The most revealing moment of the Metá Metá’s show at Battersea Arts Centre emerged around their setlist’s third track. At that point, the crowd was already ecstatic, fuelled by the São Paulo’s quintet’s galvanising presence at this year’s Borderless Festival.
The raucous track – titled “Angoulême” – began with a frenetic saxophone display by Thiago França. The audience, mainly crowded by Brazilian expats, reacted earnestly, seemingly knowing what’s about to come. The sound evolved intensely, becoming chaotic: Juçara Marçal’s vigorous voice enchanting the room; Sergio Machado killing it with a furious drum line; and Marcelo Cabral fiddling the riotous song through his meticulous electric bass treatment.
The crowd went wild with some head-banging over the punkish rhythm, some jumping and others simply swaying. But the mood suddenly changed, turned hypnotic. By the end of the hook, all instruments went silent as guitarist Kiko Dinnuci loosely dabbled his synths, filling the Council Room with a psychedelic sound closely resembling a radio transmission from an otherworldly dimension. Marçal followed with vicious howls as all eyes turned to her majestic performance. The room fell still, the audience idling in awe. This went on for at least a whole minute, seemingly endless, yet strangely magnetising. The track eventually picked up its pace again, only to rapidly end with a noisy, electrifying amalgam of instruments. The audience broke in loud cheers and hoots. It was glorious.
“Angoulême”’s performance was a perfect embodiment of the evening’s fiery showcase. The track features in Metá Metá’s third album, ‘MM3’, which was released in August and premiered live in London for the first time. The project is immersed in a sense of urgency, influenced by Brazil’s tumultuous political and social landscape, so it’s blazing in itself. In-between tracks, the crowd shouted intermittently “Fora Temer”, invoking the recent assault to power against President Dilma Rousseff by a conservative coalition ruled by Michel Temer. The coup unfolded over the past few months and spurred clashes nearly every day in São Paulo. According to the band, ‘MM3’’s studio sessions wrapped in only three days, soaking in its rebellious, anxious tone directly from the country’s current emotions.
Yielding strong vibes, ‘MM3’s compositions worked brilliantly on stage. Besides “Angoulême”, “Imagem do Amor” stood out from the set – an outburst of free jazz blended with punk explosions highlighting the band’s experimental journeys. “Angolana”, soothing, rolling closer to the band’s Afro-Brazilian roots, performed the mood inflection that makes ‘MM3’ so unsettling. “Corpo Vão” built up its tempo over a dialogue between the saxophone and the drums. And “Toque Certeiro” got the crowd jumping and dancing to Metá Metá’s distinctive samba sujo – an ominous, unruly mixture of jazz and punk with Brazilian rhythms. On stage, the group were short on interaction with the audience but the dialogue with the crowd happened almost exclusively through their sound. Either way, everybody was upbeat: they were witnessing some of São Paulo’s most revered musicians on stage, despite being so far from their homeland. This evening held a special meaning for most of the crowd.
The band also forayed into some hyped up tracks from their second album, ‘MetaL MetaL’ (2011), a project distancing itself considerably from ‘MM3’ by counterbalancing the former’s tense ambient with dance-infused, Yoruba-spirited songs such as “Rainha das Cabeças” and “São Jorge”. The Yoruba culture is very present in Brazil and has been Metá Metá’s stem since its foundation. Moreover, for its opening act, the band brought the all-female collective Let Drum Beat, which fuses Latin influences with Yoruba and Afro-Brazilian heritages. It was on-point to pump the crowd with traditional echoes and percussions.
Samba and Brazilian rhythms wound up the evening, the dancefloor untamed. Metá Metá’s performance proved why the band is at the forefront of São Paulo’s unique dirty samba ensemble – a genre hailing global praises, notably since the release in 2015 of Elza Soares impressive “A Mulher do Fim do Mundo”. For Borderless Festival’s left-field outlines, Metá Metá’s outlandish constructions and socially conscious messages fitted all-too-well.