Monday, December 17, 2012

The Donovan Story

Balneario Camboriu, SC, Brazil, Dec. 16th, 2012

Here’s the story: Donovan Frankenreiter was playing a free show today on the beach near where I am living in Southern Brazil. He hit the stage with his guitarist soon after I got there, but they couldn’t get the show started. Apparently there was no sound check, and nothing was working. There was no sound coming out of the guitars, and the microphones were feeding back like crazy.

The musicians and sound crew were getting visibly frustrated with the situation and with each other. There was a beach full of people waiting for him to start, and after about 15 minutes of confusion, not to mention some stormy clouds gathering overhead, I went up to the front and offered to help. Some of my friends were backstage, so they let me past the fence. After hearing me speak in English, Donovan called me over and said, “Hey man, do you speak Portuguese?” I said yes, and he said, “Do you know how to run sound? OK. Make it sound good out there.”

As a somewhat seasoned live sound guy, I identified the major problems and we got the show up and running. There were cheers all around, lots of high fives and hugs. With my newfound folk hero status as the “savior of the show”, I snuck some friends into the backstage area and enjoyed a few free beers. The clouds above cleared on cue. Mission accomplished.

But wait, there’s more!

For what is to be the last song of his set, Donovan starts playing “It Don’t Matter”. Towards the end of the song, he asks the audience if anyone wants to come up and sing with him. I get pushed to the stage, and he calls me up. “This guy saved the show!”, he says to the audience. He turns to me and tells me, “Wait till I tell you to start.” He brings the song down, real low. He keeps it there. He gives me the nod. As I sing the first notes of the chorus, I think it’s safe to say most people are in shock, including Donovan.

I’m pretty sure the common sentiment from the crowd was, “Whoa, I can’t believe this Japanese guy can actually sing!” (note: all Asian-looking people in Brazil are assumed to be Japanese, and it's hard to convince people otherwise). Donovan takes off his sunglasses and tells me to put them on. “They’re yours”, he says. He tells me to keep singing, and we end the song together with a half-tempo refrain. “If it don’t matter to you, it don’t matter….TOOOO….MEEEEEEE”. I exit stage right to the pleasant sound of flabbergasted adoration.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Brazil 2012 Day 7-15

Week 2 summary: Enjoying Itajai and Balneario, went on a weekend trip to Ibiraquera, wrote some music and learned some more Portuguese

Shoutouts: Evandro, Luis, Jota, Paula, Anny, Guilherme, Tulio, Pablo, Fernando, Maria Amalia, Duda, Leonardo, Mariana, Felipe, Heron, Colby, Mamae, Papai

Monday, August 27th (Day 7) – Itajai
I go for a long walk around downtown Itajai. I hang out at a café for a while. I go to a yoga class, which is great practice for my Portuguese vocabulary of body parts.  I return home, and as I fix myself some dinner, Papai is blasting Hall and Oates in the computer room and taking a nap.  Awesome.  Later, Paula takes me to her gym, where there seems to be a resurgence of 1980’s fashion trends; the female contingent is sporting a significant abundance of such items as leg warmers and/or neon animal print tights. Definitely saw a scrunchie or two. Awesome.

Tuesday, August 28th (Day 8) – Itajai
It’s a rainy day. I spend the day at home with Mamae and I practice lap steel for a while.

Wednesday, August 29th (Day 9)  Itajai / Balneario Camboriu
I run around to a couple music stores downtown and then go to the gym. Evandro picks me up after work to hang out.  We meet his friend Luiz, they teach me some Portuguese slang, we grab some beers, and then we go to Jota’s apartment.  Jota is a songwriter as well; we share some songs before going out to dinner.  At the sushi restaurant, playing music, is an American guy who lives in the area.  His name is Colby, and he is very talented. He invites me to play a few songs towards the end of the set, and I do.  When I get home, Mamae, who has apparently been concerned by my minimalist wardrobe, has bought me some long sleeved shirts and pants. My family is so generous!

