at the Hollywood Bowl, July 23

Los Angeles is doomed, and not because of the heat, gridlock, or the continued popularity of KFI pendejos John and Ken. Hell, we couldn’t even fill up half the Hollywood Bowl when the Brazilian tropicália legends Os Mutantes played their second-ever American concert there last Sunday! Granted, Mutantes’ set did start at 7 p.m., when probably a quarter of the sellout crowd was cursing the 101 freeway’s Highland exit. But still — they’re Os Mutantes, for chrissakes, the weirdoes who braved Brazilian dictators during the late 1960s to deliver love, peace and infinite musical goodness to the world. Any music lover should’ve been at the humid Bowl hours before 7, Two-Buck Chuck in picnic basket, ready to absorb the Mutants’ mojo.

This was no mere slapdash reunion. Even 40 years later, Mutantes sounded as fresh as a MySpace discovery, delivering three-minute bursts of sonic sunshine. The voice of lead singer–guitarist Sérgio Dias sometimes cracked on the high notes, but his guitar was still at its string-busting best — fuzz-guitar escapades on the frenetic “Top Top,” and an acoustic guitar–guided “A Minha Menina” (“My Girl”) that segued into its English-language version, “She’s My Shoo-Shoo” (from Os Mutantes’ scuttled — and recently reissued — 1970 crossover attempt Tecnicolor). Dias’ brother Arnaldo Baptista inspired his organ to leap, laugh and skip across chords like a kid playing hopscotch. Zélia Duncan admirably stood in for original Mutantes chanteuse Rita Lee — the best Duncan simulacrum was the bossa nova dream “Baby.” Os Mutantes’ only real sin was their closer, “Panit et Circenses,” which ended not with a bang but with steadiness — YouTube the group to see the escalating, head-trembling howler that’s the tune’s proper finish.

Though the Mutants buzzed for just 30 minutes, their legacy lived on in the Thievery Corporation’s sitar-driven electronica and politicized lyrics. As for the Flaming Lips? Best described in phrases: Dozens of Santa Clauses. Dozens of alien girls dressed in green wigs, glittery purple body paint and little else. Flashlights. Streamers. Confetti. Yoshimi. Bassist in skeleton pajamas. Japanese television show featuring kids with meat pasted on their heads. Glo-sticks strung together to create a long loop that crisscrossed the Bowl’s masses. Dozens of big white balloons bouncing through the muggy night. One big one. Evil marionette. Brilliant.

—Gustavo Arellano

LA Weekly