Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

Quintessential Brazilian Music Night at the Bar do Julinho in Sao Paulo

November 13, 2016

Bar do Julinho

Bar do Julinho

SAO PAULO – As so often happens in my worldwide travels to find open mics and jam sessions around the world, I make discoveries thanks to the people I meet from year to year in previous jams and open mics. Sao Paulo is one of the most difficult places for me to find such places, partly due to the barrier of language, and partly thanks to a completely different musical culture compared to many other places around the world.

I have always managed to go to the open jam session of the Lua Nova, as I have mentioned in almost all of my visits to Sao Paulo on this blog, and every year almost the location of the Lua Nova jam changes location. Last year I found a fabulous open mic near my hotel, but that open mic has ceased to exist.
First at Bar do Julinho in Sao Paulo

So last night, just as I was resigning myself to being in yet another city with a reduction of open mics, and maybe even not being able to play in Sao Paulo at all, I was in touch with one of my friends from Lua Nova. She told me that not only is Lua Nova happening on Sunday night as usual, and not only has it again changed location, but guess what? There was last night an open mic at the same new location where Lua Nova takes place.

Fifth at Bar do Julinho in Sao Paulo

This is a fabulous bar devoted to music and located in Pinheiros, near Vila Madelena, where I have most often played on my visits to Sao Paulo. The bar is called Bar do Julinho, after the man who owns the bar, a musician named Julinho.

Fourth at Bar do Julinho in Sao Paulo

So I decided to make my way over there, despite the late hour of past 10 PM, and I found that not only was the location a warm environment with guitars and other musical instruments hung up on all of the walls, with photos of Brazilian musicians and others, all over the place, with a nice stage area and a great sound system, but ALSO, there was a feature act playing when I arrived.
Second at Bar do Julinho in Sao Paulo

It was a fabulous feature act, the fabulous woman singer, Iion Papas, with a guitar player, drummer, and bongo player. She and her band played Brazilian music until about 11:45, when the open mic began.

Sixth at Bar do Julinho in Sao Paulo

And in fact, it was all Brazilian music. And fabulous Brazilian music. Nothing but wonderful accoplished musicians and singers. I found myself feeling that familiar sense of dread and wondering if I really fit in from more than one point of view – talent and musical style.

Third at Bar do Julinho in Sao Paulo

But once my turn came up, once again, as also so often happens – especially here in Brazil – suddenly, I could play any of my usual songs, and the band joined in and completely changed musical styles, fitting in perfectly with what I do.

It was a fabulous evening, and I am so happy to have discovered another open mic in Brazil, another venue, another great taste of the local musical culture – as you’ll be able to see from the videos on this page that I made last night….

Lua Nova, Last Night in Brazil

November 18, 2015

Lua Nova jam session

Lua Nova jam session

NO, I don’t mean “last night,” by that headline. I mean, “my last night,” in Brazil. I took me three days to get back from Brazil to Paris thanks to Air France having one of the engines on the flight across the Atlantic not really work, and we had to go back to Sao Paulo and spend half the night on the runway while they tried to repair it, and the other half of the night in a Holiday Inn…. But that’s another story. I put up my new Thumbnail Guide to Sao Paulo open mics BEFORE I put up this little report of attending the Lua Nova open mic and jam….

And usually I do things in the order in which they happened, but this time, I just wanted to get that guide up before anything. Now, the Lua Nova open mic, as I mention in my Thumbnail Guide to Sao Paulo open mics, is a fabulous evening in Sao Paulo on Sunday nights, and it usually goes on all night long. It is a combination jam session, open mic. But mostly a jam session, and mostly for Brazilian music.
Jamming at the Lua Nova jam in Sao Paulo.

It has moved from one location to another over the years, almost annually, because despite Brazil seeming like a music-loving country, it’s no different than anywhere else in the world, the neighbors always find the time to complain about music in bars. Now the Lua Nova crowd have found a very neat bar concert venue that appears entirely cut off from crappy neighbors, still in the Pinheiros, Vila Madelena area.
More jamming at the Lua Nova jam in Sao Paulo.

And the music is still as fabulous – but now the venue has a lot more space than before, so it gets very, very full of spectators, dancers, musicians and others….

An Update to My Sao Paulo Open Mic Guide

November 17, 2015

Sao Paulo skyline

Sao Paulo skyline

Just a note to say that I have updated my Sao Paulo open mic city guide, The Thumbnail Guide to Sao Paulo Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

I have added a new location for the Lua Nova open mic venue and I have added the new discovery of the Gênesis de Gênios open mic.

