It’s becoming apparent that the journey to find live music in Rome is a short one. The high density of life and culture offers exciting sights and sounds with every turn, echoing nightly an almost audible buzz throughout the cobble stone streets. Saturday night Caty and I, along with a handful of fellow Sooners, took a brisk jaunt north up Viale di Trastevere to the Lettere Caffe. Known throughout the week for their local art exhibitions, small library, book readings, and slam poetry events, on the weekends Lettere turns into a standing-room-only venue for local musicians of all genres. I had done a light google search pre-jaunt to verify the venue location and to get the skinny on the evenings entertainment, so after we snaked our way to the back of the room, took our seats, and ordered our respective beverages, we comfortably sat under a red neon glow and waited for the band voxX to take the stage.
One beer later – for some reason it had come as a surprise to me that the band was running late. The web site said 22:00, the waitress said 22:30, but my clock said 22:45.
“Oh yeah, we’re in Italy. A world where there is no translation for the word ‘schedule’.”
Fortunately we were having fun waiting, sipping our drinks, and watching the locals stare at us. After the place had really begun to fill up, a commotion near the stage caught my attention. Band members emerged from the crowd to take up their instruments, an acoustic guitar and upright bass, while the drummer sat atop his cajon. Then, to our surprise, a young red headed gal clad in 1940’s pin-girl style took her place front and center behind a microphone that looked to come from the same era as her garb. This was not voxX. We had no idea who this was.
“Wait, whaaat?” “What’s going on? This isn’t right!” “Oh. Right. Still in Italy.”
Within seconds of the first song I looked over to Caty and she mouthed to me “This. Is. Awesome!” Once again, the rigid Americans had successfully stumbled into greatness. Like so many times before, the mild frustrations with Italy not being America had proven to be better than we could have imagined. Kind of like Gandalf The Grey – Italians are never late, nor are they early. They arrive precisely when they mean to.
The group continued to impress with their broad sound. The dynamic flexibility of the band provided a great foundation for the singer to build on. She easily ramped up and down with both melody and energy, adding an impressive richness and dimension to each song. The group performed an array of tunes that varied in tempo and time signature, which always makes for a more intriguing performance. The set was comprised of a nice blend of covers and what I assume to be originals. Early on we heard an excellent rendition of Blondie’s Heart Of Glass, as well as the Massive Attack song (known widely as the House theme song) Teardrop. It’s always refreshing to hear a band put their own spin on a well known tune and have it work, and these guys continually nailed it. The fun, lighthearted, acoustic tones were at the perfect volume. One could easily focus on the performance and hear the intricacies of each instrument, or turn to their group and have conversation with their friends.
To close out the set the band performed Florence + The Machine’s Dog Days Are Over. The intro of the song seemed to be extended due to some confusion on the singer’s part. It looked like maybe she was trying to find the lyrics in her folder but was having trouble locating them. Her eventual decision to wing it was a good one, seeing that she totally killed it. She had little to no trouble hitting the highs and performed a seemingly difficult song without a hitch. The final applause was warm and accepting and carried on as the band began to vacate the stage. Seeing multiple Italians struggle to carry an upright bass over their heads through the crowded room and out the door was equally as entertaining as the performance itself. The band voxX proceeded to set up and begin performing, but we had heard enough within the first minute or two. It was clear at that point that the mystery band had stolen the show and our assignment to find quality entertainment was complete.
As Caty finished paying (thanks for that, btw) we began to make out way out. Fortunately between us and the door stood the plaid-dress-wearing singer from the first act. I awkwardly asked her if we could take a picture with her and if we could get her name. We were successful with the picture but I failed with her name, immediately forgetting after I shook her hand. Classic. Caty later informed me that it was Alicia. Got ’em! I did, however, remember the name of her group. In an almost poetic conclusion to our night, we were informed that her band’s name was Mistake. A name ripe with irony given our experience leading up to that moment. She was kind and sweet and graciously met us on our linguistically challenged level. From the conversation we also learned that this was Mistake’s first time at the Lettere, and from what I gathered, one of their first shows inside of Rome. I gave her my e-mail address (again, awkwardly) and asked her to let me know the next time they were in the area. We walked home filled with a sense of victory after our first true hunt for entertainment yielded success. And as I mulled over the night’s events, I think I slowly began to understand the true beauty of the old adage “When in Rome.”
P.S. Alicia, if you’re reading this, and if that is actually your name, sorry for my terrible memory. I tried to find information on your band online but was unable to find anything! Feel free to post a link to your site in the comments of this blog! Caty and I would love to know more!
P.P.S. Holla holla to my main man, Minh Tran…my main Minh…for the pictures and for joining us!