the route we had arrived on just a little bit earlier. The sound of the road under the car was a constant rumble which only eased when we stopped for a break or change drivers. It had been going on for so long that Demente described it as an infinite road. I know what he meant, but for us all it was the end of the road tour wise and it couldn't be both.

When I got to my apartment I couldn't go to bed straight away, I had to gather almost all my possessions and put them all back in my bags for I was leaving fairly early in the morning.  So in a stupor, I checked and double checked I hadn't left anything behind, I tried to tidy the apartment up as least a bit, ready to hand back to Isabela.

Finally I got into bed and then I got out of bed, a mere two hours had passed.

I was going to the airport,

I was going home

Job done!



Tuesday, 11 March 2014

And out of the darkness came the Angels.

What a contrast, now we've pulled up outside a big bad ass Hell's Angels Club and some of the Chapter are grilling meat out in the street. These are Demente's friends and the first thing that happens is I am offered some of the barbecue which I decline because I am not hungry. Demente then turns to me and says, "You really should try some of the meat" At this point, I can't tell if it's his use of English or that he is really saying "If you don't try the meat, they will be offended, it is customary to accept this token of friendship". Then he adds, "it is really good". Naturally, very soon I am accepting every bit of meat offered to me. Just in case.
You don't get to wander into a place like this, you have to have a contact with them and the outside world, Demente was the contact. He and Vampiro the chapter's leader greet as only old friends do.
Recently, Nazis had murdered one of Demente's friends and to make sure that an attack did not occur on my appearance at his Estudio Noise Terror gig, he had invited the Ceiferos Chapter of Sao Paulo to be there in case there was trouble. These Hells Angels hate Nazis. Luckily enough there was no trouble but they did get to see me play and so I am instantly recognisable to them when we arrive and I am welcomed with open arms.

Home of the Ceiferos Chapter of Hells Angels
This place seems to be at the end of a suburban street which makes it look surreal, to the residents, it must be like putting up with a huge wasp's nest at the end of the garden. There are some enormous low slung, machines here, painted black like they had just come off of a Batman movie set. If you ride one of these beasts you are almost reclining. If you close your eyes and imagine what a Hells Angel bar looks like, you've probably got the picture in your head right now, There was no surprises apart from me being there in the first place.
As I wander around the place I notice that there are leather waistcoats hanging from the ceiling like ghoulish apparitions, I thought they may belong to dead bikers and this was their way of remembering them.
I got it wrong, these waistcoats (which I seem to remember are called 'Colours' ) have been taken off of previous members who have been ex-communicated for transgression of the Club's codes for one reason or another.

How you make good and get your 'Colours' back I have no idea. But there they hang, reminding everyone else that they cannot do what ever they like, and for a sub-culture that doesn't like rules, there are still rules.

There are always rules.

I am really strung out, it is not just what I have consumed this evening but the night before I got around two hours sleep as I had to catch a plane. This was the early hours of the morning of the third day. I felt like I had matchsticks keeping my eyes open and that I was walking on stilts.

In my head I was doing some calculations. If we leave soon, Demente will drop me off and probably get, if his is lucky, three hours sleep before we all set off again and he then drives for six hours to the final gig, we will be there a couple of hours in which he will also perform, then after a couple of drinks and a smoke will then drive back another six hours. Conclusion: I am going to die in a car accident coming home from a final gig of the tour.

Hanging with the Ceiferos Chapter of the Hells Angels
Left to Right: Steve Drewett, Pequeno, Pequeno's cousin (Grande?)
Vampiro, Demente, Thiago. Middle and below: Karina, Marcelo.
Demente was enjoying a good conversation with the Angels and although I could work my calculation out, I could not articulate my concerns considering the way I felt, I just hoped we would leave soon. I got invited to play pool, which I did, which then got extended to three games (best out of three). I managed, three or four brilliant pots to begin with and then could not get a thing down after that, my sense of physics had completely deserted me by now like most of my other faculties.
After the pool finished, we appeared to come to the natural conclusion to our evening. Before we left we gathered around for a photo, with me standing next to the biggest Hells Angel I have ever seen (his name is Pequeno which is Portuguese for small) , and next to him, a small guy for added contrast. Much hand shaking, hugging and backslapping and a personal goodbye delivered to Vampiro by myself, occurred before we made it back outside.

Back in my apartment, I laid down on the bed and then I got up again, I think three hours had passed.
I was now picked up and taken to Demente who was standing in a market being held across the road from his studio, and he greeted me with...

"Good Morning Steve, how are you today"?
"Fine", I replied "but I am worried",
"Worried about what?" he enquired,
"We were out to very late last night"
"Hey it's Brazil"
"I'm worried that I'm gonna die, this has been such a great tour and I really would hate it if I were to die right at the end of it".
I then hit him with my calculations and he smiled and said,
 "Don't worry", there will be several of us sharing the driving".
Oh, I said in a relieved voice, that's alright then.

Before we leave, Demente defuses a potential altercation in the market place and then we hit the road.

In six hours’ time we will reach the final gig of my tour, me being re-united with the band I started with, the Brazilian Neurotics.



Monday, 10 March 2014

Give me another shot of monkey brains and leave me to the night!

I eventually find myself back at Congonhas Airport waiting for Demente to pick me up and I stand there straining to hear the sound of both engine noise and chinking bottles, but he has kept up his cleaning regime in the car and initially drives straight past me before I realise it.
Once picked up, we catch up on how Brasilia went, with me being constantly aware that speaking about the Brasilia band in glowing terms might appear to cast a shadow on him and the boys in the Brazilian Neurotics (are you keeping up with the distinction?) but it was not intended to, and the Sao Paulo boys were simply not able to make it due to the work commitments of  David, the drummer. So Demente was more than happy to hear that it all worked out so well for me and that making me rehearse with another band, with a second set of people I had never met before, had not resulted in disaster.

Demente also mentioned that he had some three hours of work to do and then he was free to do something together if I wished. I said that would be great, so when he drops me off, instead of catching some sleep because I have only had a couple of hours, I decide to drink a couple of beers whilst updating my blog. Then when Demente has finished we can go out, catch some lunch, go somewhere.

Early evening comes and then 'early' slides away to become just evening. Demente still hasn't arrived, he has Facebooked me to tell me something had cropped up that he needed to deal with. He had let me down in a similar way the previous week and now I was getting the distinct impression, he might do it again. I had eaten two bags of peanuts on the plane and nothing more because I thought we were meeting up to eat lunch. Now as evening was here my stomach was empty and gumbling. I then panic and try to contact a couple of people to see if they fancied going out with me. I get no immediate reply, when I do, they all want to do something at the same time and I can't put them all together aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh.

Anyway, in desperation I decide that I will go to the rather fine Pizza place across the road from my apartment and eat before I collapse. Once ensconced in there I find out they have free Wi-Fi and so can keep in touch while I eat. I tell Isabela via Facebook that Demente has so far let me down, she rings Demente and then Facebooks me back that she and her boyfriend Bruno will meet me in the restaurant and Demente will meet me there.
It is 9pm, I think that when he turns up we will go for a drink for a couple of hours, this feels like the end of the evening.

In reality it is only the beginning and I won't return to my apartment until 3am.

When he does turn up, he has Brazilian Neurotics bassist Thiago Lopes in tow and after we leave the restaurant, he finds somewhere to grab a snack, we go and pick up their friend Marcelo and then we race into the night, springing up and down the Sao Paulo roads.

