Some beats are dancefloor crack. Cumbia always gets everybody up out of their seats; at last Thursday’s mostly-weekly dance party at Lincoln Center, it was maracatu that finally brought the population of twirling couples to critical mass. Before then, it had been a slow night. Since the election, crowds everywhere have been sparse. People are either out protesting, or cocooning and trying to figure out what to do next. So watching Forro in the Dark as their roughly hourlong set got underway felt almost like a private party, which was cool.But it was redeeming to see the crowd grow to capacity, which is almost always the case at the atrium space here.
Forro in the Dark are Lincoln Center regulars. Where does the hypnotically bouncy Brazilian rainforest art-folk dance band play when they’re not here? At some hostile, overpriced Live Nation venue, where the simple process of getting inside makes you feel like you’re trying to break into Rikers Island ? No. Forro in the Dark are in the midst of what’s been a long weekly residency at Nublu 151 in the East Village, a comfortable, sonically excellent split-level space that’s a lot bigger than the old Nublu – although that’s kind of like saying that it’s larger than a Smart car. They’re there Wednesdays at around 10 this month; cover is $10.
There’s no small irony in that Forro in the Dark didn’t used to have an accordion in the band, even though their style of music is usually played on one. At this show, they had two, played by their new guy and by a guest from Paris who supplied whirlwind leads as well as rapidfire, tonguetwisting auctioneer-style vocals on one of the songs midway through the set. Frontman/percussionist Mauro Refosco joked that neither he nor his new bandmate come from forro territory in their native Brazil. Which might be one explanation for the vast stylistic reach of their music – that, or the simple fact that in the tropics, all the best bands play a whole slew of styles. To put that in perspective, imagine what would happen if Brazil, or Colombia, or Peru closed their borders to immigration.
The best song of the night was a darkly careening, vamping minor-key cumbia that definitely wasn’t Colombian. and it wasn’t Peruvian chicha either: it was the band’s own creatiom, shuffling along with raw, rustically chattering accordions and violin. The two similarly bristling, rumbling maracatu numbers were also a blast of tropical heat. Their guitarist – who used the bottom strings of his baritone guitar for slinky basslines throughout most of the show – sang a lilting number in English that was practically rockabilly.
Another number sounded like a Brazilian take on 60s Jamaican rocksteady – or was it that the rocksteady guys were ripping off the Brazilians back then? Likewise, the show was full of rustic old riffs that British blues bands, and American soul-pop acts brought into the American mainstream fifty years ago. Whoever wrote that oldies hit by the Rascals was definitely listening to this stuff at the time!
The next one of these free dance events at the atrium space at Lincoln Center is Feb 24 at 7:30 PM with funky latin jazz faves the Pedrito Martinez Group. Show up on time or you might miss out.