Massgrav in Brazil 2013
Throughout the years we've had this band, we've received a few emails that we won't be forgetting anytime soon. One of them was when Ken Pollution wrote and said he'd heard our first 7" and wanted to release our next recording. Another one was when Fred wrote and asked whether we'd be interested in coming to Brazil to play a gig with his band - Nao Conformismo - even though "he couldn't offer anything but plane tickets, food and board". Let's get one thing straight right here to save us from a bunch of dumb emails. If you live a two hour drive away from Stockholm, that's not a deal we're very likely to accept. If you live, however, on a different continent than ours, in a slightly mythical country that blends heaven and hell into a pretty intriguing mix, our answer will probably be the same we gave to Fred, which was something like "are you serious? Because if you ARE, then hell yes - we'll come". Turned out Fred was serious as a heart attack and ready to put his money where his mouth was. Not only that, but he was also a very reasonable and just plain nice guy to trade emails with and about one week after the initial email reached us, dates were fixed and tickets were bought and all we had to do was wait for six months.
Now... It soon became obvious that everyone and his grandma has an opinion about Brazil. The main one being that it's lethally dangerous. There's drugs. Guns. Favelas. Drug lords to rule them all and crazed junkies to do their dirty work. Robbers. Hookers. Corrupt police. Poisonous spiders the size of cats. Snakes that'll kill you in a blink. Native tribes with poisoned darts. Floods and storms and traffic from hell - all out to get you and if they don't, then you'll be food poisoned the minute you put something in your mouth. It's weird - we didn't get half as much crap about safety when we were going to Russia, and if guide books was anything to go by, that was a FAR more dangerous country. Must be that everyone has seen City of God and Tropa de Elite or something. In the end, only one of the above turned out to be a real scare, with a second one being more of a nuisance.
Still, we didn't get much sleep the night before we left - naturally because we were excited but also because we had to get up before four in the morning. Brazil is faaar away. How far? Let's just say that on the main leg of the trip - the flight from London to Rio de Janeiro, Fenok watched six movies and still had plenty of time to eat and talk to us. So we were a bit dazed when we shuffled through customs (without a hitch - making all the careful preparations of tons of paperwork totally unnecessary) and met up with Fred for the first time. He was accompanied by his wife, Sirlene and his friend Tony. We split up into their two cars and headed for Macať, situated about three hours north of Rio. While Fenok and Norse were getting lost in a Favela, fielding questions from Tony about the orgy habits of Swedish women and listening to Ultima Tule (yeah, weird), Ola was informed that the gig had been moved to a new venue since the owner of the original one had gotten behind on payments and had subsequently been shot. Not to worry though, the new venue was much better. Yeah... no worries. Happens to us all the time, that.
Driving through the night, seeing the lights from the favelas twinkle from all mountain sides, catching the beautiful view of all the anchored ships while driving over the Rio-Niteroi bridge, watching a bunch of cops wrestle a naked, drunk guy into an ambulance by a car crash site and just feeling the hot breeze through the car windows, you felt pretty far from home. Not in a bad way though, mind you. If we could just get some sleep, everything would be dandy.
Finally, after more than 24 hours of travel, we arrived at Fred and Sirlene's flat in Macať. Staying in people's homes is always a gamble but this time it really paid off - the flat was immaculate and we all got great sleeping arrangements. We were on the 6th floor and we spent a long while on the balcony, trying to see as much as possible, longing for the sunrise so we'd be able to see the ocean, the river and a bit more of the town. Finally, after a long, long day and a much needed/deserved shower, we hit the sack.
We awoke to a somewhat hazy day but also to a spectacular view of Macať and the ocean, and a beautiful breakfast, largely made up by fresh, exotic fruit (which, not surprisingly, is the classic Brazilian breakfast). In Fred and Sirlene's apartment, it's very easy to get stuck on the balcony, just looking at the view - both because it's beautiful but also because there's so damn much to look at. Fred told us that before Brazil was picked as hosts for the 2014 football world cup and the government decided to seize control of all favelas and put a lid on a lot of the violence, he would see police choppers from his balcony every morning without exception, shooting at people in the favela situated across the river from us. Yeah... ok, maybe all the people who claimed Brazil was so dangerous just had slightly outdated intel?