Eventually we draw up at a tall rectangular slot of light which looks like the open door to a house.
No Sky Sports in this bar
But this is no ordinary house. This is an illegal drinking den and it is both marvellous and scary at the same time. Not so much scary because of who was in there, they all seemed nice enough but this is where livers get shredded.
The bar is something else, not really configured in anyway like conventional watering holes, there are massive barrels in the room for one thing. The other is a rack containing rows of huge glass bottles full of every flavour of Cachaça you could think of and then some. Inside the bottles apart from the drink itself was various ingredients like fruit and herbs to give a distinctive flavour to each bottle.
The rack to me looks something like a mad scientist's lab where he has bottles of monkeys brains he is attempting to electrocute back into life.
There are no sensible drinking guides here, there is no information on the strength of the brews you consume, people who come here don't worry about these things. There are no health and safety regulations followed in the brewing of these homemade delights, so anything could be in these drinks, it is an imbibers Russian Roulette.
I am bought one particular type in a little specimen cup, I take a swig and my head and chest explodes with surprise and warmth and I warn you now, to any who may easily succumb to these things, it was like a warm kiss from a beautiful Brazilian woman (or man, this is gender neutral) on a hot moonlit night.

For a brief fleeting moment,

It is so seductive that you want to experience it again, so you load the barrel with a different flavour and fire the shot to the back of your throat.

It isn't the same, but it is still very, very nice and you can chase this demon for the rest of the night and never manage to catch up. But leave it until another day and the first hit will do it again and so off you go once more drawing you closer and closer to the abyss.
The mad professor's monkey brains or
Cachaça in it's many flavours actually


This drinking den is below the radar of the authorities and so are many of the people who drink there. The problem with being under the radar, is that one day you might simply disappear and no-one will notice. Here you never drink alone, you drink with the mosquitos if you have no friend.
This is what I like about exploring a country in this way, you'd never get to experience something like this blown through the convention channels of tourism. But with local knowledge, I get to bungee jump into another way of life just close enough to almost taste it and then the elastic pulls tight and springs me back out again. I am a voyeur, a scum class tourist if you like.

Cachaça is a wonderful drink, too wonderful, be careful all who go there.

We leave my narrative revelry to enter deeper in this club, we pass by many side rooms, one with a loud TV squawking out news reports of the coming Carnival time, it is slick and predictable as they have been doing these festivities since the dawn of time. This place is a bit of a labyrinth but right at the back is a little venue with a little stage and a little PA, just sitting there empty and around the edges were some settees so we make ourselves comfortable and continue to drink.
How long do you think, that a bunch of musicians could sit facing a stage, amplifiers drum kit and an acoustic guitar with a working pick up on it and not get on it? Not long, in a spirit of fun we climb up, Demente on drums, me on crumbling guitar tuned to the wrong key for my songs, (unfortunately no bass) and Isabela on backing vocals and what a fine racket we made, not for public consumption you understand and the Cachaça had done its job on me as I was completely smashed. When I finally could not take any more fumbling guitar and monotone (ish) vocals I put the guitar down and realised that some people from the other rooms had filled the settee opposite, we had an audience, ouch!
We were about to leave when Demente couldn't resist picking up the guitar himself and playing a few songs.
After that we left, but hung around in the street for some time chatting.

What a night!

After a while Demente says "let’s go" and we career of into the night again. I am happy to be going home as we have been out for some time and tomorrow we have a six hour drive to get to our final gig. Phew.

However just as I was getting used to the idea of falling into bed, Demente points to a single lit window high on a hill and says we are going there now, to the greatest club in Brazil, you must experience this!

Here we go again.






Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Haiku of rock 'n' roll!

After we have finished and the applause had died away I pack up and drag my sweat dripping body outside
to pose for another million photos, sign some freshly bought merchandise and chat to those who can speak English and gesticulate to those who cannot, saying many a time, muito obrigado.
The Brasilia Neurotics
Left to Right: Uri Formiga, Steve Drewett, Caio Braga
Then the Brasilia Neurotics come back together after drawing breath and we smile at one another with a collective understanding of what we have achieved in such a small period of time, with a blinding gig right at the end. In retrospect, the difficult gig the day before, was a test that we had experience to make the band real, for it is the difficult times that test the mettle of a band and it is that mettle that can produce great moments. We had formed, rehearsed, played, triumphed and then split in five days, we were the Haiku of rock 'n' roll. It is a heady mix, euphoria and sadness and we were drunk on it. We repeated the same exhaltations again and again having run out of ways to express our swirling emotions.

Everything ends in goodbyes one way or another, ours was to say that it wasn't the end, it was just the beginning and I will be back to join them again.

I am a realist though, so I know that is not necessarily the case and also, as a realist I  know that we do need a positive view of the future to encase our farewells.

If I do return, it will not be the same, we can't chase a glorious past, we can only try to create a new glorious present and if we do, it will be different, for better or for worse. It will be different.

We say our emotional farewells and we take our time about it. In the morning I am doing the same to Gilmar in the airport, and then I go through the passport check to return to Sao Paulo. Once through, I look back and Gilmar is still there waiting to give a final wave. It is very touching, this is what families do in seeing off a loved one, squeezing in a final moment before they turn and finally disappear.
And in my mind I think of all the fans I met in Brasilia and the ones with barely any English, who could only express themselves by pointing at me and then cupping both their hands over their heart.

With that thought, I turned and walked into the final chapter of my adventure.

In Brazil

In March

In 2014



All you need is love!

He has slipped onto the floor and there are feet dancing all around him, he is not the first person this has happened to, it happened to someone else earlier  and the same thing happens after his fall, the people nearest him in the audience bend down and help him back up. There is a father with a young daughter on his back dancing together, there is a young boy of thirteen or fourteen dancing his heart out, maybe this is the first band he has ever witnessed, maybe his endorphins are so high that he will not be able to help himself and will want to form a band as soon as he can. He is the future and I am the past but we share a beautiful moment in the present as I glimpse him through my sweat splattered shades.
The punks at floor level are dancing their hearts out, the audience outside are 100% plugged in to the excitement as they can see every detail, a sort of unavoidable hi-definition and are grooving along too.
Even Gilmar is dancing and I am glad, this is an validation for him in bringing me over along with Demente and Isabela, it is a validation of all his hard work. This is turning into the greatest gig of my life, I know I sort of keep saying this but believe me I am left only with a tired vocabulary to express what I feel. The punks dance inches away from me always considerate not to bash into me, a guy is moving between the band filming. He doesn't bother me, it is intrusive light I hate but you can rest assured that if we had gone for the single blue light bulb tonight, he would have been there with his bright light on and I would be hurling him back into the audience. But that wasn't the case so all is positive.
When I glance over at Caio, I can see the rawest form of what music can do for a performer, along with Uri, we are joined by sweat glistening audio threads into one, bound into a whole, into a deeper meaning.
I have a new voice here and it has changed some of the songs forever, what the hell, I realise now that these songs are living things, they shouldn't be exactly the same for eternity, they should evolve with the person.
The only way, we could get this going in such a short space of time, two rehearsals and three gigs, is because we tapped into the greatest drug known to mankind.

Love,

Love of my music, love of performing, love of creating, same goes for the Neurotics of Sao Paulo, it only works because of love, and I swear that it manifests itself in such a powerful way as the drug rushes through the veins of us all.

