Being back in Sao Paulo almost five years after my first stay here, I'm starting to come to the realization that there is a big difference between 23-year-old, single Steph, and almost-28-year-old, non-single Steph. Not to be too reductionist about this, but the difference is basically that now I am old and boring, and before I was young and fun. This sad fact becomes glaringly clear when I go clubbing here, which is every weekend. Incidentally, in the U.S., I don't go clubbing very often -- I just don't get the appeal of paying a bunch of money to hang out with d-bags in shiny shirts and listen to really loud music, unless you're in Miami, of course. But here in Sao Paulo, clubbing is the only option if one wants to dance. The concept of a low-key bar with both bar stools and dancing (something that's common in the U.S.) apparently does not exist here, except in the context of samba bars, which are not really my cup of cachaça.
So, every weekend I embark on an epic quest to try to find fun music (read: not techno or any variant thereof) while not paying an arm and a leg AND not getting sexually assaulted in the process. This is the Brazilian equivalent of Frodo attempting to carry the ring to Mordor without getting eaten by Smeagol or falling into a pit of fire. I am Frodo in this analogy, by the way.
So far, my noble quest to find pop music in Sao Paulo has been arduous, and has resulted in some semi-bizarre clubbing experiences. Last weekend, for example, a couple girl friends and I went to a club that played odd, "alternative" house music (i.e., both boring and non-melodic) until a band came on at -- wait for it -- 3 am. Yes, the band STARTED playing at 3 am. I'm sorry, I'm just too old for this crap. Although I guess I can't really blame my lameness on my age, since the band members' parents and GRANDPARENTS were in attendance for their show. It's always humbling to realize that 80-year-old Brazilian grandparents have more clubbing stamina than you do.
This weekend was slightly more promising in terms of finding American music, but much more dismal in terms of avoiding being grabbed and otherwise harassed by strange men. On Friday, a friend and I went to a club called Happy News that I remembered going to when I was here before. I had vague memories of glowsticks and balloons and Beyonce, all of which seemed promising, so we went, hoping for the best. It turned out to be a mixed bag. The music was alright - they played that one Black Eyed Peas song a couple of times, which was my mediocre oasis in a desert of techno and Brazilian rock, but the clientele at this place was so distracting I couldn't even concentrate on the music. The only way I can describe the vibe at Happy News is to say that it was the Jersey Shore of Brazil.* I even saw a guy with Pauly D hair. Unfortunately, it combined all of the bad aspects of Jersey Shore (spiked hair, gold chains, aggressiveness) without all of the benefits (fist pumping, Ron Ron Juice). I got tired quickly, since I spent 80% of the night trying to dodge guys in too-tight rugby shirts who were attempting to grab my face and kiss me (barf). Yep, I threw a lot of elbows that night.
On Saturday night, some girl friends and I decided to go to a place with guaranteed pop music, a gay club called Gloria. Thank God for gay clubs. Where else can you go in Sao Paulo to hear vintage Spice Girls and even - not making this up - a little bit of NSYNC? The variety of music actually wasn't that impressive (and they didn't play Beyonce - what kind of gays are running this joint?) but I was appeased by the Gaga and the Britney. To be honest, I had a blast at Gloria and would gladly go back every weekend, but the single ladies in my group were left a bit cold by the lack of attention they got from the men there. To me, this is a huge advantage of going to a club full of gay men -- you get left alone (usually) -- but I get why single girls would get bored.
So the quest continues. I am hoping that one night I am going to stumble upon the Holy Grail of Brazilian clubs - a place that plays pop music and is full of respectful (yet straight) men and costs less than $100 to get in. I realize this might not exist. But I'm not gonna let that stop me.
*The episode where Snooki gets punched in the face.