Batucada rocks The Grand (and Courtenay Place!)

Midnight gig to celebrate Chile/Mexico Independence Day, 21/09/13

The Grand, Chile/Mexico Independence DayWe knew this one was shaping up to be a good-un. A confirmed audience of 1000, a great venue, and a crowd that was very likely to have a love of, and an appreciation for, music from South America. 23 members of Batucada playing – a “large small group” of some of the more experienced players in the band.

For this kind of gig you simply have to have a warm-up/practice beforehand. We play so much better when we’re warmed up a little – and with an audience as enthusiastic as this one, it was vital.

We had decided that a good place for a quick 15 minutes of playing was down in Waitangi Park (as we had no indoor practice venue that we could use) – within walking distance of The Grand on Courtenay Place, decent parking nearby (no small consideration on a Saturday night in town when you’ve got heavy drums to lug around), not too close to any apartments – and hopefully if our sound did carry a bit, anyone living nearby would be used to a certain level of weekend noise, seeing as they live in the CBD. However, the best laid plans and all that, and we did actually wake someone up, which was unfortunate. We’re very sorry!

Having quickly completed our run-through, we headed off to The Grand, which is a fantastic old brick building on multiple floors in the middle of Courtenay Place. The place was packed, and we could hear the DJ spinning some mad Latin choons upstairs. Once we were all sorted and ready to go, we headed upstairs and gathered outside the doors of the main dancefloor area, drumming along with the music being played by the DJ. The room was jammed – and it took quite a while for us to work our way through the crowds and onto the stage. Only enough room on the actual stage for our line of surdos (who looked awesome up there!) with the repiniques on a riser off to one side – and the rest of us in two rows, one behind the other, in front of the stage – in the amount of space normally reserved for a single row. It was certainly a squash – and the audience couldn’t have been closer!

We launched into Sambanui funk, which is a great one to start with, as it has such a strong call and response sequence at the start and looks pretty cool from a visual perspective too. The audience went nuts, and danced like crazy people while we attempted to play and turn and play some more in the tiny amount of space available to us. A HUGE roar of approval greeted the end of that piece, and from there we transitioned into samba and then samba reggae, with Tim and Darryn taking it in turns to direct.

For our encore piece we did a nicely-paced rendition of merengue – thanks repiniques for keeping the pace under control – and just like that – we were done. The time had gone by in a flash, and it had been a wonderful gig.

I love love love the gigs we do for Latin audiences. Although in some ways I suppose one could feel intimidated to be playing music for people who actually come from that part of the world or nearby (in case we don’t do it justice), but in fact Latin crowds aren’t in the least bit judgmental – they’re fired up, and enthusiastic, and really happy for us to play their music (and their dancing, of course, is second to none). The mixed Kiwi/Latin crowd at The Grand was just amazing. And when the crowd loves you, you play better and harder and faster and they dance better and harder and faster…. it’s brilliant.

On our way back down to the green room we could hear the DJ playing the Macarena by Los Del Rio, which happens to be another great track to drum along to… and somehow it didn’t feel like we wanted to stop playing quite yet – so we headed outside onto Courtenay Place instead.

The pavement isn’t the largest stage in the world (although it felt positively spacious compared with the crush upstairs) and we gathered quite randomly in two rows, facing each other on either side of the pavement, leaving a space down the middle of the pavement through which people could still walk. It was quite magical. We gathered quite a crowd around us almost immediately, and many people in venues nearby came out to watch and dance with us.

People walking between our rows began twirling and dancing as they made their way through, some staying for a bit of a boogie before moving on – and everywhere I looked, all I could see were smiling faces and happy people. Even the bouncers in the club next door – who could have been mighty annoyed with us for blocking the entrance to their venue – were smiling and grinning and getting into it alongside their customers, many of whom had come out onto the street to see what all the noise was about.

We played for about half an hour – with Darryn, Tim C and Tim G all taking it in turns to direct – and after we finished, I heard the couple who were boogie-ing along next to me, turn to each other and exclaim “That was AWESOME!!!”.

It was one of those fabulous Wellington nights when you feel so blessed to live in this wonderful city with its wonderful people – and you remember that random acts of spontaneous music-making are just as awesome as the organised ones – and that this evening, we were lucky enough to get both.

Photo gallery

Click on any thumbnail to see the larger version. All photos by Alan Shuker:

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  1. Pingback: Batucada play Open Street Sunday | Wellington Batucada

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