Archive for the ‘Funk’ Category

I think it was WFUV’s Russ Borris who first played Ibibio Sound Machine on the radio on my way to work, and I was instantly hooked.  Their fourth album, called Electricity, is an infectious mix of African percussion with electronic keys and horns for days.  It’s like Afrobeat dance punk, and it’s stunning.  Their latest album was produced by dance titans Hot Chip, who are beloved in New York and are basically cousins of hometown heroes LCD Soundsystem.  Everyone in this room would have these three on the same playlist, which made me a little irritated that Brooklyn Bowl wasn’t packed to the gills with heads the way I have seen this venue before.  This is the party.  Imagine missing this.  Nonetheless, there was a respectably sized crowd of eclectics, so I didn’t feel too bad. 

The show opened with a DJ set from Sinkane.  His music was a delicious mix of Afrobeats and funk/soul rhythms I hadn’t heard before.  I’m not usually keen on DJ sets in general because I don’t want to watch people standing behind their setups twiddling knobs and buttons – I watch Star Trek for that.  But Sinkane was actually engaging to watch.  He is as into the music he’s playing as anyone in the crowd would be, and he grooves like every minute of sound he twists and twiddles is an opportunity not to be wasted – a thought given extra weight by his ominous tee shirt that shouted “HEAVEN HELP US” in bold colors.  Dancing now is surviving Now.  The crowd swings smiles and arms around a loose floor.  One crowd-goer, I thought, was doing her whole Zumba routine.  Oh, to have that stamina.

Lights go dark, and the crowd turns forward expectantly as deep tones flood the floor.  Ibibio Sound Machine descend to the stage.  They are a gorgeous set of performers in colorful printed patterns and geometric embroidery.  Frontwoman and vocalist Eno Williams was a dream in marigold yellow, draped in layers of fabric from her powerful epaulettes, and belted, like the jumpsuit of an Afrofuturist super saiyan.  Medallions dangle from her crown of braided hair.  She is utterly, unbelievably, beautiful.  

They eased in with “Electricity,” a perfect opener that washes away the “big big English/big big grammar” of the world’s nonsense.  It grows in layers of percussion and synth and envelopes you in the song’s message of love.  That’s when guitarist Alfred Kari Bannerman pulls out an austere-looking Ghanain instrument called a “korego.”  It produces this pure plucking tone that sounds otherworldly in context of Hot Chip style synths and drums.  Bannerman chants with the korego, deepening its thick notes.  Every so often you go to a show and you see a moment of something so uniquely beautiful that you know you will remember it for a very long time.  

We are, like, 3 minutes into the show, and I’m already levitated on rhythm, bless.  

I was perched at the front of the stage beneath Afla Sackey’s drums – Sackey’s face is grinning through his concentration while his hands slap out the rhythms that make my hips twirl.  His hands are a blur during “17 18 19” and I am complete – this is the tune that first hooked me.  At one point Sackey takes the mic and shares how, when he plays, all of his problems disappear.  Yeah, when you play, mine do too, heh.

Eno addresses the crowd with love.  She reveals “Protection From Evil” was written as a ward against Corona before its wobbly electro tones begin the song’s incantation.  Ibibio is a gorgeous language I can only interpret through my hips.  The funk keeps coming.  “I Need You to Be Sweet Like Sugar (Nnge Nte Suka)” and “Afo Ken Doko Mien” give us slower grooves, and Eno gets to use a voice modulator and keys during the most gentle moment of the show.  “Wanna Come Down” and “Wanna See Your Face Again” show her love for the Brooklyn crowd.  At one point, DJ Sinkane and several of the more fabulous looking crowd members joined ISM on stage to smash some percussion.  A flautist named Domenica Fossati, from Brooklyn’s own Underground System, tore into a fiery flute solo while Williams danced in celebration.  

My poor injured feet and aching body.  At one point I held onto the stage’s barriers just so I could keep whipping my aging heft from side to side.  I had had two weeks of several low-key or just plain underwhelming shows, and Ibibio Sound Machine set me alight in the way I needed.  You know you love a band when you can’t stop listening to them, for days on days on days, after seeing them live.  I only wish some snafu hadn’t taken away our opportunity hear soulful anthem “All That You Want” as I was ready to croon along to it.  But it’s no matter, I’m sure the chance will come.  Maybe one day I’ll get to see them in their London home base.  In the mean time, Ibibio’s four albums of bonafide bangers will have to do.

Ibibio Sound Machine are Eno Williams, Afla Sackey, Alfred Bannerman, Winston Blissett, Joseph Amoako, Scott Baylis, Tony Hayden, and Max Grunhard.

