So I started writing this for the Liebster Award that I got from The Tipsy Nomads, but I realized afterward that it deserved its own post. I know that I haven’t gotten to this point in my recounting of my summer trip yet, but I am sharing it now to accompany the Liebster Award. Please read my >>Disclaimer<< before this post and enjoy! 🙂
It was February and I’d just arrived in Recife, Brazil from Bolivia. I reunited with one of my best friends from the US, Marketa (Tata), for carnival just the day before when both of us flew in. We didn’t know any Portuguese but were staying at Marcos’s house. It was an amazing first couchsurfing experience, but I’ll tell you more about the whole Carnaval experience and Marcos in later posts. Anyways, we’d spent the first night resting and we planned on going to the Tiesto concert this night to kick off Carnaval 2013. We had both tried to buy tickets earlier but neither of us could understand the Portuguese very well to trust the website with our credit card numbers and it seemed like you could only purchase tickets if you had a Brazilian ID, so we decided to wait until we got there. Marcos told us it wouldn’t be a problem to scalp a couple, but we were worried.
Marcos had to work in the morning so he unfortunately couldn’t come with us 😦 But he got his family friend who ran a taxi service to take us there and back safely for really cheap. We left around 9:30 and stopped at an ATM for money before heading off to Olinda (about a 20 minute trip altogether.) As we rode along, the taxi driver was trying to explain to me in Portuguese something. If we both spoke slowly (me in Spanish and him in Portuguese) and waved our arms a lot it seemed like we could understand each other. He was saying something about how we were going to get ripped off if we tried to buy tickets because it was so obvious that we were foreign and we couldn’t speak Portuguese. I agreed, but told him we didn’t have tickets so we didn’t really have any other option. It seemed like he was trying to say something more but we both gave up trying to communicate. I feel terrible that I don’t remember his name, but his memory is forever comparable in my head to the taxi/limo driver, Ranjit, from How I Met Your Mother. He was awesome.
Before we got to the stadium, he pulled off the highway, slowed down the car and rolled his window down to talk to someone in the night. I could understand snipets of the conversation and figured out the rest through body language. The man was trying to sell tickets to the taxi driver for $95 reais (reals) a piece—which sounded fantastic! Online they were $100. I kept my mouth shut though; best not announce my foreign-ness to the world right now.
The taxi driver scrunched up his face and shook his head several times before rolling up the window on the guy and driving away. He explained to us that we shouldn’t have to pay that much. Marketa and I were worried. What if we couldn’t find tickets closer to the show? Or we ended up paying much more? That was an awesome deal in our opinion; we never dreamed we’d actually save money by buying scalped tickets!
The second scalper we found closer to the entrance of the stadium. He had his price set at $90 reais. Yes! But the taxi driver again shook his head and made a face. He didn’t drive off though. He rolled up the window like a boss and looked back at us.
“Oitenta e cinco?” (Eighty-five?)
“Sim, sim!” Marketa and I both answered eagerly, super pumped that we’d been able to save a total of $15 on the tickets.
He rolled down the window again, kept a straight face and nodded slightly as he said, “Oitenta,” (80) with conviction.
Of course the scalper pinged back $85 and the taxi driver handed us our tickets, which were cool-looking card things that said Club Life.
We started to get excited. It had been over six months since I’d been to a concert, the last time was coincidentally with Marketa before I’d left for Argentina. I was also particularly pumped to see Tiesto because, even though I didn’t know much about him, my brother had seen him in concert a couple of years before and had an incredible time.
We thanked the taxi driver over and over for helping us and agreed to meet him back at the entrance at 7 AM (it was about 11 PM.) I think I’ve gotten used to eight hour salidas (going out) but Marketa still looked kind of dazed. There was a bubble of youngsters our age, some dressed for going out, some in regular clothes buzzing at the entrance of the studio. Assuming this was the Brazilian version of a line, we parked ourselves near the back and waited impatiently. The tickets said the concert would start at 10:30 but we both assumed it would be at least an hour late since we were still in South America after all. I had grown accustomed to this sort of thing.
We were both antsy and excited, surrounded by Portuguese and totally on our own in the sea of people. I eagerly asked questions about every one back home, how they were doing, new gossip, etc, but every five minutes or so when a pause came in the conversation, we’d just shake our heads and make a strange sound of delight. “I can’t believe we’re actually here!!!” I tend to have a lot of those moments where I’m still excited to have an experience even though I’m already experiencing it. Like how you want to keep eating on Thanksgiving even though your stomach is on the brink of bursting. We couldn’t keep still, so we started meandering towards the front of the bubble, just to see what was going on at least.