We hung around the apartment for a while talking about this and that and making plans for the week. It was apparent Fred had a lot of great stuff lined up for us, starting with today's trip to the nearby seaside resort Bķzios. We grabbed our swimwear, Fred brought his body board and we piled into his car and headed south. The drive was quite a bit longer than we'd realized, and made longer by pretty intense traffic, but there was never a dull moment. To say there was a lot of exotic things to look at would be a huge understatement. From the insane guy in the back of a horse drawn carriage, mimicking shooting at us and everyone else with his fingers, to lush greenery and beautiful scenery, to favelas, street vendors selling anything imaginable, there was A LOT to look at. When we reached our destination, we instantly hit the beach and spent a wonderful few hours swimming in the warm and insanely salty water, trying out the body board and sipping coconut water, trying to look like natives but standing out like three lilly white beacons of gringo-ness.
Once we realized we were about to turn ourselves into 1st degree burn victims (seriously - the sun in Brazil: dangerous. We wore factor 60 sun block all the time and still got pinker than a My Little Pony in a matter of days), we reluctantly got dressed and headed into town for a meal. Bķzios is a lovely little town with cobbled streets and lots of trees, situated on a peninsula, where Brigitte Bardot used to live in the 60s and where pirates and slavers resided a bit further back in the past. Very hard to feel that old Massgrav hatred when everything is so damn nice. To make things even better, in Brazil (at least in this part of it) beach buggies are still the rage - you see A LOT of them, and not only the fiberglass-bodied kit-car variety, but factory built, major name brand cars. Sweet! Fred took us to a traditional Brazilian buffet restaurant, where you paid a fixed price for everything off the buffet and paid for all the varieties of grilled meat by the pound (there was a huge grill in the corner with two guys churning out delicacies at full speed), which allowed Fenok to indulge in his vegetarian ways while the rest of us went crazy on the meat. All this while sitting on a covered porch with a stunning view of the bay with its white sand, deep blue sea and green, green islands rising out of the ocean. Damn!
About then, Fred got a call and found out that the new venue had also cancelled our show. The guitarist of Nao Conformismo, Marlon, who was in charge of setting up the show, already had a new place lined up though, and he wanted us (well, Fred mainly) to join us there for a meeting with the owner. We headed back towards Macať and instantly noted the weather changing - rapidly. A big, black blanket of clouds was hard at work at covering the sky and before too long it was raining, heavily. After a while, lightning started crackling and the rain just got worse. Fred started to sound a bit nervous, telling us that the roads of Macať had a tendency of flooding when it rained heavily, and rain heavily it did! The streets turned into muddy, fast flowing rivers and by now the thunder was pretty intense. Norse decided this was the perfect moment to listen to Brazil's great metal sons Sarcofago. Fenok worshiped - Ola hated every second of it, but Fred had lots of nice Sarcofago stories to keep us amused.
When we reached the bar, we had to sprint from the car to avoid getting soaked from above, and make big leaps from one dry-ish spot to another to avoid getting soaked from below. The bar looked familiar, and sure enough - this was the original venue, where we had a short meeting with the new, as of yet un-killed, boss and Marlon. Sadly, for unknown reasons, they didn't want us there, but told us to go across the road and ask. This was about a gig set to take place the next night. Things were starting to look bleak and Fred didn't look too happy as we skipped across the street.
Being of absolutely no use in a meeting in a country where people speak little English, we sat down in a corner and had a couple of beers while Marlon and Fred talked to the owner. When in doubt - do what you do best! The waiter really wanted to try out his somewhat rusty English and was very curious about our band and the music we play. As Fred returned with the good news that we were on for tomorrow (though we'd have to end it before 10 pm, when samba night started), the waiter asked whether we would by any chance be playing Hotel California tomorrow. When he got a negative response, he said that anything by U2 or Linkin Park would also be fine. We said we'd see what we could do and left, feeling a lot better now that we knew we wouldn't have travelled around the world without getting the chance to play. Well, unless this show was also cancelled again of course.
On the drive back from Rio the previous night, Fred said Nao Conformismo had booked a couple of hours rehearsal space time and since they usually only needed a bit less than one hour, maybe we'd be interested in using the rest. We thought it sounded like fun and it seemed like Fred and Marlon thought it would be nice if we played there, so we went back to the apartment for quick showers and our gear before navigating the still very much flooded streets down to their rehearsal space. There, we met the rest of the guys in the band; guitarist Alex, bass player Filipe and drummer Sidharta. We set up our stuff and played about 10 songs or so, including "RŲsta pŚ vaddŚ?" especially for Fred, since he wanted to hear it but we didn't have it on the set list for tomorrow. Great fun, awesome rehearsal space with great sound and interesting, Brazilian amps (some of which worked better than others) and a beer cooler cranked up to the absolute max. Brazilians like their beer insanely cold, on the point of freezing, which is very very nice - we never want luke warm squat beer EVER again, you hear?
