Lucy Rose's South American Adventure: Brazil
We were supposed to take a bus from Posadas, Argentina to Porto Alegre in Brazil.
They only run on Tuesdays and Thursdays (Paula from Porto Alegre had called every bus company checking dates for my entire journey), so I had planned our schedule around this.
However, only two weeks before our journey, the bus company cancelled all Tuesday buses, leaving just Thursday as our only option. This meant I would miss both shows in Porto Alegre. Luckily Lucas from Posadas found another bus leaving São Borja in Brazil on Tuesday and he drove us the three hours to São Borja. It was really amazing to have Fernando in the car with us, as he works at the frontier and when we crossed the border into Brazil we found out Will's passport hadn’t been properly registered coming into Argentina. But Fernando explained the situation and we were on our way. The bus from São Borja to Porto Alegre was 10 hours overnight and definitely the bumpiest journey yet. But at 6.30am we pulled into the bus station and there was Paula and her brother Mauricio waiting for us.
Like all the other people who have helped me with this trip, Paula had been emailing me for over nine months, organising everything to make this show happen. She had found a 100-capacity bar called Groovaholic and organised giving away the free tickets which went immediately. She had asked if I would play another show on my day off in Porto Alegre and I said I would but had asked her if she could find a bigger venue for the second show to ensure everyone could come.
Now I’ve really got to know Paula and talked about how difficult it is to work out all the logistics for putting on a show, this had been a big ask. She had replied a few times saying she didn’t think she could find somewhere bigger, she didn’t go out to bars often because she’s always saving money so she can move to Canada in two years time. Eventually she had managed to book a 300 capacity show in a venue called Margot. Her friends had helped her to organise everything and they had even paid out of their own money for posters that I signed for people so they could have a memory from the gig. And what had shocked Paula and me even more is that the second show also sold out.
I would have never thought in a million years that 400 people would want to come and see me play in Porto Alegre. I was so excited to finally meet her after all the emails and hard work I knew she had put into organising these shows. We jumped in a cab at the bus station and headed to their apartment where we were staying. In the lift Paula was already making jokes, saying that the apartment wasn’t much bigger than the lift and she had us in stitches constantly. The apartment was small but homely. Paula and Mauricio gave us the bunk beds they normally sleep in and slept on mattresses on the floor next to us. We grabbed a quick morning nap, Paula couldn’t sleep though because she was too excited and at 1pm their parents came round with so much food and drinks for lunch- it was incredible.
We drank chimarrão and caipirinha and ate traditional Brazilian food; rice, beans, fried cassava and farofa. I’ve never felt so full in my entire life. We left the apartment and headed to that night's venue, Margot, which was a Wes Anderson-themed bar. The owner was lovely and helped us with soundcheck and provided us with food and drink. Mauricio had made huge foam letters spelling ‘LUCY ROSE’ that Paula put on the stage and I met all of their friends who had helped them organise everything. Suddenly I was on stage, playing to a packed venue of 300 people and I couldn’t quite believe it. Like I mentioned before, I’ve been trying to play shows in South America for so long but couldn’t get any gigs booked, I think promoters and venues want to take the risk. I’m really hoping the fact that people did come to the shows means I can come back one day with my band. After the show I stayed to meet everyone who came.
Exhausted we headed home to have one last beer with Paula and get some sleep. The next day we had a whole schedule of sightseeing ahead of us. First thing we did was head to a restaurant called Churrascaria Giovanaz where they keep giving you more and more food until you really can’t eat another thing. Paula insisted on paying and wouldn’t even let me pay her back for the bus tickets. She said that she can pay them off in instalments over the next five months. I couldn’t quite believe her generosity. It was really overwhelming and every time we tried to pay she made a joke that we would get deported if we didn’t accept the Brazilian hospitality.
Marcelo came and picked us up after lunch and we took a tour around Beira Rio, where Marcelo’s team Internacional play.
