Published March/April 2008
“Line Up Magazine published a seven page spread covering my trip to Brazil with ALO, Donavon Frankereiter, Matt Costa, G Love, Sean Davey,Sunny Aberton,Céline Chat,Surfer Magazine, Billabong and others in November 2007.
I wrote this article and shot the photos… this is my first hand account of the 11 day event that changerd my life…”- Jay Alders
(Read the Article Below)
by Jay Alders
One historical surf festival, three happening cities, four kick ass bands, a handful of International Fine Artists and Photographers, Award winning Film makers. Mix in two vans of Surfers, skateboarders, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters, boozers, fathers, vegetarians, Mustaches, hung over hippy folk singers, Harmonicas, adoring fans and tv shows. Oh, and did I mention eight plane flights and eleven days of all this? That was some of our week and a half during the Alma Surf Festival and this is some of what went down.
After two connecting flights from Philly, I arrive early morning on November 6th to Sao Paulo, Brazil . “Hey bro, I’m Jay…I’m one of the Surf Artists showing work at the Festival”, I say to the tall familiar face standing behind me on the customs line. “Wussup, I’m Garrett”, he replies and G. Love and his manager Jason and I exchange some words and so, my eleven day Brazilian adventure starts.
“Why aren’t there Starbucks in Brazil?”, was reverberating around my mind as Sean and I sat at the hotel lobby bar drinking cappuccinos. Sean Davey, a well known surf photographer and a close friend of mine, tried explaining in his thick Tasmanian accent where he was from. As he drew pictures of Australia and pointed on a napkin to the non-English speaking bartender Matt Costa walked around the corner.
In Jersey when I hit the play button, there’s a handful of bands that borderline between being over-played and being a constant in my daily ritual towards contentment. These are musicians that inspire me, I workout, jam on guitar, skate and even sing in the shower to them. My girlfriend and I even took a trip out to Squaw Valley, California last spring just to snowboard and see Matt Costa, G. Love and Donovan Frankenrieter perform and now here I am. Eight months later, I stand here chatting it up in the lobby of the Blue Tree hotel with Matt and his manager Chris just after taking a shuttle bus from the airport with G. Love. Have you ever read “The Secret”? You really should…that shit works!
The lobby fills with welcoming smiles as Donavon Frankenreiter arrives. G. Love and Zach Gill from ALO jump up off the couch to give Donavon a brotherly hug. With our last musician now here, our tour officially commences.
THE FESTIVAL: SAO PAULO
November 8, 2007
We arrive at our first venue with Donavon. As we pull up, you feel the energy of the crowd approaching. We step out of the van knowing that this was going to be a really good time. As we flash our “Artista” VIP badges we head towards the entrance and we hear, “Hold on a sec”, Donavon got sidetracked. I watched as he spent about 20 minutes with fans, two of whom, had no money and Donavon quickly added to his guest list. “You guys comin’ backstage with me or what?”, Donavon asks us as he motions with his hand to follow him.
We all end up in the VIP area on the 3rd floor as the sound of clinking glasses, beer cans cracking open and the white noise of the crowd echoes through the dome shaped building.
My buzz set in and the bands went on. Matt Costa’s up first along with James Fletcher and Mitch Townsend. They perform Matt’s unique brand of instantly adored acoustic folk riffs and intense lyrical creativity about love, emotion, whiskey and wine. Matt’s on and off stage presence is reminiscent of the early Beatles with a touch of coyness and drunken wit.
Garrett, with his ‘hip-hop meets the Blues Brother’s persona,’ tunes his guitar as he exchanges friendly words with Matt after his set ends. G Love is called to stage and pulls up a chair and rests his Gibson on his lap with his C-Harp propped up on his harmonica holder and rocks the audience. By the end of his set, all the musicians end up side by side on stage playing along.
We finished off the bottles of booze and piled back in to the bus. Donavon and his bassist Matt Grundy, Zach Gill, Dan Lobowitz, Steve Adams from ALO and James from Matt Costa’s band congregated in the hotel with instruments still in hands from the concert. Donavon sitting on the armchair next to the hotel bar strum a few chords from “It Don’t Matter” on his acoustic. The other musicians, eager to fill the musical void, chime in. We watched the birth of our trip’s two theme songs, “The Weight” and “Sympathy for the Devil” which became a staple in every remaining show of the tour. I seized the moment and grabbed Zach’s ukulele and played a few drunken riffs. We ended the session by ordering Dominos.
THE NEXT DAY
Also along for the trip was movie maker and lifelong surfer, Sunny Abberton. Sunny told us on the bus ride over how he got Russell Crowe involved in his film, Bra Boys. Sunny’s movie was one of the most talked about surf films showing at this year’s Festival. This emotionally charged tour through his family’s struggles and insight into Australia’s surf culture and clubs left the crowd with eyebrows lifted and jaws sagging.