No YouTube clip will every show you all this, this is an internal matter, you will only get the top layer, this is personal and we don't care what you think, these moments are ours but now you know how I feel and now you know what it means to me. If you can tap into this and feel some of what I did, then I am so pleased.

 If not, I don't care.


Saturday, 8 March 2014

Numb tongue in a mouth alive!

Every one of the gigs I have done in Brazil so far has had a million requests for photos of people posing with me and many of them were instantly posted up on to Facebook. I could see my life scrolling across the internet almost in real time but with me too busy to make a comment.
Once I had been dropped off at the Arts Centre in the early hours and the shutters came down once more to lock me in, I lay on my bed in the dark and watched the 'Friend requests', the 'tagging', the 'comments' still rolling in. When do these people ever sleep? When their batteries run out perhaps? My batteries had by now, so I lay my head on my bed and recharged.

The television tower of Brasilia
In the afternoon of the following day, I hit 100% and my face lit up and told me to unplug myself from the horizontal charging position. Today Gilmar is to take me to a big market which I am really looking forward
to, as will give me an opportunity to buy some gifts for home especially for my sister who is having a seventieth birthday bash soon. The market takes place around the television tower of Brasilia and is full of wonderful things and wonderful aromas and wonderful music. A simple enquiry about a strange musical instrument at a stall encouraged the owner to demonstrate it by playing it, bursting into song and was instantly accompanied by a couple of resident percussionists. It was so good that we tried enquiring about another instrument and the same thing happened again. Sadly, I couldn't buy these things, I will have enough trouble getting my guitar home in one piece.
Next Gilmar asks me if I can smell that food that is being cooked a little way from us. I say I can, especially as it was time to eat and I was pretty hungry. He describes a certain dish in glowing terms and tells me it is one of his favourites. At this, I hit on an idea, instead of him supplying food, why don't I take this opportunity to buy him a meal, for thanks for all he has done.
"Why should you pay for it", he enquired.  "To treat you" was my reply and he accepted that so we head over to eat.

Yum Yum Yum, numb your tongue, the wonderful  Tacacá
I swear to you, I have never tasted anything like it in my life, no exaggeration. It looked like a japanese Miso  Tacacá, it´s composed of garlic, chicoria leef, alfavaca leaf, salt, chilli, jambo (the anaesthetic), shrimp, and maniva gum (that make the thing seems like a glue) and other herbs.
soup but tasted nothing like it, it had a taste I cannot describe here but it comes from the Amazon region of the country and the craziest thing about it, it makes your tongue go completely numb but doesn't stop you tasting the food so the chilli still bites through. That means it numbs the nerve endings of the the tongue but not the taste buds. And the texture of the meal was like the sliminess of oyster, gloopy with shrimp floating in it. It's name is
It was a revelation to me and gave me another experience to remember of my trip. We also had Acarajé, composed of beans, onion, ginger, garlic, salt, all the moisture is fried on dendê oil ( a very fat Brazilian coconut). Also wonderful and also nothing like I have ever had before.
Brilliant, and then we went on around the market some more and I found all the gifts I needed for home.

What's next? The gig! ahhhh the gig. That happened to be around the corner in the nearby shopping centre. Yes a shopping centre.
There is a small bar in there called Barberellas and it has an open area in front of it in which shoppers pass by during the day but can be sealed off during the evening to make an open performance area.
It is already buzzing when I arrive and after relaxing with a beer, Caio takes me and Gilmar home and I freshen up and collect my guitar. When we return, the place is buzzing even more.
I then take the opportunity to use the outside area to start replacing some strings on my guitar. This then prompts a flurry of photos taken of ‘Me and the Maestro as he maintains his instrument'. The owner of a rehearsal studio I used a couple of days before comes over and says hi and says, you haven't had much luck with the weather for your gigs have you! No, he was right, before I came here everyone in Sao Paulo said the weather in Brasilia is very hot and very, very dry. So hot and dry that householders often put bowls of water out in the living room to try to put some moisture into the air. Since I have been here I have seen it quite hot, but every time I play a gig, I see rainfall of a magnitude I have rarely experienced.

Anyway, I say to him, at least we haven't had any rain today. It isn't raining at the moment, is it?  I add quickly and he says no, anyway it is open here so you would feel it. Oh yeah, I say as I look up to see half of the open area open to the sky.
He walks away and I continue with restringing and after no more than five minutes, the sound, initially covered up by a random burst of hard-core coming out of the PA, of pitter pattering of rain can be heard falling into half of my guitar case and nearly spoiling all of my replacement strings. I had to pull all of my stuff under the more covered area.
I looked up at the sky and murmured, I don't believe this, Brasilia, oh it is so hot and so dry. An Englishman always brings his own rain.
This downpour completely reverses the layout of the gig, the mikes and fold back monitors cannot be put placed outside now so the cafe is to be the performance area, with the PA outside but undercover and the audience outside half under cover. It wasn't too much of a problem though because on this occasion the rain didn't last long.

Barbarella's earlier in the day.
Last night we opted to not finish the show which was great because it meant that I could relax and enjoy the Squintz (Caio, our Brasilia bass player plays guitar with them) who turned in a very good set indeed. This time I decide to do the same, as this will be my final gig in Brasilia and I want to party a little before going home. I have to be up early tomorrow to fly back to Sao Paulo so I want a bit of downtime before I do.
So we are on second this evening.
The one thing I hate, no, the two things I hate, no, actually, the three things I hate and do not accept if I am to perform a gig are...

I hate performing on the floor
I hate performing under house light/s
I hate performing looking directly into the faces of the members of the audience.

Tonight I am expected to perform under a single blue light bulb this time and I have had enough. Let's play with the lights on, I've had to be adaptable since I have been here, let me adapt again.
No stage, ok but the way it is laid out some of the audience are at the same level and the rest are tiered higher, bit like playing at the Christmas lectures at the Royal Institute in London (I know it's nothing like but it is a nice idea).
I will not only playing face to face with the audience but as the gig rolls on I will even be in the audience.

I am not going to be a blue silhouette, I want people to see the sweat , the joy and the excitement on our faces, live rock 'n' roll should not to be experienced as audio only, we need to be seen, the Brasilia Neurotics need to be seen, seeing is believing, believe this...

So starts my final gig in Brasilia with the Brasilia Neurotics, such a short time to become friends and become
Unforgettable. I begin the stabbing single note intro of Wake Up and imagine it rising into the sky above Brazil so far away from home and yet, so near at the same time.

And off we go....




Friday, 7 March 2014

Be in the moment, because that's all you really have!

We took the stage last night so late that we lost some our potential audience through them going home after they had seen their favourite bands, these were potential new Neurotics fans and we didn't get a chance to get to them. I therefore tell Gilmar that I don't want to do the graveyard shift anymore. I think we came off stage at 3am in the morning that time, if my memory serves me well. That means very late to bed and I try to achieve eight hours sleep if I can, so when I awake, it's time to have lunch. Glimar and I do that at the Self Service restaurant again and then he takes me off to see a little children’s carnival the Culture Department was holding in Gamma that day. There was a big stage with first class PA, Musicians playing traditional Brazilian music and huge scary clowns that chased the children round the car free area to the sounds of screams and shrieking from the excited kids. We met up with some guys who were sitting in the bar, and they invited us to have a drink with them at their table. We accepted and sat down in the sun to join them. Again I was treated as a visiting hero and bought a beer and Gilmar who had planned not to drink that day gracefully accepted one too.