The Nao Conformismo boys set up their stuff and ran through the songs for tomorrow, including a song so new that Fred had no lyrics for it yet, a problem solved by singing it "in Finnish" (Fred is a big fan of bands like Rattus). Good fun to finally get to see them play, and to watch Sidharta beat the shit out of the drums - he's one of those drummers that use a brute force approach to drumming - no weak "it's all in the wrists" stuff there, more like "it's all in the entire arms, shoulders and down, but you have to hit HARD", which I guess maybe works if A) you play a bit slower than we do (Fenok's arms would fall off if he tried this) and B) if you're built like a damn Greek god. Sidharta works as a life guard down at the beach and runs and swims a lot every day, and it shows.
Afterwards, a bunch of us went down to a steak house by the beach to give the Brazilian meat another go. The weather was now nice and warm again and this was yet another place with no clear line between indoors and outdoors, things just kind of gradually changed from a porch up front to a kitchen and a bathroom at the back. Some of the guy's wives/girlfriends joined us for dinner and a good time was had by all. Although the time difference between Sweden and Brazil is only three hours, our previous day of travel also added to our fatigue and we were kinda happy to call it a night rather early and go home to the apartment. We hung out with Fred, who showed us a few gems from his record collection and talked a bit more about Sarcofago. Back in the day, Fred kept up a written conversation with them and his mum had been very upset when he received letters with stamps with crosses on them, turned upside down. Must be a lot tougher to be a 'satanic' band in a country as deeply religious as Brazil, compared to Norway or Sweden... We also gave Fred a close to complete Massgrav discography and Sirlene, who is an avid curling fan, got an official shirt from the womens national Swedish curling team. They both seemed happy with their gifts. It's always really hard to know what to give people you don't know well and when someone lets you into their home for a week, you sort of want to let them know you truly appreciate it.
Blazing sunshine woke us up (ok, blazing sunshine woke OLA up real early and he then was enough of an asshole to wake the others) and today we were meeting Sidharta on the Macať beach, and he'd promised to bring his longboard (surf board, that is - not one of those midlife crisis skateboards for old people). Before we could go though, we had to do something about our footwear situation. One of the first things Fred asked us the day before, as we were leaving the apartment to go to the beach, was whether we really intended to wear sneakers? With SOCKS in them, even! It was pretty clear we were being embarrassingly touristy and it was now time to fix that. Fred and Sirlene walked with us to downtown Macať, through a nice park (that was still partially flooded) and down to the stores, where we bought havaianas (that's flip-flops for the less fashion savvy of you) for the entire band. In Brazil, EVERYONE wear these, ALL the time, so it made sense we got some, even though they have to be the least comfortable footwear in the world.
The beach in south Macať demanded a bit more caution than the one we'd visited the previous day. The waves got pretty big and both Fred and the life guards kept a beady eye on us the entire time so that we wouldn't get dragged out to sea, which turned out to be all too easy. Fenok and Ola got distracted for a second and were suddenly a lot further out than they intended, and spent a bit of a nervous moment and a lot of arm power, getting back to the beach, where Fred informed them the life guards had been on full attention, ready to act if necessary. Remembering how Sidharta and his crew had saved 72 persons the previous day, we were pretty happy not to end up as numbers in those statistics and it was probably lucky that Sidharta and his longboard never showed up. Apart from that, it was a fantastic day at the beach, with lots of sun and fun.
We went for a walk and found a bar on the beach and got so distracted that Fred apparently got a bit worried again. It was easy to get distracted though, and not only by the view, but also by the beer. Brazilians love to drink their beer ice cold. Ice. Cold. As in a thick layer of ice on the can and beer just seconds away from turning into slush. How can you not like a country like that? Just sitting there, thinking how crazy it is that someone thought it worth bringing our band to Brazil, which let us sit there on the beach, drinking ice cold beer and watching the ocean when everyone we knew were back in the freezing darkness that is Sweden in January... we had a very nice little band moment, feeling... well, grateful, I guess.
Soon though, it was time to go back home, where Fred and Sirlene were preparing a traditional Brazilian meal for us. The meat eaters in the band got chunks of pork, with rice and something gumbo-like made of okra, which you ate with some very spicy pickled onions. Fenok got a vegetarian alternative that he said was extremely delicious - too bad he didn't tell us until long after! All in all, very nice meal.
