There's no question that I am one lucky son-of-a-gun; I get to play guitar and scream at people for a living (and they enjoy it), and my favorite hobby is eating the best food I can find everywhere on Earth.
I am very fortunately able to investigate and chow down on some of the top bites on the globe, and if speaking in terms of: "what's the best thing I've ever eaten in North America?" I can finally quickly and confidently answer that in one restaurant name: Le Bremner.
Le Bremner is owned by chef Chuck Hughes, a badass chef who has multiple T.V. shows, several cookbooks, two wonderful restaurants (Le Bremner, Garde Manger), and has catered what I consider to be the best damn catering of any festival in music: Heavy MTL. I first met Chuck when we played Heavy MTL for the second time; we all were talking about how amazing it was the first time, and I wanted to merely thank the chef. When I was introduced to Chuck, I realized that this was the same Chuck whose show I watch all the time when I'm home. Chuck was a super cool dude; we chatted a bit, he checked out the show, we traded contacts, then we were off to another city.It wouldn't be until a little over a year later when Trivium returned to Montreal; Chuck was in another city working, but he had his chef Danny and his crew at Le Bremner welcome us into their home.
Le Bremner is a beautiful little spot, tucked away down a flight of stairs off the noisey main street; It mildly reminds you of a nautical theme - almost sea-side castle-basement; open and inviting while retaining it's coziness. Playing cool music, with a hip and friendly staff - Le Bremner is very inviting. The easter egg of interior decor is the air conditioner. The A.C., decked out in stickers, is a nod to the rock n' roll/ punk rock vibe that several of the dudes here come from - it made me feel at home, a link of sorts that shows the music and food worlds convergence.
Danny greeted us and asked if we'd want to try several things of his choice: Hell. Yes.
At the table tonight was Joey B (our tour manager, front of house engineer, production manager, and one of my Jiu-Jitsu partners), Corey and Paolo. We started with oysters and lobster in a freakin' snare drum that contained some of the most marvelous oysters I've had on this continent, served with Chuck's own hot sauce. Next, we tucked into snow crab kimchi that was just perfect - both main components majorly complimented each other.
Already - we could see the creativity in the kitchen the chefs like to riff on.
For my beverage of choice: house-made ginger beer (fantastic). We were greeted next by tuna and tahini sashimi (a pairing I wouldn't have ever guessed that would go as well as this did, it almost generates a peanut flavor the way the two pair), into a scallop crudo chamoy aioli. Both of these dishes were Japanese sashimi quality fish, riffed upon with new school French Canadian master-mind gastro-tricks of simply pairing ingredients other wouldn't have thought to pair. Just look at the tuna and tahini: Japanese-style prepared fish utilizing a Middle Eastern component, finished with French technique? Whew…
The moment when everything I knew about food was turned upside down? The shrimp and cornbread, and the hot lobster sandwich with a 63 degree egg. The cornbread was sweet and exactly as cornbread should be in texture, with this delicious shrimp sauce on top; it played off flavors of sweet, salty, savory, shrimpy (in a great way); it was like eating dinner and desert at the same time. Everyone at the table was flipping out on this one. The lobster sandwich did this in a similar way as well, playing off of sweet and savory, but taken to new heights. The gravy was rich and deep, bursting with a warm, reduced flavoring; the lobster and bread had a hint of sweetness that makes your brain able to enjoy the full spectrum of taste in one dish.
The spicy tomato salad and romano looks as simple as can be, but is brimming with flavor, the dressing and cheese take two simple vegetables to such great heights. Out came a fried quail bucket with house-made ranch, and by this point each of us just looked at each other and laughed at how good this meal kept getting. Want the best fried chicken you've ever had? Get Le Bremner's fried quail bucket. Mixed wax beans, almonds, lardons, and a fried egg came out next; yet another thing I haven't personally had as a combo, especially a fried egg on wax beans. It sure as heck makes vegetables way more fun. The flavor combos while read French, it took me to flavors of Chinese and perhaps Malaysian.
The finale' was lamb neck, mascarpone and mint agnolotti; house-made, naturally. Godly! I mean c'mon, what can't you do Le Bremner? Beautiful pasta made as good as Italy, herbs and spices and cheese that created a holy trinity on a plate. Hot damn…
Afterwords, we wanted to thank the kitchen staff for treating us so incredibly. The talent of these men and women working out of the kitchen in Le Bremner is staggering. Montreal is a place I've always considered to be a food capitol of North America, and after tonight, Montreal is king of food in North America.
