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Figuera De Foz and Vila Real

March 11th, 2008

March 7th
Figuera De Foz
We travelled up the coast to this small industrial town, which was quite lovely as we finally got to see the wonderful atlantic, lapping on our shores, tingling our vagabond senses. We stayed in a beach front hotel and were well rested for the show…Before the show Jason and I went looking for a quick bite to eat, only to find a classic Portuguese joint which served our favorite yellow Portuguese food:
Um potatoes! Where are the veggies?! I know they are there, but not tonight…

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The show was off the hook, tons of fun….We had a tremendous time on stage as you can see by these lovely photos taken of the show…enjoy!

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March 8th
Vila Real
The last show!

We left early in the morning, due to a dumb mixup by yours truly with a rental car, and our grumpy and tired troupe wound their way to our last show in the scenic town of Vila Real.
We somehow managed to get in a good mood by the end of the trip, as Eric and I began channeling our alien counterparts in the van, putting everyone in a fantastic mood, let me tell you..

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Vila Real is smack in the middle of the douro valley, Portugal’s famous wine country. It was BEAUTIFUL!
We stayed at the best place yet, a 5 star Quinta, or winery, with gardens, walks and picturesque Sunset Magazine views…

We were treated to our last lunch of fish and meat

Here we are at the table, the whole crew..

The show was great, in a wonderful performing arts center with high balconies from which Eric sang the end of Russian Jazz Waltz to a crowd of standing and cheering fans.

Before the show shot of rockstar drums

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Even after five 100% successful shows we still were learning to interpret the Portuguese audiences. From day one, we were unsure how well our jokes and “witty reparte” would translate both across the language and cultural barrier. From the start, though people would laugh, and clap along, although not as riotously as some American audiences. After the show, we often will all have different interpretations of how well they “got it,” wondering if they did. Rita, a Portuguese gal who danced with us in Lisbon put it well
She said

“You guys are amazing and deseve that, and of course for you it must be
wonderful the sensation in coming to a little country like Portugal
and have that reception. Portuguese audience can be very warm. When they really like they are for sure, and I think is a question if the artist really gets to their
heart, it is not a question of being just good techically but having a
great soul doing it. We dont clap or dance us much as for example the
spanish, or italians do, we are more discrete and not so exterior but
we have the same sensible heart when it comes to art made with the
poetry of life.”

Well said Rita, and that is how it felt the whole way along. People were SO appreciative of what we brought…something new, fresh, and from the heart, that seemed to transcend most language barriers.

One funny way in which we played with the language thing, is we did a sketch were Eric said he would say a few things to the audience and Mark, our Brazillian drummer would translate. Eric would then wax endless in vastly adjective language in an over the top way, and Mark would follow, saying something unrelated and funny about Eric. The crowds loved it, and it did a lot to crack the ice.

In our last show, Leslie asked the audience if they wanted to hear a racy song she wrote called “Confessions of a young Girl” After the second show, we decided to pull it from the set as we were worried that it was to racy for these somewhere older catholic crowds. BUt on the last show, she asked them to decideif they wanted to hear this song about masturbation, by coughing uncomfortably if they would be offended. We had a few coughs and played it so well. Afterwards an older gentleman came up to her and said “I coughed the loudest” Ok, so we reached them…

After the show we spent time signing autographs (never signed so many in my life as here)

Skip being mobbed

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And then headed to a restaurant for our 1am dinner (they eat late here) where we sang songs at the table and Skip had his last glass of enormous beer

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The next day, our merry troupe took to their own ways, with some leaving for America, and others driving into the moors and Medevil backlands, where we found, at last a true connection and calling with our real purpose:

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Thank you Portugal!!! We Love you!

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Lisbon!

March 9th, 2008

March 3rd
Lisbon!
We left the picturesque rural “coffee table book” countryside and pummeled into the urban landscape, eager for a little taste of Portuguese nightlife and boom-chaka-laka!

Lisbon is a crazy city, older than many, and the legacy of empires, occupations and layers of mingling cultures is apparent everywhere you go, with 3-6 story brick multi colored concrete buildings crammed in amongst each other like crooked teeth in a moorish invader. Most of the city was built a long time ago, then there was an earthquake and it was rebuilt…there is a strange juxtaposition between old and new buildings, as the central part is very old, and suddenly, on the outside the 1980s kick in with lots of ugly condos…anyway, lots to see and do….and see and do we did.

DAY ONE!

We stayed at a big hotel right downtown, just north of the old district. It was fab and we could look out over the city onto all of the shbang! That night, a couple of dancers we met on Myspace came to our hotel with their boyfriend and friend who played bass clarinet, to jam out some ideas for the Lisbon show they were going to dance at…It was a great was to say hello to Lisbon – right away meeting some local bohems. We got along famously of course…They dance Gypsy/Flamenco/Bellydance and were great…we soon became good friends..

Video of us doing a mating dance with one of them in the room:

The next day, we experience something that I don’t think any of us expected. We agreed to appear on national television on a morning show called FATIMA. It is a very well known show that airs every morning and has been for 25 years. While the show is famous, it was a bizarre place for Vagabond Opera, and the day was HI-larious!