We arrived at the bar where we were playing around five. The first band was scheduled to play around six. There was barely anyone there. At least it wasn't raining. The previous day, we'd nervously noted the fact that the stage lights were placed right in the break between a real roof and a canvas roof, so that lots and lots of water ran THROUGH the lighting rig - so much, in fact, that they'd placed a rain gutter below the lights, to stop all the water from hitting the audience. Had it been us, we would have placed it above the lights, but maybe that's just us...
So a bit after six o clock, Antes da Guerra had to go on stage despite the rather thin crowd. Riffomaniac grindcore with a bass player that jumped around all over the place, despite the fact that the battery fell out of his bass three times, rendering him silent for half a song at the time. The crowd didn't exactly lap it up, they stood at the back of the room, clapping halfheartedly, but at least most the people stayed in the stage room for the duration of the gig, which is always something. Didn't exactly get us all that psyched though...
Next up was Norte Cartel, who play super macho New York-style hardcore and that really got the crowd going. The Norte Cartel guys arrived a bit late, so by the time they hit the stage, the crowd had grown considerably and they all seemed to enjoy a bit of mosh pit friendly, fist pump inducing, sing along hardcore. The people in the mosh pit were a pretty diverse bunch to say the least. One guy was moshing in his havainanas, which seemed painful since a lot of the others wore boots. One guy, all dressed in black, with his own take on corpse paint (which, combined with his short hair and general appearance made him look more like a Bobbo Viking-era Magnus Uggla (non-swedes, just google it) than a grim and frostbitten envoy of Lucifer) had a pretty weird routine, borderline dancing/fighting that he kept repeating and a big, bald guy in a slipknot shirt seemed to spend most of the time in the pit trying to hurt the poor corpse paint guy. Lots of fun to look at, and spirits got a lot higher.
Nao Conformismo entered the stage and got a similar reception from the crowd. Their comination of melodic sing-along and aggressive approach went down a treat, even during the first song, to which Fred had no lyrics and opted to sing in "Finnish". Just like last time, it was a treat watching Sidharta drum - whacking the shit out of them poor drums! Great fun!
And then it was our turn. Since we'd come so far, we'd prepared a set-list longer than anything we've ever played before - looking more like something Bruce Springsteen would use for one of his four hour gigs. Normally, when you're in a band, you get along fine with other bands, and there's no competition to speak of, but the moment you hit the stage, you sometimes feel the urge to show everyone else - bands and crowd alike - how it's done, the proper way. We went at it at full bore and judging from the stunned faces on some of the members of the audience, they hadn't known what to expect. Norse started the show off by shouting "We are Massgrav and we are here because we love Brazil and we HATE Argentina!". Brazil and Argentina are sworn enemies and this really got people going, and a few songs later when he followed it with "We love Pelť - FUCK Maradona", we had them eating from our palms.
Fenok soon drew his own little crowd on the side of the stage, with people gaping in amazement at the speed at which his sticks were hitting the drums. It is true Johan had some problems with the vocals and Ola was plagued by a shrill feedback that would come and go, but apart from that, it was just full tilt idiot mayhem from the word go. We had a lot of fun and the good people of Brazil seemed to enjoy themselves too. Much sooner than you would have thought - considering the amount of songs we did - it was over. If you figure the cost of bringing us over versus the amount of time we played, it may be considered an expensive thing, but as always, you have to think "quality" rather than "quantity", ok?
We didn't have much time to spare before samba night would start and we tried to make the most of it by speed drinking a few beers, trying to regain a healthy fluid balance. By now, the bartenders had lost a bit of their magic touch though, and several cans of beer were half frozen, making them pretty stale and hard to drink. It's a delicate balance, wanting beer that's almost, but not quite, frozen. Felipe came over with some delicious deep fried cheesy bar snacks and a lot of nice people told us they liked the show. Another nice moment. Even the bartender seemed happy when Johan asked him "so, did you hear Hotel California now that we played it just for you?".
Most shops and restaurants in Brazil have a fairly complicated and labor intensive system with different counters (and persons) you order from, get receipts from and have your receipt checked before being allowed to leave. This bar was no exception. Everything you ordered got put on your personal slip that you kept with you. At the end of the night, you were supposed to take it to a cashier to pay, upon which you would get a receipt which you would then show to the g-i-g-a-n-t-i-c blacker-than-night security guard at the door, after which you were free to exit. Only... Ola didn't get a receipt. Or maybe, just maybe, he got one but was drunk enough to lose it before realizing you wouldn't be let out without it. For a while, it seemed like Massgrav would have to carry on as a two man drums and guitar act, until a friendly local stepped in and explained everything to the owner, who ordered the doorman to let Ola out.