We outfitted some of the staff with some Trivium gear and said our farewells, then were handed some of their house-made deserts (just take a guess how those were). The Montreal crowd that night was the best crowd of the entire 69-show North American headlining tour.
A massive merci beaucoup to Chuck, Danny, the entire staff of Le Bremner, and all things French Canadian.
I Love New York City. Oh Yeah. New York City II. III.
The mission of the day was to hit one of my now-favorite diners in Brooklyn: Diner. I initially saw this place on one of Bourdain's shows, and from the first moment I saw this new-school interpretation of the traditional greasy spoon, I knew I had to chow down there. I'm not appropriately acquainted with the true history of Diner, but you can tell this place has stories to tell in its architecture; the floors look old, real old, the entryway is just a tiny little door - hardly even a logo on its facade. Inside, Diner feels like a mini-metallic hanger, you feel the commonalities with your average diner, only you feel a different air about the place: interesting looking kids run the place, with the same sort populating the tables and barstools.
This was the first introduction for each of us at Diner, and initially, when I saw the menu I was a little worried that I picked the wrong Diner; it had very simple selections with hardly a description: "sandwich," "salad," "burger" (at least I think it said burger on there). My lunch guests were Ashley and Darren (from 5B management) - I recall Darren looking at me and saying something along the lines of "are we at the right place? Should we maybe head somewhere else?" The location sure looked amazing, but were we possibly led astray into a different diner that wasn't Diner?When the waitress came by, she soon explained that the "sandwich" was in fact a giant fried chicken breast, served with greens, crisps, all nestled in bread; the soup was a white bean soup with far more ingredients than its modest monicker "soup" implied; there was a pig trotter "cake" with toast and jam; German brats with potato salad; and their "beer" was a Kulmbacher Pils. Quite unassuming titles if you ask me. Desert was to be their "pie": a lemon custard. So lo and behold - we were in the right place, and were about to get the good stuff. Each plate we shared - and each plate was something truly special.
That's what I love about Brooklyn: take Diner for example… I feel if one were to not know that places with this much rugged "character" pump out some of the best things you can eat - they would assume this couldn't possibly be such a high-level spot for food; however, I'll take this kind of eating over anything. Does this fall in the New American range or title? Maybe not. Can you call it modern? I don't think it quite fits… it just sorta is. I'm finding more and more places like this around the globe: unassuming, maybe slightly renovated or simply just all-original-parts kind of thing (and not renovated, just it-is-what-is-kinda-joint), interesting looking (in the sense they're not the adorned in fancy work-gear) young people, real people working the tables and the knives.
All people deserve to eat wonderfully prepared, interesting food, from great sources, made by people who really give a damn; and a place like Diner sums that vibe up: it ain't fancy, it ain't exclusive for stuffy-types, it's its own unique thing; it's affordable, it's real, and it's filled with real people.
Have I mentioned I love these kind of places?
I Love New York City. Oh Yeah. New York City II. II.
I like The Breslin. A lot. The Breslin embodies and defines what I typically am on the hunt for in the US of A as far as gastro-adventures. My apologies if my terminology is a few years behind, but in my mind, The Breslin is New American. New American with a strong nod to the Gastro Pubs of England. New American to me will have the general familiarity of a dish one would recognize (pulling influence from some of the European greats of gastronomy), only with a twist. Typically, one can expect a feature and an emphasis on local ingredients, animals that were treated well and fed well. New American food ought to have that close attention to detail that you notice in your food and drinks. The vibe should be unpretentious, it should have fantastic eats that people can afford and don't have to get over-dressed for.
At The Breslin, they have a ridiculously great whole Pig Foot dish (it rules) and do whole beast roasts (you should probably have a couple friends willing to partake before ordering these tables of chow). Since we were just a duo tonight, we decided to go with something sensible.
My wife is not only a great cook, but a really talented cocktail-maker, she learns new ideas and inspirations from trying cocktails from the spots that do it right. The Breslin is certainly one of those places. Ashley went for the Beggar's Banquet: bourbon whiskey with maple syrup, fresh lemon juice, aromatic bitters, topped with ale. The Breslin makes a mean cocktail; whether you're talking pre and post prohibition-era styles, or their own interpretations (like cocktails involving some beer). I go for a tasty Spotted Pig bitter cask ale (I have yet to be to The Spotted Pig, but it is a culinary-goal of mine to dine there soon).