We had to be there at 8am (a feat unto itself) and spent the morning in the dressing room and studio, practicing, getting makeup done and chatting with the staff…

We rehearsed our one song in the studio first…OH! I forgot to mention: iN Portugal, when a band plays on TV as a guest, especially on shows like this, they don’t actually Play! They do what is called Playback (lip-syncing to Americans). We did not realize this until a couple of days before, and had to quickly adjust our attitudes….That in itself made the show ironically worth it.

The set was bright, trendy and tacky and full of hip looking chicas and studs who just sat in the background looking cool and interested (although most looked bored)

Here is a pic of the rehearsal on set:
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Lesley with her “New look” after the Fatima make-up stars got to her:

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Here is a short, amateur clip from backstage, as we are about to go on, just for fun:

Check back to this blog for a VIDEO clip of us LIVE on the show!

The show itself was a riot: before we went on the air, they had a weird talking puppet guy, and then an expert on Hemorrhoids. That was truly fascinating, truly. No, really it was.
Then us. We lip-synced our little hearts out, and then Mark got to be interviewed by Fatima. Mark is Brazillian and so gets to be our spokesperson all to often….

That night, we went to a college where our promoter works at, and did a showcase for the media and students there. It was cool to see the school and some students before us, where part of a swing/cabaret club that just started putting on cabaret parties in Lisbon, so they brought in some dancers and made the place all swell. They said no one in Lisbon does that, so they craved it…

Me and Jason with the candy gals….

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The band backstage before going on. The school was blue, and so were we (but happy)

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DAY TWO!
We finally had a day off to be tourists. Everyone did something different…Eric hopped busses and met random people, Mango, Mark and Skip went around town and Jason and I did the mega tourist jaunt, through the entire cool part of the city. This is not so VO, but for fans of travel, here are a couple of pics:

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That night, we played our only CABARET show of the tour, at an old and stylish joint called club Maxime. It was daring, it was dreamy, it was red and gold and dirty…perfect.
We played to a rowdy, laughing audience and had our luvly Portuguese dancers Marta and Rita join us on stage….
We made and met tons of new friends, including Donatello, a charming and wonderful Lisbon musician, who connected us to tons of more feel good folks…we stayed up all night in the bar drinking and eating birthday cake for Marta’s birthday…!
We learned to sing happy birthday in Portuguese as well…

Before the show Mark and I found some sombreros for the show
AYAYAYAYAYAYA!!!

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Ravella, onstage:

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After another day off, we left Lisbon with joy in our hearts and headed back up the coast to the town of Figuera de Foz…Hi-YA!!!

The tour continues….

March 8th, 2008

Feb 29th
Estarreja
Arrival in Estarreja, a smaller industrial town near the central coast. Last night’s venue was Marie Antoinette, tonight’s is Margaret Thatcher. We play in a “contemporary” 1960′s built theatre, with grey seats and different flair. However the venue is great, the crowd is enthusiastic to a “T” and they laugh as we make fools of ourselves with style and grace. As one kid said afterwards, “We just don’t get stuff this weird out here, and it is so refreshing!” Another standing ovation, and a feeling of mirth and joy from these lovely people.

On the way to the stage:

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Our tired troupe stayed at a 4 star Euro hotel overlooking the valley where a glass of the local port was offered with the rooms. Skip was our Port liason and sampled the local booze (thanks Skip).

Here we ate at another authentic Portuguese restaurant. which was to be the beginning of many. The food here is one of the things that makes Portugal distinctly Portugal, we all agree, and it has been a very essential part of our experience.

Ah, the food! Let’s just say if you come here you better LOVE FISH. Most restaurants are similar in feel and serve a very similar menu.

We all sit at a large table, and the food usually comes on large plates, from which we often share. The menus are small (especially compared to those in America), and consist of the following:

2-4 kinds of fish
2-4 kinds of meat
Veggie Soup
Salad
Rice
Potatoes
vegetables

You order one meat, and then share the other stuff. Vegetarians – good luck!
Before the meal, you get bread, meat/cheese and a few kinds of “fish spreads” ummmmm Sardines!

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We have never had so much fish in our entire lives, and I think I for one, shall soon become one. All in all, it is pretty good, and more salty and oily then I am used to, but i could get used to it.

March 1st -2nd
Portalegre

This is my kind of small European town, and has been a highlight, I must say. Portalegre is built upon a bunch of small hills, right near the central Spanish border. It is about 30,000 people, and is 90% Roman catholic. The buildings are old, picturesque and out of a storybook. The streets (or lanes) are very small, ALL cobbelstone, and wind around each other like someone dropped a ball of yard on a floor and used that as the plan for the city. It is like stepping into the best art house movie at every turn. Brightly painted brick houses with wrought iron balconies, full of plants and lazy cats, little old women wearing black and large cruzifixes stare as you pass as groups of older men in suits sit around all day playing cards and smoking cigarettes. The city feels like a real village, where generations of families have grown up here and never moved away. As our Portuguese friend said “No one will steal from you in Portalegre, because someone will know the thief.”