Well, the night was still young and a large bunch of us decided to go down the street to a bar with a big roof terrace that could fit us all and which served beer towers. We've seen these once in Sweden, on our trip to LuleŚ, but it's a rare treat for us: huge beer containers with a built in cooling rod, that lets you have your own beer on tap at the table. Mainly, our gang was made up by Nao Conformismo members and their friends, girlfriends and wives but also a guy with some pretty scary-looking facial tattoos that we all assumed was somebody's friend, but who turned out to annoy the fuck out of everyone before the night was over. Apart from that, we had a fantastic night with rivers of beer and so many nice people. It's astonishing when you're this far from home that so many people know Swedish music so well, even if we were sometimes a bit confused by what bands were popular. Few seemed to have heard of bands like Skitsystem but fucking EVERYONE seemed to love Crude SS. Odd. Part of the explanation for this seems to be that there have been a few South American releases of Scandinavian bands, which has led to those bands being a lot more well-known than any others. For example, there was a Rattus 7" released in Brazil in 1982 or something and there was also a very early LP with Anticimex, Crude SS, Fear of War and RŲvsvett released there. Naturally, Fred owns a copy of each of them.
As the night wore on, details get more and more hazy, but we made it back home eventually, sometime in the small hours and managed not to lose neither band members nor gear. To those who stayed sober enough to drive us home; thanks, and sorry if we were our usual drunken and obnoxious selves! We sat up for a while talking to Fred, who seemed very happy with the night, which was always the most important thing.
By now, we had all become beach junkies (even the initially very reluctant Fenok) and we had been thinking it would be nice to start another day with a quick dip in the Atlantic. However, by the time we dragged our sorry, hung-over asses out of bed, we quickly realized we didn't really have time for that - as today was the day of the big barbeque at Felipe's house. Fred gave us a shot of Amarula Cream in our morning protein shake to get us going and after another "watching Macať from the balcony/talking about music"-session, we were ready to go over to Felipe's house, although Fenok vowed not to touch the beer today.
Since Macať is a city where you turn two corners and get completely lost, we can't really say much about the area where Felipe and his family lives, but it seemed nice, although the motorized gate and the high walls topped with electrical fence was a reminder that Brazil is a pretty crime-ridden country. Once you were inside the walls though, things were great. Felipes house is the perfect place for a barbeque. There's a big, L-shaped porch with a roof to protect you from the weather, be it rain or sun. A big brick-built barbecue and a counter with a basin and a water tap makes it a pretty complete outdoor kitchen and there is seating for a lot of people, including a few sofas. Great great place to spend a Sunday afternoon!
We were among the first people to arrive and at first we didn't notice anything but Felipe's old car, which was parked in the yard. A souped-up old VW beetle that had been modified for beach fun, with fat as hell rear tires, a roll-cage and modified body. He told us it had been the mode of transportation for one of his old bands and they had constantly been pulled over by the cops who wanted to search the car for drugs. Naturally, we tried to buy the car from him, not giving a shit about how the hell we could ever bring it back home, but he flat out refused all our offers.
Pretty soon, the rest of the band started arriving, bringing family and friends and Felipes family, in-laws and his brother with family also arrived, until there was quite a lot of us. Filipe's friend Eduardo arrived and assumed the duty of head barbeque chef, starting by unpacking the numerous bags of assorted meat, sausages, cheeses and garlic bread that had amassed by the barbeque as people arrived. Filipe's wife and mother in law had made lots of side dishes, including delicious vegetarian lasagna especially for Fenok (that didn't stop the rest of us from trying it though). Along with food, everyone brought plenty of beer which all went into a gigantic styrofoam cooler (with plenty of ice of course) and Fenok's earlier resolution went out the window pretty fast, especially when Felipe brought over a special cooler just for Massgrav, with our own special beer. Before long, things started smelling insanely good from the grill and shortly thereafter, Eduardo started bringing over trays with bite sized meats and cheeses from the grill.