Thursday, August 30th (Day 10)  Itajai
I go to the gym, watch a couple episodes of The Newsroom, and run to the lighthouse. As I am standing on the deck overlooking the surf on the lighthouse road, I happen across Colby. We talk a little about music and how long he’s lived here, and he tells me that it took him about 6-7 months to really become fluent. I’ll have at least 6 months under my belt by the time I leave; hopefully it’ll stick. I go to the gym again with Paula. We are going to Ibiraquera beach tomorrow for the weekend with some of her friends, should be fun.

Friday,  August 31st  (Day 11) Itajai – Ibiraquera
After the working day is done, the caravan departing for our Ibiraquera beach getaway congregates at Paula’s house. We load cases and cases of beer into the cars.  Guilherme takes Tulio, Paula, and me in his Volkswagen.  We stop at a gas station, remarkable in my eyes simply because drinking is allowed and encouraged inside.  Imagine walking into your local Exxon and cracking open a cold one at a cocktail table to wash down some cheesy bread.  That's how real tigers refuel. It’s about a 3 hour drive to Ibiraquera (including some more jovial pit stops) and when we get there, the lids of coolers are opened to the sound of Leonardo’s acoustic guitar.

Saturday, September 1st  (Day 12)  Ibiraquera
Our lodge is on the lakeside, and we take full advantage of the supplied kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.  I go for a swim.  We check out the beach and set up the slack-line.  Linguica, steak, and chicken hearts are roasted up in the churrasco and served from the cutting board. There is a collective nap for a couple hours.  Aspiring towards more festivities, Duda, Anny, and I attempt to rouse our brethren from their alcohol/exertion/meat induced slumber.  Unsuccessful for the time being, I retreat peacefully to a hammock.  Eventually, there is a grassroots movement to play a drinking/card game, the Brazilian version of King's Cup.

Sunday, September 2st (Day 13)  Ibiraquera – Itajai
We attempt sandboarding at the dunes. Everyone succeeds to varying degrees, and almost all fall on their asses in amusing fashion, myself included. Felipe faceplants. We return to the beach, only to get Fernando’s car stuck in the sand.  Two dignified beach elders (shirtless septuagenarians wearing khaki shorts and perma-tans) arrive to successfully lead our group of slightly buzzed youngsters to victory.  We go back to the lodge for more watersports and barbecue.  Eventually it is time to say goodbye, and the caravan heads back to civilization.

Pictures courtesy of Maria Amalia
Hey, look, 3 beautiful women! ...and that's me taking a nap. At least my other hand was holding a beer.

Olha em frente!

People enjoy music in different ways.

Monday, September 3nd (Day 14)  Itajai
Sleep most of the day, run to Beira Rio, go to the gym, start watching Game of Thrones, write some music.  My host parents have a church group over at night and introduce me to all of them, whereby I practice my Portuguese.  One of them looks like my dad, and insists that by the looks of me, I must only be 15 years old. I try to pick out some of the keywords of what he's telling me about his nephew, but then he says something about the 1920's and I'm lost.  This is the learning process.

Tuesday, September 4th (Day 15)   Itajai
Play guitar, run to the gym, watch Game of Thrones, go to the gym again to take a spinning class with Paula. As we enter there is some strange electronic song playing with a robotic voice chanting "Barbara Streisand". Gotta love it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Brazil 2012 Day 1-6

Week 1 Summary: Departed from MD, arrived in Rio de Janeiro. Bus trip south to Itajai, attended Paula's graduation.  
Shout-outs: Jose, Felipe, Felipe's mom, Maria Clara, Luiza, Gustavo, Bianca, Leco, Luciene, Studio FUN Training, Paula, Carol, Tiago, Mamae, Papae, Kalen, Vanderson, Anny.  

August 20, 2012 (Embarkation)
The way that trees are supposed to look, the way that roads are supposed to wind, the way that food should taste - everything is in its most familiar form to me on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Today I depart after a grand summer of family fun, wonderful gigs, and lots of fresh Maryland air. Jose gives me a lift to BWI, where a flight for Rio de Janeiro awaits.  Currently being loaded into the belly of plane are my two checked items:

a.)    my Gibson Midtown Custom semi-hollowbody electric guitar, and

b.)    a small roller bag filled with clothes. This little red suitcase, which I found abandoned in the halls of my fraternity house years ago, harbors a few items of questionable utility, which nonetheless I couldn’t resist bringing, e.g. rock climbing gear, slack line, more than one pair of shoes)
Carried on my person are the following two items:

a.)    70’s silverface Fender Vibro-Champ guitar amplifier,

b.)    a recently purchased Epiphone Electar Zephyr lap steel guitar from the 1940’s (which I don’t even know how to play but couldn’t leave behind, an impulse buy that I’m trying to validate)