Marcelo and Paula only recently met during the organisation of this gig and they realised they had been to so many of the same concerts, including Feist where they found a photo of the gig and saw they were standing right next to each other on the front row! We spent the day together visiiting the cultural centre; Casa de Cultura Mário Quintana, the market; Mercado Público, downtown and to a park called Redenção where we played football in the sun.
It was such a lovely day and every time we sat and talked about how crazy all this was, Paula began to cry. She’s been going through so much in her life recently, which has made her feel anxious and panicky and the organising of both shows and our arrival has been a lot to take in. She said this has been the biggest thing she’s ever done in her life and when she promised to book a show if I came , she suddenly realised she had never booked a show in her life and had no idea where to begin. Paula said this experience pushed her to be brave, leave the house more, meet new people and talk to strangers and she couldn’t believe that we were actually there.
I felt so emotional during all of this because I’m learning more and more about myself through meeting these truly inspiring people. It makes me want to re-think everything I’ve ever known. I’ve learnt that living with less than I have ever had before, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
That evening we headed to Groovaholic for the second show. I was slightly nervous about the show once I had seen the equipment and set up. I guess over the last couple of years I’ve been very spoilt playing shows with my band, with a sound engineer and lots of good equipment to work with to try put on the best show. But this is what this trip is about, playing songs for free anywhere and even if the sound isn’t perfect and there aren't any special effects, nobody cares. I’ve had to push myself to just get up there and play my best and not worry too much about the quality of sound but enjoy the moment. It actually turned out to be one of my favourite shows, it really as if I was playing in someone's living room, everyone seated on the floor in the middle and people standing round the edge, pin drop silent and smiling faces everywhere.
A couple had flown in from Curitiba for the show and I had met them before at one of my shows in Inverness three years ago. I distinctly remember them saying to me, ‘you have to come play in Brazil one day’ and I was so pleased that they were there for this show. Another guy had flown from Iguzza for the show and many had made long bus journeys.
I met everyone again after the show, learnt so much about so many people and had to say goodbye to all of Paula’s amazing friends, who had done so much for us. That evening we stayed up with Paula and Mauricio talking until late and the next morning two of Paula’s new friends Kaka and Carol picked us up to take us to the airport. These two girls had also provided me with a keyboard and all the equipment to make the show at Groovaholic possible. Amazingly kind people. We boarded our flight to Rio de Janeiro making a promise to ourselves to come back to Porto Alegre one day.
At Rio airport we were met by a girl called Liv who we were staying with. She had also put me in contact with Tito who had booked my two shows in Rio. First thing I asked her was: how did you get in contact with me, as I couldn’t remember and she told me that it was through a mutual friend that both her and Paula had. It turns out Paula hasn’t just been organising my shows in Porto Alegre but also contacting all her friends in Rio and São Paulo to make shows happen for me there.
Liv works at a huge paper in Brazil called O Global and she showed me that day's paper which had a massive photo and write up (thanks to her and her friend Sergio) about me and Jose Gonzalez as I was supporting him that evening at Circo Voador. When I first announced I was coming to South America, a man called Tiago emailed me. He had started a company called Queremos which helps bands come to South America by fans demanding it and buying the tickets in advance. I really wanted to work with them more but for this tour it didn’t work out. However they kindly let me support Jose Gonzalez while I was in Rio which was a huge honour for me as I love his music so much. Before the show Liv, Will and I headed for lunch at one of Liv’s favourite spots; David’s Bar which is a small family run restaurant in a favela/community near Liv’s house. We wandered back home down through the narrow alleyways of the community and every person we passed smiled at us and said hello.
It is terrible to see so many people living in communities in these conditions. On nearly every hillside there’s a community of hand made houses. I asked Liv what she thought was the solution and she said it’s hard because at the moment Brazil is going through a state crisis. The congress are trying to impeach the current President, Dilma Rousseff but they have little evidence against her. In many places we walked we saw graffiti on the walls saying that the government in Brazil is corrupt and every person we spoke to agreed.