Initially, we were a bit confused, as we were used to Swedish barbeque, where you try to time it so that everything on the grill is ready at the same time, upon which everyone fills their plates with grilled stuff and side dishes and then sits down around the table and eat until they're done. Pretty soon though, we realized the Brazilian way is much much better. For hours, we drank beer and talked, all the while we kept getting new trays of mouthwatering stuff passed around, from which you just picked a few bites and passed it on down the table. This way, the enjoyment that is grilled, dead animals, lasted much longer. After a few beers, our relatively mild hangovers were gone and as the afternoon wore on, we were well on our way into a healthy buzz and had the opportunity been there, we could easily have kept drinking throughout the night, probably with epically disastrous results. Fortunately, everyone else had to work the next day and people started to say goodbye and leave and soon, we were on our way home as well. Before we left though, we finally got to say hello to Felipe's daughter, who had previously been too shy to even look at us and we also made a last attempt to buy Felipe's car by trying to buy it from his wife, who was much more sympathetic to the idea. After she left, Felipe asked his daughter if she remembered who was in the band, upon which she gave us brand new nicknames in Portuguese: Cabel„o, Barbud„o and Gigante ('Long hair', 'Big beard' and 'the Giant', if we're correctly informed).
All day long, Norse had been a bit antsy, since Sundays are american football days for him. He coaxed Felipe into finding out what Brazilian channel showed tonight's NFL semifinals and now wanted to watch them. Not quite realizing how mind-numbingly looooong a game of American football is, we agreed we'd watch the first of the two games at Fred and Sirlene's apartment. After a few hours of boredom and gradual sobering up, we found out the game would last about two billion hours and Norse fully planned to watch the game after this as well. The rest of us gave up and left him to it and took off in the car for some sightseeing. Our first stop was an old church on a steep hill close to the apartment. While we admired the great view, Fred told us that a few years back, we wouldn't have been able to come there. The road up to the church has a Favela on each side of it, and they're enemies, so they used to shoot at each other across the road all the time. We asked how hard it was to buy guns in Brazil and got the reply "Licensed? Very hard. Illegal? We can go downtown and buy one in five minutes". We deserve a lot of credit for not shouting "let's" immediately. Instead, we drove around some more, looking at the industrial harbor that the oil industry uses, the barracks of the Brazilian army and some other stuff. We also stopped by a shopping center to pick up some beer and stuff from Wall-Mart.
Before going to bed, we made plans to get up ultra early the next day to catch the 6.10 bus to Rio de Janeiro.
It doesn't matter that you're travelling to one of the legendary cities of the world that day - getting up at five in the morning is ALWAYS going to suck! We tiptoed around the apartment, getting ready for the trip - advised by Fred to bring pretty much nothing (we assumed this was because Rio is a crime infested place where everything gets yanked off you) and caught the morning bus to Rio. We had driven the exact same way when we arrived in Brazil, but then it had been very dark. Now, we finally got a chance to make big eyes at the stunning Brazilian nature and everything else we saw. From the magnificent mountains, weird birds, terrifying traffic hazards and road accidents to Rio's shipyard areas and docks, the view from the bridge, oil drilling platforms, junk yards and huge open air storage of old carnival floats - there was a lot to look at!
We finally arrived at the main bus station in Rio and took a taxi (naturally, getting a cab had to be done through a pretty complicated and labor intense (but effective) system) into the city. Once again, there was a lot to see as we drove through the city, fully expecting to die in a traffic accident every other second - Brazilians drive fast and CLOSE to each other! We fully understood why Fred preferred to take the bus into Rio rather than drive himself.
Unscathed, we got off in the Copacabana area, just a few blocks from the beach. Before heading down to the ocean, Fred showed us one of his favorite book&record stores and the house where he used to live when working in Rio. Then - finally - it was time for Massgrav to set foot on the legendary Copacabana beach. It's easy to see what makes Rio such a special city when you see the long, white beach and all the green mountains framing the city. It's a damn good looking place, plain and simple.
We walked around for a bit, feeling the Copacabana vibe, watching people on the beach and listening to stories and facts about Brazil from Fred, who among other things told us of roaming gangs of favela kids on the beach, and how you should run like hell if you saw one, or they would literally steal EVERYTHING (including your clothes) off of you. We figured it was time for a light snack. Fred brought us to one of his favorite old haunts, an open walled corner snack bar in the heart of Copacabana. We ordered various delicacies - Fenok had a Pastel de camar„o - some sort of cheese pirogue, Ola had a Coxinha (a deep-fried cornmeal ball with chicken stuffing) and Norse a tuna sandwich - all of which were great, but the one thing that stood out above all were the juices! Freshly squeezed as you ordered them, with a plethora of exotic fruits to choose from off a shelf at the back, these juices were the goddamned fucking superior overlords of all juices in the universe, and we fully expect all future juice we drink to be a huge disappointment after drinking the juice they make in Copacabana.
