EFTPOS Christmas party

Getting jiggy with EFTPOS at Mac’s Brewbar

In addition to the many parades we’re invited to play in as a larger group, Wellington Batucada also does corporate gigs from time to time. These are generally invite-only in terms of who gets to play, as they require a smaller group of the more experienced and skilled performers from the band.

This was my first corporate gig, and I felt very honoured to be included.

Performing as part of a small group of 14 is quite different from playing with 30-40 other drummers in a parade. For many of the instruments, such as surdos 1 and 2, agogo, timbau and chocalho, there’ll only be one person who’s playing that instrument, which means there’s definitely going to be nowhere to hide – you really need to know your stuff, and be confident playing it.

We’re quite fortunate in the caixa section, because – as providers of the underlying “groove” of the Batucada sound – it’s better if there’s at least a couple of us playing. For this gig there were three of us – Hazel, John and me. Phew!

We met up at 7pm at Queen’s Wharf for a pre-gig run-through. It’s always good to get warmed up before you play for real – and because our appearance was planned as a surprise for the party-goers, we couldn’t do any warming up at the venue itself. It was pouring with rain (yay – summer’s here!) so we sheltered in one of the walkways and went through our playlist, checking that we were all happy with the patterns, breaks, and turns that Darren and Tim were planning to signal during the gig.

Despite the rain, we gathered a little crowd who seemed to enjoy the rehearsal, which went pretty well once we’d ironed out a couple of tricky bits. By the time we finished, the rain had stopped (hooray!), so we wandered along the waterfront to Mac’s Brewbar, giving a supportive wave to the Sea Shepherd’s ship Bob Barker as we went past.

The party was in one of the upstairs function rooms at Mac’s, so we gathered quietly outside the doors at 8.29pm, ready to rock and roll. Darren signalled the start of six-eight, and we were off!

Once we’d paraded into the party room and got ourselves arranged in formation on the dancefloor, we introduced the turn step that accompanies six-eight pattern #1. It’s a tricky little move involving a 4-step turn through 360 degrees – while playing – and it always goes down well with the crowd. From six-eight we moved seamlessly into samba, then afoxé, back to samba, and then, as Darren handed over director’s duties to Tim, into our fastest piece – merengue.

By the time we reached the end of merengue our arms were practically falling off, so it was quite a relief to stop, do a little call and response with the audience, and then parade off playing a gentle samba reggae.

It was a lovely gig – we had heaps of fun performing, and the audience seemed to enjoy it too. They were all in fancy dress, and many were willing to dance with our two beautiful scantily-clad dancers – with a little encouragement from their workmates and from the dancers themselves.

I think I’m getting better with the old stage-fright thing. When I was a percussionist with Many Hands, years ago, I used to get terrible stage-fright before we went on stage, which would disappear the instant we started playing.

With Batucada it’s been a bit different. My first few gigs (parades) with the band, my arms would pretty much freeze up and I’d play somewhat horribly throughout the whole thing. Over time that’s gotten better, to the point where recently I’ve been fine for most of the gig, and just have maybe one 5-minute freeze-up at some point. The last couple of gigs I’ve done, including this one, I’ve played right through no problem, and really enjoyed myself.

I’m sure it’s got something to do with attending first Hazel’s and then Darren’s stick technique classes every week, as well as our normal Sunday rehearsals – I feel so much more capable and confident than I used to, and it’s really coming thought in my playing now. Thanks guys!

PS Big thanks to Debs who, instead of coming to watch us play upstairs, nobly volunteered to stay and watch our gear downstairs instead. When your “green room” is a semi-public thoroughfare right next to an outside door that stays open rather a long time when people sneak out for a fag, it’s very reassuring to know that your stuff will still be there when you get back.

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