Saturday, June 22, 2013

Revelry and Rebellion: Os Mutantes Live

Raw humanity is often found in unexpected places.

From bombings in Boston to riots in Rio de Janeiro, the world circa 2013 is an increasingly dark place. Debt and job losses have replaced security and prosperity, and many are wondering if they will again feel the safety of the past. Through all this pain, one has to wonder why there isn’t more fire and anger being expressed in the arts. Where are the protest songs? Where are the sounds from the streets? On a Friday night in New Hampshire, the true spirit of revolution was alive in the music of Sérgio Dias and Os Mutantes.

Originally formed in Brazil in 1966, Os Mutantes (“The Mutants”) create avant-garde Psychedelic Rock/Pop/What in the World? music that has to be heard to be believed, understood and appreciated. The group released a series of head-scratchingly brilliant albums (including the amazing 1969 mindfuck Mutantes) before imploding in the late ’70s. The ensuing years saw Os Mutantes’ albums gain a cult following in the States: Beck called his 1998 album Mutations in tribute to the group, while Kurt Cobain famously pleaded with the band to reform in 1993 (they declined). Os Mutantes finally returned to the stage in 2006, releasing the album Haih Or Amortecedor three years later. Today, the band revolves around sole original member Sérgio Dias.

Released on April 30, the group’s extraordinary 10th album, Fool Metal Jack, is the sound of a heart breaking: From the dirge that accompanies a dying soldier’s final thoughts on the title track to Dias’ reflections on his brother (and original Os Mutantes member) Arnaldo Baptista’s suicide attempt on “Into Limbo,” Fool Metal Jack is simultaneously the most breathtaking and the most brutal album released so far this year. Fool Metal Jack is street music born of pain, anger and the desire for a better world – perhaps what Crass might sound like if they were from São Paulo and released a new album in response to today’s planet.  

That said, imagine how surreal it was to see Os Mutantes turn up in Londonderry, New Hampshire (of all places!) on a sleepy Friday night to play at the Tupelo Music Hall at the start of an eight-date US tour. Driving to the show, I couldn’t help but wonder who in the world would show up at an Os Mutantes show in the Granite State. The answer? A very small but intensely loyal crowd of fans who knew. As riots raged in his home country, Dias (now living in Las Vegas) made it clear throughout his performance that his heart was with all people struggling to survive and understand a savage world.

Os Mutantes live in New Hampshire, 6/21/13

With the mostly English-language Fool Metal Jack dominating the majority of the set list, emotions ran high as Dias alternated between singing tales of heartbreak (“This song is about all the foreclosures” ushered in “The Dream Is Gone”) and airing his soul through Hendrixesque guitar solos. Of course, that is not to say that the band’s performance was all doom and gloom. If anything, the group’s show was uplifting, as many in the audience happily danced, sang and shouted as the band played. Just as “War Pigs” or “Sunday Bloody Sunday” help listeners rise above the horrors of war, the live tunes from Fool Metal Jack offered catharsis in chaos.

There was no “phoning it in” for Os Mutantes. Not a single note was wasted. Not a single lyric was shared without passion and compassion. They were utterly electrifying.

Watching the six-piece band bow to an audience of (at most) three dozen people, I couldn’t help but think that Os Mutantes’ summer tour will be far from a raging financial success. Music this pure, this challenging rarely packs ’em in, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the band ultimately pays out of their pockets for the privilege of being on tour. So why would Sérgio Dias, a 62-year-old man, venture out on the road in a country that barely knows that his band exists and play for what will very likely be tiny crowds every step of the way? Because the man's heart has something to say. He is the kind of person who has to play, and I’m eternally grateful that I got to see him play last night. 

For tour dates and more information on Os Mutantes, visit



  1. Cool article. For what it's worth, they played to a packed house in Portland last night. And like you said, they were utterly electrifying.

  2. Very pleased to read they were well-received in Portland! Thanks for reading the blog and taking the time to write!

  3. I was astounded at the low turnout in Londonderry. It was an intense experience, and left me wondering "what can I do to help?". Sergio Diaz is able to express depth of emotion both through music, as with his wordless sitar playing and utterly skillful guitar, and language, both English and Portuguese.

  4. Agreed. Sergio is as real as it gets. Thanks for writing!


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