The inside pocket of my jacket holds my passport, some cash, and my baggage claim tickets. 
I have a short layover in Miami, and I almost miss my flight as I watch NFL preseason game in the terminal.    I'm one of the last to board.  I stow my lap steel and vibro-champ in the overhead compartment. It's an older 767 with a projection screen and ashtrays in the armrests. The moment I feel like my life has changed is when I see that the tray table stickers are written in portuguese. Here we go!

August 21, 2012 (Day 1)
I get through customs in Rio, and pick up my bags.   My friend Felipe meets me on the other side and we head back to his apartment.  I ask him if I can use his razor, and he presents me with two disposable ones that I bought during my last visit. Apparently the supply I provided has been slowly dwindling over the past two years.  We go slacklining at the beach and exchange some of my American dollars. Then we head to the grocery store, where I try to translate all the labels.  I discover the goiaba fruit. We head back to the apartment for a series of naps, guitar playing, and reading (he has a copy of Tina Fey’s “Bossypants”). Felipe goes to a theatre class while I go for a run around the Lagoa (Lagoon). I come back and play some bossa nova songs with the housekeeper, Luciene. At around midnight, we go to Gavea to meet Felipe’s girlfriend, Maria Clara, and her friend, Luiza, who has recently returned from a month in Europe. She regales the other two with vivid tales of her European adventures while I try to decipher some telltale clues as to what the hell she is talking about.  While she speaks, her hand gestures fly around the table with a wider radius than I’m used to.  I’m amazed she hasn’t knocked over a drink or broken my nose, and I say this to emphasize how entertaining it is, my aloofness notwithstanding. We drop her off after about an hour of storytelling, and drive up what seems to be an interminable mountain road to Alta Gavea, where Maria Clara’s parents live.

August 22, 2012 (Day 2)
I wake up in a huge, fantastical villa high in the hills above Rio.  There are old statues, multitudes of narrow staircases, huge windows swinging out into the mountain air, and beautiful hardwood floors throughout. Combine that with the displays of childhood art created by Maria Clara and her two sisters, and you get something that looks like the Royal Tenenbaums house, except carved into a mountainside.  Outside, their 6 small dogs roam around in a pack, swarming wherever the human activity seems most interesting.  To say the estate is picturesque doesn’t do it justice.  I sit down at the piano that sounds more like a harpsichord and pluck out some Brazilian folk tunes from the sheet music.  There are stone steps and a small bridge to the boulder into which their freshwater pool is carved. We go for a swim after breakfast and spend the afternoon in a state of leisure befitting the surroundings. 

August 23, 2012 (Day 3)
I wake up at 8 am to go to the gym with Gustavo, Felipe’s sister’s boyfriend.  The gym, “Studio FUN Training” offers treinamente funcional (functional training), which emphasizes simple movements using mainly body weight with elastic bands, kettle bells, medicine balls, etc.  Gustavo has a trade with the gym, offering his services as a social media expert in return for treinamente funcional from his childhood friend, Leco. It’s a fun workout, and the studio is basically a 20x20 glass enclosure in a mall. Gustavo and Leco chat for a while afterwards and we burn through a package of “Bis”,the Brazilian take on Kit-Kats (dark chocolate, way better). We stop by a music store on the way out and I buy new strings for Gustavo’s guitar. We take the bus back to the apartment where I pack up and have lunch with Felipe.  Felipe’s vegetarian so his maid has cooked some delicious soy-based dishes, which we combine with the more traditional rice and beans for a hearty meal.  Felipe accompanies me with all my luggage down the steep walk to town from where he lives, Alto (High) Leblon, to Leblon.  I take a taxi to the rodoviaria (bus station), and make friends with the taxi driver, who it turns out has been to Santa Monica and whose daughter studied English at Berkeley.  Antonio writes his number down for me, I give him a CD, and we are friends.  I make it just in time to catch my 16 hour bus ride to Itajai ($149 reals = about $90 USD).  I’m not sure why the bus porters won’t let me stow my guitars on the bus; I gather that I need some kind of identification proving I am a musician, otherwise I need to pay for the bags.  Or it might be something else altogether.  I show them my CD, which displays a picture of me, and all is well.  I let the porter keep my CD, and he is all smiles.   I should have brought more of them.