The Genuis of the Gênesis de Gênios Open Mic in Sao Paulo

November 13, 2015

Genios Logo

Genios Logo

SAO PAULO – Sometimes clichés are the best way to describe things. Today, I can only say like the old cliché that you should never give up. Yesterday, having finished my work by 5 p.m. at the autodromo in Interlagos, I decided to do my annual search for an open mic in Sao Paulo, feeling entirely as if I would find nothing. There is a massive amount of music in this city, but I never did find one of the real traditional kinds of open mics here since coming every year since 2009, with my guitar. And then, boom, I struck it rich: Gênesis de Gênios open mic. And it started with sign-up at 6 PM. And it was a block and a half from my hotel!!!!!

It was all written on Facebook, in Portuguese, this Gênesis de Gênios, and I did not quite believe my own gut-feeling translation. So I had a Brazilian translate it all for me: Show up, instruments available, sign up, wait your turn, two or three songs, little contest of the best performer each edition getting the feature spot at the next edition…. It was all there. It was indeed an open mic of the kind I know.

Not the Samba sessions sitting around tables and playing samba. Not the jam sessions of the the Lua Nova kind, that I had tasted up to now, and that I absolutely love, but which is more jam than open mic. This was a real, true, youth culture open mic of the kind where you get up behind the mic and sing your songs, your compositions, cover songs, whatever you want.

Crowd at Genius de Genios open mic in Sao Paulo

Crowd at Genius de Genios open mic in Sao Paulo

But it was also Brazilian!!! Most of it was singing Portuguese, although there were a number of songs in English too. And as it turned out, it took place in a very cool bar called Sensorial Discos, which is perfect for open mics, with a long corridor-like feel to it, tables and chairs either side, the stage in front of the bar, a great host and person controlling the sound system….

And huge enthusiasm from the organizers AND the bar. The organizers, a music production company called Gênios, has big plans for the open mic, maybe doing recordings, they do videos, they do photos, maybe finding artists. You name it. Just what I love in the best open mics around the world: A zeitgeist, a reason behind the moment to be wanting to organize the evening.
eighth at Genesis de Genios open mic

My only criticism? Well, it only takes place once per month!!! But what an incredible bit of luck I had to find this place on my first full day in Brazil, the very weekend I was visiting, and just a block and a half from my hotel in the Jardins district. And, oh, there was another incredible factor that came together to permit me to sign up in time and get my name on the list: When I saw I had but one hour to get from Interlagos to my hotel and the open mic, I was virtually certain that I would fail to make it. The traffic at that time in Sao Paulo is usually horrendous. I predicted a ride as bad as 2 and a half hours! But somehow, miraculously, I got to the hotel by just before 6 p.m. and arrived at the open mic by around 6:15 p.m., and I was one of the first there!!!
eleventh at Genesis de Genios open mic

Just an absolutely FABULOUS night and discovery of this Genesis de Genios open mic. You’ll see in the videos that I took the vast cross-section of music from this Brazilian open mic. I hope I can get back next year!!!
fifteenth at Genesis de Genios open mic

fifth at Genesis de Genios open mic

first at Genesis de Genios open mic

fourteenth at Genesis de Genios open mic

fourth at Genesis de Genios open mic

ninth at Genesis de Genios open mic

ninth at Genesis de Genios open mic

seventh at Genesis de Genios open mic

another at Genesis de Genios open mic

and another at Genesis de Genios open mic

and yet another at Genesis de Genios open mic

and finally a last at Genesis de Genios open mic

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Brazil

December 8, 2014

Sao Paulo skyline

Sao Paulo skyline

My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Sao Paulo since I first started.

Worldwide Open Mic Thumbnail Guide: Sao Paulo Edition

January 31, 2014

Sao Paulo skyline

Sao Paulo skyline

For my 22d city installment of my worldwide open mic guide today I am loading my Sao Paulo page. As a reminder, it all started with my now very popular Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, and due to that guide’s success, I decided this year to do a similar guide for each of the cities I travel to during my worldwide open mic tour.

Sao Paulo’s Hidden Open Mic/Open Jam Scene in the Middle of the Land of Bossa Nova

Brazil, as most people know, is a musical country, famous for the distinctive sounds of bossa nova and samba and many other styles. It all came very much alive in the 1960s with the Tropicália music movement that transformed traditional Brazilian music – and other arts – into a pop-rock form. One of the most influential bands was the São Paulo-founded Os Mutantes, which, over the decades, would influence many musicians – including David Byrne and Beck. And there were people like Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and even people like Stan Getz, the American jazz sax player, who helped popularize the music in the west. So you would expect that Sao Paulo would be a vibrant open mic, or especially, open jam, city. But for the foreigner to step into this capital of Brazil of 20 million people and try to find an open mic or jam, it just is not so easy. The city is, yes, very much alive with music. It is just bubbling with music everywhere, from single singers with guitars in small bars and restaurants, to venues with larger stages and play areas that put on special events and live music of all kinds. But there is soooo much live music that there is practically – and I say “practically” – no need for the open mic or jam. They do exist, but in general, they are put on at the drop of a hat, in a neighbourhood bar or restaurant, with no prior planning, and mostly among friends. As I mention in my guide, there is a Brazilian equivalent of the open mic, called the Sarau, but it is not always easy to predict where one may arise….

