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From the Magazine: Tower of Song

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” isn’t just an Oscar-winning movie. It also describes Victoria Cardona’s approach to live performance.

Taking to the stage in ripped jeans for a gig this past February at The Square in West Palm Beach, Cardona played every instrument in her elaborate setup of three guitars, a handful of percussion instruments she calls her “toys,” and, most crucially, the six effects pedals at her feet. These allowed her to record and then loop her rhythms live, creating a layered, metronomic groove out of whole cloth.

Pick your metaphor: Cardona is at once an architect, building a song brick by sonic brick—a bass line, then a cowbell, then a shaker, then her electric guitar—and a plate-spinner from some old vaudeville routine, ensuring every element in her arsenal is in motion at the same time. On top of it all, she sings.

Fastidious about every sound that reverberates from her stage, she has this balancing act down to a science. “You stack phrases upon themselves; it’s what a producer would do, but in a live setting—with no chance of erasing what you just put down,” she says. “The trickiest thing is the timing, and making sure that you start on the beat and stop on the beat, because otherwise it’s this wash of messy things that don’t align.”

A Wellington resident, Cardona has been honing her one-woman-band aesthetic for a decade, adopting a relentless performance schedule. She gigs about four nights a week at venues from Boca Raton (The Waterstone and Broken Sound Club among them) to Hobe Sound, performing sets that can span four hours. (She maintains an active calendar at victoriacardona.com.)

As for the material, it’s a reflection of her wide-ranging tastes, skill set and heritage. A first-generation U.S. native from a family of Cuban immigrants, she sings in Spanish and English, and the music of Havana, as much as the free improvisation of her favorite jam bands, permeates her sets. “My influences are all over the place, and that’s something that I think widens my audience, because I’m musically ADD,” she says. “I go from blues and jazz to Afro-Cuban to soul and R&B, just everything.”

At The Square, her set included Bill Withers’ “Just the Two of Us,” Men at Work’s “Land Down Under,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” with her versions often nominally resembling the originals. This is another of Cardona’s gifts: bringing a fresh ear to familiar cuts, prompting us to hear them in a new way.

Cardona’s repertoire for her solo project includes some 200 songs. Ultimately, though, her ambitions exceed playing covers, no matter how imaginatively she interprets them. She holds a B.A. in Music Composition from the McNally Smith College of Music in Minnesota, and harbors a desire to score movie soundtracks. And she’s begun writing original music for her forthcoming debut album, which, owing to a connection she struck at one of her shows, features an A-list backing band: pianist Bill Payne of Little Feat; bassist Jimmy Haslip, formerly of the Yellowjackets; and veteran Latin percussionist Jimmy Branly. These veteran musicians have been contributing their parts remotely, but Cardona expects to fly out to Los Angeles to achieve the immediacy of live-in-studio playing.

She hopes to tour the project after the album is released; she already has captured an audience in Europe, particularly in places like Majorca, Spain and the Canary Islands. In the meantime, she’ll continue to pop up at a club or a bar or a hotel near you—hitting every note of every instrument, and living the dream of a full-time musician.

“I’m at work every day, whether it’s rehearsing or promoting or creating flyers or the recording aspect of it,” she says. “It’s a constant thing, but it’s my favorite thing in the world, and I can’t imagine what I’d be doing with my time otherwise.”

This article is from the May/June 2023 issue of Boca magazine. For more like this, click here to subscribe to the magazine.

John Thomason
John Thomason
As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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