It’s hard to see such an amazing country which we have loved being in so much being run by corrupt people. As always politics are complicated and I only learnt a small amount in the days I spent here but it feels like the people are once more after change. More money spent on education, healthcare and welfare, which I think is the same thing most people want in their countries universally.
The biggest surprise I had was finding out that Paula and Marcelo from Porto Alegre had flown to Rio. We met Marcelo at the venue and Paula by some sort of miracle left work at 6.30pm and was running into the venue at 10pm when I had begun my first song. I loved this venue (Circa Voador), it’s one of the best in the world. It’s outside but with cover and circular which gives an intimate atmosphere even though it’s capacity is 2500. I’ve actually played here before, three years ago, singing with Bombay Bicycle Club when we supported Broken Social Scene and being here again brought back so many great memories of when I was here with my great friends Jack, Ed, Jamie, Suren and Louis. But this time I was onstage just me and my guitar and as always pretty nervous but the nerves left as soon as I started as the crowd were so supportive and enthusiastic.
It was so much fun and I was really surprised and grateful to find out that Jose had watched all of my show from side of stage. He’ll never know how much that meant to me as he’s a huge inspiration to me. I spent the rest of the evening with my new friends, Liv, Paula and Marcelo watching Jose Gonzalez play which was mind blowingly good. We all had photos with him afterwards and we headed home through the crazily busy streets of Rio de Janeiro.
The next day we all went for breakfast near Liv’s house and again no-one would let us pay for our food. This has been happening the whole time with these guys, every time we get our wallets out they have already paid. Even when we went up Sugar Loaf Mountain Marcelo insisted on paying for our tickets which were really expensive. I know how hard they all have to work for this money so I really couldn’t believe their generosity.
We got the cable car half-way up Sugar Loaf and as we got off we saw a helicopter landing right next to us. I was just curious to see how much it would be as Will’s never been in a helicopter and it would just be the most amazing experience. To my surprise it was no where near as expensive as I thought it would be and I had a crazy idea that this would be the way I could thank Marcelo and Paula for everything they had done for Will and me.
Next thing I knew we were jumping into a helicopter and taking off from Sugar Loaf, flying down the beaches and hovering around Christ The Redeemer. It was one of the most incredible experiences and I was so happy I could share it with our new friends. Afterwards they both called their parents to tell them what had happened.
Paula is terrified of flying so her parents really couldn’t believe it. She’s overcome so many of her fears these last few days, it’s been amazing to see. Liv met us at a bar at the bottom of the Sugar Loaf and we all had a beer together. Liv is a truly awesome person as well, I know she is going through so much at the moment but still she’s done everything to make sure we have a great time in Rio. She’s taken such good care of us and organised so much to make these shows in Rio happen.
Rio was the hardest place to find somewhere to play, especially free entry. I had a few people helping me at the beginning and then I started to hear less and less from them as they couldn’t find anywhere for me to play. However, Liv found Tito, a DJ and promoter, who booked me two shows in Rio. The first was at a small venue around 150 people. He insisted that we at least charge around 5 Reais per ticket, which is around £1 so that the staff working that evening could get paid. It sold out in 20 minutes so Tito agreed to put another show on the next day. Those 150 people gave me a gig I’ll never forget. I’ve never heard singing like it, so loud I couldn’t even hear myself. It was so much fun!
After meeting everyone after the gig, Marcelo, Paula, Will and I headed back to Liv’s for one last drink as Marcelo was leaving first thing in the morning for Porto Alegre. The next day we headed to Maracanã stadium to watch the final between Botafogo (Liv’s team) and Vasco and it was manic. There was fireworks going off everywhere, people just holding a rocket in the air and lighting it. Chanting, screaming, swearing, hugging, all the great things you want at a football match.
Paula had to leave straight after the match to catch her flight back home to Porto Alegre. I told her not to cry because this was just the beginning of our friendship. She told me these had been the best days of her life and she felt reborn. Before all of this her self confidence had been extremely low and now she says she feels completely different. She’s pushed herself and done so much more than she could ever imagine and I’m honoured to be part of her journey - I’ve loved every minute of it.
