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The Cat Empire

Australia's New Heroes

The first time I saw The Cat Empire was at the Vancouver International Jazz Fest in 2007. They had a concert the night before that I couldn’t attend. But I went to all the free street concerts the following day. To close out the festival, there’s always a mystery band and that year it was The Cat Empire.

As a volunteer for the festival (as well as a music fan) I always see a lot of great concerts, but it’s rare for me to see a band I’ve never listened to before that completely blows me away. Well, The Cat Empire is just that kind of band. The have the uncommon quality of being both great musicians and great songwriters.

Though they were playing Jazz Fest, you can’t really call them a jazz group, despite their obvious jazz chops. They are best described as world music and more specifically, a mix of Latin music, reggae, ska, jazz, rock and even hip-hop. They have no guitar, but a solid lineup of two lead vocalists, trumpet, keyboard, bass and drums.

Their first international release, the one they were touring in support of when I first saw them, is called Two Shoes. It’s a very solid album that contains some of their catchiest songs. They followed up Two Shoes with a few more decent albums, but then just last year they released Cinema, which may be their best album yet.

They are hugely popular in their native Australia and have been making inroads in the U.S. festival circuit. Also, after their successful debut at the Vancouver Jazz Fest they do regular tours of Canada and always hit up Vancouver.

The last time I saw The Cat Empire in 2009 was one of the most unique musical experiences of my life. I’ve seen a lot of bands multiple times, but I was completely amazed that although they blew me away the first and second times I saw them, the third time they were so much better than before. I guess that constant worldwide touring and an open musical mind can really pay off.

I urge you to check out this stellar group. We have to encourage them to come to North America as much as possible.