We start with Salt and Pepper Crisps (for the Americans who haven't been to the U.K.: crisps are chips, chips are fries), I go for the Chargrilled Lamb Burger with Feta, Cumin Mayo and Thrice-cooked Chips. Ashley goes for a Vinegar-ed Poussin with Grilled Onions and Romesco. The ground lamb, with onion and feta, and that cumin mayo brings Greece to mind, the simple preparation and outstanding ingredients allow taste to be at the forefront of the meal; the fries? Fantastic. The poussin is a game bird, somewhat like a chicken; it was outstandingly prepared.
Desert was the Dark Chocolate Tarte: toasted marshmallow ice cream, white chocolate ganache, biscuit. Dense dark cacao flavors in the tarte; flowing, soft marshmallow-y goodness in the ice cream; the ganache and light almost-salty flavored bits of biscuit brought it all together. Great presentation as well.
The following morning, we hit Stump Town Roasters for a great cup of coffee, and No. 7 Sub Shop for a breakfast sub. I went for the Kielbasa sub with scrambled eggs, sweet soy and pickled jalapenos. Eastern European-style sausage, an Asian flare with soy, and Latin/Mexican with the jalapenos… in a sub… with scrambled eggs Yeah - that thing was really freakin' good.
If you want to stay in a cool hotel, with clothing stores, bars, breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and cocktails - that are all actually really all good, you should stay at the Ace.
In The Nightside Eclipse
Black Metal has always been a genre of music I have been passionately in love with. The mysticism that are the legends that surround the genre, the musicians, the bands, and even the country where the style has found it's home are something of mystery to any of those not directly involved with Black Metal. Even those not into the genre (either from not "getting it" or not liking it) are in some way at least up-to-date with the goings-on of Black Metal (but usually with the less education in the genre of someone - the further the misunderstanding). Sonically - it is without a doubt one of the most extreme forms of music; musically - all the members in the bands were well-versed in the instruments they play, having a solid understanding of exactly how to control the chaos that they would create. It is hard to pinpoint exactly the culmination of musical styles that the original "founders" of black metal were listening to, but one can detect the influence of early NWOBHM, Norwegian Folk, Classical Music, and some of the pre-first wave black metal bands like Bathory; it's hard to know who was listening to what at the time of the genres true inception.
Without going back into the same bloody stories that one always paints (although impossibly captivating), Black Metal for me has always evoked feelings of something beyond the realms of normality: when listening, one is usually taken back visually to more savage Viking or Medieval-eras; it's not unlike being immersed into legendary tales set within the landscape of the cold wilderness of the Northern-most, snow-engulfed foreign and forgotten lands. The note choices and performance aspects always pushed the boundaries of what basically anything else in any genre of Metal were doing.
My love for Black Metal eventually spawned the idea of creating a side musical project based upon the same early values of Norwegian Black Metal: a project shrouded by anonymity - a musical venture that no one would ever know was "me". I think that initial idea was due to the fact that the Black Metal genre usually warrants some of the most elite-minded fans; the kind that… well basically don't like anything anyone else likes - ones who even quickly turn their backs on their favorites of the Black Metal genre once any kind of popularity occurs. It's that close-mindedness of a small-faction of the fans that I initially wanted to try to grasp, but one day I befriended a new mentor who would help change that outlook through their musical and artistic influence.
Emperor is hailed as one of the greatest Black Metal bands of all time by fans and press alike - I consider them the absolute best of all the bands to ever grace the genre. Uncompromisingly, Emperor always did what Emperor wanted. One attitude of Black Metal is to stay "true" and stick to the same production, playing, scales, sounds, imagery, and lyrical-focus - Emperor always was a step or ten past the pack. In The Nightside Eclipse delivered the best of what one would imagine of the style, but with every album that would follow - musically, new ingredients and textures would be found that were unlike what any other band could comprehend. Essentially being on the top on their Prometheus record, Emperor called it quits. At the very pinnacle of their musical-career - they ended the legacy that was Emperor. I feel this is yet another iconically Emperor thing that Emperor did to and for the genre… instead of ever allowing a mediocre effort to ever be produced (not that they would have done that even if they considering not calling it quits) - it was just done; preserving their legend.
Ihsahn went on to do multiple different projects simultaneously and post-Emperor; creating astonishing solo albums under his name - and it was when Eremita was released that I again was blown away by Ihsahn's musical-influence on me. When I heard Eremita, it was like discovering the genre all over again - Ihsahn again combined things that never should have made sense together, but made them make sense when he created his own sound of song-writing. I was able to get in touch via email with Ihsahn through a mutual friend of ours at Candelight Records; and amazingly we kept in touch. Passing around each others' favorite music, films, artists, authors, poets and overall philosophies on life and music - it was a creative exchange that gave each of us different perspectives and intellectual-wells to draw from.