Ibibio Sound Machine Instagram ★ Ibibio Sound Machine Bandcamp ★ Ibibio Sound Machine Website

It’s Sunday night.  The rest of New York Shiddy is curling up to watch either football, House of the Dragon, or for more creative potatoes, both at once.  But underneath the scaffolding, amidst perpetually dirty streets and fresh graffiti tags, the family was gathering.  The almighty Fishbone were coming to the conclusion of their small “Fly in the Buttermilk” tour, a familiar term for old Fishbone heads.  Flies in the buttermilk are out of bounds.  They defy limitations and expectations.  As the band says on their Facebook, to be a fly in the buttermilk is “a badge of honor as a band of color in a stereotypical music genre.  Too black for white radio, too rock for black radio.”   It takes guts to be the odd ones out, no matter how radical nor earnest nor unbounded, which draws radical earnest unbounded fans.  Fishbone brought along pop punk outfit Action/Adventure, a band of fellow flies out of Chicago making music only white suburban kids are supposed to make (if you answer to the machine).  Together they made some beautiful noise down at the independent bastion Le Poisson Rouge.

Action/Adventure started the night off with some really solid tunes.  While pop punk isn’t my flavor of tea necessarily, this fivesome rocked pretty good.  Their drummer can put out some beastly clamor.  They sound like they’d be at home on alt-rock radio.  For all of my memories of fakery from pop punk bands two decades ago, these guys had none – they were, frankly, adorable, and mock the ye olde concept of poser-ism in their music and their own brand of hot sauce, Poser Poison.  Even though these guys are clearly playing a genre they love, but aren’t “supposed” to love, they vocally stood firm in their convictions that people can do whatever the hell they want regardless of the continents in their blood.  That’s as punk as it gets.  

Then came Fishbone.  What is there to say about your sixth Fishbone show?  “Sunless Saturday,” “Everyday Sunshine,” “Ma and Pa,” “Servitude,” the classics roll off the tongue.  There were old punks who were-there-when, some from the Chili Peppers tour era, which impressed Angelo and Norwood.  There was new blood too.  I spotted a couple kids in their twenties, and even one youngin’ out well past his bedtime, finding his joy in the morass of whirling bodies.  Go get ‘em, kid.  

Of course there was a pit.  A Fishbone pit is a high impact high velocity hug-a-thon for the seasoned rock kid.  One older pro in a pork pie hat started the surf, and before I knew it, I was holding up Angelo’s thigh while he sweat-dripped Sunshine on our faces.  I took a pit edge position, playing defense for a photographer and trying to keep sturdy against the onslaught.  Of course there were moments the pit took me off my feet, but there was no fear, because this Fishbone pit felt less like elbows and shoulders and more like jumping the waves at the beach.  I must have wrapped my arms around dozens of fellow meatbags, and they around me.  A sea of flies, wing in wing.

It was gorgeous and I am exhausted.  Here are some other thoughts, in no particular order:

  • More women than I have noticed before
  • Sweat
  • HORNS ON HORNS ON HORNS ON HORNS ON HORNS
  • Dr. Madd Vibe laying down poetry
  • Norwood in tie-dye still looking good
  • Happy Birthday Norwood with special guests 
  • Dirty Walt’s very dirty microphone
  • Chris Dowd being a ham 
  • A series of almost comically larger and larger saxophones 
  • Angelo Moore’s delicious asscrack
  • I hope Angelo saw my Thumpasaurus shirt because that would be a mind-blower lineup
  • John Steward keeping rhythms tight
  • Mark Phillips with the shred
  • I don’t know who I took that picture with but I love you too
  • The bartender was cool as hell
  • Family of strangers
  • Fishbone being now and forever red hot

Fishbone Instagram  ★  FishboneLive.org

Action/Adventure Instagram  ★  Action/Adventure Bandcamp

Now this crew puts on a one-of-a-kind show. Hailing from Los Angeles, this five piece has a cult following for their raucous combination of punk and funk, and for good reason – behind the space-punk aesthetic and DIY ethic is otherworldly musicianship. Being that the critical mass of the band is educated in jazz and are prone to inventiveness, their new live album Live at the Echo becomes a whirlwind of genre-bending talent and high energy fun. They know how to yank a person out of their head and onto the Space Barn, where all that matters is sweat, dance, and joy.

Live at the Echo captures their lunacy from the get. Compared to album versions, songs take on faster speeds and add unique musical elements that ensure no live show is ever just “playing the album.” They remind me of the phrase “tight but loose” from Led Zeppelin’s canon. Thump shows give you the sensation that anything can happen. Maybe it’s an otherworldly sax solo on “Alien” that saxophonist Henry Solomon thought of in the moment. Or it could be keyboardist Paul Cornish adding a random classical undercurrent in the middle of “Flamingo Song.” Maybe it’s Logan Kane’s utterly ridiculous bass skills that make me wonder where he’s hiding his extra fingers, because there’s no way he’s doing all that with just the ten. You don’t know what you’re going to get, and sometimes the mix is so brash and unexpected you go the fuck? but only long enough to realize it’s working, and boy aren’t you glad you just experienced something you never experienced before?