Speaking in English about what was going on turned some heads. Several people offered us help that we graciously declined. Eventually we just got stuck in the knot of bodies near the front, a sensation that we’d become all too familiar with throughout the rest of Carnaval but one that seemed to incite our anticipation now. The concert-goers had taken up a chant, frustrated about the hour and a half they’d been waiting. (It was now midnight.) I recognized curse words that were similar to Spanish and tried to hold back my giggling, the surrealness of my current situation making me giddy. Two guys behind us started talking to us in English. I can’t remember clearly if they were from Switzerland or Portugal, but we made small talk while the crowd grew impatient. They recommended some beaches to us, offered to show us around the city during our stay (although we never saw them again…), and translated some of the chanting for us.
At around 12:30 the crowd near the front let out whoops of delight. Yay! The line was finally moving! Just kidding. A cold can of beer passed over my head, surfing its way to the back of the bubble. Another one passed and Marketa and I shared looks of confusion. The two guys behind us told us that they were giving out free beer because we had been waiting so long. I grinned and squeezed to the front to secure a can for Marketa and I. We were thrilled that we managed to get one of the free beers. It seemed to taste better than usual.
It was strange though, no one seemed to be pushing or trying to grab at the cans. Guys, come on, it’s free beer! I turned to our translators.
“Yes, they made it free beer because we wait so long.”
Surely they were just going to give out a few free beers to pacify the crowd. Our translators weren’t the best at English and it left Tata and I confused. Finally, at 1 in the morning, the doors opened, the bubble popped, and people flooded the arena.
“Come on, girls. We go get drinks!” The translators headed for one of the red tents whose workers were passing out cans of Skol from long bench-like coolers as quickly as possible. Kids were leaving with two or three cans in hand and spreading around the arena. Apparently this was no joke. They had really decided to make the whole concert open bar.
Tata and I couldn’t believe it. In the United States this would never happen. Free beer all night??? Surely they would run out or or…who knows but for a mere two and a half hours of waiting we had free beer all night?! We shared an enthusiastic high five and cried, “Free cerveja!” Could this night get any better? Yes.
^^Play this song while you read 😉
The high ceilings and huge venue dwarfed the stage. Small red tents offering food and free cerveja dotted the perimeter. The only source of light came from the giant screen behind the stage flashing at us in various colors. The beats of Deadmau5 bombarded us from all angles and the bass thumped through the floor beneath us. As we cheers-ed our free beers (to Sanchez :P), we physically couldn’t keep the grins from taking over our faces.
A mediocre DJ opened for Tiesto and we took solace in the free beer, without it we might have gotten a little bored of the same rhythms hamsterwheeling through our ears. Finally, at about 3 AM Tiesto came on. The light show was almost as spectacular as the music and the vibe of the crowd. We danced and screamed and made frequent trips back to the beer tent. In the end we really didn’t drink that much—about 5 or 6 beers each, but we were more than drunk on the experience. We ended up in the front of the crowd, gripping the bar, a pair of blissful Statians jumping and screaming and swaying to the music. We marveled at the demeanor of the other people in the front lines of the concert. Everyone seemed so….nice. No one shoved me, stepped on my foot, or elbowed me in the ribs. We had plenty of space to dance gleefully and people actually took turns being in the front of the chaos. I’d never seen anything like it. People were just so happy and pleasant. The feeling was contagious and we even traded spots with the fans behind us for a while.
Tiesto didn’t play for long. At four thirty he had finished his set and gone off stage to be replaced by another DJ.
The new DJ was probably just as mediocre as the first but he seemed a little better now that my mood had skyrocketed to a caliber of unmatchable happiness. We were still disappointed that Tiesto hadn’t played for very long—we couldn’t get enough—and we didn’t know what we planned on doing for the next two and a half hours… The replacement DJ wouldn’t be playing past 5:30 or so and we had to keep entertained until 7 AM. Wasn’t there an after party or something? No one seemed to know, so I took it upon myself to get us invited to one back stage. Surely there was something.
Marketa knows me well, and she understands that when I get a crazy idea like this I’m unstoppable with my ‘I-got-this’ attitude. She just went with it because there wasn’t much she could do anyways. We went to the entrance to backstage which was being guarded by a relatively short bouncer in his late thirties. He, of course, did not speak English OR Spanish, but I tried my best to communicate. We wanted an after-party. Who knows what he said, but it was clear that we couldn’t get backstage VIP status without pink wristbands. No matter how much I begged and pleaded, we weren’t going to get back there without them. He really seemed like he wanted to let us back through but it was his job to keep out the crazy drunk girls after all.