Through our conversations and the influence of his new record, the idea of the Black Metal "project" I was intending to do completely took a new shape and form. No longer was I concerned what anyone would think about it - all I wanted to do was make exactly what I felt like; the principles of Black Metal I learned from Ihsahn all made complete sense with this attitude. Through the next few months, we would occasionally pass around more things for each other to check out, including passing back and forth the demos of Mrityu. The decision was clear - when time outside of Trivium existed, Ihsahn must produce the Mrityu record.
On the Trivium winter headlining tour, it worked out that there was a ferry-travel for the bus in-between Helsinki and Oslo - and Ihsahn and I worked it out that I would fly from Helsinki to Oslo, then take a couple busses to get over to his home-town of Notodden.
I finished up the sold-out Helsinki show, headed to an airport hotel, slept about 3-4 hours and flew to Oslo. I don't have much bussing experience being from Florida (busses are seldom used by anyone in Orlando), but I eventually took the couple-hour journey and made it into Notodden. The scenery on the last 15-20 minutes into the town are absolutely breath-taking - it is exactly what you imagine when thinking of the scenery of Black Metal - I mean - it is the town that Emperor was creating in. Nervous? Of course I was! I was about to meet and hang out with one of my all-time greatest heroes in music.
Arriving at the station, I meet Ihsahn and we head off to grab some food (Ihsahn is well aware of the food-maniac that is me). Notodden is a small town - there's one grocery store, hardly and restaurants, but a nature backdrop unlike anything I've ever seen before. There's no question that if a musician were to grow up here - they would probably make Black Metal. The chill in the air, the snow-capped forested mountains in the distance, and the massive frozen-lakes make you feel like you're in Winterfell or in the midst of your quest to Mordor. We get some Notodden-style baguettes (baguette with small, sweet shrimp, mayo, cucumber, lettuce) and head to see the Stave Church in the middle of town.
Seeing one of these Norwegian churches in person felt fake. This may seem odd to those of you who live outside of the USA, but those who live in the USA and have travelled abroad can relate - everything in the USA is pretty new; everything in Europe and the rest of the world is older; to see a church done in the classic Nordic-style in person feels like you're at a theme park. This church had been up since the 1200's; and it is hard to grasp that several of the native, original Norwegian Black Metal artists torched these works of art down (I mean - even if you're not religious, these are still some impressive works of human craftsmanship) - but it's all part of the evolution of Black Metal I suppose.
The conversations we'd have throughout the day certainly go down in some of the greatest-moments-of-my-life-living-in-music, but those I feel in the specifics are best left for the moments they existed in. Needless to say - it is always a wonderful thing when you can hang with someone who exists in a state of like-mindedness to yourself.
The next stop we checked out was Juke Joint Studios - the studio that Mnemosyne (Ihsahn and his wife's company) co-owns and spends much of their time creating in. The studio itself (the gear, sound-proofing, etc.) were all brought in from Seattle several years back from an ex-pat musician; the old-school gear and instruments present were of a serious caliber. To see the old Leslie keyboards and massive old compressors was trippy for someone who grew up in the digital age of recording. We ate our lunch and chatted the Mrityu project amongst other bits, I excitedly was able to inquire my wonderings of the early beginnings of Emperor. The production ideas and instrumentation recommendations Ihsahn had… well… lemme tell ya - that Mrityu record is going to be unlike anything you or I have ever heard…
The next stop was Ihsahn's home where I was able to hear some early (incredible) demos of the next solo record, see the Emperor Gold records, jam on some of his gear, and learn Emperor's style of Black Metal picking. Where I thought Black Metal was picked one certain way… I learned from the man himself the way the Nordic Black Metal bands and Emperor do it. I jammed through the gear that was the guitar tone of Eremita and we passed around more ideas for the Mrityu project, Ihsahn taught me some musical theory he has been into lately (some brainy theoretical concepts) - and soon it was time for food.
