Cool And Cruel: The Supposedly Glamorous Life Of A Traveling Rock’n’roll Band Part 2
Cool: Being chauffered to the venue, the Espaço das Américas, in a private mini-van to catch Annie’s set.
Cruel: The van spends so long in traffic that I only catch the last song, appropriately called ‘Always Too Late.’
Cool: Annie has managed the seemingly impossible: to make factory-line Scandinavian electro-pop ineffably cool. By celebrating the glamourpuss frivolity of Europap, songs like ‘Chewing Gum,’ ‘Greatest Hit’ and ‘Me Plus One’ simultaneously imbue it with substance. Or, at least, with irony.
Cruel: That her band only includes a keyboard player and a drummer. The stage dwarfs her.
Cool: The audience loves her.
Cruel: Her slot was intended for Adult. They kindly switched to the following night when Annie, originally booked for the dance tent, could not stay over the extra 24 hours.
Cool: Doing my stretches in the gym earlier in the afternoon while Annie was using the treadmill.
Cruel: She blanked me.
Cool: She’s actually nice as pie.
Cruel: And well out of my league.
Cool: The Motomix audience is remarkably good-natured, and if they’re upset about not having access to the outdoor dance tent, at least they’re not showing it. They’re happy getting drunk, smoking cigarettes, dancing and kissing.
Cruel: Brazilians love kissing. They think nothing of sticking their tongues down each other’s throats in public. It’s quite endearing at first, but after a while, surrounded by hundreds such young lovers, you can’t help but think: shouldn’t you be doing this in private?
Cool: Brazil considers itself the most advanced of South American nations; along with Buenos Aires, São Paulo is certainly the continent’s most modern city. And of course the Brazilian musical heritage is enormously rich and varied; having spent a week in Rio back in 2003 I can vouch for how music rivals futebol as the national passion. But still, foreign bands visit on such an infrequent basis that occasions like this (with just the one Brazilian act on the bill, closing DJ Gui Borato) are considered extraordinarily special. The performers, rarely blessed with such enthusiastic audiences, are the beneficiaries.
Cruel: That politicians play their corrupt power games over such concerts. Nobody among the promoters or the media seemed surprised that the Motomix festival had an injunction slapped on it, despite the professional pre-production. It just seemed to be business as usual.
Cool: Art Brut take the stage, launch into ‘Formed A Band,’ and about 5,000 Brazilian kids jump up and down and sing along in unison.
Cruel: If you want to appeal to foreign audiences for whom English is at best a third language, then dumbing down your lyrics is clearly the way to go. Just about every Art Brut song involves the same line sung at least four times in a row, and even the Brazilians knew the words by heart.
Cool: Jonathan Ross look-alike Eddie Argos is a great front man, as seriously sardonic on stage as he is on record. You might want to believe songs like ‘My Little Brother’ (“just discovered rock’n’roll”) are a joke, but you’d be hard put to deny that Argos means it when he shouts it.
Cruel: Guitarists Jasper Future and Ian Catskillin pull all the accompanying rock star moves, and in their case it’s harder to believe it’s intended as irony.
Cool: Female German bassist Freddy Feedback gives the group some old-fashioned no-nonsense rock’n’roll anchoring.
Cruel: In the bar last night, I’d asked if she was part of the group’s management. (“So, you don’t think girls should play in bands?” she inevitably replied. Fortunately, she was cool about my cock-up.)
Cool: Stand-up drummer Mike B: When your songs are this basic and frantic, there’s no point sitting at a kit.
Cruel: Halfway through the set, his hands are bleeding.
Cool: Eddie introduces a new song.
Cruel: Turns out to be the first Art Brut song I ever heard, ‘Bad Weekend.’ (With that wonderful line, “Haven’t read the NME in so long, don’t know what genre we belong.”)
Cool: Eddie introduces a cover version of ‘Kids In America.’
Cruel: Turns out to be ‘Modern Art’ (“makes me want to rock out”).
Cool: Art Brut do play a new song.
Cruel: At least I think they do. Ever heard about the boy who cried wolf?