That evening I was played my second headline show in Rio at a bigger venue. I agreed with Tito that if I did one ticketed event, if it sold out he would have to help me play another free entry show in Rio. All the tickets were taken but this time on a website. Every other show I’ve played over the last seven weeks, the tickets have been printed and distributed only to those who come to venue, queue and pick them up. I've learnt that that method works much better than the website as even though the venue was busy, it wasn't full. This was slightly disappointing as I was receiving many upset tweets and messages that day from people who hadn’t managed to get tickets to either of my shows. But it taught me something and the show was still awesome and again special.
The next day we had to say another goodbye, this time to Liv who had had us to stay.
We talked a lot with her and Paula about the political situation in Brazil. At the moment the country is going through a state crisis. My knowledge is limited but the congress are currently trying to impeach the President and it looks like they will be successful. For many people we talked to this is an extremely sad time for the country. They said that she’s done lots for the poor communities but at the same time over the last two years there have been many problems.
The problem is that for many of the people I’ve spoken to, neither option is good. The President hasn’t been doing a great job but the man who will take over they worry will be even worse. It’s very scary and many people feel hopeless. It was hard to see people that I cared about feeling so lost in this political situation.
Our flight to São Paulo was short and Wolf was waiting at the airport for us when we got there. I knew nothing about Wolf, just that he owned a laundrette where he was allowing me to play music for free and he was letting us stay with him. It turns out Wolf has started a project called House Of All. Within this, he has House Of Bubbles (the laundrette), House Of Work (an affordable, shared working space), House Of Food (a restaurant where each day a different chef will hire the restaurant for a low fee and then can take all the profit and try toget off the ground), House Of Learning (same concept where teachers can hire the area to teach whatever their class).
It’s an amazingly, inspiring, sustainable concept which helps many people. He even has a clothes library full of really cool clothes and shoes which you can use for a monthly fee like a library. He showed us round and it made total sense that he would be the person to help me with this journey of mine in São Paulo. But I was really shocked when he showed me where I would be playing the following day; in the window of the second floor (the glass slides open) looking down to the crowd who would be watching from the street below. I was meant to have a day off singing the first night in São Paulo but I have a problem which is I can’t say no. Luis (a friend of Paula’s) sent me an email a few months ago asking if I could play a gig on the other side of town at Elevado’s Bar where his band would support me. Of course I said yes.
The capacity of the bar was only 100 and tickets were free but limited which meant the morning they gave the tickets away was pretty stressful as too many people turned up for the tickets. Fans were disappointed, but they would be able to come to the show the next day. I do really enjoy playing small intimate shows, where it’s silent and I can talk to people individually during the set.
I’ve never received so many presents after a show. A Brazilian flag which I wore for the last song, CDs, chocolates, a personalised mug and t-shirt and one girl had made a scrapbook in which she had translated every single song of mine into Portuguese. It must have taken her hours and I’m definitely going to see if I can sing some of my songs in Portuguese now I have this amazing book.
After the gig I had dinner with Danny (the girl who first put me in contact with Wolf) and her two friends Renata and Daiany. We spoke to them about many things including the political problems the country is facing and also sexuality. Both Danny and Renata are gay and I wanted to know if it was similar in Brazil as it is in the UK. They said that they had found it very difficult when they first came out. Renata’s parents were really upset with her and she had to move out at 16 years old but Danny said her family have come round and now are very supportive. It makes me sad that still in this day and age someone's sexual orientation can impact their lives so much. After a lovely late night dinner getting to know them, Renata dropped us off at Wolf’s house and we got some sleep.
The next day we went for dinner at a girl called Ana’s house. She had also been emailing me, along with another girl called Luisa who I met at the gig the night before as they had both offered to host Will and me during our stay in São Paulo. So instead we all had lunch together. They had never met before and they each brought some friends along and Ana cooked a traditional Brazilian dish called Moqueca. I loved getting to know them all. We talked about this journey Will and I are on and also about the political situation in Brazil. They said the last few weeks have been really hard. Luis and Ana said they’ve been struggling with anxiety since it’s all started as they are really frightened about what is going to happen.