I really never have been able to have a culinary experience in Norway before - and Ihsahn knew I was always into local specialties; I was able to try local Norwegian-style goat cheese - and it blew my mind. It has a delicate texture, a lightly salty taste in the beginning, then in the finish tastes almost like white milk-chocolate. The opposing flavor spectrum reminded me (not flavor-wise, just contrast-wise) of true Mexican mole'. I tried some locally-prepared pig liver pate' which was livery-delicious just like I like it. Ihsahn prepared entrecote with béarnaise sauce (very traditional Norwegian); potatoes sliced almost down to the bottom and seasoned with herbs, butter, oil, and another kind of local cheese; and a salad with local parmesan and oil and balsamic; Norwegian spiced-butter was served with it. I was able to try a locally made Nordic pure apple juice and Norwegian Christmas beer with the dinner. It was absolutely fantastic to have traditional Norwegian food made by a good musician-friend - the food was truly fantastic; it had been a month since anything home-cooked, and my first time being able to have a home-cooked Norwegian meal. After dinner, I tried some traditional Norwegian chocolate that was really great as well.
Again - a great connection in life over a great meal; I was honored to have one of my heroes open his home up to me. This without a doubt goes down in history as a legendary moment in my life. We said farewell and I headed off to my hotel. I always said Ihsahn was one of the greats of the music-world, and this was a complete affirmation in the fact that not only is he one of the most important figures in metal and a incredibly knowledgable musician and artist - he is one of the coolest dudes I've ever met and I am proud and privileged to call him a friend.
The beauty that is Antwerp is one I had always been unfamiliar with. The architecture whispers stories of an olden life within the backdrop of ominous churches and a medieval/coastal village; the market square one could easily mentally picture populated with crowds of people from 100's of years ago. But now? Filled with a wandering and hungry Paolo and I (and some local friends).
Rudy from Brussels recommended we go to the best restaurant in town for Moules Frites (mussels and fries) - another Belgian staple that has made it's way into the hearts of many restaurants worldwide. Maritime is a fancier place and we feel that as soon as the eyeballs shoot straight to the band-dude-looking Paolo and I… it's as if the record was stopped as soon as we popped our heads in. C'est la vie. I order a Crecl (I think that was the spelling?) beer and we start with some olives. Huisgemaakte Garnaalkroketten is the starter - a croquette even better than the ones from Grimbergen. These have cheese in an almost mashed-potato consistency with shrimp; a panko-style crust on the outside - heavenly. My mussel choice (and there were quite a few) was the Moisselen Room En Koflook Creme A Lail. The bucket that was laid before me was of gargantuan-proportions; the necessary frites came alongside and were dwarfed by the steel bowl of mollusks.
I'm sure you've seen mussels and fries here and there globally on menus… and yeah - at the wrong place, you'll be in trouble; but here at Maritime - it was the best. The best moules frites of my life. This Belgian staple had never before impressed me as it did upon it's introduction to me that night - I was in love. I finished every last bit and savored that moment. Something real special was just consumed in Antwerp.
Feeling like a nightcap, we hit a random spot on the walk back: Da Vegant Jenever Cafe. Jenever is the Belgian liqueur of choice - and I'm not entirely sure what it is. I order a coconut Jenever and a De Koninck beer and kick back at the wooden bar that was my current residence.
All in all - for a city that delivered the best mussels and frites of my life; it was a great day off.
Brussels and Grimbergen, Belgium
It was the morning of the Brussels show on the In Flames, Trivium, Ghost, Rise To Remain, Insense tour when Paolo and I were picked up by one of our good pals (and incredible photographer) Rudy. Rudy's plan for us for the day was to take us to the town of Grimbergen for some great Belgian chow. For those of you beer fans out there, Belgian beer is some of the truly great stuff of this Earth - and Belgian frites? Fuckin A - The Belgians wrote the book on a good frite.
It was a grey, chilly European day on the drive to the small town of Grimbergen; scenically, the leafless tress and blue/grey-haze of the sky looked quite metal to say the least. Brasserie De 3 Fonteinen was to be our lunch spot; a well-built newer looking structure that had a traditional/modern-vibe to it; families chowed down on their Sunday meals over a low-chatter.
I start with a goblet of Grimbergen Blond beer (a delicious little morning treat) and we begin the ordering and chatting. We order Huisgemaakte Kaaskroketjes (croquettes) and Stoofkarbonaden Met "Grimbergen" (a typical Belgian beef stew made with beer). The ubiquitous frites we were told would accompany. Paolo, Rudy, and I shared stories of other good times eating with friends, Metal, and our mutual-love for the state of Florida. Rudy spends the occasional holiday overseas in our native state that Trivium calls home.