So I took up my plight with an innocent camera man leaving from backstage. He said that we couldn’t get back there either and I tried to improvise a sob story about how we had nowhere else to go, blah, blah, blah. He seemed truly sympathetic but he had no right to let us back there either. After what seemed like an hour of trying I still hadn’t given up. Finally, the bouncer made a gesture to listen and we leaned in close. He told us he had an idea. We’d need pink wrist bands. And then he winked.
I told him I knew that we needed pink wrist bands…but our’s were white. I didn’t understand the wink at all. Had he decided to let us through? He pointed towards the stage to another bouncer guarding the railing and winked again saying something about the pink wrist bands. Maybe we could get them from him? We gave him confused expressions and began making our way to the other bouncer. It seemed lighter in the arena now and half the crowd had retired for the night, but the music pumped on. We arrived at the other bouncer and before we asked him we hesitantly looked back at the man guarding the door. He winked at us yet again and pointed down. We looked down at a pile of confetti on top of some boxes near the railing. Huh?
^^They’d blasted confetti during the concert; this picture is taken from a photographer’s website from the concert 🙂
I picked up a pink piece of confetti, cocked my head sideways and looked at him with scrunched up eyebrows. He nodded to us and gave us a thumbs up. Somehow, we had understood each other and it suddenly clicked. I’m not sure I would have really known what to do had I been sober but I grabbed two pieces of pink confetti, handed one to Marketa and instructed her to hold it over her white wrist band. We looked like complete dorks as we marched back to the bouncer and showed him the confetti on our wrists. He smiled and ushered us back stage.
I can only imagine how Tata felt, not having understood any of the Spanish or Portuguese and suddenly landing back stage because of a piece of pink confetti. I felt accomplished, confident, and cocky. I was sure we were going to party with the crew and continue the craziness of the night. A tall dark bouncer with a kind smile led us backstage and outside. He told me something about money and, though I was even more confused, knew he was asking us for $20 reais (about $10 USD.) Whatever, we’d spent wayyyy less than anticipated so a $5 USD cover to get to an after party was very much in the budget. We gave him the money and we went through a door leading outside.
We were assaulted by the sunlight. So bright. When had it turned day time?! When our eyes adjusted, we saw a few people sitting on the curb of a sidewalk waiting for a van to pull around to load equipment, but the parking lot beyond was largely empty. The bouncer led us around a corner, stopped, and asked us something I didn’t understand. I repeated in Spanish that we wanted to meet Tiesto and he seemed confused. After a little bit of language see-sawing, we finally figured out what the other was trying to say. He told us that Tiesto had already left. While bummed, I was still proud of getting back stage and shrugged it off. We were going back inside when I remembered the $20 reais and asked him for my money back. It was obvious that he was uncertain about it but he finally pulled us behind some speakers and discreetly handed me the money, muttering something about how his bosses couldn’t see him giving me the money back.
We exited through the same gate we’d come a little confused and star struck. Neither of us was completely sure what had just happened as the bouncer wished us luck on our way out. The few stragglers that were still clinging to the stage were herded out by the staff into the entranceway. It started to rain outside and I vaguely remember dancing around in it with Marketa. If the night could become any stranger, we found some starving-looking kittens and were talking to some cute boys when we got kicked out into the rain entirely. One guy offered us a ride home, but that didn’t sound like the best of ideas to us, and we wouldn’t abandon our awesome taxi driver either. We’d yet to pay him! The last of the kittens ran away and found shelter somewhere inside the building when we finally saw our taxi driver pull up and ran through the rain to the safety of the car.
I don’t remember the ride home much except that I was feeling sick. I wish we would have tipped the taxi driver more but I was more than gone at that point (because of only 5 beers…seriously…) I woke up at about 3 in the afternoon in Marcos’s house still in my clothes from the night before feeling groggy but stunned. What a crazy, wild, bizarre, surreal night. It had finally happened. My waking life had collided with my dreams into a confusing combination that I found difficult to separate. Yep, last night happened. It would have been even crazier if we’d have met Tiesto, but it was still the best night of Carnaval by far and one of my most dizzying, eventful nights ever.
Posted on May 19, 2013, in Brazil, Summer Hitchhiking Adventure!, Travel and Study and tagged 2013, backstage, brazil, carnaval, cerveja, concert, crazy night, drinking, fun, recife, tiesto. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.