They conversed with Gilmar and a little with me too with as much English as they knew and then left us on our own to enjoy watching the festivities. As we sat there we decided to have another drink and just relax. I loved watching these clowns interacting with the children, these performers came from a children's entertainment troupe that had been going since the Eighties and were mighty fine stilt walkers too. Most people were having too much of a good time with their families to notice that the sky was darkening behind them, I noticed it and assumed it was a shower coming. It was to be far more than that, once it started; it rained with an incredible intensity well into the evening. The roads quickly turned to rivers and cars and coaches trying to use them appeared to be the bottom part of an Alton Towers ride with water shooting out of both sides of each vehicle.

The bar where we were sitting brought down plastic rain curtains on the three sides exposed to the elements so that it made it seem we were all drinking in a tent. A lot of families retreated to the bar along with organisers, there were children having fun at the table with colouring, there were adults enjoying a drink or something to eat, dogs running through, the scary clowns came in later, it began to look like a Ariston advert (or I wanna be sedated Ramones video). Gilmar suggested another drink while the rain still fell and then the bar put some music on and a party atmosphere leapt out from nowhere complete with dancing.
This was great, but the rain didn't ease up and Gilmar and I were drinking more and more beer. I was getting plastered and I had a gig later in the evening, so that didn't bode well.

Finally coming to the conclusion that this rain was not going to lay off any time soon, Gilmar goes off to find someone with a car to drop us off at home. We cannot make a run for it because it is too far and anyway I have the clothes on that I intend to wear at the gig later. I cannot afford to get them wet. Gilmar then returns not with a driver but surprisingly, with Manoel Preto, the Sports & Cultural director who then proceeds to present me with the agreed gifts from the Culture Department, the cachaça and the jar of chillies. As the downpour continues Gilmar looks again at what support he can rustle up to help get us home, it is difficult because his usual contacts were all helping to pack away the carnival. Eventually he comes up trumps and we get a lift back. I take a quick shower to wash away my inebriation and then Caio calls to take us to the gig at a venue called Sub Pub.

The Sub Pub Venue
The Sub Pub venue
When I arrive, I find the venue in a dark, lonely rain swept street, as I get out of the car I put my Converse encased foot into a broken water pipe and it disappears into a torrent of rain water. And yet, when I quickly pull it out, my foot is still dry, am I walking on water now? Anyway, Sub Pub is a venue split in two, one half is a bar with people chatting and drinking and the other half is the hall in which is playing ear splitting hard-core and there is no-one in there, or rather there might be some people in there but if they are, they are pinned to the back wall by the level of the volume and intensity of the music. I know immediately that this is going to be a difficult gig by the lack of space on stage and the stage lights consisting of, once again, a single red bulb, just like the Estudio Noise Terror gig. Later I discover that when someone goes to the toilet, the light from that room falls directly on to the stage and I wonder if we could organise the toilet light to be left on when we play.

Everything helps.

I feel a bit anxious, I am thinking that the rain is going to deplete the numbers and there appears to me to be a certain brutality of the surroundings and the hard-core that seem to say, "You don't belong here". That was dispelled very quickly as once inside everyone wants to say 'hi' and tell me how much they love my music and how pleased they are that I am in their town, and that they really, really can't believe it. I felt much better then, as always, a Neurotics audience is always a fine audience.

Once we start to play, the single red bulb stage light syndrome begins, just as we start to play 'Wake Up', and just like at the Estudio Noise Terror gig, someone comes out of the crowd filming me with a bright white light and points it straight in my eyes making our opening song a complete and utter mess. Thinking it through, I quickly realised that we would lose momentum if I stopped to ask the person to stop filming and even then he might not understand what I was saying to him so I decided that mid-song I would cover the camera light with my hand and push the camera and owner back into the crowd. And that was exactly what I did and the problem was solved, the owner got the message, loud and clear. It must be that when there is limited light on the stage, people who want to film have to turn on a bright light so I then suffer from a lack of light were I need it most and blinding light where I don't, the worst of both worlds. After completely ruining a song they then post that very song on to YouTube, thanks guys, let me do something for you one day that gives you as much pleasure as I feel when you do that!
There is something else, it's not just my inability to hit the right frets, something else is sounding strange, once the number is finished it becomes apparent. Caio busted a bass string right at the beginning of Wake Up and had spent the entire song trying to find all the notes on three strings.

The spirits are not with us tonight!

Fortunately, a replacement bass appears very quickly out of the darkness.

Anyway, there are other problems, Uri hasn't got enough foldback to hear the rest of band and he doesn't have enough light to read or anticipate stuff from my body movements. We are all put out, and are all miss firing on all three cylinders. This is a big disappointment after the soaring majesty of last night's gig. This hurts all of us, our professional pride dented and yet, this does not mean that the audience does not enjoy the show that we manage to deliver; they have no comparisons in their heads. The other thing, this is a three gig experience only, so don't intellectualise it, live it. We lived it, it was still great, we can't rewind it so move on, lets make the future, the final Brasilia gig, something we will never forget, for the rest of our lives.

Live it and own it.



Thursday, 6 March 2014

Living the dream!

I have a good eight hours sleep at Caio's house making me much refreshed and after being treated to a breakfast which included a taste of a typical Brazilian fruit called a 'Sugar Apple' (Too sweet for my taste, Brazilians generally have a very sweet tooth, that's connected to their economy relying on sugar cane for much of the countries past) he then takes me back to the Arts Centre to meet up with Gilmar and be taken to lunch. Again it is a self-service meal which means I treat myself to a big plate full. The opportunity to eat can be random and I can't eat much just before I play so when I get the chance I'll eat a lot and not have so much later.
The gig tonight is in our district (Gama) so after eating, Gilmar and myself wander over to the venue so that I
can see where I will  be playing. It appears to be a community centre building and is completely empty, it is devoid of anything inside that you would expect to see in a venue. No PA, no lights, no bar area. It does have a stage though and it is a sizeable affair which is good and there is also a room that is to be allocated solely to the Brasilia Neurotics, all that is missing is the star on the door. The hall is pretty big too, so this could be a good place to play, I am confident that the next time I am here, it will all look a little more rock 'n' roll than it does now.

Next we make our way over to the local government building that administrates the Gama area and as we enter we pass a couple of policemen with guns, wearing stab vests, so it looks all very serious and then I can see all the office paraphernalia of a local government department. However as we weave our way through various rooms I can see we are heading for the Culture Department where the work looks more like fun and so do the workers. I am taken into to see Manoel Preto, the Sports & Cultural director and he and the rest of the people working there treat me like a visiting dignitary, all wanting to shake my hand and to tell me how happy they are at having someone so legendary in punk rock, visiting their town (I'm not making this up).  There follows a lot of hand shaking, hugging and 'kissing the air by the side of the face', and that was just the men (sorry, little joke, couldn't resist it). Anyway, by this time, I am all puffed up, warm and glowing inside, especially because Manoel  has now cracked open a bottle of Cachaça and has offered a shot of it to me which was now racing around my throat and chest.
Gilmar does frantic translation of everyone's 'pleasure to have me perform in their town' and as I look around at all the photographs of events and projects they have worked on with young people. I am very much reminded of several Youth Inquiries I had done with Harlow Council. It all seems very familiar, I know this vibe, I know this type of department, I know this type of work. I have worked in a culture department of sorts and organised youth events.
It is a jolt to be knocking back strong spirits in a local government office but when I was involved in youth work, the people in our offices could smoke at their desks and Friday afternoon was when we would imbibe a sherry or two to welcome in the weekend.
I announced to them through Gilmar, that I too had worked in a department like theirs, thinking it would be a good talking point, but it didn't cause much of a stir at all really, as if they preferred their image of me as a wandering punk rock minstrel telling like it is, rather than someone behind the desk having to toe the government line for the common good. I suppose it was like having a circus performer telling you that they used to be a tax collector, now that would not be very sexy and no-one would want to know.

