Viva namesake puts her influences into a power trio that’s coming to Maryville
By Steve Wildsmith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If P.J. Harvey spent time in South America, cut her teeth on Delta blues and embraced the flamboyance of Karen O. of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, she might sound a little bit like Viva DeConcini.
DeConcini, whose band goes by her first name, will bring all of that and more to Brackins Blues Club in Maryville this weekend, and one thing she guarantees for patrons at the show: Freedom to have a good time.
“In rock ‘n’ roll, there’s a lot of sexuality, but there’s also a lot of anger and injustice and being free to be who you are,” she told The Daily Times recently. “It’s about not having people tell you that you can’t be who you really are. I feel that a lot, and where it comes from is very celebratory. All music is transformational, but rock gives people a hopeful feeling.”
DeConcini speaks from experience: She’s been playing since she picked up the guitar as a first-grader, and mastering it has taken her across the Western hemisphere. She studied jazz in Tucson, then joined Cyro Baptista’s Beat the Donkey, a percussion and dance ensemble specializing in jazz and world music founded by a Brazilian music teacher and percussionist.
“It’s funny; I had gotten into Brazilian music because it’s such beautiful guitar playing, but when I got with Cyro, the last thing he wanted to play was bossa nova,” she said. “He said, ‘No, man, play rock ‘n’ roll!’ I was going to Brazil to escape America and find something new, and he came to America to escape Brazil and find something new.
“So I started playing rock ‘n’ roll with him. I basically got into playing rock through Brazilian music, and once I started writing songs, I realized I had to do a rock band.”
She’s no stranger to traditional forms of American music; she first got into country when a bar in her Brooklyn neighborhood featured it prominently; she would go across the street from her home to sing Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash duets. She also got into cabaret and New York’s gay and burlesque scenes.
“I went to see a friend of mine play in a sax quartet, and there was this drag queen, Miss Saturn, who was also a hula-hoop virtuoso, and I saw her doing it to their music, and it was so mesmerizing,” DeConcini said. “I told her that any time she wanted to have a band play while she hula-hooped that I would bring mine; she said, ‘Let’s get a gig at The Slipper Room.’ I was so nervous, because at the time, I’d never seen a burlesque play.”
She fit right in, however, and from her love of those country duets and the glittery world of NYC’s alternative nightlife, she found the title of her most recent album, “Rhinestones and Rust.” It follows up several years of accomplishments, including a feature in Guitar Player magazine, a theatrical role in the play “WAAFME” and a college radio hit with her 2010 album “Rock & Roll Lover.” On her current tour, she and her band are promoting both it and “Rhinestones,” she said.
“Mostly, we get well-received playing live,” she said. “We sound pretty good, and people have fun. It’s a fun time.”