In my post yesterday I wrote about mixed feelings, fortunes and stars in my flight to Sao Paulo and in my first evening here. Last night, the series continued.
Let me first note that I ended up making another run through the Pinheiros neighborhood to find the elusive Lua Nova bar and again I found nothing! No trace. Gone like the strange beast on the wing of the airplane in that Twilight Zone story starring William Shatner before his Star Trek fame….
But what happened before that little trip was extraordinary and then a great let down. I made my way directly after dinner to Finnegan’s Pub on the same street as my imaginary Lua Nova bar. I had played at Finnegan’s last year on the Friday night with a full band. It was not an open mic or jam session, but I got to talking with the Brazilian singer and band leader and I had my guitar and he invited me to play. So I did.
Finnegan’s, by the way, was the first of a string of Irish pubs in Sao Paulo. I usually like to avoid the Irish pub in my musical adventures in order to find a more bona fide local experience. But if there’s nothing else, I’ll take it! Finnegan’s, in fact, is almost unique on my adventures in being an Irish pub where none of the people who works there speaks a word of English (in my experience so far). So that turns out to be a fairly local kind of venue, in fact.
Last night as I passed by the pub I heard live music inside and glanced in to see three musicians with acoustic guitars, even an acoustic bass (not an upright, however). So my blood got flowing really fast and I went in and ordered a beer. I was not sure how much time I should give it before continuing on my tramp around the neighborhood to find a place to play. But the band stopped after about two songs and the singer, who had no Brazilian accent, went to talk to a man beside me at the bar.
I heard that he spoke in what sounded like an American voice. So I introduced myself. It turned out he was from the United States and had lived in Sao Paulo for five years. Prior to that, it turned out, he had lived in Paris for five years – from around 2000 to 2005. Here in Sao Paulo he married a Brazilian and he teaches English and plays his music often on Thursdays at Finnegan’s.
I won’t mention his name, but when I learned that he had lived in Paris I asked where he had played music when there.
“Oh, pretty much exclusively in Irish pubs,” he said.
It was a stretch, but I could see a possibility opening up here and I said, “Did you ever play at a place called the Shebeen?”
“Yes!” he said.
“So you know Earle!”
“Earle, yes! A South African guy!”
That was it, I said, indeed. We rejoiced and laughed and talked about this incredible coincidence and how small the world was, for Earle Holmes is the guy who has encouraged my playing over the last couple of years and who has recently got me the gig of hosting the Mecano bar Sunday brunches.
So here we were with another incredible synchronicity. And then this guy plays a Doors song in his next set – after my Doors film and reading material on the airplane coming to Sao Paulo.
So I ask the guy if he knows a place I could play in a jam or an open mic in Sao Paulo and I tell him all about how I travel the world and play in venues everywhere there is a Grand Prix race, etc. He sees my guitar and he says, “You can play here tonight, if you want!”
I agree and feel a great flame of joy and excitement.
“You might find yourself playing all alone, though, if my musicians don’t know your stuff, but they’re really great, and can play to just about anything.”
His musicians were Brazilian.
I said it didn’t matter and I was looking forward to it.
So he goes back and plays his second set and plays for close to an hour. Shortly after midnight he breaks a string and ends his set and comes directly up to me and says, “Sorry Brad, I completely forgot that you wanted to play….” I had my guitar, so there was no problem with the string. He then added, “They have very strict rules about when we have to stop.” Interesting, since down the street last year at the Lua Nova they played until 5 AM….
Am I over sensitive, paranoid or generally have bad ideas about musicians in Sao Paulo? Yesterday’s post writes of how the band at the All Black pub gave me a dirty look and quick negative response when I indicated I was looking for a place to play. Last year I’d had other such encounters. In general here in Sao Paulo, although there is LOTS of live music – in fact I left Finnegan’s and found another bar with musicians with acoustic instruments but I was too tired to stay – but the jam session or open mic mentality is not very common here.
In fact, I get the feeling that musicians guard their gigs very closely for themselves. I may be wrong about this, but I have traveled the world, played on every continent except Antarctica, and this is the only place so far where I really get that feeling.
Anyway, I will continue to tramp the streets of Sao Paulo tonight and see what I find. I am praying that the Lua Nova re-materializes.
By the way, this band last night was very, very good. I took a few videos and will put in two or three below. Fortunately, the lighting was SOOOOO bad that you will see nothing of their faces – and that keeps them anonymous too, after I have potentially bad-mouthed what might have been a very honest bit of forgetfulness…. Having said that, it is also the first time I have been told I can play, and then I am not allowed to. (With the exception of a silly waiter at a bar in Istanbul once who only wanted to get my business…oh, no, I had the same situation with Eddie Jordan and his band in Malaysia this year…. So, hey, it happens!)