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.

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