Show Review: Bonobo @ Emo’s (5.09)

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It’s a rare event these days when standing near the rear of venue, and realizing that it’s the best spot in the house. Such an exception took place last Thursday at Emo’s new venue when Simon Green (aka Bonobo) rode into town touting his latest 6-piece live band. Follow the jump for more from the show.

This being my inaugural voyage to the damn near wayward-east venue (self-proclaimed Western Austinite here), I was shocked first at the venues lack of parking. Luckily after a few laps, I found a relatively close spot and headed in for my pass and was thrilled to see the show completely sold out. As of 5:00 tickets were still available  which was similar to the last couple times Bonobo came through town. Apparently his fans tend to procrastinate. Regardless, joyously strolling through the flocks of obviously dis-heartened souls who waited too long to get a pair, the will call line was quick and staff was friendly in an otherwise raucous, dis-shoveled atmosphere.

When I arrived inside El Ten Eleven was just beginning their space-rock jam set and the crowd was beginning to warm up to the duo’s extended cuts with strong electro-wave feedback and bass.  Hailing from Los Angeles, Kristian Dunn and Tim Fogarty showed no remorse on the somewhat sleepy crowd, many of whom were vaguely aware an opener was lined up for the evening. Dunn slammed his double necked guitar while his counterpart dazzled the audience with his unorthodox percussive styling  where at one point he dropped to his knees in front of Dunn and played the bass with his drum sticks. All in all, it was a fitting opener for one of the most musically solid touring companies in Bonobo. I will certainly keep an eye on what’s next for ETE in the near future.

After a short break, Green arrived on stage backed by an array of spinning 6′ tall lights amongst a massive LED wall. Quickly he introduced the beckoning crowd to his latest LP, the North Borders, first single ‘Cirrus’ with it’s hypnotic percussion as one by one, members of the band filled in the remaining spots on stage. It is a fitting entry to the performance as Green is certainly one of the most skilled composers at adding layers to a bare track.  This emergence of the members was surely symbolic as much as it was practical given how the opening track lends itself to this layering effect.

Throughout the evening this continual shifting of band members moving on stage and off provided Green the ability to highlight different aspects of his touring band’s strong points including an extended drum and woodwind solos, though this reviewer is finding it difficult to give credit where credit is due. (Come on Green, publish who you are touring with). Szjerdene is the latest gem pulled from a seemingly never-ending source of talented leading ladies (joining Baijka, Andreya Triana) to lead the group in vocals. Szjerdene’s vocals fall in a lower range than those of her predecessors which provided a much darker tone over all to classics ‘Days to Come’ and ‘Stay the Same’ from those aforementioned, respectively. Overall, the setlist comprised mostly of tracks from the latest LP, including the second single, ‘First Fires’, and the instant classic Black Sands from 2010, including  the double-punch alliteration of ‘Kiara’ and ‘Kong’. Classics such as ‘Ketto’, ‘Noctuary’, and ‘Recurring’ made re-appearances to the already satiated audience, and just nearly half-way through the gig, the back of the venue had slowly emerged into a vast, pulsating dance floor. Ending the damn near perfect set were new gems, ‘Emkay’ and ‘Know You’, which only made the audience beg for more. Fittingly it was about this time that I noticed a few couples around me getting rather intimate. It was obvious that some were not going wait for the Encore to make their move. Something about Green’s music just seems to bring people together.

After a short break, the group reemerged with a great rendition of ‘The Keeper’ before slowing things down for the closer ‘Pieces’. Though the album version featured Cornelia on vocals, Szjerdene continued to impress me with her versatility. With the final beat of the night, the audience awoke from it’s beat-infused dance stupor only to rush the merch table. It’s good to see artists get such a fantastic immediate response to a performance, and one that this Bonobo veteran certainly saw coming. Into the cool, rain-drenched evening we went as the faint bass line followed our footsteps. Something about how Green creates his tracks leads the listener into reliving the experiences far beyond the show door. I can only hope this sentiment trailed the few young couples home as well.

Sketches of the performance below:

-j

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