For the last 4 nights, I've been heading out to a few music clubs each night. It's a bit addictive, and I've ended up making a few friends as well.
The first night I went to a place which was around the corner from where I live. The problem with Copacabana is that it's a fairly upscale neighbuorhood, with either retired people or rich tourists staying in the hotels or apartment buildings. And the club was full of those people. The music was mostly light jazz, and after an hour of sitting around, I went back home.
The next day, I asked around about some cheaper but more authentic places. Lapa and Santa Teresa were the obvious places to explore, and one of the students at the institute used to go a lot to some of the clubs till a year ago (These days he's desperately trying to finish his thesis). He told me about a couple of his favourite places and I went. I wasn't disappointed at all. The previous weekend I'd ended up hanging out only on the streets in Lapa, taken aback by how much was going on.
This time I was indoors mainly but it was as much fun. The 2-3 places I was recommended have live music every night. On the weekends there's a cover charge, but it's not too expensive. The music is mainly Samba or some variation, and the atmosphere is really relaxed. The audience is generally quite mixed in terms of age. It's not uncommon to see an old couple dancing in the middle surrounded by middle-aged and young people. There's no real dress code and some people came in shorts, and didn't look out of place. Typically, the first set is played with people sitting or standing around, but by the time the second set starts (around midnight) nobody's sitting. Even the waiters jig a bit while serving drinks, and the owner (I've gone to the same club 3 times now) joins in later on. I'm too tone deaf to understand the variations, but the owner's tried to explain some of the basic stuff a few times. If anyone's curious this is the place.
At one of the clubs, I ended up making friends with the people sitting next to me, and hung out with them the next day as well. Unfortunately, language is a big barrier, and we never get past basic conversations. I hooked up with some of the students one day as well and after barely 3 weeks in Rio, I feel like I have a social life. I'm sharing my office with another postdoc from Portugal who's on her 5th visit to Rio, and she smiled. She said she has a more active life here than in Porto.
It's sad that Rio's reputation is tarnished by the crime reports. 3 weeks here and I've found it to be quite safe, clean, friendly and a lot of fun.