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.

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