Worldwide Open Mic Guide Philosophy

The only guide I am really in a good position to update regularly is that of Paris, since I live there. But I decided to do guides to all the other more than 20 cities on my worldwide open mic tour in order to give the knowledge I have personally of each city’s open mics. The guide has links to sites I know of local guides that may be more up-to-date, but I have chosen to list the open mics or jam sessions that I have played in myself. There may be others that I know of, but if I have not played there, I will not include it on the list. That way, the user learns a little of my own impressions. But I cannot be as certain that the guide is up-to-date – so check before you go.

So here, now, in any case is the Thumbnail Guide to Sao Paulo Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. Please do help me whenever you have information to give me on venues.

Don’t Think Twice, Music Ain’t Alright in Sao Paulo Hotels at 9:30 at Night

November 22, 2013

musical brazil?

musical brazil?

SAO PAULO – For the last five years I have carried my guitar around to all the races of the Formula One series and found places to play in open mics and open jam sessions. I am now in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on the last leg of my journey this year. This marks five full years of playing on every continent except Africa and Antarctica. (I used to live in Africa, so I have played there before; and Antarctica is too cold anyway.) But tonight, just five minutes ago, I have encountered for the first time ever – in a hotel where I have stayed for four of the last five years – a complaint from the front desk for the music I have played in my room with my acoustic guitar and vocals.

I arrived this morning in Brazil and I’m dead tired, and intended to go to bed very soon. But I just went out for a meal in an Italian restaurant, and returning to my hotel room, I decided to pick up my guitar and play a couple of songs just to keep in shape, and for my pleasure. It was only 21:40 at night, and we are in swinging, moving, great rockin’, bossa nova’in Brazil. And I’m in a hotel I know well in central Sao Paulo. So I picked up my guitar and sang two Bob Dylan songs: “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” and “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.”

Halfway through Baby Blue the phone rang and it was the front desk. The poor guy could not speak English very well and had to break up his words with use of the computer keyboard to find a translating web page so he could find his words. But here is what the message was in the end: “A neighbor of yours on your floor is complaining about the noise in your room. Can you please keep it quiet.” I told him that he had just won the prize of being the first hotel in five years where I have had a complaint about playing some songs in my room. He then responded, “I’m very sorry, but in Brazil, you cannot make noise after 10 PM at night.” Of course, the fact that it was 21:55 went beyond him….

In any case, I’d love to know who this cowardly and nasty and thin skinned neighbor is, and I’m very disappointed in Brazil! But now I know why my favorite open jam open mic here has been thrown from one venue to another over the five years that I have come here, each time because of complaints from neighbors over the music.

Jeez. So much for musical Brazil. Of course, perhaps had I been playing some much quieter bossa nova, it would have been tolerated???

Still, the first time ever in five years that I receive a complaint from a neighbour in a hotel and the hotel acts on it, and it had to be in Sao Paulo?!?!

We’ll see how well the weekend progresses after this.

PS, I suspect this is some silly European or American who intends to get up at 4:30 AM to sight-see…. (or go to the racetrack?!?!)

Feijoada, Jamming and Zaza at Tropicalia Bistro in Paris – Also an Open Mic

July 20, 2013

feijoada at tropicalia Paris

feijoada at tropicalia Paris

PARIS – I am always astounded when I stumble upon an open mic in Paris that I have never heard of. When it is in the obscure neighborhood of the 17th Arrondissement, near the Brochant métro, and only three stops from my home métro, I’m even more astounded. When it also has a Brazilian flavor to it, my astoundedness goes beyond words. Still, I’ll find a few words for it here….

I was invited to meet my friend Zaza Jardim, a Brazilian artist, at this bistro called Tropicalia near the Brochant métro last night. The idea was to come and say hello and look at her exhibition there of her art, which is an interesting, strong-textured and naturally colored art made from waste that she finds and recycles as art – notably a lot of cigarette butts…. Zaza and I had met last December, before she returned to Brazil, when we made that New Year’s Eve musical video on this blog. So I went to say hello, and found much more than Zaza and her art.