Anyway, spirits were not dampened too much by my tale and then there appeared a lovely woman Renata Batt who asked if I would pose for a photograph, which I agree to, and it was taken with me and all the office staff holding a up banner saying " I heart Gamma". I didn't mind, as it had by now become apparent that local government funding was paying for the gig and I now needed to do my bit. Surprisingly Renata then tells me that women in Brazil would die for my lovely hair. I can only assume that Brazilian woman like to put streaks of grey in their hair and I was left for a moment wondering whether to be pleased or upset for the apparent notability of my increasing greyness. It it did make me feel self-conscious though, of the fact that my hair was dirty and needed a good wash.

Next up, Manoel is going to present me with the key to the city and.... no, only kidding, instead he is going to present me with a bottle of Cachaca and a homemade jar of chillies! Don't ask me why, but as I love both, I readily accept, even though I had visions of them both being busted open in my luggage on the trip back. I love the randomness of this tour and I am convinced that I will arrive back home at the end of it all with my eyebrows stuck in the surprised position.

I am again informed by Gilmar that everyone is getting excited at my presence and to tell you the truth so was I, I am overwhelmed by the welcome and the warmth of everyone here. Truly I had wandered into heaven.
With much excitement still buzzing around the room, we left, so that I could shower and shave and get ready for the gig. When we finally made our approach to the venue, excited people were milling about outside, and inside it had been much transformed, as there was now a good PA and lighting system in place. As for the bar, that was a twofold improvised affair, one was a polystyrene tank full of ice and beers and outside was a van that had set up in competition and was serving drinks to people just hanging around the front of the venue. This was a bit counterproductive as the front doors was letting out the music and with a bar outside too, no-one needed to come in really unless you wanted to marvel at my lovely hair???

Caio, Uri and I started setting up and were trying to get the balance right between my vocals, the backing vocals and the guitar when all of a sudden this deafening hiss came out of the PA and drowned out everything, we could not hear a thing. But it wasn't the PA, it was torrential rain hitting the tin roof of the venue. We had to abandon the sound check until it had eased off as we could not hear a thing.

Universally, this it is not good for a gig as many people stay at home when it rains and boy was it raining. Fortunately it stopped a little while later.

So, the outside bar and the rain, initially, had depleted the amount of people actually in the hall. Nonetheless the people in the room were Neurotics fanatics and made their presence felt.
Gilmar had organised a very good looking gig with all the right infrastructure for the bands to play well. On top of all that he was also busy confronting rival punk gangs who were just about to draw knives on one another. I could do with him as a manager.

As we prepared to take the stage I was now in a position of débuting the second Neurotics band of this tour, on only a handful of rehearsals and a pocket full of good luck. We walked on and the sound was just right, the lights were just right and there was plenty of stage space to fill.

And do you know what? The Brasilia Neurotics just flew, we played like we had all been doing it together for years and  I re-discovered the joys of touring, when you are so used to playing that you don't even have to think about it, you relax and get lost in the music. I was so into it, that I was dancing and twirling, couching and jumping and all without missing a note, the band were inspired by me and themselves, to show a side of them that was hidden in the rehearsals and that was their brilliance, the potential was unlocked. The guitar sound was phenomenal, powered by a Brazilian amp I was growing to love, called a  'Meteor', it is despised my most Brazilians BECAUSE it is Brazilian but for me it did the trick and I eventually wanted to own one of the newer models of this baby.
I was in another world, my songs were lighting up in a way I didn't think possible. Probably because I was being exposed to different flavours of my own songs in a very short space of time, by people who adore my music, at a time when I was abored by my music.
Things will never be the same for me after this tour, I can tell you that now, it has transformed me fundamentally as a person, as an artist and a performer. To be removed from your comfort zone and be made to approach the process of creativity in a completely different way, was a revelation. With the help and dedication of those that believe, we were hacking jewels out of a rich vein and marvelling at the light they cast upon us. We all have changed believe me, those that stood on stage with me in Sao Paulo and in Brasilia will never be the same because that light shone in on our potential and that cannot now be taken away from us, that's our reward and every one of us deserved it.

As we finished our set, the set list below me had transformed into a pulp, soaked by the sweat dripping off of me and trampled by my dancing feet. Boy did I dance, I danced like I have never done before, and sing? Where did that voice come from? It was not shouting because I was excited, it was more considered, emotional, soft, loud, roaring, soulful, and also too, screaming rock 'n' roll.  Yeah, sure, in my career I missed the money, but I found my soul.

The boys were a pleasure to see reacting to my praise, I have never seen two people so happy at receiving it and it made me realise how much time, effort and anxiety these two had put into it to please me, I therefore, was not going to give faint praise, I told them they did brilliantly and they had.
The audience lapped it up, there weren’t a lot of them, most people were outside, but by now this had become irrelevant, the drama happened on stage, the audience were bystanders to an accident we never thought would happen.
After, we joined the revellers outside and partied for a good while, two classic moments come to mind here. One was a blind man who was trying to get me to have a smoke with his friends, which I thanked him for but declined, he was slightly hysterical but told us, as a parting shot, that his hearing had become enhanced as his inherited optical degeneration had set in. As he walked away I said to Caio, "Well that's why he didn't pay to get in, he could hear it perfectly well from out here, and then I realised that although most people could not hear my jibe from the distance he was away from us, he might well be able to. I watched him for a moment and decided it was all-right, he was distracted.
The other thing was a guy who could barely speak any English, translating to another Brazilian what I was meant to be saying, god knows what he was telling this guy but in the end, I walked away shaking my head. Crazy stuff, crazy stuff.

We had a real good time, the time of our lives.

And at the end of a long day, as the shutters once again imprisoned me to another night in the Art Centre, there were no groupies, there were no drugs, there was no rock 'n' roll, there was just me and a quiet satisfaction, my excitement had been shed as a wall of sweat at the feet of my performance.

And now, I fell asleep outside of my dreams.



Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Embracing Brasilia!

I woke up feeling so much more refreshed, more relaxed after a good night's sleep. By now it was lunch time and Gilmar took me out to lunch locally which was an interesting walk through his local community. We went to a self-service restaurant where a big range of Brazilian food is laid out and you help yourself to whatever you want and then the plate is weighed to determine cost. It was a good way to try a broad range of things and made sure I got a good meal inside me. After that we went off to the second rehearsal which was in the early afternoon,

After gathering with the band again we run though the outstanding numbers we didn't get to do last time and then, once that was done, I inquired why Newtown People was not ready to be attempted and Caio told me that it was simply that they did not have an MP3 or anything of the track. I told them of the importance of the track in the set, how it adds light and shade and gives the band a bit of a break from all the fast energetic numbers. So I ask if we could at least give it a go. I start the song's intro and to my surprise, out came an almost fully formed song, and because it was done without reference to the original, it came out more original, different, good. So we run through it a few times and then all the numbers we had done the night before and then we were done. The songs had come a long way and the band was now ready, they were not perfect but they were ready to gig and tomorrow we will see.

