On the Waterfront 1: A Psychogeographical Inquiry
One thing to consider in the mapping of a city and its music or other zones are specific zones that have distinct histories and atmospheres. Such was the intuition in such project of the Situationist International through such concepts as psychogeography and the dérive later taken up by English writers and filmmakers such as Iain Sinclair.
In Porto Alegre there are many possible zones for psychogoegraphical exploration, including Cidade Baixa and Bom Fim where many of the key sites for popular music such as record stores, venues and gathering places are located. A more unusual zone is the waterfront, that part of the centre of the city that backs onto the Rio Guaíba. This body of water is itself anomalous with geologists hesitating between whether it is a lake or a river hence reference both to Lago and Rio Guaíba Guaiba River/Lake
This huge river (or lake) extends north and south of the city centre and was a key part of Porto Alegre’s industrial and cultural past, much like the Mersey mouth in Liverpool. However it is the central zone of the waterfront, from Gasometer and its surroundings which form a kind of peninsula, to the Mercado Publico, a zone which constitutes the former industrial port of Porto Alegre that is the subject of this post. This will be presented via two events taking place in different times and places in this zone, but nevertheless which seem connected from a psychogeographical perspective.
The first was a gig attended in the surroundings of Gasometer in April, just around sunset:
Música ao Pôr do Sol, Gasometer Park, 12/04/14
This gig was definitely rock, as evidenced by the dominant mixture of audience clothing in which flannel and leather jackets predominated, not without some hip-hop street style and seemingly random members of the general public. The afternoon was devoted to showcasing a range of local bands via short sets, of which a few were missed already by 6PM. The place was itself impressive, with a large concrete stage in front of the gigantic gas tower, and the former gasworks behind, now converted into a cultural centre. Behind the audience a small promenade behind which was the river/lagoon of Porto Aegre looking at tis most raidant in the setting sun. The first band I saw, Vulgar, definitely showed promise with a very garagey sound, and an energetic singer and guitarists-without yet attaining a very original voice.
Much more interesting and certainly unusual was the following band Litera Banda- dressed in approximations of 19th Century colonial costumes (apparently the songs on their recent recordings deal with this period of Porto Alegre history) and they were much more melodic with complex and interesting songs. While still more rock than post-rock, this concept and performance reminded me of iliketrains with their accounts of 19th Century antarctic expeditions. Neither are exactly steampunk but both have ‘history nerd’ tendencies that are not without a certain charm.
The final band were considerably less charming with a high level of cock rock posturing and Rolling Stones or Oasis-like swagger not backed up by anything interesting musically, the kind of band for which the expression ‘you wear it well’ is appropriate, referring both to guitars and the singer’s tie. There was little memorable from this set and it was a pity to end an otherwise enjoyable afternoon on this somewhat sour note….nevertheless the fantastic setting could not be marred by this finale and I would gladly revisit it in the future…..as memorable as any of the performances was the ambience itself of the place
End of part 1