I found a menu for home-made Brazilian food, made by the owner and chef of this Brazilian bistro, Tania Voyer. I also found a strange looking piano, on the ground floor, and a great looking cave beneath. Tania told me – I had my guitar with me – that Tropicalia hosts its own open mic every Tuesday night, for any kind of performer, not just Brazilian music. It is closed for the summer, but will start again on the first Tuesday of September.

So here I was in this obscure Brazilian bistro in an obscure part of Paris and with my guitar and a piano, and the meal that Tania made for me was no sooner ingested with great pleasure – it was the famous Brazilian dish of Feijoada (with pork meat), which is a bit like a goulash stew and rice – when in comes Tania’s son, Loic, and he sat down and began playing music on the piano.

There were some other regular clients, and one began hitting a tambourine. I figured that if this was a place that hosted concerts and open mics, then it was a place where if I pulled out my guitar and started playing and had the others join in, I would be the bienvenue, or whatever the Brazilian equivalent may be. So that’s what I did, opting for songs I thought everyone would know, that were good for tapping the tambourine and playing piano to. So I did a terribly screwed up “What’s Up!” – where I got messed up on the timing somehow – and I did “Wicked Game,” and everyone joined in. Loic then did a few more solo bits, and I did “Father and Son,” without the jam.

Zaza took my Zoom Q3HD and filmed us playing, and like the artist she is, she decided to film her artwork hanging on the walls and mirror, too. So check it out.

Oh, and the feijoada is really worth checking out too. I thought it was great, and Zaza said it was as good or better than any she has had in Brazil….

World Travel 2012 Pithy Wrap Up Part I: Brazil

December 1, 2012

I left everyone hanging at just the worst moment, and I’m really sorry that you all lost sleep over it! I had just arrived in Sao Paulo for the last leg of my 20 country and every continent – except Africa and Antarctica – tour of 2012 and I wrote more details of my magical musical adventure in Austin, Texas. And then, suddenly, the man vanishes. As if eaten by the criminals of Sao Paulo. Where is the musical adventure of the Brazilian city of the samba and bossa nova and all that jazz?

Well, time just became too much with me. First, the reason this report is so late is that I had a two-day travel back from Sao Paulo via New York’s JFK airport, where I spent 11 hours working on my stories for my final work-related event of the year. That also consisted of two night flights. So I was really out of commission as far as this blog and music go, for days. Then upon my return, I had to sleep away Wednesday day in order to have the energy to play a gig on Wednesday night that suddenly materialized when I received a phone call as I arrived in the bus at the Sao Paul airport. That will be the subject of tomorrow’s blog item, that gig.

So I will return the final leg of my world open mic, open jam musical adventure. In fact, Sao Paulo ended on a down note on the final night. In the four years of this adventure readers of this blog will have noticed that I found only one true open jam session in Sao Paulo, and it takes place on the Sunday night and goes all night long. It has been one of the best open jam experiences I have ever had, and it is largely bossa nova and other Brazilian forms of music, played by professional and amateur musicians sitting all together around a table in a bar all night long. People join the jam as they please, drop out when they want, then return again.

This year, after I contacted one of my friends who takes part in the jam to find out if it was still taking place at the same location, I learned that in fact, no, it wasn’t. I had missed the jam two years ago after it had moved to a new location and I had not known how to find the new one. This time, I was told the jam had moved again and that on Sunday night, it would take place at around 8 PM in two different places, starting in one place and then moving to the other at around 22:00. Well, I had a load of work to do for the racing job I do, since the title was decided and it required a lot more writing than usual.

So I could only make it to the second location of the jam. I went out to dinner with my friend, the musician Bruno Santos, and after the meal he drove me over to the second location of the jam. We got there after midnight. We could see from the car that there were only two people in the place – one man with a guitar, and someone else. It was a bar in Vila Madalena, but it was clearly, clearly not a huge success, this jam. I asked Bruno to please just drive me back to my hotel, which was near his apartment. My thought was that if the jam DID get going, it would clearly take a couple of hours, and I did not want to risk staying up all night for what might not be so great.

Open mics and open jams are not a big part of the culture in Sao Paulo. I heard back from my friend that she had gone to the first place and stayed longer and it had been quite a success. She then went on to the second place, and I have to tell her still why I did not show up.

Okay. Now. I do not want my faithful – or even unfaithful – readers of this blog to think that my worldwide open mic and open jam adventure ended on a failure. In fact, I there is a complete other part to this year’s adventure, which I have mentioned several times on this blog, and in that area, the visit to Sao Paulo was a huge success. My goal this year, one of my projects, was to record myself on my little Roland R26 recorder playing music in every country I visited, playing with a local musician. This I succeeded at: 20 countries, including France (although I have to get back to that part in tomorrow’s post), and Brazil was no exception.