We then took the subway over to Ipanema beach. It is fucking IMPOSSIBLE to refrain from humming 'the Girl from Ipanema' when you get off the subway and see the station name on the wall. Impossible. We walked down to the beach and had a beer at one of the outdoor bars and felt pretty good, but by now, it was getting apparent that we would have a problem today. The weather.
Every day except Saturday, there had been rain during parts of the day. This day though, was by far the cloudiest and there was even some light rain as we departed Ipanema to head into the city again. Throughout the day, the showers got more and more intense as we wandered through the city and looked at very different parts of town. From the financial district to a rather seedy area, where the cops suddenly had helmets, bullet-proof vests and automatic weapons, to a more middle class part where we flipped our way through a couple of record stores and snacked on caramelized peanuts. Sometime mid-afternoon, it felt like all we did was jump across increasingly big and deep puddles and sit in coffee shops, waiting for the rain to end, so we decided to head back to Macať to have time for a last night on the town.
A clear sign we were adapting to the Brazilian ways was the fact that all of us were thinking something like "oh, it'll be nice to get back to the apartment and change back into havaianas" as we were travelling back to Macať. First though, we all had a quick shower. This was yet another thing that was SO nice about this trip - normally you have to feel like a jerk, asking people you stayed with if you could maybe use their shower, but Brazilians love their showers and hearing things like "we'll have time for a quick shower before we leave" all the time is very nice, especially in a hot and humid country like Brazil. Not only did Fred and Sirlene not mind that we used rivers of water, our well documented love of taking showers (well, mainly Ola's maybe) turned out to be one of the things that had made Fred contact us and not some other band. Naturally, he wanted to invite a band whose music he loved the hell out of, but he also didn't want to have his flat invaded by crusty, smelly people for close to a week. It was pretty hilarious when Fred told us he'd looked at photos of some Swedish bands, immediately deciding he didn't want them anywhere near his home, and when he named a specific band - good friends of ours - and said they looked like ugly, dirty people, we almost hurt ourselves laughing. To protect the people involved, we won't name names, but we'll never look at them in the same way again, that's for sure!
Since we came to Brazil, every time we passed a burger joint, hamburger aficionado and lover of all things American, Norse, had been wanting to try the Brazilian burgers, but every time he mentioned it, Fred retorted that if he wanted burgers, he should try the local street corner burger by his apartment. Tonight, the last night in Macať, we simply had to try it! Nao Conformismo guitarist Alex also dropped by and Sirlene (who had stayed in Macať and - among other things - arranged a van for the trip to the airport the next day) also joined us as we walked down the block to... You know, at times like these, it's really good to have a local with you, to guide you. Throughout the week, we'd gotten a lot of really useful tips from Fred on what places to trust, what was safe, what was nice and so on, but this may have been the clearest example of how much local knowledge is worth. If we had walked by this hamburger stand on our own, we would just have thought "eeek - salmonella!!!" and kept walking. If we had, we would have missed some truly great burgers. With a basic kitchen on wheels and a beer cooler hotwired to a lamp post, these guys cranked out good, good stuff! Wish we had places like these in Sweden!
Another thing we'd kept hearing about during our week in Macať, was Fred's local bar. Every time we drove past it, he would tell us how great it was, how much better the beer tasted there and the would always be someone there who recognized him driving by, waving to us or shouting some sort of greeting. Just as we were about to leave the hamburger place to visit this, the best bar in Macať, we got caught in a surprise mega rain shower - it was like somebody emptied a giant tub of water over us. We ran the few blocks over to the bar, where there was a protruding roof to take shelter beneath. The bar was a classic hole-in-the-wall place, with a few folding tables and chairs you were welcome to use inside or outside on the sidewalk. We sat down outside and Fred got a round of beer in. One of the reasons this was the best bar was that they sell Antarctica - Fred's (and our) favorite Brazilian beer - on bottle, which is pretty unusual. Maybe it was the hype misleading us, but it did actually seem like it had more taste on when bottled than it normally does. We sat around for a while in the warm, humid night, drinking a few more beers, talking to Sirlene, Fred and Alex until it was time to go home and hit the sack. It may not seem like the most wild and crazy night out, but it was the perfect way to spend the last real night in Brazil - great food, great beer and great company!
