What an incredible weekend for music!
On our first afternoon in Porto, we stumbled upon a downtown guitar shop called Porto Guitarra, where a friendly and English-accommodating luthier named Agostinho showed us custom-made Portuguese guitars, mandolins, classical guitars, ukeleles, and acoustic guitars in his small shop.
The Portuguese guitar is a beautiful instrument to behold - visually and aurally. It has 12 strings, but uses an open tuning different from the standard E-A-D-G-B-E, and is finger picked using just the thumb and forefinger. Agostinho gave us a quick overview lesson, and showed us one masterpiece with details around the sound hole modeled after Porto's Eiffel bridge. (Yes, THAT Eiffel.)
While we were there, we saw a poster for a classical guitar concert on July 18 in Porto. Agostinho assured us that it would be great, and sold us two tickets for 6 euros each.
The night of the concert started with a drizzle which suprised both of us as we exited the metro station. The weather in Porto for the past week had been clear, hot and low humidity. Even at night the temperature hovered between 65 and 70 degrees.
We slowly became drenched with what was more of a mist than rain. After our 20 minute walk we had arrived at Casa des Artes, which we suddenly realized that maybe we had not dressed to the occasion. Our plan for after the concert was to go to a rock show that we had been invited to the night before so we did our best to dress rock formal and decided we weren't turning back.
When we walked through the door, we ran into Agostinho who was elated to see us and ushered us into the symphony hall. We sat down as the entire theater filled; the concert was sold out.
The symphony was made up of nylon stringed guitars, mandolins, a bass cello and, on certain songs, Artur Caldeira led with Portuguese guitar.
The concert consisted of two parts. The first was comprised of old works. The orchestra interweaved between Handel and Vivaldi bringing a haunting folk aspect to classical. The second was comprised of modern pieces. The set opened with Érik Marchelie's Paseo, which was one of the most beautiful haunting songs Kara or I had ever heard. After the song was over, Érik emerged from the audience and thanked the orchestra for playing his piece and joked in French that "(He) wrote the piece for the orchestra but (he) had now written it for a guitar orchestra." The set finished, but not without the crowd insisting with its applause that the musicians return for two separate encores.
After the concert was over we had to make a run in order to get to the other side of town for the rock show. We hopped in the cab where none of our languages - English, Spanish nor French - were able to help us. Eventually we arrived at Mary Spot Vintage Bar where we were greated by Daniel Rocha, who had invited us to the show after we accosted him on the street while he loaded his equipment into a van a few days earlier. We walked in to an "American" bar where the walls were covered in license plates from all 50 states, Harley Davidsons were parked in corners, "Tremors" was playing on the TV, and the hamburgers were made of ham.
We speculated as to what "rock" we were going to hear and I was hopeful that we might be seeing a Rob Zombie cover band based on the members' appearances. Instead we saw what can only be described as some of the most passionate covers of the best hard rock songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s. With Rocha's high pitched rock screams and extended tongues we rocked to Steppenwolf, Eric Clapton, and the Ramones. The majority of FullSteam's set was orginial songs that fit in so seamlessly with the cover songs that we Googled the lyrics to try to figure out who the original artists were.
Children laughed and sang while their parents smoked cigarettes, over-served pensioners danced like no one was watching, and frat boys joined in on their favorite songs while a teenage boy in an nostalgic Nirvana T-shirt kept the sound levels adjusted.
words + videos by Shane