These were without a doubt the best croquettes I've had in Europe; melty, almost-liquid cheese tucked within the fried-to-perfection little orbs. The beef stew was hearty and reminiscent of Goulash - only - Belgian and delectably beer-tasting. I traded stomach real-estate that would have been wasted on the greens with those perfection frickin' frites. The Belgians, it is said, are quite possibly the inventors of the frite/fry - and not the French (but this is typically a topic of debate); and no - don't ever call it a "Freedom Fry" ever again (those were dark times…) Aside from an abundance of frites and beer - the Belgians love their sweets, and man do they do em well. Desert was a whopping portion of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, melted chocolate, a profiterole, and a couple banana slices (for good measure). You know that's the kinda stuff you want.
After lunch, we headed back to the gig and had an amazing show as Belgium always offers; post-set, Austin, Paolo, some of our local friends and I headed to a legendary bar we were told legends of: Delirium Bar. This bar allegedly has the largest beer selection of any bar in the world, boasting a Guinness World Record for it's collection available to the public. We head into the basement room (as one must when at Delirium) and are welcomed by the loud clamor of people having a raucous good-time. We sample loads of different beers throughout the night, sharing many a pint with friends new and old and people who were just at the show. The show stopper of the night was the Mongozo Coconut beer. Coconut beer you question? Wait till you try this hard-to-find delicacy of the beer-realm. The flavor is like the best damn coconut cocktail you've ever had… only it's simpler than that - it's beer and natural coconut flavor. This shit is nuts - I've searched all over in other countries for this stuff… and it's damn near impossible to find outside of that very bar. Highly recommended.
Post bar-rage, in our drunken-stupor - we were all overtaken with hunger. What does one do in Europe when drunk, wobbly, and needing the truly good stuff do? Kebab shop. If you live in North America and haven't been to Europe… the Kebab shop is where all people of all political backgrounds, races, sex and sexuality all flock to post-drinking; and they're usually open 24 hours a day. It's the booze-mop that will prevent a massive hangover (but will deliver some serious reflux). We load up on some mystery meat kebabs and frites covered in mayonnaise (the European way).
Belgium brought it.
Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Curitiba
Those who don't actually know me very well would disagree, but those who I would actually consider someone dear to me would agree that I do not consider myself hot shit. Naysayers - naysayit till you're blue in the balls - I don't.
It's still mind-blowing to me that people like my band. I know this may come as a surprise to those of you who aren't someone who knows or who doesn't-wanna-know-me, but it is still quite spectacular to me every time someone says to me randomly on the streets: "hey! I dig your band!" The fact that people were due to show up to see the band I play in, in a country I've never set foot in - is nuts to me. 1000-plus pre-sale? What??
Our van pulls up to the gig, and there they are: hundreds and hundreds of some of the most devout Trivium fans on earth. We pull up close to the back entrance, and here is what I was waiting for: the kids rush the van and start pounding on the windows screaming excitedly at us, wide-eyed and smiling with frenzy. We flash em all the horns and head in.. They start chanting "Triv-youm! Triv-youm!" in their Brazilian-accents. I say to my guys: "boys... tonight's gonna be a good night."
Walking into the dressing room, I see three pastry boxes. I lift the lids and a shining light of glory is revealed from within... the beauty of the contents of the boxes has me floored. Marcos is a damn thoughtful guy. Within two of the boxes are assorted traditional Brazilian meat and/or cheese-filled pastries; the third box is loaded with what look like will be so disgustingly-good sweets. All around the boxes are traditional Brazilian and Sao Paulo snacks that Marcos hand-picked for us to have - Marcos is a Sao Paulo-native and knows what's good around these parts.
One is kibe/Lebanese-style with meat and bulgur, a chicken-filled fried ball that reminds me of Cuban-fried meat-stuffed soft pastries, meat-filled pies, cheese-filled pies - each more delicious than the previous. The soft, yet almost crisped texture of the circular chicken-ball is unforgettable. The sweets? Mama Luna (inside Trivium joke).
The orange-yellow circular guy was a coconut mini-flan-esque sweet - a consistency like harder jello and a taste so coconut-caramelly that I was knocked out. The chocolate-ball was beautiful, as was the other duder. I obviously am in love with the hand-held traditionals of all countries... it's the stuff you want.
Post-soundcheck, we try to pull the van out, and in comes the swarm. Trivium-friends pounding and yelling compliments, stuffing their hands into window cracks as the van pulls back. Insanity.