The crowds poured out of the movies into the front of the stage for another night of music. You can feel the happiness in Zach, Dan, Steve and Dave, friends and members of the alternative jam band, ALO as they walk past us to take stage next. Their acoustic driven tunes embody the power and the spirit of the San Francisco Folk and Jam Band Scene. I had no idea how cool an accordion could be until I saw an ALO show. Good vibes on stage increases the crowd’s excitement as the bottles of booze backstage decreases. So much for a “dry” event!
Donavon comes on for his headline set and the crowd roars, already pumped up from three other bands before him. Donavon, sporting his patented bell bottoms, vintage button down and large brimmed hat, along with Grundy play a sick set of acoustic tunes that turns the show into a karaoke session. English speaking or not, the audience knew every word Donavon uttered.
As we get ready for take off to Rio de Janeiro, I overhear Donavon sitting in the seat directly in front of me talking on his cell phone to his little boy Hendrix. He says in his best Daddy-voice, “Hey baby, it’s Papa…how was your soccer game?… is Mama home?” I then acknowledge that these guys really write songs from the heart. I’ll never hear his song, “Call me Papa” without recalling that moment on the plane.
It was dark and rainy and our bus pulls into a small alleyway as we arrived to our new local friends’ house. Walking up the wet, unlit brick steps, none of us could have known that the next several hours were to be what some of the bands were calling, their best jam ever. This house was so rad. Set on the side of a hill, the second floor was reached only via winding staircase and it overlooked the valley of lit up apartments and favela’s.
“The beer is upstairs, my friends”, Bernardo exclaims proudly to his guests. We all explored the house as we threw back some brews. Groups huddled on the balcony, some musicians grabbed some instruments in the front room, smoke filled the air and the night began.
Bummm…Bumm….Bummm, the acoutic bass of Steve Adams thumps and Boom…chicka..Boom..chicka…Dave Brogan on the drum sets the beat….Zach Gill joins the freestyle jam on his iconic Melodica as Matt Costa grabs a guitar and strums along. Donavon plugs in to the amp as Dan Lebowitz throws down some licks on his slide guitar. Local musicians add a Brazilian flavor with metal drums and percussion.
Sean and I being the only two photographers in the room seized this rare opportunity to shoot photos and video clips while the rest of people talked & bobbed heads with the beat. One by one each musician amended their own musical brushstrokes, only taking breaks for a beer, smoke or instrument swap around the room.
The room’s atmosphere picks up a flavor of a house party as G. Love arrives an hour later. He starts freestylin’ on the mic and blowing his signature blues licks through his harmonica. Being in that room for the next several hours filled my soul with music that is as significant to my generation as the Beatles and Led Zeppelin were to the 1960’s.
We arrive in Florianópolis, or Floripa (pronounced: Floor-eepa) as Brazilians call it, around 1:30 in the morning and as we check in, we see Steve and Zach from ALO in the hallway coming back from pizza. After giving away their take home box of remaining slices, they invite us to the El Divino Club, a dance club up the street. Tired from the flights but stoked to go out, half of us run upstairs and throw on some fresh clothes and a spritz of cologne and we’re out the door.
The bouncers got talked into letting me and Zach go in with flip flops and we got these silly drinking cards. Down in Brazil, they give you a card or a paper so you can tally your drinks and pay for it at the end. I guess this saves time before you’re drinks set in, but at the end of the night, the last thing you want to do is try to fight gravity balancing on line and pay your tab. Luckily beer in Brazil is cheap and we drank the whole night for the equivalent of about 15 bucks U.S.
THE SHOW IN FLORIANOPOLIS
The mood of this show was different than the previous three. It was a night of celebrating new and old friendships, a night of acknowledgement and appreciation and a time to say goodbye to Brazil.
Mentally and Physically on empty from partying too much and lack of sleep, nostalgic towards our homes and loved ones, we inquisitively asked, “How the hell do you guys do this so often?”. The bands and managers simply said to us non-rock star folks that this tour was unlike others they’ve been on. Never before had they toured for so long away from home, with such few performances. We had spent the past ten days traveling with each other. We swapped stories and told jokes, we shared drinks and car rides, we recycled clothes and said “Obrigado” way too much.
Donavon looks over to the side of the stage and waves us over and says, “I wanna bring out all the Artists, Film Makers, Photographers and crew”. The crowd cheers, we all smile ear to ear and stand tall. We fill in the remaining empty spots onstage behind and around the other musicians as they serenade the audience one last time. And as we stood up there looking out into the crowd of thousands, we sang along but I don’t remember to what song. The moment became a blur and time stood still.
On the flight home, Steve Adams, Sunny and I hung out until 3:30AM drinking wine and reminiscing. A few rows back, Matt Costa was passed out with his head hanging into the aisles. In the morning as we left the plane in Washington DC to catch our connecting flights home. Zach smiled and said, “Good morning Jay”. And as we all hugged and parted ways in the airport to make it home for Thanksgiving, I knew, that the friendships I formed in Brazil would be long lasting.