South Florida got a taste of Italian style on Saturday night, or as they might say, un assaggio di stile italiano, at an all Italian musical showcase in Hollywood. Dubbed Hit Week, the traveling fest brings top contemporary Italian acts to major cities in the U.S. and around the world. The goal is to show us stereotyping Westerners that Italian music doesn't necessarily mean a chubby, mustachioed mandolin player crooning "O Sole Mio" while weaving through Venice canals on an ornate paddleboat.
Hit Week's Broward edition brought Alessandro Mannarino, Negrita, and Subsonica to the Arts Park Amphitheater in downtown Hollywood for a full evening of free music. That's right, it was completely free. And you could bring your own booze.
All major players in the contemporary Italian rock scene, each group served up their own unique flavor to the mixed bag of attendees, ranging from Italian-born aficionados to curious families looking for someplace to get the kids outside on a Saturday night.
Miami-based Rhythm Foundation, whose central goal is to book big time, quality musical acts in our area produced Hollywood's Hit Week show. Including putting on a huge Manu Chao concert in Miami last year, the foundation constantly contributes to the vibrancy of the music scene in our corner of the continent.
"This concert is 100% Italian all the way, and not just for the performers. So many people here to watch are Italian or have roots in the country," said Adam Ganuza of Rhythm Foundation when we stopped by their booth for a chat. We did discover his observation to be quite true in the pit closest to the stage, where at least 100 people within the crowd were enthusiastically singing along to every song in perfect Italian.
The show was free due to the efforts of Rhythm Foundation and sponsorship offerings from the City of Hollywood and Ferrari, among others, explained Ganuza. Hit Week shows in New York and Washington D.C. cost $45, so us South Floridians definitely got a cheapskate break.
Roman folk-rocker Alessandro Mannarino was backed by eclectic array of instruments.
Alessandro Mannarino got the night going at 7 p.m. with his delightful blend of folky, danceable storytelling. Now, if only we could have understood the storytelling. At one point, Alessandro attempted to introduce a tune in broken English, explaining, "This is about a man who cuts himself..." only to trail off, thinking it better to leave the subject matter to the imagination. We agree. Either way, the music was impressive. He was packin' a full ensemble of guitar, upright bass, trombone, accordion, and keyboard, to awesome effect.
Negrita's frontman Pau and bassist Franky, who received the Most Energetic and Best-Dressed Awards, respectively
At 8:15, Negrita took the stage with an onslaught of catchy guitar shredding. The band's riff-heavy entrance inspired the quite humorous sight of every child in the audience rushing down the lawn to the stage, whooping in anarchistic ecstasy as if they were college dudes at a Rage Against the Machine concert in 1999. Negrita might have won over the kids at first chord, but they won us over too as the set progressed.
The Tuscany-based 5-piece rock outfit enjoyed the largest audience of the night, with several hundred people in the amphitheater on their feet and going at it. Paolo "Pau" Bruni also took top honors as most engaging performer of the evening; the Negrita frontman's expressive, gritty vocals and domineering stage energy was paralleled by no one.
Subsonica's frontman Samuel Umberto Romano takes a pause from singing as the crowd fills in.
Unfortunately, it rained in between sets (thanks, Florida) and by the time Subsonica took the stage around 10 p.m., the crowd had thinned noticeably. But the strong did survive, and the significantly Italian crowd at the base of the stage were absolutely delighted. Apparently, Subsonica is one of the biggest names in Italian contemporary music, regularly packing stadiums for years. They were definitely the most progressive of the three, occasionally breaking down into electro-heavy jams that can best described as a mellower Prodigy.
The truth: Italian men definitely have more style than American men.
Just a thought: If you advertise a free concert at a grassy, open-air amphitheater that welcomes kids, dogs, blankets, and chairs, you are going to get a whole bunch of families with kids, dogs, blankets, and chairs. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but we got the impression that these bands usually play to a much edgier crowd. The music was, for the most part, progressive rock n' roll, and these were rock stars playing in a setting more to the tune of [insert your parents' favorite local band here].
The Hollywood stop was sandwiched in between two smaller-scale Hit Week events that took place in Miami on Friday and Sunday this weekend. Hit Week will travel to New York, Washington D.C., Miami, L.A. and Montreal during its run in the U.S. Check out more details at Hit Week's Web site.