August 24, 2012 (Day 4)
I arrive at the bus station early at 5:30 am. My friend Paula and her mother come to pick me up a couple hours later.   I’m getting used to not having a cell phone.  When I was staring out of the window of the bus, I felt distinctly peculiar because I can’t remember the last time I spent over an hour alone with my thoughts, without electronic interference or otherwise. I’ll be staying in Itajai until my friend Veronica’s wedding in Minas Gerais on September 22nd.  This visit starts the same way as the last, with a stop at the local bakery for some pao de quiejo (cheesy bread balls) and other treats.  Paula goes to work and I go to sleep in her sister Carol’s room.  Carol is living in Criciuma for medical school, so I get to have my own room.  I go for a run to the shopping mall and back, and when I get back, Carol has arrived for Paula’s graduation tomorrow.  I accompany Paula to the salon, and later we go to a California themed bar in Balneario Camboriu.  Some of these people have the L.A. look nailed - plaid, thick rimmed glasses, apathetic facial expressions, etc. I see my friends Kalen and Anny there, and meet a bunch of new people too.  Everyone will be at the graduation party tomorrow.

August 25th (Day 5)
It’s graduation day for Paula.  I go for a run to Beira Rio, a small anchorage.  I return and get dressed for the graduation.  On the way to the venue, Carol drives me, her aunt, her uncle, and their two-year-old son, Lucas.  I realize later, as Lucas and I pretend to be angry dinosaurs, that my Portuguese vocabulary may be slightly more advanced than his. 2-year-old level of fluency ACHIEVED. Maybe. The graduation ceremony is elegant yet raucous.  There are a bunch of jumbo screens with some nice multi-camera work going on, which includes shameless close-ups of graduates’ tears rolling down their cheeks during the parents’ tribute.  The audience is rife with air horns, exploding streamers, and large banners.  Our colorful “PARABENS PAULA” banner is the only homemade one, and therefore the best.  Every graduate has their own 20 second theme song, like pro-wrestlers.  When we return to the event venue for the graduation party, which starts at around midnight, it has been transformed into a concert hall and by one a.m., there must be 2,000 people there.  There is a live band with on-stage go-go dancers, and someone has purchased a large supply of bottles for our table.  I don't ask questions about these things, I just enjoy. Carol’s boyfriend, Tiago, has set up an informal hydration station; guests are placed in a chair, a capful of tequila is poured into their mouths, and someone shakes their head while they drink it down.  I dance the night away, and I’m so tired that I leave early with Paula’s parents.  And by early, I mean five in the morning. 

August 26th (Day 6)
Everyone is in various stages of recovery.  Around dusk, Mamae (mom) and I go for what turns out be a really long run from Beira Rio to the end of the beach.   It’s an especially wonderful experience because I get to exclusively speak Portuguese for over an hour.  We get back, eat some hot dogs, and I watch “Batman Begins” with Papae (Dad). 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer 2011

Hello my dear friends and family,

I hope this message finds you well. It's been a year since the last Tien Beat, and I've spent the last year trying to find some type of balance living and working in L.A.

Yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of our loss of Kennedy and Maggie Fitzgerald. As I am reminded of them, I can't help daydreaming about having them here. Maybe Ken would be on Zak's road trip to California and I think Maggie would have been graduating from college. It's just not fair, and it's hard to tell if I am more sad for them or sad for myself and the rest of us. Sometimes it seems so cruel that such joyous people would so consistently be associated with sadness, but I hope you will agree with this sentiment: When you lose the ones you love the most, the ones with whom you've shared countless experiences and emotions, they are a special part of every beautiful landscape, every celebration, every moment of appreciation that you will have for the rest of your life. They are forever inscribed upon the definition of who you are, and they are somewhere in the DNA of your happiness as well as your sadness.