We stayed in a rustic old hotel, by a big park in town, just a hop and a skip from everything. You can walk around the whole town in 2 hours, easy. We played the first night we arrived, at a very unusual new performing arts center, made from wood and marble. It was state of the art. Here is us in the dressing room before the show, trying on a new color:

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Afterwards, there was a party in the bar upstairs, where we met a bunch of locals and got trashed on local wine and port. We were asked to “jam out” so we pulled out or instruments again and had some fun. Skip played tracks and we also made fools of ourselves dancing around. Robin (me) pulled out some swing moves on an unsuspecting local, and ended up doing dirty dancing with Lesley, to a wonderfully embarrassing degree (as usual).

There was a picture of the Yard Dogs Road Show poster next to ours, which was cool, as they were here a year before.

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Most of us made it home right before sunrise this night, which was great, as we needed the party to loosen up.

The next day some of us experienced a unique, beautiful and powerful Portuguese experience. It was our day off, and we ended up at the town center church on a very auspicious day, which was the march of the Passion of Christ. This holiday happens but once a year, and we happened to be in town on that date. I say jesus was guiding us there. The march began in the big cathedral in town, with a huge procession coming out of it, including a giant jesus on a cross, fire torches, flowers, statues of mary and joseph, some weird metal/christo sculpture, the bishop underneath a moving canopy, and of course two marching bands! Thousands of people took to the streets in an endless train of singing, crying laughing and sincerity. We wound through small cobblestone alleys and avenues where families had draped gorgeous fabrics and trains of flowers out of balconies, and passed by people in windows with candles and alters.

It was a “quintessential european experience”, and one that will not be forgotten. It was a good insight into a deeply roman catholic tradition that has played a large part in shaping this country. The majority of the people were older, though, as many of the younger people feel out of touch with what Catholicism offers.

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Musings from our Cellist, Skip von Kuske….

March 4th, 2008

Portugal oh Portugal!
How can I have lived so long without recognizing your
splendor? The austere mix of the ancient and modern
architecture in Braga. The rural village charm of
Esterrega, the beauty and history of Portolegre, and
the vast urban landscape of Lisbon. Ahhh….what an
enjoyable experience. Traditional food from menus I
can’t read, more ways of serving fish than anywhere
this side of Norway all contribute to charming me
completely. Most of all though, the audiences are a
reminder of just how wonderful being a musician can
be. The reward to offset the long travel, low pay,
years of practice, sacrifice and hard work is the
reaction of people truly moved by what you do. Yes
indeed, it is very satisfying. We still have three
shows left in different cities, bringing our total to
six, not including a press showcase we’re doing this
evening or our appearance on the long running “Fatima”
variety show . Hosted by Fatima Lopez, the show is
three hours daily, and somewhere between “Ellen” and
AM Northwest. Mark handled the interview portion in
Portuguese.We followed a doctor who wrote a book on
Hemmeroidas, but it wasn’t that much of a pain in
the……..oh! look at the time! More later……

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Arrival in Portugal!

February 26th, 2008

Mom! Look I’m in Portugal!

Thank you for joining us as we extrapolate on the grandiose adventures of these Vagabonds 6, as they traverse the unknown and exciting realms of uncharted waters, known as PORTUGAL!

Intrigue! Adventure! Jet Lag!

Braga
We arrived on Feb 26th in Braga, the Roman Catholic Hub of the country, where 95% of the citizens pray to God, and there are more churches than houses. We stayed in a Brazilian hotel, where you can actually open to windows on the 6th floor (In the US they don’t allow this, due to suicide lawsuits), and enjoyed the tiny elevators and bidets in the rooms (oh yes indeed).

The show:
How do we put this? Today we arrived at the one of the most incredible venues we have ever seen!

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An early 1900′s fully restored European Opera House, complete with 5 full circle balconies, ornate gilded marble statues and red and gold bling! It is like stepping into the court of Louis the IX. It is the most perfect venue ever for Vagabond Opera.

For a first show in this wonderful country we are spoiled. The crew is wonderful (Our scottish “international liason,” known as Sandy, went and got Lesley a musical saw hers got somewhere got lost somewhere between Frankfurt and Porto, and got skip a cello from zee local school). We made many friends already and played to a 850 person audience who laughed at every joke (amazing), gave us a standing O, and made us addicted to Europe right from the start. We learned that in Portugal they don’t usually do an intermission. After our 2nd set, we promptly left the stage with the audience wondering what the hell was going on, and had to go back and explain it to them.

After the show, we schmoozed, with the wonderful people, who, we learned are all thirsty for this neo-bohemian cabaret circo-ism that is coming out of the West coast of America. it is a phenomenon people. The Yard Dogs road show began the ball rolling, and now it is the rage over here. They all want to come to the West Coast! Asking about festivals and other bands….it is so cool to see, as they have nothing like it over here at all.

Back to the hotel at 2am, where, for me at least I enjoyed jet lag until 7am, where I lay awake and then fell asleep deeply right before the alarm went off. Crazy.