I asked why more people weren’t protesting as we would be if this was happening in the UK. Apparently they have been to many protests in the past but they haven’t been peaceful from the side of the police. Ana’s friend Felipe showed us a huge rubber bullet scar he had in his leg when the police shot at him and his friends last time they protested. They were surrounded by the police and then they just started shooting at them and throwing tear gas at them. Many people were injured, some are blind from the rubber bullets and it’s really disturbing as they were unarmed young individuals who were legally and peacefully protesting their rights.
I had no idea that this was the case in Brazil. I couldn’t believe the boy Will’s age across the table had bullet scars on his legs as evidence. I was really shocked. It made me realise once more how lucky we are to be living in a country were our voices can be heard in protest and there is no risk attached to this act whatsoever. There are consequences to protesting in the UK like there are in other countries which made me realise I need to be more involved and use my voice more to express what I believe in, as there are people all across the worlds using their voices knowing the risks. I was hugely inspired talking to this group of young people but I felt a deep sadness for them at this time. We discussed that anything could happen, the impeachment will go through which means there will be a man in power who has not been elected, a man who is known to be corrupt. Either the country will allow this man to take power or there will be a civil war. No-one knows what the future holds for Brazil right now.
After lunch we headed for the House of Bubbles to soundcheck for that night's show. When I arrived there was already a crowd outside and I wasn’t playing for another two hours. It was the craziest show I’ve ever played in my life and so unexpected. By the time it turned 8pm and I walked out to start playing there was just over 1200 people out on the street, waiting for me. As I’ve been trying to get a gig booked in São Paulo for sometime and had failed, it was more than unbelievable to see so many people out supporting me. Before coming on this trip, I was at a place in my life where I wasn’t 100% sure about continuing with my music. I have a record label undecided about whether they want to do a third record with me and I wasn’t sure if my music had really reached anyone. Suddenly seeing this massive crowd singing my songs with me and finding out how far people had travelled for the concert made me realise I need to go home and write songs for all of the people who really do care.
I met one girl called Barbara who had taken an 8 hour bus from her small town Tucurui in Pará to Belem where she took a 5 hour flight to São Paulo, just for my show. It’s really hard to process that people save up their money for months to take such a huge journey to see me play some songs. I’ll never be able to tell her how much that meant. During my show there was a tattooist working in the next window and after I finished playing he told me he wanted to give me a free tattoo to say thank you for the music. I was on such a high from the gig and there has been a tattoo that I’ve been wanting to get for so long now in memory of two people who are incredibly important to me, that I felt that now was the right time.
Sometimes it can feel like you aren’t in control of your life but we are so much more than we realise. And sometimes it feels like we work so hard to save money but for what? I’ve never felt as if I’ve spent my money as well as I have on this journey. I had never realised how important travel was but I’ve learnt so much about people on this trip.
Out of all the things I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud of this journey because something that felt totally impossible, with the power of the internet and good people, was made possible. We saved money to do this so that the gigs could be free entry. We believed in the people that were asking us to come and in return I’ve been brought move happiness than I could have ever imagined.
Our final day in São Paulo was spent with all our new friends, Luis, Ana, Felipe, Bela, Danny and Wolf. We had so much good food down to Wolf’s amazing friend Paulo Yoller. We went to Vale do Anhangabaú, Edificio Martinelli, Teatro Municipal and Galeria do Rock and saw how much our new friends really love living in São Paulo. We talked all day about the trips we would take in the future exploring Brazil together.
I really had no idea I would enjoy this city and every city I’ve visited in Brazil as much as I have. This really is amazing country, with so much identity and culture and some of the best people I’ve met in my whole life. There is no doubt in my mind, I will 100% be coming back and soon!