Headed into Porto for São João festivities, the smell of barbecued sardines in my neighbourhood was overwhelming, I’m going to have to wash it out of my hair I think. At Jardim de Morro, near the bridge, I got out to take a look over the river – the waterfront in Ribeira was already packed at 9:30, before the show had even started.
I attended the most amazing musical event from Stopestra, a super-group composed of groups of musicians who happen to share a rehearsal space and decided to collaborate for an event last year. It was so successful, and clearly they have so much fun, they came together again to celebrate São João at the Casa da Musica.
The stage was laden with instruments but not a musician to be seen. Someone wandered up onto the stage from the audience and after a few moments rummaging around settled down to the drum kit and laid down a beat. It occurred to me it was probably the first time in years I’d heard a human drummer (and a good one!) rather than an electronic line.
A minute or two later another man came out of the audience, picked up a bass guitar and joined in. Over the next five or ten minutes the stage filled with musicians, each of whom joined in the sound. It was absolutely fantastic. For almost an hour the music ebbed and flowed, just the most amazing, fun, joyful performance. Sometimes it was so heavy it reverberated in your ribcage, the percussion lineup was impressive. Other times it was … different, lighter and light hearted. Like when the singers all took a swig from their water bottles and gargled into the mikes. Or made melodies by carefully releasing helium from balloons. They are on Facebook as Stopestra, where they describe themselves as “The most incredible orchestra in all the Universe” – which is about right I think. Definitely worth following and hoping they come together again soon.
From there I headed down to Ribeira for the fireworks. Trying to join the crowd at 11:30 or so was a mistake – get there early, or resign yourself to being on the fringes. Just like last year I was struck by what a friendly and cheerful crowd it was, but it was a crowd, and heaving – at one point I don’t think I was moving my feet at all, I was simply compressed between people and being carried along by their momentum. I ended up a little way along the river front away from the main square where the stage was set up. Didn’t matter, the fireworks were over head and spectacular, you wished your eyes were bigger to take it all in at once, instead of just one little scrap of sky at a time. Spectacular spectacular!