The phrase Cibo Matto means “crazy food” in Italian, so I guess you could say I’m matto for this NYC-based duo... uh, actually, don’t say that.
But, I couldn’t have been more excited for this show: I was obsessed with the band during their ’90s heyday, and when they went on hiatus in 2002, I thought I had missed my chance to ever see them live. Thankfully, their first new album in fifteen years, Hotel Valentine, got them back on the road, and brought their funky, eclectic, hip hop sounds to a sold out room at The Crocodile.
Kicking off the show was another duo, Brooklyn’s Salt Cathedral, featuring Columbia-born musician Nicolas Losada and Juliana Ronderos on vocals. Using samplers supplemented by guitar, the two created an ethereal electronic sound, punctuated by the Björk-like vocals of Ronderos.
At one point, Losada broke a guitar string, and Ronderos (who, incidentally, has the longest rattail I’ve seen since moving away from Texas) found herself flustered in front of a rowdy Saturday night Belltown crowd yelling for jokes or some kind-of amusement. So, she belted out a song in her native tongue, a capella, and I found myself kinda wishing they’d sing all their songs in Spanish so I could introduce them to DJ Chilly for El Sonido.
Cibo Matto then took the stage in front of an incredibly enthusiastic crowd. Coincidentally, I had just been reading about the “normcore” fashion trend, and then vocalist Miho Hatori shows up in khaki pants and a Dad shirt. The girl has wicked swagger that shines through no matter what she wears. I wish she’d get more props for her speedy rap breaks and the impressive range of her voice -- I especially love the elasticity on the Hotel Valentine track “MFN,” which was surprisingly missing from the set list that night.
But I think multi-instrumentalist Yuka Honda might be more of my girl crush, intensified when her Roland DJ-70 had a problem, and she meekly apologized to the audience saying, “I’ve had this keyboard since 1994...” SWOON.
In a fun surprise, former Cibo Matto percussionist Duma Love happens to live in Seattle now and was able to join the band on what looked like a wooden Ibo Drum, and then later, he started to improvise a nostalgic rap about his time with the band. Miho told the audience they hadn’t performed together since a 1999 Bumbershoot set.
They also brought back opening act Salt Cathedral, who were playing their final night of the tour, for the funky world-beat track “10th Floor Ghost Girl.” It was basically just one big party!
The set didn’t veer far from Hotel Valentine, and it was fun to see the studio-produced songs translated for the stage. In fact, dare I say, I actually preferred the live version of “Déjà Vu” to the album version, with Cibo Matto’s touring bassist and drummer chipping in with rhythmic beatboxing and cute yelps.
They dug out the 1996 single “Sugar Water” from their breakthrough debut, Viva! La Woman, but audience members could later be heard grumbling that the set list didn’t include other hits like “Know Your Chicken” and “Birthday Cake.” If I have any complaints, it’s just that the show felt way too short! I had waited 20 years to see them play, and I simply wasn’t ready to check out of Hotel Valentine.