Sao Paulo Open Mic Adventure Consolidated:
A micro trailer from the film: From the Sao Paulo segment of “Out of a Jam.”
A song from the album:
The Thumbnail Guide: Thumbnail Guide to Sao Paulo Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music
A link to a favorite blog item from the past: LAST DAY IN SAO PAULO, AMAZING JAM AT THE VARAL BAR WITH THE LUA NOVA CROWD
A favorite video: A scene from the jam at Bar Varal with the Lua Nova crowd:
An excerpt from the Book: from the Sao Paulo chapter of OUT OF A JAM: An Around-the-World Journey of Healing and Rebirth Through Music:
Vila Madalena. There it was, lying before me like a miniature Greenwich Village, but more agreeable and fairy-tale-like – in other words, more like that lost memory of mine of Greenwich Village in the 70s. This was a neighbourhood of ragtag buildings and giant outdoor television screens in bars showing soccer games and other sports. Restaurants and bars, clothing, books and record stores. Music, yes, music, here and there it could be heard. I would wend my way around the two streets and check out all the possibilities. I may or may not find a place to play that night, but I would case out one of the main areas where I was told I should find somewhere to play if there was anything.
It was relatively flat compared to the sector I had just been in, even if it did rise and fall. The streets had the wonderful names of Wisard Street, Rua Purpurina, Rua Aspicuelta and Rua Luis Murat. I made a full circle walk around them and found massive bars and diners and restaurants ranging from pizza joints to French bistros to Brazilian food restaurants to food bars. The narrow sidewalks were well populated, with diners spilling out in tables everywhere, despite it being only 8 PM.
Musically, I had a choice of targets for forcing myself on the owners of the live venues: One was to go for the quiet place with few customers, the other was to attack the big bar with the band and mics and equipment all over the stage. In the first category, I noticed a restaurant on a corner, very large, lots of tables, windows open to the street. There by one of the windows near the sidewalk was a mic stand and a man playing guitar and singing, with another on percussion and keyboards. The latter saw my guitar. But I felt that if I went for a place like this where there is practically no audience and there are only a couple of musicians failing to attract an audience, my move might be interpreted as an effort to do better than them. In any case, these two guys were playing quiet, traditional Brazilian music, and I did not feel – audience or not – like encroaching on their territory.
I eventually found Morrison’s, after my meal, a little after 10 PM. But it turned out to be a write-off, a place with strong security where they did not even like me carrying my guitar inside let alone opening their arms for a musician. I spent an hour there watching the musicians sit lethargically at the edge of the stage waiting for customers to show up and not looking like they wanted to play.
In short, it was completely antithetical to the open musical thing I searched, and I’d never get a chance on stage, of that I was sure. So I got up, paid and left. No one said anything about my departure before the music even started. Clients were obviously of no more interest to Morrison’s than musicians and music.
After checking out another place on the corner and a couple of other bars with no luck, I walked back to the hotel and it was not, in the end, as far away as I had thought. It was perhaps a 45-minute walk from Vila Madalena, and I covered the whole distance in order to get a feel for the city. Walking well after midnight through the streets of Sao Paulo with my guitar on my back, and taking in the sights and being alone under the moon, I began now to feel almost a sense of outrage at the idea that this was a city where many of my colleagues hid out in their hotels and ran from taxi or rental car to the track with passes hidden in order not to get knifed or shot or otherwise mugged.
But I also understood that. I had been afraid as well. And it reminded me of my fear as a teenager the first time I went to New York City, where my imagination had been filled with stories that I would be stabbed the moment I stepped out of the bus at Grand Central Station. And yet, succumbing to such fear was the complete antithesis to living, the antithesis to my new philosophy of taking life by the horns and shaking it up and living it with a capital “L.” And it was my new philosophy, stunned into me by Nathalie’s death, that had given me the courage to discover the better route to living.