Downtown Lalo

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Brazilian Nites Carnaval at Nokia Live

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Years and years ago, when the L.A. Weekly was fat and our forays out of our hometown of Wilmington were just beginning, a particular event ad caught our eye…Brazilian Carnaval at the Hollywood Palladium. It took us a couple years to get the courage to finally do it, and once we went, we were hooked.

Sambistas, baterias, wall-to-wall Brazilians, it was a non-stop rhythm and dance and skin-fest. Beautiful women and men dancing non-stop. Infectious music, pounding drums, conga lines. Whew.

Produced by a woman named Maria Lucien, who co-MC’d along with a big Brazilian man, they kept the party going, bringing on the dancers, announcing the costume contest, exhorting the crowd…calling out the Latinos, Mexicanos, Japoneses, Brasileiros!!!!!! It come to an abrupt halt at 2 am, and we’d stand there, sweat-soaked, grinning like mad, and making plans for the next Carnaval.

Sometime in the late 90’s Maria’s daughter and sister died in a plane crash. She held one more Carnaval, in honor of her angels. Then the next year, no Carnaval.

Ten years ago, Patricia Leao began her Brazilian Nites Carnaval. The first one we went to was at the Queen Mary, and it was OK, but the vastness of the venue didn’t catch heat. Finally, a couple years ago, Carnaval returned to the Palladium. Smartly produced, lots of sponsors, very well-choreographed, great music, beautiful women. A bit more tame than Maria’s, but we were grateful Carnaval was back and my website, LatinoLA, was proud to be a sponsor.

This year, the 10th Annual Brazilian Nites Carnaval was at Club Nokia in the L.A. Live complex. LatinoLA was again a sponsor. My son Michael and his friend Lashonda met us at our home and we walked the four blocks to the venue.

A great beginning, with the Joany & Brazilian Nites Samba Dancers weaving through the nightclub, followed by the drummers of Casa Do Samba Mila Samba School. They made in onstage and the samba marathon began. Groups of women in different costumes — some feathery, others glittery, all barely-there — came out at various times. The second group, Chalo Eduardo and Brasilian Beat, took over the stage and their synchronicity and virtuosity on five pieces of percussion and the occasional guitar were astounding. More dancers, more costumes, a samba ballerina, percussion frenzy and we wanted to dance!

Here’s the problem. The setup at Nokia Live is a little strange. It’s half nightclub, half concert hall. The place closest to the stage was sectioned off for those with higher ticket prices, as were the balcony seats. There were groups dancing and singing along, but not en masse or with any real passion. The vibe that ruled at the Palladium … the raw energy of people crashing into each other while dancing, or snaking through the crowd in multiple conga lines going on at once, gazing at the sambistas performing on the catwalk trying to outdo each other, brushing up against strangers and smiling … that was missing.

The frenzied drum beat of the bateria is the heart and soul of Carnaval

At the Nokia, the sound was fantastic, we had a great sight line to the stage, but the participatory aspect of Carnaval … that we were all getting our sins taken care of before Lent began … together … just wasn’t there.

When the headliner came on, Trio Electrico Armandinho, a guitar-lead quartet, they started their set with a psychedelic rendering of Ravel’s Bolero. We figured it was time to go, even if was just 12:30 am. After sticking around for a couple more songs, including an instrumental of Santana’s “Smooth”, we knew, and before long were walking down to Olympic listening to foul-mouthed guys trying to pick up some drunk girls.

A little tired and tipsy, somewhat let down, a feeling of saudade for Carnaval’s past.


Written by downtownlalo

February 21, 2010 at 11:49 pm

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