This is one of those amazing gigs that suddenly sprang up in the listings, mushroom like, seemingly less than a week or so before it was due to take place. Inevitably this had an impact on the turnout, which is a real shame as Rumba de Bodas are frankly the best thing to have come out of Italy since Chianti...and that’s a very, very good thing indeed.
First up, and from considerably closer to home, DAMBA, a new trio featuring three (that’ll be the trio bit then) members (Louis, Mark and Dave) of The Destroyers, Birmingham’s very own 28 legged-klezmer-jazz-folk-and-any-other-genre-they-decide-to-throw-in-to-the-mix machine. Existing Destroyers fans will know what to expect – dazzling musicianship and enough energy to power a small town – but with considerably fewer players to focus on (most Destroyers’ gigs are a dizzying blur of bodies) DAMBA really gives you the chance to soak it all up properly. Traditional Eastern European folk tunes might not seem like the most enticing prospect on paper but boy those Eastern Europeans clearly knew how to write a catchy song or two and it’s great to hear this stuff played with such joie de vivre.
Lordy they’re mighty fine, particularly impressed with Louis’ vocals on some of the songs tonight. Never knew how well the dude could sing. Much is currently (and justifiably) being made of Birmingham’s musical renaissance (big up B-Town), but I’ve seen little mention of the more, let’s say, ‘eclectic’ side of things like this stuff which is a shame because it’s, well, DAMBA good.
My knowledge of Bologna’s musical scene is sadly lacking (in fact it’s pretty much limited to the rather fine 60s inspired Jennifer Gentle), but I’m guessing that Rumba de Bodas ain’t your typical Bolognese band. Quite frankly how could there be anyone else like them? Fusing ska, jazz, latin, funk, soul, gospel, bluegrass and hip hop Rumba de Bodas is the ULTIMATE party band. FACT. Regular readers will know that my ‘dancing’ these days generally goes as far as some mild toe tapping but by the end of the night I found myself attempting the kind of freestyle frugging that makes that Spike Jonze video for Praise You look like a little tame. Yes...seriously.
At the heart of the whole thing’s Matilda De Angelis, a phenomenally powerful and versatile vocalist who’s seemingly as at home spitting rhymes as she is belting out soul and blues. BIG female voices aren’t unique of course but there’s a refreshing naturalness to Matilda’s vocals that’s a lot rarer. It was only after the show that I discovered that she’s still not yet 18. Extraordinary.
Dropping their theme song Rumba de Bodas into the set so early (it was the second track of the night) might have been a risky strategy. It’s such a HUGE tune that most bands would struggle to make anything that came after it seem anywhere near as good...but incredibly the whole night just built and built as both band and audience hotted up (figuratively and literally...there was sweat my friends...buckets of the stuff...that’ll teach me not to wear tweed to a gig again). Delivered at breakneck speed Rumba de Bodas is one of the most awesome songs you’ll hear this year...or any year for that matter. In the space of 5 minutes or so they cram in more influences that you’d think possible and resistance is futile. You just have to dance.
But even the slower numbers like the sultry Night Swing In a House are just so freakin’ groovy. It’s on stuff like this that you can really hear Matilda’s talent too. Bringing the kind of raw passion of Winehouse with all the power of vintage Shapiro (ask your grandma) and more than a little latin sizzle she oozed that effortless cool that frankly only the Italians have. Effortless is the word, as she slipped readily from gospel on the joyful hands in the air Working So Hard to hoedown country on Whiskey & Colombiana.
Being an Italian band many of the songs are, not unreasonably, in Italian. You don’t need to speak the language to ‘get it’ though. I’ve never been particularly bothered about whether I could understand all the lyrics to something, it’s a bonus really, the vibe (vibe...what is this...the 60s?) of the tune’s always been more important and the vibe (yep, it’s the 60s apparently) here is unmistakeable. In full flow Rumba de Bodas provide the soundtrack for the sort of party that only exists in the movies. Cool but fun, a little edgy but without the danger of getting your head caved in by some knuckle dragger and leading to the kind of blissful muscle aching hangover that makes the morning after the night before a fuzzy wonderland.
For sheer ‘beaming like a loon’ joy I’m struggling to remember many gigs as good as this. Sure it might not be one for the chin strokers or the too cool for school brigade, but frankly life’s sodding well serious enough these days. Never mind the Bolognas...here’s Rumba de Bodas!