Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bem-vindo ao Brazil!

I arose in the darkness at 3:30am on tuesday morning, with an early start to the airport. I chatted on the quiet way with the driver. He was from Ethiopia originally, but had been living in DC longer than I had been on this earth.

I snaked my way through a surprisingly busy airport for 5am. A troop of Boy Scouts made me anxious to get out of 'Murica. I caught the first leg of my flight south to Miami without incident.

I arrived in Miami and headed over to the gate to meet the Dellas. I found them immediately sprawled out on a blanket surrounded by their instruments, sleeping after their red-eye from Seattle. Celia, Shelby and Courtney were gently slumbering and arose when they saw me. Kimber and Jenni Lyn were having morning blooooody marys and margaritas in the airport Mexican restaurant. I joined them for a bloooody and did a lil duty-free gift shopping.

I went over towards the Starbucks to poach some internet, and I did a lil work. I finished up and headed over to the gate....except the Dellas were gone. So was everyone else. I quickly headed to the gate. I looked at the board and it said the flight was leaving at 10:30am. It was 10:15, and I was late. In my tiredness I had confused the departure time with the boarding time. I ran to the counter, and the counter agent said: Mr. Rockower?

YES! That's me. They were just about to take my stuff off the plane, but I finagled my way on. Every journey of a thousand miles begins with an almost-missed first flight....

I quickly got to my seat and found the Dellas. They had waited and got worried, but needed to board. We had thought you were coming with us, but then we weren't sure....They laughed at my tardiness.

Then the power shut off on the plane, and we got delayed an hour and a half. But it was fine. The plane was pretty empty, and a couple of the Dellas had their own rows to sleep in (“First Class”); I had an empty two-seater (“Business Class”). The rest of the flight was uneventful.

We arrived a lil late to Curitiba and were met by the Sao Paulo Consulate's Cultural Affairs Officer Danna, who had helped coordinate the whole program with me, and also the Cultural Affairs Specialist Cezar, whom I had worked with on the Keola Beamer AMA tour. We went back to the hotel to check-in and have a welcome caiprinha before turning in after a long day.

We had a blessedly slow morning and I slept well. We had a nice lunch at a per kilo place. The food was good, but the best part was the dessert-- a local speciality called sago which is tapoica boiled in mulled wine and covered with a lil bit of vanilla cream. Yum.

After lunch, we went over to the wonderful Teatro do Paiol. The Teatro do Paiol (Gunpowder Theater) was an old rounded gunpowder depot that was converted in the 1970s into a theater. Because of the thick walls for the explosive powder, the acoustics are quite good and quite special. Inside, there is an intimate stadium-style seating. Being back at the theater felt like a dream, because it was that theater that began me thinking about the program down here with the Dellas, and how much I loved the theater and wanted them to play there.

They had a good sound check, and got to practice with their collaboration partners Sergio (bass-clarinet) and Daniel (oud), and immediately bonded over the fiddle tune collab piece and Choro music. Celia worked on her Portuguese pronunciations, and when she performed the Brazilian piece “Cajuina,” I was stunned. It was incredible to hear her deep soulful voice take on the bouncy Portuguese. And they added an extra collaboration surprise of “Sixteen Tons” which bellowed through the theater. AMAZING. This made all my hard work on this project well worth it.

We returned to the hotel before the show, and I dove back into other projects.

We returned to the theater and hung out in the green room, sipping whiskey and wine as we hung out ahead of the show. I glanced outside and saw a HUGE line that was snaking around the rounded theater. Shortly thereafter, Danna and Cezar pulled me aside and said we had a problem—a good problem, but a problem. There was so much clamor for the free tickets that a huge number of people had come to try to see the show on standby. Far more than the small theater could accommodate. So we explored the possibility of doing a second show after.

The Dellas were tickled, and were down to do a second show. We had offered to shorten the first, and do a brief second show but they were so pleased that they simply did two shows. And both were masterful. The theater's acoustics were perfect for their soulful and playful sound.

Having been almost a year and a half since I had last heard them play, and only listening to the album, I forgot how much more incredible they are live. Jenni Lyn plucked with puck; Courtney strummed her guitar like a master: Kimber chopped at her fiddle like the two-time champ she is; Shelby bounced the bass with her consuming grace; Celia dug deep on her incredible voice and filled the room. The audience went NUTS. They cheered and clapped (The Dellas laughed at how much rhythm the audience had). The audience absolutely loved them and gave them huge standing ovations for the show and collaborations. The Dellas told them that they had invented a new style of music “Chorograss,” mixing the Brazilian music with bluegrass, and the audience cheered. And they sang along to “Cajuina,” the collaboration song. They gave a raucous standing ovation which brought the whole group back out for Sixteen Tons.
And then they did it again for a second packed show. The Dellas told the audience that those who waited nearly 2 hours outside to get a second show was the real reason they do what they do. And they put on perhaps an even more passioned show, if that was possible.

We got out late and had a midnight dinner at a place I ate at a year prior. Being superclassy, the Dellas picked up the tab for their collab friends and also the Consulate folks.

The next morning we checked out kinda early and went over to the beautiful cultural center

In short, Curitiba LOVED the Dellas and their bluegrass. 'Tis a wonderful reminder of why we do what we do.

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