“You have arrived” the lady who lives inside Google Maps told me. No I haven’t I told her back, forgetting that she couldn’t hear me. I hadn’t arrived. The Seventy7 Lounge that I had asked to be directed to was nowhere in sight. I had gotten tipped off by my friend Luis Polanco, the owner of the Sunset Ecelctico concert production company, that a there was going to be a kickass Brazilian singer and band playing at the Seventy 7 Lounge that night. I had never heard of the Lounge, although I live close by, so I figured it was one of those places that is not on most radars. Of course I had to go.
I know little of Brazilian music beyond “The Girl from Ipanema” and samba, so I was intrigued. I was not intrigued when the lady who lives inside Google Maps sent me to a large, loud sports bar, and not the intimate lounge with a Brazilian band. So I shut her off and walked – rare in LA, but we do it when we have to . And that is when I saw it – the tiny red neon “Cocktails” sign on a small building down the alley behind the sports bar, nestled across from the dumpsters. A diminutive plaque behind some ivy identified the Seventy7 Lounge and the door next to it opened into leather booths, a high gloss and superbly stocked bar, flocked wallpaper, pastoral artwork, brass lamps and a stage with amps and mics. I forgave the Google Map lady.
Luis was right; the singer was kick-ass and so was the band. Serenading us was Caro Pierotto, backed by a stunningly talented group of musicians: Grecco Buratto on electric guitar, rhythm guitarist Joao Pedro Mourao, Isaias Elpes on the 5-string bass, and percussionist Felipe Fraga. They blended Bossa Nova and contemporary pop music at just the right tone for an intimate setting, including when Buratto laid down hot guitar licks that were less samba and much more 60’s hard rock.
Most fascinating was percussionist Felipe Fraga who was equipped with a miniature kick drum, a small, flat drum head that he could make sound like a snare or a bongo, various shakers, a Brazilian tambourine (tamborim), bells on his toe, cowbells on his drumstand and a Cajon – all of which he seemed to play simultaneously while doing backup vocals. Drummers by nature are multitaskers but he was exceptional and did it all with a grin.
Last night was special for Caro and the band as they were premiering their music video shot at the Seventy7 Lounge a year earlier. One of the nice things about small venues is that you can talk with the band between sets or after the show –there is no green room for them to hide in, no PR people or venue managers to block access– so I got to chat a little. I learned, among other things, that Caro has toured from Mexico to Indonesia to the UK and that the band has a regular gig at Seventy7 Lounge the first Tuesday of the month.One question I didn’t ask, but should have, is why was a world touring Brazilian singer playing in a club off an alley in Culver city, the home of the Sony movie studios but very little music? The answer, I learned later, is rooted in the sold-out final game of 1994 World Cup played in Pasadena, 20 miles away on the other side of downtown LA. Brazilians who could not get into the stadium flocked to the Brazilian-owned Zabumba nightclub and restaurant in Culver City to watch their home country win the cup. Although the club is no longer there, the critical mass of Brazilians convinced local entrepreneurs to create a little Brazil in Culver city, complete with restaurants, shops and a Brazilian mall. Gradually, the area attracted a large Brazilian community, both long- time residents from other parts of the city and new immigrants. Which means that no matter where you set up a Brazilian band in Culver city, there will be an audience.
And audience there was for Caro Pierotto and her band. The place was humming when I walked in at 9 pm and kept going. She and the band members knew many people lounging at the Seventy7 Lounge’s leather booths so there were hugs, high 5’s and conversations in English and Portuguese before and after the sets, which went on until at least midnight. And I, for one, was very happy to have found Brazil in Los Angeles and know where I will be on the first Tuesdays on the coming months.