This was our last chance of visiting the beach and there was no way we were gonna miss it! We had breakfast and did some initial packing and then we headed for the beach in south Macať. It soon became apparent that this was by far the windiest day we'd seen and swimming might be a problem. All along the beach, red flags were mounted - warning swimmers of dangerous currents and the life guards acted immediately if anyone went in deeper than waist deep (except for surfers, who were supposed to be able to rest on their boards if the currents got too bad for them). We were initially a bit bummed out by this, but soon found that bathing in shallow water was pretty interesting and fun with huge waves crashing in and very powerful currents dragging you this and that way all the time. After a little while, Sidharta showed up with one of his colleagues and told us a bunch of life guard stories and explained how the undertow could easily suck you out to sea very quickly. Dangerous stuff, that. Seeing Sidharta on the beach, it was very easy to be envious of his profession. However, Fred had told us earlier about the severe problems the life guards have with funding and getting proper equipment, and how last year - when they'd gone on strike - BOPE had come and thrown them all in jail. Fortunately, this enraged the general public which finally led to some improvements for them. Still though... dangerous as it is, it's a pretty damn nice work environment!
Fred and Sirlene had to leave for a while to sort out the van, so we hung out with Sidharta, had a beer and a damn good chocolate milkshake and tried to squeeze the most out of our last moments on that beautiful beach, thinking dark thoughts about having to return to a cold and dark Sweden.
Around noon, it started raining again, so we packed up our stuff and headed for the car. It turned out that the van Sirlene had rented was classic VW hippie bus! We deserted Fred and his car and rode back with Sirlene, feeling like the furry Freak Brothers. We went back to the apartment, had a quick shower and finished packing. Sirlene and Fred gave us gifts to take back home, which felt a bit backwards - seems like we're the ones who should them gifts, but it was very nice. Fred told us a bunch of stories from his work on various oil platforms and vessels and showed us photos of what his work environment is like. Like so many other times in Brazil, a lot of the stories just made you shake your head in amazement at how different things are.
We went down to the local buffet restaurant for lunch - another place you would never have found on your own, especially since it was located at the back of a book store... More good Brazilian food, including a variety of banana, fried in brown sugar - very tasty! And then it was time to leave. We headed south on the same road we'd taken to Rio the day before. Naturally, we got our fair share of rain along the way and naturally we saw several nasty accidents. As we got to the outskirts of Rio, traffic got pretty intense and insane and it felt good to have Sirlene - who has worked as a driving instructor for many years - behind the big wheel of the bus. Some things we saw on or way to the airport... like all the people sitting on the fence between the southward and northward lanes of a 5-lane highway, trying to sell all sorts of stuff when traffic slowed to a crawl, but who - now that everyone was driving pretty damn fast - must have felt extremely vulnerable and must have been unable to get out of there until late at night when traffic died down. And that time Sirlene changed lanes and we were almost puverized by an oncoming bus... Of all the supposed dangers in Brazil, traffic was the only thing that got really scary.
Well... going home is rarely much fun and neither is saying goodbye to new friends, so let's make the end pretty short. Fred and Sirlene hung out for a while with us but then it was time for them to head back to Macať. We ate expensive food at the airport, experienced a lot of turbulence over the Atlantic, had some person have a medical emergency on the plane, ate more expensive food at Heathrow and almost died from the shock of how cold it was in Sweden. Macať - Stockholm, door to door takes about 27 hours or so and it was easy to fall asleep that night - jet lag and time difference be damned.
So that's it - that's most of the things we did/saw/experienced on our trip to Brazil. It was pretty damn amazing. Lots of times during the trip, we looked at each other and smiled at the craziness of just being there, at how nice it was and how great it is to get to go on trips like this. Being in a band is the best thing you can do - we fully recommend everyone to try it, although we can't promise you'll get to go to South America.
Finally, it's hard to find words that are appropriately grateful and appreciative and expressive enough to say what we feel, so we'll keep it simple - but we would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks to everyone who came to the gig in Macať, to everyone who hung out with us and were friendly to us, to all the guys in Nao Conformismo (and their families), to Sirlene for agreeing to have us stay in her apartment, for hanging out with us, taking care of us, and helping us find our way in a country far away from home (and hey - like we predicted: you did start speaking much more English by the end of the week, right?). Finally, the biggest thanks of all to Fred! For too many things to list here, really, but we hope you know how much we loved this trip and that we'll never forget it. Thank you so very much!
Now, just in case you, the reader, is worried that we've gone all soft and happy - we are now back in this freezing hellhole that is Sweden in January. It's dark. It's cold. It is everything Brazil isn't. We'll stay the same people we've always been. Fuck off.
Friday photos - Saturday photos - Sunday photos - Monday photos - Tuesday photos