Oct 052005
Authors: Kate Dzintars

I used to think the bigger the show, the better the band.

I thought wrong.

The Cat Empire, a six-piece band that calls Australia home, disproved my theory Thursday night at The Boulder Theater.

Boulder was the fourth stop on this 16-show tour of America and Canada. The band released their second album, "Two Shoes," in April. Recorded in Cuba, many of the songs have picked up that Latin flavor in the form of a spicy flamenco horn section.

Even though the draw was small, the talent and passion for making music were huge.

The name may sound like a stuffed animal store frequented by grandmas, but this was not your grandparents' jazz.

They somehow seamlessly segued from big band styles and smoky jazz to upbeat reggae and Aussie-style hip-hop.

They jammed for so long, incorporating so many musical styles into one amazing fusion of sound, I don't know how they remembered what song they were playing. But somehow it all fit.

Trumpets don't seem like a cool instrument, but this guy made the trumpet cooler than sliced bagels. Harry James Angus could make more sounds with his instrument and his voice then there are Keystone Light cans in the parking lot of Hughes Stadium after a game. He could rap and scat incredibly fast.

I used to argue with my friends who hated it when their favorite bands got too popular.

"But bigger audiences mean more people appreciated them and they are getting the recognition you think they deserve!" I would say.

"Yeah, but the bigger the audience gets, the dumber the people get," my friend Adam tried to explain to me.

He was right, when a band is small, but has a loyal following, the fans are there for all the right reasons.

Everyone knows the words, but not because they've heard the songs a thousand times on the radio.

They can sing along because they heard one song one time at a random friend's house and searched all over the Internet to find the CD that is only available in Australia and then spun the hell out of it.

At smaller shows, fans dance because they can't help themselves, not to attract a lover.

At one point Thursday night, a girl with blond dreadlocks, who had been dancing wildly all night, jumped up on stage. A security guard got up to escort her off, but ended up doing a little dance with her.

It was a touching moment that could not have happened at a bigger show where there is a barricade of big guys in yellow standing between you, a fence and the "artist."

At big stadium shows, fans are harassed by scalpers, searched like criminals, herded like cattle and thrown into a big sweaty pile of drunks and false fans.

The Cat Empire was a perfect example of a band that could have a huge following, but has not yet been ruined by popularity.

On their Web site, www.thecatempire.com, the band keeps a blog recording their days driving across America in a big maroon bus with a driver who likes to stop at Flying J truck stops. The stories they tell are genuine and interesting. They are real people, not puppets of the recording industry.

This band is one of the best, but shhh, keep it a secret, I don't want them to get too big.

I don't want the empire to grow too large and fall.

Kate Dzintars is a junior technical journalism major. She is the associate managing editor for design and entertainment for the Collegian.

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