After we had finished Caio offered to show me around the spectacular sites of central Brasilia. Unlike Britain it is not considered bad to walk around drinking beer even around national monuments so we had a little mobile party as I was taken around the stunning architecture of the centre. Some of it looked like it came straight out of a science fiction movie and on top of that; the whole city is built on the land in the shape of a massive aeroplane.

It was built new where there had previously been no town previously much like Harlow New Town was, and there you can see how I was engrossed in this amazing city, Newtown People, Newtown Pioneers, they were all here, waiting for me, and like brothers and sisters separated for some time, we embraced. Near the Brasilia National Museum we met up with Caio's brother and the three of us walked round discussing the form and architecture and how this area was good for making out with your girlfriend. Being amorous around government buildings, sound like a great way to brighten up Brasilia politics.
 
We finish up at a bar area overlooking Brasilia's newest bridge which spans a gigantic man-made lake and  we drink and talk about life in general and I am quizzed about mine to which I was made to realise how lucky I was. When we finally called it a night, I stayed at Caio's house instead of going to the Arts Centre.

Tomorrow was to be our first gig together and I was beginning to really look forward to it.


Monday, 3 March 2014

The journey inside my head

Once I arrived, I was offered the choice of accommodation between a cheap hotel which would not have Internet and air conditioning but might have cockroaches, or an Arts Centre, yes that's right, an Arts Centre, with Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, a kitchen and a hot shower available whenever I want it. Gilmar, my host and organiser for the Brasilia leg of the tour, works in an Arts/Creative resource centre and he says he can make a bed up for me there.

As you can imagine, I chose the Arts/Resource centre and, as I have at this point only had two hours sleep, the first thing I am left to do is get some rest on a bed in the middle of a performance space. I am assured that no-one will be using the centre and that I can sleep for a bit, as the first rehearsal with my new band is set for 12 o'clock at night and will be for three hours. At this point it is around 6pm when I put my head gratefully on to my pillow. At half past nine I am woken up by Gilmar because there is someone coming in to use the performance space and anyway we need to go off to the rehearsal, But, I bleat, the rehearsal is not until 12 clock, "yes" says Gilmar "but it is a bit of a way", "Oh, ok", I say, and get up disorientated and confused, When we get to the studio, the rehearsal starts at 11am and is for two hours not three. The shifting landscape of expectation is something that I have been getting used to here, but at the moment my body is confused with my sleeping patterns and so I am drifting along with events as if in a dream.
I am anxious about the rehearsal; this will be the second time I have had to work with a band to be able to do the tour. The first band was a revelation and was so good it made my life a lot easier. I can't conceive that I would be lucky enough to strike gold a second time. I am disorientated and sleepy when we turn up at a strange rehearsal studio, in a strange town and I walk into the studio to meet the two musicians for the first time with whom I have make magic, NOW! I have to tell you that I am not in the mood. I just want to crawl back into bed.

The bassist and drummer are from a band called the Squints who are notable for having recorded their version of 'Kick Out The Tories' so it is safe to say they are fans. They want to start with 'Living With Unemployment'. The bottom line on this, is if the band are not up to scratch, I will pick the songs they can do the best and the rest I will do solo. The first number goes surprisingly well which is a bit of a relief and as we move through the repertoire they have been sent, it is evident that this is not going to be a car crash.
Uri Formiga, the drummer, is getting most of it right, but also getting some things very wrong and my guidance to him on what he should be doing is not having the desired effect. The songs also are too fast (or is it me just getting old and they have rehearsed to the younger me). I then suddenly realise that he is very nervous and is trying too hard, he's not relaxing into the music and his English is not as good as the bass player Caio Braga so when I try to explain to him what is needed with the drums and any one point, he's not fully understanding what I a trying to get him to do. So Caio steps into help and I let him take the lead on steering Uri and accentuate the positive with what Uri is doing really well to try to relax him a bit.
This seems to pay off, that and the fact that Gilmar has brought some nice cold beers in to help oil the gears of creativity.

By the end of the rehearsal I am happy that we have a working band for all the numbers apart from 'Newtown People" which they haven't rehearsed, making me feel that maybe they are having trouble with the reggae rhythms. I don't get to find out this night because we run out of time. We head on down to a street corner bar and have a few beers to celebrate kicking off rehearsals, we have another one tomorrow and I hope that during that, we can sooth out some rough edges and get ourselves a working band.


My first day in Brasilia was eat, sleep, wake, rehearse and then go back to sleep.
Once dropped off at the Arts Centre building Gilmar unlocks the shutters, rolls them up, I then step in, he says goodnight and then rolls them back down and locks up again. He will end my imprisonment in the morning.

I turn gratefully to my bed with the unsettling thought that if there was a fire here in the night, I would burn to death.






Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Journey to Brasilia

Demente and I pick the guitar, accessories and merchandise up from his studio and he drops me off at my apartment and helps me carry all the stuff in. When he leaves, we both have a list of things we need to do before we meet again in the morning to go to the airport and we only have about four hours until then. Despite this being an internal flight, it has the same stresses and anxiety that comes with gong on a full blown holiday abroad.  I immediately start washing some t-shirts and socks as I have nothing clean to perform in, and start the process of working out what can fit in my hand luggage. I separate things to go and things not to go and then lots off pulling out and putting back in again ensues, with many curses under my breath due to the fact that I am constantly aware of the time ticking away.
I suddenly panic as I become aware that my guitar leads have gone missing, so a quick call to Demente is made and he says he knows where they are but it would be quicker and better to call ahead and arrange for some to be made available when I get there.

Eventually, I think I have done everything, my bag has a box of Cd's in it and everything else is squeezed in around them. There is not even room for an additional piece of paper to go in. I finish washing my t-shirts and socks, ring them out and then hang them up. I know they are not going to dry, but every little bit helps. I look at the time and realise they will have exactly two hours drying time.
I set the alarm on my phone and drop into bed to attempt to go to sleep. I do sleep as I am exhausted from the swim earlier in the day.

The alarm never goes off as I have set it wrong.

However, I wake up at the time I set it anyway, which was lucky but Demente is due to ring before he leaves just to make sure.
I get up, grab a quick cup of coffee while I take the washing down and place it in a small, thin, green plastic bag. Then I stood in the middle of the room with a bag of washing in my hand and absolutely no room to place it in my bag. I had to hope that as Demente was bringing a larger bag in which I would place mine and all the Neurotics t-shirts left to sell, that there would be a little corner for my washing.
Eventually, I get the call, "I'm downstairs" and I struggle out the door with everything, lock up and hustle into the lift, I feel dreadful. Once out in the street, everything fits into Demente's bag apart from my little bag of washing

The solution is to squeeze the little green bag under some elastic straps, leaving a somewhat vunerable lump sticking out of the bag. Oh well it will have to do.
Originally I was to have someone accompany me on this trip but for one reason or another I am now to do it on my own. We get to the airport bang on time but strangely it isn't the airport, well it is, but it isn't the airport I will be flying from. Confused?

