Mardi Gras 2015: Local Gras and a Carnaval Comeback
Samba Police reassemble after 15-year hiatus
By Nina Hernandez,
9:30AM, Fri. Feb. 13, 2015
Austin's best and oldest Mardi Gras tradition, Carnaval Brasileiro, originally hatched by homesick Brazilian exchange students at UT in the mid-Seventies, has been the highlight of the Austin Samba School’s programming for the last 10 years. This year Susanna Sharpe & the Samba Police return to the Carnaval stage, Feb. 28, after a 15-year hiatus.
“The thing that I’ve always loved about doing Carnaval Brasileiro in Austin is that people tend to come to that party really ready to let go and have a great time, and are very open as a result. So to be that person onstage, to see that mood of joy and of fun and of maybe something a little different than you’re used to – and I don’t know, irreverence – has always been really a joy to me,” Sharpe says, from her office at UT. “It’s sort of the height of entertaining to get to be onstage with a bunch of people in costume, running around. There are all kinds of people in that audience. There’s all different ages, there’s all different walks of life. Some are curious; some know exactly what it is. Some are Brazilian, most are not. And to just kind of get to be standing up there and trying to make them all have fun is quite exciting.”
Sharpe & the Samba Police sketched out a world scene at the height of Austin blues mania, and presided over the Brazilian Mardi Gras from 1988 until 2000. Carnaval’s promoter decided to go in a different direction, and at the time Sharpe was raising two small children. Fifteen years later, she was able to reassemble most of the original, mid-Eighties band.
“Many years ago when I was in college, I already had a love for Latin America and Latin American music, but I wasn’t as familiar with Brazilian music. And somebody gave me an LP of Brazilian music, and I kind of opened my eyes and said, ‘Whaaat?’ I just loved it. I really fell in love with Brazilian music and, through that, with the Portuguese language.”
“It kind of resonated with some part of me because Brazilian music combines beautiful lyrics, a gorgeous language, interesting kinds of harmonies, and amazing percussion and rhythms that aren’t all one. In different parts of Brazil you have different rhythms that prevail, and so it’s never boring, and it’s more than just one dance or one rhythm. It’s the kind of thing that you can listen to it your whole life and you never feel like you’ve heard everything. We’re getting together and playing this stuff, and we have a long history together. We’re enjoying being together again. We laugh about these songs because we’re reprising music we did many years ago, and we just have a smile on our face when we rehearse because it brings back a lot of fun memories for us.”
HOW AUSTIN ROLLS: MORE MARDI GRAS FUN
We may not have one unified tradition on the day proper, but Austin still brings the fat.
FRIDAY, FEB. 13
CHAIN DRIVE MARDI GRAS 10pm-2am. Chain Drive, 84 East Ave. Free.
SATURDAY, FEB. 14
THE SECRET SOCIETY BALL: LA BELLE ÉPOQUE 9pm. Swan Dive, 615 Red River.
SUNDAY, FEB. 15
VALENTINE'S DAY MARDI GRAS AFRICA NIGHT PARTY 9:30pm. The Sahara Lounge, 1413 Webberville. Free.
SUN.-TUE., FEB. 15-17
PINBALLZ PARTY GRAS 12pm-12am. Pinballz Arcade, 8940 Research #100, Free.
PINBALLZ KINGDOM PARTY GRAS 12pm-12am. Pinballz Kingdom, 15201 I-35 S., Buda. Free.
TUESDAY, FEB. 17
OPAL DIVINE'S MARDI GRAS 12-2pm and 6:30-9:30pm. Opal Divine's Marina, 12709 N. MoPac. 512/733-5353. Free.
FAT TUESDAY PANCAKE DINNER 6-8pm. Kyle United Methodist Church, 408 W. Lockhart St., Kyle, 512/268-2331. $5.
FAT TUESDAY LIVE MUSIC AT EVANGELINE 6-8pm. Evangeline Cafe, 8106 Brodie, 512/282-2526.
JEAN PIERRE & THE ZYDECO ANGELS 6:30pm. Cypress Grill, 4404 W. Wm. Cannon, 512-358-7474.
MARDI GRAS WITH BBQ REVOLUTION AND BISTRO VONISH 7-9pm. BBQ Revolution, 3111 Manor Rd. Free.
FAT TUESDAY AT THE SAHARA 8pm. The Sahara Lounge, 1413 Webberville. $7.
FOREPLAY MARDI GRAS Come meet the new queens of reign … we mean Rain, and the every-Tuesday event, Foreplay. It's Mardi Gras: Show 'em if you got 'em, and you might get some beads. 10pm-12mid. Rain on 4th, 217 W. Fourth. Free.
KREWE OF GLITORIS – FAT TUEZGAYZ 10pm-2am. Barbarella, 615 Red River. Free.
SATURDAY, FEB. 21
DR. JOHN LIVE Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress, 512/474-1221.
Stay tuned as our Mardi Gras 2015 series continues! Check out more in the series, and dig through posts from previous years at austinchronicle.com/daily.