Right now I'm living in Santa Monica, about ten blocks from the Santa Monica Pier. I've been working at the airport for almost a year now, promoting Southwest credit cards, and I just got promoted to being a manager. So, my average work week is 3 days of sales from Monday-Wednesday, 2 days off, and then I sit on the computer in the airport doing schedules and payroll on Saturday and Sunday. It's a pretty good gig. I could probably do this for a while and still make progress on the musical front. I'm in a writing stage, composing my next album, but soon I'll be recording again. I started playing bossa nova songs regularly in an adorable family owned French restaurant, and I also organize an acoustic showcase in a bar nearby.

7 years after I moved away, I'm still trying to find the right mix to make it feel like home. I have amazing friends, lots of hobbies, a good job, and I'm following my dreams, but a big part of me still misses the shore and all my friends who live elsewhere. One of these days I'll have the freedom to go where I want, whenever I want, but for now, I'm doing pretty well, and I hope you are too.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Brasil: Primeira Semana

Festa Junina!!!!!! Celebrating the rural culture of Brasil (including dirty mustaches and unibrows)

Mini Tien Concert (Mic Stand: Lucas)

I'm having the time of my life. I didn't know what night life meant before this trip....seldom has the party ended before 5 a.m. I've met so many wonderful people, everyone is ridiculously hospitable and nice, and my portuguese is improving every day.

9 de Julho: (Rio de Janeiro) took the bus from GIG airport into Leblon. Called Felipe and Renato. Felipe met me at post 12 on Leblon beach. Renato picked us up, ate some Arabic food and had some mate tea. Met Felipe's family at their condo in Alto Leblon. Went to the lagoa (lake), then a Forro (traditional dance/music) club in Lapa (artsy area in Rio, lots of artists, musicians. Love it!). Learned to dance a bit.

10 de Julho: (Rio) got my cell phone working. Went on a walk, took a nap, ventured to Lapa on my own. Saw a band playing in a restaurant, met the guitar player, danced with some ladies. Came back to Felipe's place, talked with his mom.

11 de Julho: (Rio) left my keys in the condo. Went to the beach and worked out. Met Felipe. Internet Cafe, early night.

12 de Julho: (Rio) woke up super late, then took a nap in a hammock. Went to Lapa, met up with my guitarist friend Josemen, watched him play, met his friend (a capoeira teacher in San Francisco), saw a samba band, danced.

13 de Julho: (Rio/Juiz de Fora) Lunch w/ Felipe, took bus to wrong station (rodoviaria), finally got to Juiz de Fora at 8 pm. Met up with Breno, Vanessa, Veronica. Went to a gathering of Breno's medical school friends. Hung out at Republica Laje (Breno's apartment) with a bunch of folks.

14 de Julho: (J.F.) Lunch w/ Vinicius and Breno. Checked out UFJF, Breno's university. Medicina class party at Breno's, then samba w/ Breno to meet Veronica & Friends. My first strawberry Caipirinha. Dancing with beautiful brazilian girls. Sigh.

15 de Julho: (J.F.) Hung out w/ Veronica and Camila, went to the local Cristo statue and sang Backstreet boys songs. FESTA JUNINA!!! Traditional June party w/ Breno's Class. Played a couple songs, danced a lot, great party. Breno lost his glasses and wallet. It was a good night. (We found them)

16 de Julho: woke up at 4 p.m. More samba tonight?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tien Beat - Summer '10


Dear Friends,

Today I encountered a group of children on the metro and they referred to me as "mister". Clearly I have entered the next stage of my life.

Yes, I have turned 23 years old, and the first month or so of my 24th year has been quite pleasant, thank you very much! I had a very nice trip to Maryland, during which I attended my sister's graduation from medical school, played 2 shows in Easton, ate a lot of crabs, helped my sister move to Cleveland (her surgical residency starts soon at the Cleveland Clinic), hung out in Chicago, and returned to Los Angeles, without taking a single shower (almost true).

I've moved out of yet another apartment in Los Angeles. I loved Echo Park, the culture, the music, the authentic Mexican tastes of the taco trucks, and so much more, but I did not love the smell of whatever died under the room I was renting, nor was I enamored of the fleas.

