Night owls won't lack for options in Salvador. The old city center of Pelourinho hums with music, people, and a lively mix of activities that Brazilians call movimento. Farther out along the beaches music venues are bigger and more geared toward the club crowd, but it is still easy to find places with live music, particularly in the new nightlife enclave of Rio Vermelho. True, the "high arts" of theater, dance, and classical music do suffer a bit in Bahia, but with everything else going on, odds are you won't notice. The scene in Bahia is very laid-back and casual; you won't find any upscale yuppie pretensions here, unless you look really hard.
Music & Dance Clubs
Pelourinho -- In the evenings, Pelourinho often comes alive with music. Two of the most popular venues for concerts are the Praça Quincas Berro D'Agua and the Largo Pedro Archanjo. Check with the Bahiatursa office in Pelourinho or look in the newspaper for information on events (programming has become a bit spottier, alas, since a new state government cutback on cultural funding).
If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Terça da Benção
Tuesday is known in Pelourinho as Terça da Benção (Blessed Tuesday). It's the day parishioners of the São Francisco de Assis Church give out bread and donations to the poor. Somehow, this simple act of charity has grown into a happening street party that kicks off every Tuesday after the 6pm Mass. The most interesting service takes place at N.S. do Rosário dos Pretos, an eclectic event held to the sound of African drums, attended by the church's black parishioners. At 7pm locals and tourists gather at the steps on the Ladeiro do Carmo to watch popular singer Geronimo perform. Afterward, take a walk through Pelourinho. Up and down the streets, music seems to pour from every corner as bands play in little largos or cafes crank their stereos. Inside Praça Teresa Batista, Olodum holds its traditional Tuesday show. Unlike the weekend street scene, this party ends relatively early. By midnight everyone heads home. Even Baianos have to get up early sometimes.
The Mission of Olodum
Olodum is one of the best-known blocos in Salvador, maybe in all of Brazil. Founded in 1979, Olodum started as a recreational group for residents of Pelourinho who had few options during Carnaval. More than 20 years later, Olodum has grown into a cultural phenomenon with international fame, not to mention its own nifty logo, a peace sign filled with reggae colors. The group's mandate is to preserve and value black culture and heritage, and fight all forms of racism and violence. One of the ways they pursue this is through work with young children and teens in some of the poorer neighborhoods of Salvador. Over 150 kids are involved in Olodum-sponsored cultural activities. The money raised by international performances and recordings made with people like Paul Simon help fund the group's educational activities. Every Tuesday night the group performs at the Praça Teresa Batista starting at 8pm. Contact the Olodum office at tel. 071/3321-5010 or www.olodum.com.br for information on concerts and Carnaval rehearsals, or stop in at the gift shop located at Rua Gregorio de Matos 22, Pelourinho.
Gay & Lesbian Bars
A great resource for gay travelers, the Grupo Gay da Bahia, Rua Frei Vicente 24, Pelourinho (tel. 071/3321-1848; www.ggb.org.br), has information on tourism and recreational opportunities in Salvador as well as on local social issues and community activism. Salvador has a small but growing Pride Parade that is usually held in October. Of course the parade includes lots of music and the trio eletrico sound trucks. Famous Bahian artists such as Daniela Mercury and Ivete Sangalo have taken part in previous years. Check the Grupo Gay da Bahia for details on the date. During Carnaval, don't miss the contest for Best Gay Costume, which takes place in front of Salvador city hall and includes drag queen performances and lots of music. One of the more popular Carnaval blocos that counts on a huge gay following is the Bloco dos Mascarados (tel. 071/3237-0066), led by Bahian singer Margaret Menezes. Rehearsals take place from November until Carnaval. Check with the tourist office for the dates and locations of these ensaios.
Salvador's gay scene is not as open as in Rio de Janeiro, but two popular hangouts are late Saturday afternoons at Porto da Barra beach and Sunday at the Barraca Aruba, a beach kiosk at Praia dos Artistas. In town, Avenida Sete de Setembro, from Praça da Sé to Campo Grande (particularly around the Praça da Piedade), as well as Pelourinho's Praça Pedro Arcanjo are known cruising areas.
The dance club at Queens Clube, Rua Teodoro Sampaio 160, just behind the Biblioteca Nacional (tel. 071/328-6220) is open Friday and Saturday midnight to 6am. The sex shop, DVD rentals, and movie screening rooms are open Monday through Saturday 3 to 10pm. Also popular, Off Club, Rua Dias d'Avilla 33, Barra (tel. 071/3267-6215; www.offclub.com.br), attracts a mixed crowd of both male and female clubbers. Open Thursday through Sunday. On Friday the DJs play eclectic flashback hits, while Saturday is house and techno night; the other nights are a mishmash with go-go boys, drag queens, and other performers. Doors don't open until 11:30pm.