14 Bis, Barra de Sao Joao

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14bis, discovered on a Brazilian sampler CD and by happy coincidence also playing during the World Cup.

Some two hours outside Rio at a Crustacean Festival.

14 Bis
The three-day festival was held in Barra de Sao Joao in Rio de Janeiro province

Or to be strictly accurate, a food festival celebrating the fruits of the sea

In a sleepy resort east of the Brazilian metropolis of Rio in the district of Casimiro de Abreu.

Barra de Sao Joao has an impressive stretch of sand and, for Brazil, a welcome sense of space. Must be quite a relief to get out here away from the big ugly city.

Out of season, the small resort had a could-be-anywhere vibe – the usual small restaurants and seaside bars on the main drag.

14 Bis are Sérgio Magrão on bass, Claudio Venturini on guitar and vocals, Vermelho on keyboards and Hely Rodrigues on drums.

The band is named after a French airplane and is pronounced as in the French – ‘Quatorze Bis’. They emerged in the 70s and sing exclusively in Portuguese.

Interestingly, they don’t rock out and get too heavy and the light-touch vocals are reminiscent of the best of Big Star, the US cult band.

They were apparently popular with children in their heyday, that much was backed up by the majority of middle-aged people in the audience.

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Typically, as soon as they came on, at 11pm, it started raining, resulting in a couple of dozen people braving it with brollies by the stage while the rest of the gathering stayed under cover 50 yards back in the food area.

A giant owl was disturbed by the commotion as the band came on, and was startled from its lodge in one of the nearby trees.

The band have a sort of bossa nova meets the Beatles vibe.

You might even call them soft rock if it wasn’t for the exquisite harmonies and the songs’ clever changes in tone and direction.

This being Brazil, you couldn’t get away with not being danceable – the propulsive beat just keeps them out of the mouth of soft rock mush.

The above is an 80-second snatch of the only song I recorded.

The rain meant that the bulk of the crowd stayed put under cover, scoffing scallops and chatting, shutting up only to join in with a familiar chorus.

14 Bis, for most, were in effect performing the role of background music at the festival.

This one is my favourite, the one on the Brazilian sampler – and in fact the only song I’d heard by them before I ventured out to the festival.

Worth chancing it on the basis of one song, the gig would have been improved by good weather.

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