By Helen Trouten Torres, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Whisky Festival has arrived in Rio de Janeiro infusing Brazil with Scottish sounds, tastes and smells. The festival, which began officially on May 1st in São Paulo, runs until June 30th showcasing a selection of Scottish bands and DJs as well as culinary demonstrations and tasting events run by top Scottish chefs, in cities across Brazil. All designed to be a treat to the senses and promote the Scottish ‘spirit’ in terms of atmosphere alongside the other famous Scottish spirit, the amber nectar; Scotch whisky. In Rio, indie rock band Teenage Fanclub played Circo Voador Thursday, headlining the festival.
It’s been seven years since the band last played in Brazil, this was their first show in Rio. The band, dubbed affectionately the “Bellshill Beach Boys” (after the small town in Scotland where the band was born and comparisons to the vocal harmonies and guitars of the 1960s Californian surf band), have enjoyed an international cult following for the last twenty years.
Known for combining both thrashing and chiming melodic indie guitar riffs, strong hooks with feel-good vocal harmonies, the band have won a series of accolades and critical acclaim over the years. Their 1991 album ‘Bandwagonesque’ was voted album of the year by music bible ‘Spin Magazine’, the same year that Nirvana’s legendary ‘Nevermind’ was released.
The similarly groundbreaking ‘Screamadelica’ by fellow Scottish alternative rockers Primal Scream was also in the running. Losing out on the top stop didn’t put off Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, who whenever asked his favorite band replied Teenage Fanclub. The band are known for being nice guys of rock, scathingly self-critical at times, they famously slated their 1993 album ‘Thirteen’ in the press but returned to glory in 1995 with ‘Grand Prix’.
Another band of the 90s Oasis, who were known for self-proclaiming as the Best (fooking) Band in the World, regularly cited Teenage Fanclub as the world’s second best band.
Scotland has a long tradition of fine exports to Brazil, eminently through Charles Miller, holder of the venerated title ‘Father of Brazilian Football’. Son of a Scottish Railway Engineer father and Brazilian mother, Miller is credited for introducing the distinctive fast-paced, almost samba style of play that is so distinctive to Brazilian football.
While modern Scottish football may sadly no longer often inspire anyone to samba, the country’s whisky often does. Whisky means ‘water of life’ in Scottish Gaelic. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, at any one time, at least 18.5 million barrels of whisky are maturing in Scotland.
There are over 5,000 types of Scottish malt whisky in existence. Fathomable then that the Whisky Festival shared some to toast with its Brazilian friends. Revelers at the Teenage Fanclub show were entitled to one large dram of whisky each and had a selection of the most famous brands to choose from.
The animated audience was treated to greatest hits including ‘The Concept’ and ‘Sparky’s Dream’. The raucous crowd sang along leaving the band visibly thrilled to achieve their personal goal of playing in Rio. There were two separate stage invasions by, perhaps whisky fueled, fans desperate to get a bit closer to their idols, the band smiled and laughed along.
For more Scottish culture in Rio, The St. Andrew Society of Rio de Janeiro is Brazil’s oldest international community society, founded by a group of ex patriot Scots in 1906. Jimmy Frew, President of St. Andrew Society of Rio, explains: “The Rio Society is fortunate to have a group of young Brazilian pipers and Highland dancers who were trained in Scotland and a head chef in a local hotel who can make haggis, and thanks to support from local offshore companies with Scottish links, another world famous Scottish band, led by Iain MacPhail, will be making its 25th annual appearance in Rio this October.”