Event Listing (VIC)
General Jam: A Tribute To Tropicália
A trio of art-school brats schmearing iSnack 2.0 on their cheeks while singing 'Advance Australia Fair'. It’s probably not the kind of thing Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso envisaged when they dreamt up Tropicália – the Brazilian fine arts movement – in the late 1960s, but at least Bum Creek were being true to the movement’s incessant radicalism. Or were they? The band’s take on two songs from the movement’s musical manifesto – ‘Panis et Circensis’ by Os Mutantes and Tom Zé’s ‘Parque Industrial’ – at a Melbourne International Arts Festival event seemed deliberately provocative, juvenile and ill-conceived.
Instead of paying homage to the source material, Bum Creek took a match to it, fucking around with vocoders, hammers and all manner of gimmicks until the songs were virtually unrecognisable save for a few notes here and there. Aside from some vague allusions to Tropicália’s satirical take on nationalism and a nod to Zé when “singer” Tarquin Manek took a hammer to the mic, there was nothing reverential about their performance. It wasn’t even in the spirit of Tropicália, which contrary to the band’s (mis)conceptions, was a movement with depth and purpose; not merely art for art’s sake.
In fairness, Bum Creek were given a lot of latitude by the event’s M.O, which asked local artists to “reinterpret” (not simply recreate) songs from 1968 concept album Tropicália: ou Panis et Circensis, prior to a screening of a BBC documentary and a film from that era. Other artists were more faithful in their renderings, but that’s not to say they played it safe. Pikelet used her trademark loops to great effect on Gilberto Gil’s ‘Miserere Nóbis’, Paeces turned Caetano Veloso’s ‘Coração Materno’ into an apocalyptic dirge, while Francis Plagne studiously rearranged Veloso’s ‘Enquanto Seu Lobo Não Vem’ and Gal Costa’s ‘Mamãe, Coragem’ to suit his fragile voice. Sophia Brous (the artist formerly known as “Sophie”) stole the show with Nara Leao’s ‘Lindonéia’, navigating the song’s tricky phrasing in near-perfect Portuguese. Later, she traded verses with Swedish crooner Jens Lekman on ‘Baby’, proving that simplicity can so often trump spectacle in the entertainment stakes.
by Darren Levin
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