Set in a future where humanity has destroyed and abandoned the Earth to colonize the solar system, Cowboy Bebop follows a crew of bounty hunters who struggle to survive a broken universe. Constantly broke and in search of their next paycheck, each crewmember of the spaceship Bebop is also attempting to escape from a checkered past. Easygoing, kung fu-fighting Spike is a former triad assassin searching the stars for an old flame. Glamorous con artist Faye is an amnesiac on the run from debt collectors. Jet, the crew's voice of reason, is an ex-cop haunted by old cases. And teenage hacker Ed is, well, kind of just along for the ride.
Combining noir, comedy, and space western into a wildly compelling genre stew with an unforgettable story, Shinichiro Watanabe's 26-episode anime has become a massive phenomenon in America. That's in no small part to its music, which is just as beautifully mixed up. Composer Yoko Kanno assembled a band, the Seat Belts, to create the show's signature blend of jazz, reggae, rock, blues, world music, and more. The soundtrack is almost as iconic as the show itself, and soon, South Florida Beboppers will be able to hear it live, thanks to the folks at Florida Supercon.
Landing at the Miami Beach Bandshell on Saturday, July 1, Cowboy Bebop Live Tribute seeks to immerse fans into the music of Bebop by playing it live with a big band consisting of 22 musicians, vocalists, and a thematic light show. Attendees can get closer than ever to the animated world of Bebop and its iconic songs, including "Tank!" and "The Real Folk Blues."
The tribute looks to be similar to a lot of nerd-culture musical events — entire orchestras are assembled to tour the world to play music from The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and so on, sometimes even recruiting famous conducting talent like Lydia Tár. A jazz band makes much more sense for Kanno's unconventional anime soundtrack, however.
Cowboy Bebop Live Tribute first premiered in 2019 in Cali, Colombia, and has toured throughout South America. And from the looks of it, the Miami Beach show is its U.S. debut. The show is being thrown as part of Florida Supercon, taking place at the Miami Beach Convention Center from June 30-July 2. South Florida's largest nerd culture convocation will feature plenty of celebrity guests, including original Power Rangers star Austin St. John, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel actor Charisma Carpenter, podcaster Travis McElroy, and the cast of Shazam, including anti-vaxxer star Zachary Levi. Plenty of anime voice talent will be on deck, including cast members from Chainsaw Man, Naruto, Jujutsu Kaisen, My Hero Academia, and more.
It's hard to overestimate the impact Bebop has had outside its home country. The show was a critical success in Japan when it originally aired in 1998, but that's nothing compared to the second life it has had in the U.S. It was picked up by Cartoon Network's Adult Swim in 2001, re-airing the show almost continuously ever since. Thanks to those successive reruns and a truly superlative English dub, the show is regarded as one of the greatest anime ever. Critics have praised the show, with one declaring that it "predicted the millennial experience" with its depiction of a futuristic society dominated by financial hardship. Hollywood filmmakers like Rian Johnson and Denis Villeneuve have cribbed from it, as did Joss Whedon for his short-lived show Firefly. It remains an essential gateway for all anime fans, even after a poorly received Netflix adaptation. This live tribute may not send you into the stars, but you may feel like it does.
See you, space cowboy.
Cowboy Bebop Live Tribute. 9 p.m. Saturday, July 1, at Miami Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-453-2897; miamibeachbandshell.com. Tickets cost $66.95 via miamibeachbandshell.com.