All the while we were enjoying the insanity, Ashley was napping away. These travel schedules are not for the faint of heart. Think this life is easy at our level? It ain't. Sleep is a privilege; your spine will be compressed and mangled by small airplanes and seats in the back of planes and vans and cheap busses that shake like boats in a storm across rocky terrain; sicknesses travel instantaneously via the fart-tube vehicular travel that merely connects you to another form of vehicular travel. Picky eater? Not anymore you're not - unless you prefer anorexia. My wife? I applaud her for being able to keep up with this run. Like I said before, it's early lobby calls to pack in 30-40 pieces of shite, stuffed in with 10-20 other dudes who are just as tired, cranky, sleepy, smelly, and hung-over as you. New to the crew? Be prepared to be berated and degraded. Your sexuality and taste in music and way of dress will be at constant ridicule. The main topic of discussion typically rotates between matters of the fecal, genital, rectal, and sexual-nature. Throw all political-correct-ness down the porto-hole and be prepared to be offended. Airport check-ins take a minimum of three hours. South American airlines? Four to five to check in all that gear - making deals and working out trades to lower the insane overage-charges. Me? I'm used to it. My courageous wife? She's a trooper amidst the chaos.
Don't get me wrong. It isn't all bad. Food is obviously what I always look forward to and what is constantly on my mind - encouraging me to tough through the rough spots of travel and keep optimistic.
Dinner time rolls around, and recharged from her sleep, Ash and I head into town to get some açai. Earlier, Marcos pointed out a local spot - Madureira. It does açai cream: where the berries are mashed, frozen, and served like ice cream. Marcos taught me that the açai (a berry that has to be picked manually out of Amazon-trees) is a wonder-food in Brazil (it is in the USA and worldwide as well) and that the Jiu-Jitsu fighters will eat a bowl of it as a meal when training and that it's all they need. Ancient warriors and Amazonian-tribes will eat a bowl of the berry and go work the entire day - being completely fueled by the super-food.
We have the açai bowl with sliced bananas (Brazilian bananas are smaller, super sweet and have a hint of lemon in the taste) and an avocado-papaya-banana-milk vitamins shake. I wish you could taste what I tasted that night. The açai was so wonderfully sweet, so beautifully tasty in its own natural state - it made me realize all it's magic in simply tasting it. It was somewhere along the lines of blue and blackberries with more sweetness, in a creamy sorbet-form. The lemony-sweet mini-bananas mixed in took it to another level. The vitaminas shake was actually on the savory side - if anything, almost tasting like it would have been salty, but it wasn't. All the ingredients mixed together to create its own flavor spectrum of healthiness. I appreciated that the drink felt as if it ought to have been the eaten meal due to its flavor, and that the eaten meal ought to have been the drink. It was a fun flavor-trade-off.
Fueled by the Amazonian wonder-food, we headed to the show and prepared to witness our first club-headlining, Sao Paulo crowd.
At that point, we had never witnessed anything like what Sao Paulo metal-crowds had to deliver. They were as much a show to us as we were to them. There was no awkward silence between songs, instead they'd take football chants and add our band name into them; the crowd sang our lyrics and our guitar parts louder than the P.A. Constantly in a state of organization chaos - the crowd took care of each other (something that the USA non-metal crowds have zero clue how to do (the last USA tour we did, the non-metal people would get into horrendous fights and people would consistently get injured)), the crowd would make their own cues to our songs and do some spectacular circle pits and jumping parts to our tracks.
There was a magic in the air in Sao Paulo that night. I will never forget my first experience of the Sao Paulo Trivium-crowd. I loved every minute of our new friends in Sao Paulo.
Post-show, I pulled a vintage-Heafy and ordered a room service club, a Brazilian soup of rice and chicken, and two caipirinhas. I gotta tell ya - prettayyy good. Every single meal or snack I've had in South America so far has been of decent to serious quality.
2-4 hours of sleep later - rinse and repeat.
Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Curitiba
It hurts to wake up after 2 hours of sleep after a headlining show after just flying into a new continent. It hurts to pile into a van with other tired, still-drunk band and crew-mates and show up at the airport to check in 30-40 pieces of luggage and gear and deal with airport staff and security and then fly, collect it all, back into a van, then a long ride to a hotel. But hey - I could be cleaning porto-potties.
When we landed in Sao Paulo, the ex-singer of Angra came up and thanked me for my kind words about one of my favorite metal albums he performed on ("Temple Of Shadows"). I was very stoked to meet Edu - his vocal range is un-matched in power metal - especially on "Temple". We chatted the metal-ness of South America and found out we were both playing shows at venues on the same block that night. I met his new band, Almah, we shot some photos together, traded contacts, and were off. Super rad.
The hotel we were put in was right in a nice area of Sao Paulo, so we'd be able to walk about later on. My view out my window was breath taking... Sao Paulo is big... really really big. I've never seen a skyline that basically engulfs an entire sky-scape. Sao Paulo is the fourth largest city in the world and man is that evident when you actually get to look at it from a 20th floor window.
