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Brazilian Girls
Cat Empire
Central Park
Sunday, July 22, 2007

Written by Eric Atienza
Photographed by Amy Davidson

Opposite Photo: Sabina Sciubba
of the Brazilian Girls

I’ve never been one to frequent Central Park and so at first it was a bit of a trial to make my way to the performance area where New York electronic rockers Brazilian Girls were set to perform as part of this year’s Summerstage concert series. After getting turned around a couple of times and finally heading off in what I hoped was the correct direction I came upon what was to be my salvation: a ridiculously long line which led me directly (after several minutes of walking) to the front gate of the show. The getting there may have been a bit of an ordeal, the live music that followed was anything but.



As first opener Himalaya took the stage it seemed as if all the people in that long line had actually made it onto the stage. With quite literally dozens of performers playing a wide variety of drums and strings this initial act was a spectacle whose performance was almost as fun to watch as it was to listen to. Informal yet ornate, the band was quite a pleasant surprise brimming with vibrancy and kicking off the afternoon of music in style.

Sadly, the pleasant surprises would not continue with Cat Empire, the second band to take the stage. The act began promisingly enough with a high energy blend of Latin rhythms but any groove was immediately broken when any of the three vocalists began to sing. Each of them had their own way of gruffly barking out the lyrics that clashed with and overshadowed the music they were playing, and as the first song stretched on, and on, and on an unsettling reality was beginning to set in: they were also a jam band. This, in and of itself, is not ultimately damning but the fact that each jam section in every song involved the same structures, the same melodies and the same rhythms made each number – and, indeed, the entire set – seem unbearably long and repetitive. Even the lone bright spot of a Marley-esqe reggae number was marred by an uninspired, over-extended jam in the middle, though in their defense several apparent jam-fans seemed to thoroughly enjoy the show.

Sabina Sciubba of the Brazilian Girls

Sabina Sciubba of the Brazilian Girls

As the sour taste of Cat Empire began to fade, motion on the stage turned all attention to the front. One by one, the full complement of Himalaya was once again preparing to perform. They began beating a slow but steady beat and after a minute or two the cacophony of drums was joined by the dream-like keyboards of the Brazilian Girls’ Didi Gutman. Throughout the first song the robust percussion of the first act bolstered the electronica pouring out of the New York based four-piece. As Himalaya slowly exited, the Brazilian Girls launched into a shifting, airy collection of songs, seamlessly weaving between dance and trance as singer – and actually the only female in the band – Sabina Sciubba’s performance and stage presence electrified the captivated crowd. Spurring them on with songs in French, German, Italian, English and Spanish she crafted a universal message of community and harmony that all could understand no matter the language she was singing. Intricate work on bass and drums from Jesse Murphy and Aaron Johnston first had me looking for a DJ and/or synth board and recalls the dizzying instrumental prowess of ten-piece Norwegian jazz-rock troupe Jaga Jazzist.
At once playful, graceful and visceral the four led their willing fans – and after a couple songs it’s safe to say everyone in the park that afternoon had become their fan – on a journey kept aloft with sheer exuberance and wild abandon. Hope and unity was their pixie dust propelling all within hearing distance skyward with the promise that they, and we, would never come down. Certainly with luck, memory, and repeated doses of the pure energy the Brazilian Girls exude we never will.

Jesse Murphy of The Brazilian Girls

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