Cool: Art Brut’s triumphant trio of final songs: ‘Emily Kane,’ ‘My Little Brother’ and ‘Good Weekend.’
Cruel: ‘Good Weekend’ is absent the classic line about how “I’ve seen her naked – twice.” Instead, Eddie engages the crowd in a singalong of “Art Brut – Top Of The Pops.” Followed, magnaminously by “Franz Ferdinand – Top of The Pops/Radio 4 – Top Of The Pops.” Hey, let’s file this entry under ‘cool.’
Cool: During ‘Emily Kane,’ a song about pining for a first love, Argos asks the crowd to share his realization: that if you’re no longer together, it wasn’t meant to be.
Cruel: If only it was that easy.
Cool: I love Art Brut’s album Bang Bang Rock & Roll to pieces.
Cruel: Even after seeing them live, I can’t decide if they’re genius or joke. But any band that can put a smile on your face has to be doing something right.
Cool: The promoters – did I mention their desire to please? – have supplied every single item requested on Radio 4’s backstage rider, from Jamieson and Jack Daniels right down to batteries. Well, the bottle of red wine – which is requested to be “local” – is Argentinean, not Brazilian, but we’ll let that one slide.
Cruel: Watching the Gatorade and energy bars go unopened, while listening to the band complain that someone took cigarettes off the rider.
Cool: There’s also fresh hummous, taboulleh and pita bread.
Cruel: I can hardly move after that all-you-can-eat buffet. I certainly can’t find room to eat these fave foods.
Cool: When Franz Ferdinand take the stage, the sound is like that of an aircraft taking off. And it’s not coming from the stage.
Cruel: Teenage girls crying and screaming in front of their idols.
Cool: I’d always figured Franz Ferdinand to be an indie rock band.
Cruel: In front of this ecstatic screaming audience, they’re more of a pop band.
Cool: There’s nothing wrong with pop music.
Cruel: Though Franz Ferdinand have a little too much of Wet Wet Wet in their happy-go-lucky on-stage persona. It’s a Scottish thing, we don’t understand.
Cool: Wet Wet Wet could never start a set as powerfully as Franz Ferdinand do, with ‘This Boy,’ ‘Come On Home’ and ‘Auf Asch.’
Cruel: And only then break into the singalong single ‘Do You Want To’
Cool: Alex Kapranos absolutely has it. The indefinable “it” that you’re either born with or you’re not. He’s calm, he’s confident, he’s collected, he’s cool, he’s better looking than you or I, he’s totally in control, he’s got a great voice, he’s an endearing front man and he’s an adequate guitarist. No mistake who’s leading this band.
Cruel: He’s also 34 years old. Why did I assume he was that much younger?
Cool: Franz Ferdinand are The Beatles. Seriously, they engage in similar toe-tapping, they have equally engaging smiles on stage. They even do the two-guitars at a shared microphone thing.
Cruel: There’s only one Beatles.
Cool: The other band members – Nicholas McCarthy, Paul Thomson, and Robert Hardy, along with the requisite hired fifth hand – are all consummate musicians. While McCarthy essentially sticks to bass, Thomson to drums and Hardy to guitar, they also occasionally swap over. For ‘Walk Away,’ Thomson even comes forward to play guitar.
Cruel: Kapranos announces that tonight, the final stop on their world tour, will see the last ever performance of debut hit ‘Take Me Out.’
Cool: For penultimate song ‘The Outsiders,’ Franz Ferdinand bring extra drums on to the stage and invite members of Annie, Radio 4 and Art Brut to join them in a samba-like extended percussive jam.
Cruel: Only one new song, far as I can tell. ‘L Wells.’ It’s a good one though.
Cool: Franz Ferdinand have won my admiration for their work ethic – especially for recording on the last day of a world tour – and their all-round civility, generosity and coolness.
Cruel: Enjoyable though it was, I’d expected their live show to have more balls.
Cool: The Festival Director introduces himself to me at 3:30am to apologize for the mishaps. Everyone here has been most apologetic even though our own show wasn’t shifted.