 Let me explain.

I had to get to this airport by a certain time to catch a coach to another airport to catch my flight. This throws a spanner in the works a bit because I was relying on Demente to mediate on any difficulties at the check in, with my baggage allocation, specifically if they  try to charge me for my guitar being an item of luggage. Instead, after putting my stuff in the hold of the vehicle, I say goodbye to him at the steps of the coach and then go and find a seat.
This is when I start to feel vulnerable, I am now, undertaking a journey to another city with no interpretor. The seat is luxurious, I could sleep here but my anxiousness wont let me,  I recline with my eyes closed to pretend to myself I am sleeping and there I lay for so long that I began to believe that coach was going all the way to Brasilia. An hour later and we arrive at another airport, and the flight is only meant to be an hour. I am on my own now as I disembark and collect my guitar and my bag with my vulnerable bag of washing sticking out of it. As I enter the airport, it is bewildering to a person without ease of communication and only two hours  sleep, so I find an official and get them to squint at my electronic ticket on my phone, they in turn point to a particular check in desk and i join the queue.
 When I get to a desk, I have been told that an interpreter would be found once they knew I was English. As I started apologising for not speaking Portuguese they looked a bit puzzled at what to do, but I was in luck, a Brazilain guy asked my if he could help as he could speak English. I accepted with great relief and thought to myself how friendly Brazilians continue you to be to me. This is how the conversation then went.

She says, what is in the big case?
He informs her it is a guitar.
She puts a sticker ticket around the strap of the case and it's in, no hassle. I am now just left with my large piece of hand luggage with the vulnerable plastic bag of washing sticking out of it.
She says, as it is big, you can put the hand luggage in the hold if you like.
What? And I don't have to pay extra?
My interpreter doesn't hear this and I decide not to labour the point because this conversation appears to have no mention of cost, so I hand over my bag gratefully. The woman looks at the bag and says something that is to be the final bit of communication from her that my interpreter needs to convey to me.
She says, that this little green plastic bag is a bit vulnerable here so it would be better to carry that on the plane. I readily agree and after thanking the helpful interpreter (he says he learnt his English when he lived in Ireland and really misses the Guinness, oh and the country. There must be a lot of Brazilians in Ireland because this is not the first time I have heard this story) I wander into the airport with loads of time and a little vulnerable green plastic bag of my washing on my hands.

The bag is beginning to split and my toothbrush (I have some toiletries in there too by the way, that's how strapped for space i was.) is sticking out of it. I feel silly walking around with it and wish I had a stick that I could tie the bag to the end of, like Dick Whittington. I don't know how that would make me feel less silly but these are the rambling thoughts of a tired man.

I decide that I may as well go through and wait on the other side, customs was a breeze, all this process is so much easier being an internal flight and being Brazilian. I then wait for the gate details and when they finally comes through I notice that more than one destination is scrolling around on the screen at the gate entrance and I become confused because I can't be boarding three planes at the same allocated time at the one gate. So I make inquiries to  an airport official, she doesn't understand me but gets a colleague that does, and she politely informs me that yes it is the right gate and it will board at the time stated on my boarding card, 10.17. Great, but I must say it did confuse me when we eventually started boarding at 10.12. it's at times like this, when you cannot speak the language of the country you are in, that you think, "Am I missing something here?"
Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself here, I thanked the airport official in Portuguese (ah ha, I can speak something you see...) and she in turn smiles and glances curiously at my little vulnerable green plastic bag of washing. I retreat to look for a better bag as the split in it is getting bigger.
Ten minutes later I have failed to find a better plastic bag that I could appropriate, I cannot face the hassle of trying to ask for a freebie plastic bag, it would just lead to a very confusing episode and I am too tired to cope.
Ahh, free WiFi, now that's handy, I can while away the time until I leave, doing something useful on-line.

Here comes the rant...

If you offer free WiFi, why make it so difficult to use. I've lost count of the times I have not used free Wifi when it is offered, because just I wanted a little bit of information whilst I drink a cup of coffee, but I am forced into a sign up process that will...

  1. Eat up the small amount of time I have to drink my coffee
  2. Fill my inbox with spam
  3. and I will never use that account again because I am never likely to visit that cafe/shop/resturant again.

If you want to offer free WiFi let people connect straight away, some already do it, why can't all of you. Don't treat your customer like idiots, do you really what to frustrate them, surely that  is not the intention.
Anyway, back at the airport I find three, free WiFi connections available but all of them require a sign up procedure to get to the WiFi. I think to myself that I have time on my hands so I'll go through the hassle of signing up. More fool me, i try all three connections and each one rejected every email address I could throw at them, it was almost as if it would only allow an address with the Brazilian extension .br

Oh look, it's time to board the plane and I have not had one second of internet access.
At 10.12 precisely, it is time to board the plane. No, still not the plane yet, I have to get on a bus to take me to the plane. I ask the woman I spoke to earlier, "This one" I say pointing at the bus, she nods.
I board the bus that mentions nothing about Brasilia or my flight number on it, which takes me to a plane with no mention of Brasilia or the flight number on it. I make the stewardess look at my ticket just in case I'm getting on the wrong plane but she only looks at the seat number and gesticulates where in the plane it is. I find my seat and after depositing  my vulnerable, little green bag of washing, with a toothbrush sticking out of it, in the luggage compartment  I sit down, I think, if anyone now claims this as their seat then I'm on the wrong plane.
I am somewhat relived when i hear the announcements being made and although there wasn't one in English I did catch the word Brasilia in there. Phew!
Actually, the flight was lovely and I had a window seat so I just watched the stratosphere passing by until we
descended into Brasilia which curiously looked a bit like Harlow from the air. This is not surprising as Brasilia was a totally planned development, built on land where there was previously no town or city, in exactly the same way as Harlow was and around the same time too. Open plan living in an open plan time.

Once we had landed, I waited at baggage reclaim holding my little green vulnerable plastic bag full of washing with a toothbrush sticking out of it until I espied my bag and guitar  which I quickly pulled off of the carousel. First thing i did was check the guitar had made the short journey without being broken and I found it was fine. Great.  Then loaded everything onto a trolley and headed out to experience my first moments of Brasilia.
You know what it's like you exit the arrivals, the sea of faces looking for loved ones, the change of expression when they spot them, then you have the people holding up cards with the names of the travellers they have been tasked to pick up.
I arrive, and the sea of expectant faces locate their love ones, their expressions changing  to that of joy and there ensues a flurry of activity and hubbub as their bags are whisked up by friends and loved ones and they all disappear in a cloud dust out of the door to waiting cars, off  to adventure or home.
In the quiet that now descended, I was left standing there, with my trolley containing my guitar, big bag of merchandise and my little vulnerable green plastic bag full of washing with my toothbrush sticking out of it.

There was no-one to greet me

Don't panic, I thought, we have arrived's a little early, that's the reason for the no show of my Brasilia contact Gilmar. When it got around to the actual arrival time and there was still no show I began to worry. I cannot see any mention of Brasilia in this airport, maybe I've ended up in Rio or something, but my luggage is with me and the stickers on them say Brasilia so why is there no-one here?
I then realise that I have no contact number for Gilmar, I have no contact number for Demente, I speak no Portuguese, I am so tired I am nearly falling asleep standing up.