On May 14th, I graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in philosophy and a minor in theatre. I finished just short of honors with a cumulative 3.49 GPA, but I assure you, that hundredth of a point's worth of effort was well spent elsewhere, like the time I skipped a week of class with Peter to go see my favorite band Wilco play 5 concerts in Chicago. If you don't think this was a constructive activity, either you a.) don't know me well enough to be receiving this e-mail, b.) don't like Wilco, or c.) are my biological father.

Before my commencement ceremony at USC, I was a starry-eyed songwriter, ready to take over the world with music and big thoughts.

After my commencement ceremony, I have found that I am a starry-eyed songwriter, ready to take over the world with music, big thoughts, and a diploma (to arrive in the mail within 4-6 weeks). Hooray for ME!

I really enjoyed college, and I'll tell you what I got out of it when I become a huge success. That way I can describe my philosophy degree with gravitas and the dignity of retrospect, rather than regaling you with sophomoric, albeit gripping, accounts of how awesome I am at beer pong.

There are ways my life has changed a lot lately. In an effort to reduce my carbon footprint, I have built a snazzy road bike from used parts and have been using it in conjunction with L.A metro. In preparation for this noble effort, I totaled my car at the intersection of Alvarado St. and Highway 101, which was totally not my fault (according to my lawyer). Rest in peace, Sonia, 1993 Lexus LS400, a beautiful high performance machine powered by 8 cylinders of glory and hope. Remember when Garrett, Raymond, Jamie and I took you on that magical journey from coast to coast? Ever since we let that homeless man in New Orleans replace your battery with the wrong polarization, you've been a funky ride, but I've loved you just the same, if not more. You are gone but not forgotten, especially as the insurance claim is still in dispute.

Normally, at this point in the newsletter, you might expect me to say that I am curious how you are doing and what you've been up to. I certainly would like to hear those things, but I already know that, in this time of your life, your overriding emotion is anxious anticipation for my next CD(s). I approve of this emotion and I promise you it will be rewarded. We're going to be very proud of these products; every single track has surprised me with a level of enjoyment I wasn't sure was possible. Such is the wonder of playing with amazing musicians.

The next Tien CD will be done soon, the Dayplayer CD will be done less soon, and both will be released shortly or not so shortly after my return from BRAZILLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!

Sim, eu estou indo para o Brasil por um mês. (Yes, I'm going to Brasil for a month). My survival portuguese will be put to the test; I'll be there from July 9th til August 9th. My usual travel plans are in effect, which is to say I barely have any. Wish me luck and joyful experiences!!!!


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Los Angeles, post graduation

was mildly concerned about life, but got a job and things have stabilized a bit. Thanks to randomness...made a friend at a Dayplayer show who hired me shortly afterward to be her accounting assistant. It's actually pretty fun. Working for a production company that does commercials and music videos. Also intern at Wyman records when I get the chance.

Random random, thanks to the metro as well. Started taking the bus to and from work. A few nights ago heard a bunch of people speaking what sounded like portuguese sitting behind me. as you might know i took a semester of portuguese and I happen to be in love with Brazil. started a conversation, made friends, invited them to hang out. Breno, Renato, Evandro, Felipe, Kalen, and Paula. met up with them at their hostel and took two of the guys, Renato and Felipe, out w/ my buddies Trevor and James. Went to gold room in Echo Park. Felipe is passionate about education reform, gets along great w/ James. give him my copy of Theatre of the oppressed by Augusto Boal. He is studying theatre in order to become a better teacher. Had a great night, Renato played a bunch of brazilian songs, I played the only bossa song I know, rosa morena, sang together, I played shaker, a good time had by all. Next day we pile the 7 of us into my car and hike griffith park, eat delicious indian food lunch, play in malibu, roll through beverly hills, nap at hostel, take all but evandro out to danceism. Huge dance party, awesome DJ's, renato and felipe get some beijinhos on the dance floor, felipe disappears, he shows up later at the hostel. Had such a great time. They gave me a big brazilian flag blanket at the beach, told me I should have been born in Brazil, open invitation to visit them in Rio/southern brazil. I cannot wait. They introduced me to Roberta Sa and now I'm madly in love. Amazing Brazilian singer...her voice connects with me on a personally unprecedented level...I can't explain it. Need to learn how to speak better portuguese and how to samba!