Cruel: He admits that Brazil is still a third world country when it comes to concerts. (You’ll hear Brazilians insist that they’re a First World country most of the time.) Corruption is rife, he tells me. I’m meant to be surprised.
Cool: Radio 4’s show has been moved up to 4 in the morning.
Cruel: The fans evacuate stage front after Franz Ferdinand
Cool: After a successful soundcheck earlier in the day, it should be a cinch setting up the equipment, all of which is on risers.
Cruel: Playing after the headliners is always a nightmare.
Cool: The promoters had an English-speaking sound engineer at the mix board at soundcheck.
Cruel: He disappears the moment Franz Ferdinand finish their set.
Cool: Noticing the dressing tent is unguarded, I put our interpretor on security there.
Cruel: Now there’s no one to speak both languages on stage if there’s a crisis.
Cool: Had the dance tent been on site, the kids would have gone off to dance before Radio 4 rather than go home.
Cruel: There is no dance tent.
Cool: Turns out the kids have no intention of going home. They’re here for the long haul. In fact, had the dance tent been on site, the kids might have gone off to dance instead of watching Radio 4.
Cruel: There is no dance tent. Personally, I was looking forward to seeing some of these acts.
Cool: The room fills back up the moment Radio 4 take the stage. And there are clearly several hundred ardent Radio 4 fans among the 5000 who soon refill the room.
Cruel: The sound is an absolute mess. Front of house, it’s like soundcheck never happened. On stage, DI cables are plugged into the wrong socket, Brazilian crew members frantically unplugging and replugging them like if they keep trying every available option they’ll eventually solve the problem.
Cool: Young audiences rarely know when a band is having sound problems.
Cruel: Every good group wants to give its best every single time. Following a headliner at 4 in the morning reduces the chances of that happening.
Cool: The kids singing along to songs from all three albums.
Cruel: The band has only had the one album released in Brazil – a week ago.
Cool: Four songs in, the sound settles down – our Sound Engineer has pulled rabbits out of hats – and I can enjoy the show.
Cruel: A Brazilian girl helping out on the lighting rig decides to start practicing her English on me.
Cool: My all-access-areas pass allows me to take photos on stage
Cruel: Even with my new camera, I can’t get them well enough focused.
Cool: Radio 4 return the earlier compliment. For ‘Dance To The Underground,’ they recruit the members of Franz Ferdinand and Art Brut for a wild percussive free-for-all. The crowd loves it.
Cruel: That not every show can be this much fun.
Cool: Show’s over and it’s time to party.
Cruel: It’s 5am already. Everyone’s exhausted.
Cool: The party is in Franz Ferdinand’s dressing room.
Cruel: The venue is kicking everyone out.
Cool: The MFA is on stage, two keyboards/computers and live mixing. Tribal techno. It’s very good.
Cruel: Backstage is being shut down. We’re all heading home.
Cool: There’s still tons of food and drink left on the backstage riders.
Cruel: Are we really going to start in on it at this time of the morning?
Cool: Sharing the minivan back with some of the DJs who should have been performing tonight.
Cruel: They should have been performing tonight.
Cool: The sun is coming up as we head back to the hotel
Cruel: Well, not really. It’s pouring with rain.
Cool: There are still Franz Ferdinand fans outside the hotel.
Cruel: It’s pouring rain on them.
Cool: Party in Art Brut’s room.
Cruel: It’s the size of a shoebox.
Cool: Hanging out for a little while, getting to better know people, sipping on the Argentinean wine that came with the rider.
Cruel: Watching drunk musicians get in arguments with other drunk musicians.
Cool: Art Brut’s interpretor is a mad-for-it Brazilian girl. She volunteers to take everyone to a club called Vegas.
Cruel: It’s 6:30am already!
Cool: Some among the touring party are hard-core enough to accept her invite. They later tell of great dance music, VIP sections and free bottles of whisky.
Cruel: Remembering when I would have been among them. I’m now old enough and sensible enough to know when to call it a night. Or should I say, when to call it a morning. It’s 7:30am when I crawl into bed.
Cool: There’s a full day ahead to discover São Paulo.
Cruel: But only by sacrificing more sleep.