I am on my own.

I do have a number for Isabela which I try but no answer, she is at work so I leave a message.
Try the free Wi Fi? You've got to be kidding me?

I should never have been in this situation, it was silly not to have any contact numbers for  anyone but Demente have vouched 100% for Gilmar and I trust Demente 100% so i was confident that someone would be here, where was the problem in that? Oh yeah the problem is here. Demente and I had been too tired to think this thing through so early in the morning but here I am now with my tiredness feeding my anxiety.
I had £40 of access from O2 that I had used up in five minutes and they told me they would not charge me any more but would cut the connection at 50 meg, a further batch of Internet access will cost me £120 so I didn't want that. Therefore I had turned off the data networking to my phone but was now desperately turning it back on to use a bit of Facebook to get the telephone numbers that i needed before my 50 meg run out. I left some messages on Facebook and turned off the data networking again then after a short period of anxiety, turned it back on again and looked for a reply on Facebook. I then found a message from Demente saying don't fret, sit tight, Gilmar will be there don't worry.He had rung him and got no reply so he must be on his way.
Well, if he got involved in an accident what would I do? I was thinking the worst by now and thinking selfishly too.
Oh if only I had WiFi access, I desperately try Brasilia free WiFi and with one button press I am connected, no sign up, no email address or password required, no account to be made. I just couldn't believe the ease I was now connected. Why can't the rest of the WiFi world be like that.
I then had full access to Facebook and all my contacts if I needed help, Demente had emailed his number to me and I had sent mine to him.
Then without any fanfare Gilmar walks in with his driver and I am saved! The terminal I was to arrive in had been switched and Gilmar had been unaware he was waiting in the wrong place.

I was taken to my accommodation and the very first thing I did was to hang my washing out to dry and place my toothbrush in the bathroom.

Now, Brasilia here I come!


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

At last, the beach

I'm going to the beach today for some much needed R&Aaaaaahhhhhh.

First Demente has to play dodgems with the traffic of Sao Paulo to escape the city and then we are on the road of freedom, the motorway! Only there is a riot taking place ahead of us and the traffic has come to a stand still. We decide then to get off of that road and find an alternative route.We managed to do that without too much of a problem, only to find that the alternative motorway had had an accident on it, and it too had ground to a halt. We sat for some time in the sweltering heat as a thunderstorm broke over us. Apparently Sao Paulo was going to experience extreme flooding and we so wanted to get away from both the city and the gathering storm, that it made it unbearable to be stationary in a traffic jam. Then we heard that the riot had finished and our original route was clear again, aaaaahhhhhh. That was the last straw, we pulled off of that motorway and went looking for the other. Eventually we were back on track after losing an hour or two, trying to outrun the storm.
As we drew near the coast, we could see the original trees and vegetation that used to exist in Sao Paulo but is all but gone, Atlantic forest I believe it was called. At last we reach the town of Itanhaém and we seek out an old friend of Demente called Meire. Whilst in her house I also get the pleasure of meet her daughters Bianca and Beatriz and her son Matheus. I am made to feel very welcome and we drink coffee and Meire tells me about the old days. She was an original Sao Paulo punk rocker and had worked with thousands of bands. She showed me the posters she had collected over the years and one that caught my eye was a Sao Paulo birthday party bash for Joey Ramone which was attended by all the other original Ramones plus many other punk rock celebrities.I would have loved to have been at that.
She tells me that Sao Paulo was slowly killing her, so she saved up enough money to buy a place near the beach and although she is poorer for it, the life is richer. Strangely, here the poor live near the beach and the rich in the cities.
So all three of us take off for the beach but it is overcast and raining, just like England. But it is not really the same. Actually it is a different experience to a sunny beach trip but it is wonderful nonetheless.
I feel silly, I am as white as a clean piece of paper, I have left my t shirt in the car as it is the only top I have and need to keep it dry. I don't want to chance carrying my phone in my swimming trunks pocket so that put paid to any atmospheric photographs of the beach. The thunderstorm rumbled ominously in the distance and Meire said we couldn't go swimming in a thunderstorm because if lightening hit any part of the water it would fry us, however it fizzled out, so Demente and I ventured in. It was so weird for me as the water was brown like at most English beaches but the difference was it very warm, warmer in-fact than my local swimming pool. Demente, being Brazilian didn't think it was very warm at all. For me the rain was warm and so was the wind so I didn't really need the sun.
So we had a nice swim and we were both amazed at gaining a little friend in the shape of a tiny dark angel fish who followed us everywhere. No matter where we swam, it was there, when I was floating on my back, it would like to swim along my chest as if to take a closer look at my face. Every now and then he would change from me to Demente. It was either a very friendly fish or had the curiosity of a cat-fish.

After a good swim we decided to get out and return to Meire who was looking after our sandals. We then parted company with  her and went into town to look around and have some dinner and a few beers at a table outside a restaurant. As we watched the world go by, we were confronted by some unusual sights such as a beautiful young girl with her hair tied up in a dark bun, wearing a pure white silky dress in a sort of ballerina style, looking for all the world that she was going to a dance. The only problem was she had a massive cast on her leg and was hobbling at about a five foot an hour.It was painful to watch.
Later a similar looking girl cycles past us with her neck in a brace and we began to wonder if it is dangerous to be female in Itanhaém, but that thought was swept away when another girl breaks of from her group of females friends and says to Demente, "I'm sorry, I'm bit embarrassed about this but my friend fancies you and she asked me if I would ask you, if you would go out with her". Demente smiles, turns on the charm and says he is very flattered that her friend would like to go out with him but he already has a girlfriend. And I thought that sort of thing only happened in Harlow.
Just as I thought we were leaving to go home, we pick up Meire again and I am shown a high view point from which not a lot can be seen at night time apart from lovers having a bit of private time and a house that is now a squat. It was once the show home of a developer who wanted to build loads of luxury apartments on this high cliff but was stopped in his tracks by local opposition. A luxury squat it is now overlooking one of the best views of the Atlantic ocean.
I am also informed that this town was the first ever (non-indigenous) settlement in the whole country, so modern Brazil started here. A little way away, is a place that has the distinction of having the most recorded  sightings of UFO's in the whole world. Hhhhmmm, I used to be sceptical about UFO's because of the vast distances that they would have to travel to get here, but as more and more Exo-planets are being discovered, some being quite near to us, I now begin to wonder if those distances are not as huge as originally thought. It's a small world and now a smaller universe and they like to come to Brazil for some reason.

After being in this county for some time, I am quite laid back now but I have been a little concerned that we need to get back to Sao Paulo soon as I leave for Brasilia in the morning and we have quite a drive back. At this point Demente realises how late it is and we quickly call it a day, make our goodbyes and hit the road.
As we drive back, we discuss what we have to do and it isn't easy for both of us, especially as we need to squeeze as much merchandise as we can into my hand luggage plus personal effects and I still have to do a wash of some socks and t-shirts that I need to perform in.  They will not be dry in the morning so I will have to hang them up somewhere in Brasilia or on the wings of the plane.

As we bounce up and down through the city, I have a sinking feeling that I am not going to be getting much sleep tonight and I will be dog tired at a time I will be leaving my Sao Paulo friends, who I love dearly and heading off, on my own to a strange city, meeting new people and rehearsing with a completely new band and I will feel like death warmed up when I arrive.

Oh hum, what's new?