Rock 'n' roll wasn't what Viva DeConcini had originally sought, but, once converted, she became evangelical.
"Rock 'n' roll speaks to people," says DeConcini, in a call from her home in Brooklyn. "You can't do much new with it, but you can carry the torch!"
DeConcini leads the band that bears her first name. The group is currently a power trio with much of the power coming from DeConcini's electric guitar work. The group (DeConcini, Mary Feaster on bass and Sean Dixon on drums) released "Rhinestones and Rust" earlier this year and have been touring regularly.
DeConcini says she learned how to play violin and guitar while attending "a hippie experimental school" in Arizona.
"We used to do Beatles songs — 'Octopus's Garden,' 'Act Naturally,' 'She Loves You' ..."
But it was something else that really grabbed her attention.
"My parents had the Sergio Mendes and Joao Gilberto record with those bossa novas from the 1960s, and I remember being so taken with that music and trying to play that on guitar."
A teacher helped her along and she remained fascinated with salsa, bossa nova and other South American styles.
DeConcini was 26 and living in San Francisco when she really decided to pursue music.
"I had tried a bunch of other things and realized no matter what you do you're going to run up against a bunch of obstacles that seem insurmountable so I might as well do something I love."
She moved to New York to study jazz and pursue teaching, but within the year she had joined a band called Beat the Donkey (playing percussion) led by Brazillian bandleader Cyro Baptista.
"I'd get with Cyro and I wanted to play all these salsas and that was the last thing he wanted to do! He wanted a rock 'n' roll band. I was affecting his music more and he was affecting rock 'n' roll. So Brazilian music is sort of how I got into rock 'n' roll and then the heavens opened up. It's sort of in your blood!"
DeConcini definitely jumped into the fray with Beat the Donkey.
"Our first show was at the Knitting Factory opening for John Zorn, and Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson were in the audience," says DeConcini.
"With Cyro, I learned what was possible to do on stage and it really opened up my world."
During that time, DeConcini also performed in a punk band, a world music group called Paprika and an all-woman David Bowie cover band "and about a million other things."
One of those "million other things" was a 12-piece band led by Peter Apfelbaum called the New York Hieroglyphics.
That group performed some of DeConcini's original songs. DeConcini formed a smaller group with members of the Hieroglyphics' horn section and performed at the Slipper Room, a burlesque revival theater.
"That really gave me a chance to reinvent myself," says DeConcini. "It was a place where sort of anything goes. You never knew what would happen if you went in there."
That group (which simply took on DeConcini's first name) recorded the album "Rock and Roll Lover" in 2010. When she decided to tour, DeConcini cut the group down to just guitar, bass and drums in order to tour.
She says she loves touring.
"I feel like America is showing me what America is all about," she says.
She says the best experience she's had might be a teenager coming up to her recently after a show.
"He said he'd never felt so open since he was a child while he was dancing with us. That's kind of the brass ring. You want to move people ... I love playing live. You have that real one-on-one experience. It's a very real connection."
And while music may be art, DeConcini says there's another element that she likes just as well.
"Being in a band is more like being on a sports team than being a painter. I tried to do the singer-songwriter thing, but I like being in a band!"
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9
Where: Preservation Pub, 24 Market Square
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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