And what is life but a series of moments – as a culture of humans watching our own mortality slowly decline on devices that eat away at our consciousness, wouldn’t it be gnarly to be able to experience the unexpected with awesome results for a change? We are a people that desperately need to start living to the beat of Henry Was and his drum kit and his slick kshhhhk kshhhhk bounce. There’s this part on “Space Barn,” you can hear it, where he does this *tibbytibbytap* and it palpates my brain stem. There’s an endless number of spicy little flourishes.

And then there’s Lucas Tamaren. Lucas is a maestro of the crowd’s energy, leading the Space Barn passengers through the highs and lows of the journey through his vocals and guitar. It’s Lucas that is the chief songwriter, so lots of these lyrics and melodies are infused with his comedic sensibility while also being so easy to grasp and relate with emotionally. Songs have this disarming honesty that’s wrapped in self-affirmation and even optimism. And then he fucking screams into the microphone. Because why not? Don’t you just want to scream sometimes, too? His screaming is not abrasive, it’s cathartic, and it’s inflected just right between his speech-singing and random scatting and the occasionally very lovely singing.

If I had to choose, I would suggest music-lovers watch the live video. Firstly, the video allows sixth Thump Ben Benjamin to showcase his essential contributions to the Thump aesthetic in the form of visuals. The show is reframed as a rebellion against the digital lobotomization we’re experiencing as un/willing participants in the soul-deadening metaverse (she says, after losing an hour to useless yet hypnotizing Facebook reels). It turns out rebellion looks a lot like dancing your jiggly ass off and shaking the numbness that bogs us down in the blue screen light. It’s this aspect of the Thumpaverse canon that gets me, because having universal worldwide super-villains lets me see Thumpasaurus as heroic underdogs. Secondly, Lucas is an absolute madman and he never stops. As a front man he is charismatic as hell, and his drag is giving constant face every time he twiddles something glorious on his guitar or delivers a lyric in character. You can also catch members of the band giving each other glances as they whip out new skills, perpetually impressed with each other, as if to say “check this shit out… no check this shit out.” Director Oliver Salk captured all of that electricity.

Keep ears (and eyes) open for a uniquely beautiful version of “Beta Lupi” with Paul Cornish giving it a baroque (the fuck?) accompaniment, and a surprise version of “Lovin’ You” you might otherwise only find if you peruse the deep corners of their Youtube. (That said, go peruse the corners of their YouTube). Live at the Echo is worth 90 minutes of your loosest socks-on-a-hardwood-floor dance energy, and is a proper analogue until the Space Barn sets down in your own neck of the woods.

Live at the Echo (Youtube)Thumpasaurus InstagramLive at the Echo (Spotify)

A big thanks to my buddy Soda for giving me the space to share some tunes with you!

Thumpasaurus greeted the world with their 2018 sensation “Mental Karate,” and now the rest of us will have to spend our lives scouring eBay for hard copies of their brash debut, Book of Thump. Now they’re back with their sophomore effort Thumpaverse, a flavor bomb of dance, punk, funk, and jazz that has Spotify addicted to their sound.

Thumpaverse’s twelve tracks are a journey.  The album opens with “Emotional Pain,” a building tidal wave of funk that hits the peak of falsetto tension before slamming you against the beat.  From there it’s like you’re listening to rest of the album through your hips. Try to stay still when songs like “I’m Pissed” and “Struttin’” cross your eardrums.  These tracks are guaranteed to get your body shakin’ at maximum wiggle and laughing at their ridiculous setups.  But this is not a one-note band – they bob and weave through musical genres with equal parts appreciation and irreverence. Vocalist/Guitarist Lucas Tamaren gives every song a whole different persona. There are no two songs on this album that sound alike, and yet they all THUMP.

These guys are eclectic and often swing in unpredictable directions.  Zeppelin reminiscent “Reaching” weaves delicate instrumentations and tense vocals through a journey until the song literally gives birth to itself. But they can also swing in the entire opposite direction and deliver something folky and sweet like “High School.” Somewhere behind the beat and humor is a kind of emotional self-awareness that can sneak up on you after a few listens, like in “Emotional Pain” or auditory hug “End of the Night.”

Thumpasaurus is a band that is at home in the cosmos (by way of Los Angeles).  But a real ride on the Space Barn can only happen when you see them live.  Fortunately, they recently recorded a live album, an exciting development we hope to see soon.

Buy Thumpaverse on Bandcamp

Thumpasaurus.com

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