Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Os Mutantes, the mutants, when they played in Seattle

I was lucky enough to be able to see them play in person on their '06 reunion tour. One thing that stuck out is how they looked, which in itself represented some of what their music was/is about. From what I gather, Brazil is very much like European countries such as Italy in that everyone dresses to look their best at all times whether they have money or not. You're judged in part by the clothes that you can afford and wear, and informality is not the order of the day. When the mutants took to the stage, they were dressed in ways that would make them stick out on the streets of Seattle, or basically any other place, with the possible exception of New York City. Into this presumed mix of formal clothing you had folks coming on stage with ripped jeans, old punk t-shirts, and brightly colored dread lock hair extensions. The lead singer Zella Duncan had a dress on that was so aggressively not in style, along with no make up, that I actually thought that she was a transsexual who hadn't fully transitioned. Sergio Dias, the amazing, amazing guitarist, was dressed in an 18th century jacket with ruffled shirt underneath. All of this was a shock to a good portion of the audience who expected nice Brazilian music made for tourists.

Indeed, the first act, the person opening for them, was a pseudo-skilled guitarists from the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle who played Bossa Nova-like music. I say Bossa-Nova "like" music because he pretty much just noodled around doing something that appeared to be Brazilian but which in fact was just his superficial examination of the style. Like Esteban, the guy who played on the mail order channel but who really didn't know what the hell he was doing, at least in my opinion; for all I know "Esteban" is really a guy named Steve from Ohio who knew a good gig when he saw it and so decided to become Mr. Latin guitarist. Anyways, the opening act played what could be termed "Brazilian music for white people", not confrontational, not something that would bring out any serious emotions, just something along the lines of the Girl from Ipanema and all the rest of the songs that Stan Getz and company recorded with Brazilian folks in the '60s. Vague, haunting, something that wouldn't ruin your night in Rio. Os Mutantes come from the other end of that spectrum, with their recordings being even worse than what they put out onstage in the sense of trying to generally destroy that kind of music. So when Mr. Brazilian got off the stage and the mutants came on there appeared to be some shock from certain quarters that were expecting a continuation of what they'd just heard; they'd probably seen the an announcement for them that didn't specify just how far they were from Mr Brazlian and decided to check it out.

In any case, it was a night to remember. Going out to the parking lot where my car was I overheard two guys talking saying "Well someone liked them, they knew the words to the songs."

*by the way: if you want to have a little bit of the experience of the Os Mutantes reunion tour, check out the double CD set "Live at the Barbican Theater". It's a live recording from their London show.

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