Take six contagiously cheerful musicians from Melbourne, Australia, set them up in a studio in Havana where the legendary "Buena Vista Social Club" was recorded and give them the producer who worked on that classic album. Add a touch of Ian Dury and the Blockheads' lyric sass, some good-natured Madness-style ska, and stir in some hip-hop grooves.
The result: the Cat Empire's "Two Shoes," a double-platinum smash in their homeland down under. The catch: The sextet's supercharged fusion of rock, reggae, funk and world music is available in the United States only via an EP on the Velour label. But the full-length "Two Shoes" is due out here in February.
But see the group tonight for bragging rights next year. The hugely popular Aussie act, which regularly sells out much larger venues in other parts of the world, launches a short U.S. tour tonight at the State before heading to New York for a two-night stand at a circus-style venue known as the Spiegeltent.
The Cat Empire began as a trio in late 1999, with vocalist Felix Riebl on timbales, Oliver McGill on Rhodes keyboards and Ryan Monro on double bass. A year later, Harry James Angus joined on trumpet and added vocals, and drummer Will Hull-Brown came soon after. The final piece of the puzzle was Jamshid "DJ Jumps" Khadiwala, who brought hip-hop culture into the mix.
The Cat Empire's vigorous free-form shows earned rave reviews alongside jam bands at this year's Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, Tenn., as well as at the artsy Edinburgh, Scotland, festival, where word of mouth built rapidly to sell out crowds by event's end. According to a charming, sample-packed Web site ( http:/
The State is in full flower -- tomorrow and Saturday offer '80s retro dance favorites the Legwarmers, Sunday features the curious guitar hero known as Buckethead, Monday's double bill consists of folk rocker Shawn Mullins and catchy pop rockers the Gin Blossoms, reggae rules on Tuesday with the sound of Steel Pulse, and there's international alt-rock on Wednesday with Norway's Serena Maneesh.
-- MARIANNE MEYER
The State Theatre is at 220 N. Washington St. in Falls Church. Call 703-237-0300 or visithttp:/
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