The first day I was there, on the Thursday, I went to the aforesaid Bruno’s apartment and we played music for hours. It represented the only break from work I have had for 3 weeks – aside from the open mics in Austin – and together we played my songs, with me on vocals and guitar, and Bruno accompanying on guitar, keyboards and drums. He also sang some of his songs. The part we recorded on the Roland was with me playing my song and singing and playing my guitar, and Bruno playing drums.

Unlike in any of the other countries where I recorded, however, this little experiment turned out to be massively productive, as we chose to play a song that I wrote recently, but for which there was still a question mark hanging over it as to whether I had truly found the right structure. Bruno listened to me play it a couple of times, then he played along. Then he said immediately that he thought he detected a problem. We discussed it, and while my first reaction was that I did not want to write more lyrics to it, my second reaction was that I suddenly realized I did NOT have to write more lyrics, but just change the order of the lyrics and parts of the song. So we did it again, with me changing the structural order but using exactly the same lyrics, verses, chorus and bridge. It worked better than ever.

Now, this was all possible because Bruno Santos – who was born in Brazil but grew up on just about every continent except the really cold one – is one kick-ass musician. I wrote extensively about him and his album last year, and he continues to develop his music and musicianship – the keyboards being a recent addition – and I predict a brilliant career for this guy. In fact, I know that his self-made album – where he plays all instruments and produced the thing himself – is selling steadily and has had huge media attention in Brazil.

So the long and short of this long and involved, if late, report, is that the Brazil weekend went beautifully in terms of me playing music in Brazil, and I COULD have played in that last Sunday night jam. But I decided for once that I had achieved enough, and needed sleep more than anything else in an effort at preparing for the coming two nights of sleep on the flights and days in the airports. I left Brazil walking on the clouds – literally – especially after that telephone call offering me the gig in Paris as soon as I arrived. More on my delight over that one, in tomorrow’s post.

Last Day in Sao Paulo, Amazing Jam at the Varal Bar With the Lua Nova Crowd

December 1, 2011

bar varal sao paulo

bar varal sao paulo

It is nearly 4 AM on Thursday and I finally have the time to write down a little bit about the most amazing last evening that I had in Sao Paulo, where I finished my 2011 adventure around the world going to the open mics and jam sessions. The last night was so great that I am still recovering from it.

I had a fabulous session at Bar Varal in Pinheiros with the same group of people who I met and played with in 2009 and who I managed to miss in the freakiest way last year. This group of musicians both amateur and profession gets together every Sunday in Sao Paulo to play from around 10:30 PM to 5:30 PM, has moved around the city some five to seven or so times in the last couple of years, so you have to make sure not to lose touch with them!

The first year I stumbled on the place in the Lua Nova bar and jammed all night, then last year I stumbled on the place in another bar in the same area, but had no idea that I had found it and I walked out without jamming, and this year I planned it all in advance after befriending one of the participants on Facebook.

I had an even better time this year with the musicians who played at the Varal. The bar is much better than the Lua Nova, which was a tiny hole in the wall bar. The Varal is on the second floor of a discreet building, and if you did not know it was there and you passed by at opening when there is no music in the air, you’d never know it was anything but a private residence outside.

Once inside, though, this is a very warm and cosy bar with high ceilings with wooden beams, and with photos of Brazilian musicians on the walls and other pictures, and with a long bar in the back and a drum set in the corner at the front by the windows. Tables are set up side by side to permit people to join the open jam.

This year there were three microphones, the regular guitar player, and a few more who came in to play guitar, percussion and sing. It was free, open and more amazing as the evening progressed. I was a little worried at first as there was practically no one there at 10:30 PM. By 1 AM it was kicking, both with the people playing music and the audience that sang along.

I met a lot of interesting Brazilian musicians, and made some friendships I’m sure will continue. I also had a great time playing my own song, Borderline, and some cover songs – it was such a huge contrast to the rest of the evening’s hip and cool Brazilian music, but people enjoyed what I did it seemed, and they sang along.

Speaking outside with some of the musicians I asked why there were not more such open jams in Sao Paulo, and one of them told me that it was difficult to promote such things and they kept on getting closed down because of the loudness of the music going all night long. But he said that they all keep on getting back together because it answers a need. Mostly, he said, the jams are started in discreet bars by friends, and they grow into jams of friends of friends and friends of those… no advertising as such is done, and if you don’t know people involved in them, you don’t find them very easily…. That’s for sure!

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