Lunch time. We gather up some Trivs and all of Dragonforce and their crew. We were happy to be reunited with Dragonforce once again; Trivium toured with Dragonforce back in 2007 on the Black Crusade tour (Machine Head/Trivium, Dragonforce, Arch Enemy, Shadows Fall) and its always a blast to see the DF dudes - Fred, Sam, and Herman are some of the funniest dudes I know in a band.
Lunch is at Gallo I Vino, a Brazilian/Italian place. In addition to the country being initially colonized by the Portuguese, massive influxes of Italians and Japanese and all sorts of other ethnicities have their culinary and architectural influence ever-present all about the country. Sao Paulo has the second highest population count of Japanese outside of Japan!
Marcos described the place as having "pasta and chicken" - a very true depiction. We are served chicken wings and then some more chicken wings - served salted and charred; different pastas accompany. Different cuts of chicken and grilled meats start to come out, vegetable dishes as well - flavor-wise, picture a grill-based Brazilian-steakhouse that churns out the occasional great pasta dish or fried polenta fry. Every dish was served simply - never over-seasoned or over-thought. Everything was real good.
We catch up over a good meal with our DF buddies, then head back to the hotel to prep to head to the venue for sound check.
Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Curitiba
After fitting in as much as possible into our impossibly long day before our super late headlining-festival show (yoga, gym, lots of meat, naps, unpacking and re-packing), it was dinner time. It was crazy to think that even though we were meeting up at 8:30pm for dinner, the show was still 5 hours away.
Joey, Marcos, Paolo, Ashley, and I headed off to Beirute - an Arabic restaurant in Brasilia. Apparently this spot is the oldest standing Arabic restaurant in Brasilia. Judging by the name, it had to be a Lebanese place (and I love Lebanese food).
Marcos had some serious business to attend to via cell-phone, so the rest of us half-fended for ourselves to figure out what to have on our Portuguese/Lebanese menu. The translations from Lebanese into Portuguese into English made for some funny translations like "worn out meat" - but I typically know my way around a Lebanese menu.
We sit outdoors alongside many Brazilians all chowing down on some great looking grub. The outdoor seating here looked much of like what I had always envisioned when picturing a more down-home, Brazilian restaurant; open-air, outdoors, plastic chairs, the smell of meat and fire and wood, foreign language chatter filling the air alongside traffic-jams and glasses clinking. It was wonderful.
We start with raw meat, hummus, some sort of spreadable cheese, bread, onions, mint, and radish. It's all meat to be scooped onto Lebanese bread like a kebab or taco and eaten up with lime. You know me and tacos and kebabs... I must eat them when the opportunity presents itself... every time. It reminded me so much of the traditional taco except in place of cilantro was mint, in place of a salsa was the radish; raw middle eastern meat taking place of an al pastor, lengua, or deshebrada.
I guzzle down some nice local beer that again reminds me only of a delicious Japanese beer - somewhat like a Suntory Premium once again. Out come stuffed whole eggplants and "cigars". The cigar was a cabbage roll and within both eggplant and cabbage was ground meat of some sort (mildly flavored meat so it has to have been cow and not lamb (as lamb would have had more game)) mixed up with rice. Both were served with a tomato sauce on top. Both great - the whole eggplant visually was unlike anything I've seen in a while. It was a good change to get some vegetables in.
All the while, each time we've eaten, our gracious host Marcos never eats with us - he usually is just making sure we are all happy with the food and drinks; any time I've ever tried to buy him even just a coffee (soy mocha is the poison which he picks) he refuses to allow "the guest" to pay. He's a good dude.
A cucumber salad and rice with fried onions and bulgur pop out - the rice is fantastic; everything here is minimally seasoned as to accentuate the original flavors of the ingredients. A big cake of some sort of ground grain with stuffed cheese comes out; Ashley describes the cheese flavor not unlike Kraft packaged American cheese - she wasn't inaccurate.
Everything at the dinner was spectacular. Simple, home-made, home-cooked-style dishes that filled us all up properly for the big concert that was to follow.
Having never played in South America ever, we had no idea what to expect as far as crowd reaction particularly for our band. The fact we were to headline a festival was even more staggering. By set time, there were between 3500 and 4500 or so people there to see us within the arena. The show was ballistic, the crowd was everything we could have ever dreamed of.
Post set, we quickly headed to the hotel, showered and forced ourselves to sleep for a whopping 2 hours or rest...