Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Grupo Fantasma and Bomba Estereo / April 16, 2013 / Stuart's Opera House

By: Nick Rose, Contributor

“I haven’t been this excited for a show at Stuart’s in a long time” says the stage manager to a wanting crowd all warmed up by DJ Self Help.

Soon, songs explode: a three-piece horn section belts out frantically--congas, bass and Kino Esparza shouting at the top of his lungs on stage right. Finally, timbales, dos guitarres and a full-on drum kit make this modest opera house feel like a scene out of Havana Nights.

Kineticism—this is the theme of Grupo Fantasma and Bomba Estereo’s double bill yesterday evening at Stuart’s Opera House.

Fantasma opened up the night in style. This latin funk orchestra has an organic sound where the rawness of James Brown intersects with traditional cumbia rhythms and Santana-like melodies making for a frenetic pace to their music that burns down the house.

In fact, when Grupo Fantasma played their Latin-funkified interpretation of the Talking Heads classic “Burning Down the House,” they had the audience in the pocket. Even if the cats in the pit didn’t grab how to dance to the beat at first.

Southeast Ohio isn’t a world music Mecca. There is this roots vibe that’s hard to shake at the beginning because Latin music is different from bluegrass. The rhythms, instrumentation and melody are worlds apart and it was hard to find something to relate to. Especially when melody and harmony disappeared for over an hour during the Fantasmo set alone.

Plus there is a lot of clutter in this band’s music. It’s hard to manage 10 musicians playing 10 instruments at one volume—loud. Grupo Fantasmo brought the party, but, like a bad date, it missed a connection building intimacy with the audience. Even so, they still killed it and there’s something to be said for an opening act that gets called back for an encore. That is the stuff of legends.

As Fantasmo was a party in the streets, Bomba Estereo took it to the discotheque. Its beat driven electronica sound emitted a very intimate club feel, but it’s the band’s frontwoman Liliana Saumet that sells it. She’s got spunk that transcends any language barrier and when she screams the audience screams back willingly.

Mood lighting, dynamics and a fog machine helped a little, too.

The biggest thing this group has going for it is a deceptive improvised feel. Bomba works like a DJ divided into fours: Simon Mejia and Julian Salazar provide the themes and low end, Kike Egurrola is a human drum machine and Saumet is equal parts hype and vocals. Like a DJ, the band sounds like it's just going with the feel of the moment, but it’s very apparent that every vamp down to the set list is carefully laid out in a way to produce a dramatic and memorable experience.

Bomba flows when they play tracks off their latest release, Elegancia Tropicale. The cumbia-influenced “Caribbean Power” proved a high point as the group wandered into the synth-laid groove built up by Salazar and unleashed with Saumet screaming, “Elegancia Tropicale!” By now, most of the audience found a groove and the Stuart’s pit spilled over with motion.

This wasn’t the case for everyone, unfortunately. A language barrier, lack of distinct melodies and definitive endings seemed to make some of the concert-goers really uncomfortable.

Grupo Fantasma and Bomba Estereo aren’t bands that people see for melodies and distinctive lyrics, though. They’re party bands that make their audiences sweat and that’s pretty cool.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Timeflies and Bailee Moore / April 10, 2013 / Memorial Auditorium

By: Alexis Evans, Contributor
Photo Credit: Michael Pronzato (The Post)

Fashionably late or just desperately trying to avoid suffering through Bailee Moore's “White Girl Raps Fast” opening act, me and my crew of ladies stumbled up the steps of Mem Aud over an hour late. Spare refreshments wedged between my lady lumps, it’s only a matter of a ticket check, opening of clutch, and a quick tear and I’m in.

The mix of sweat and cheap Victoria’s Secret perfume wafted through the doors, as we saw a sea of girls dressed in bandos, mini skirts and wedges chanting along to the EDM intro “Timeflies! Timeflies! Timeflies!”

But really we all know nobody really cares about Timeflies. You see these ladies heated up their curling irons for one thing and one thing only: Cal Shapiro, a Jewish hunk of man, who’s possibly too attractive (if there even is such a thing) with his white smile, gelled locks and adult Justin Bieber lips. It’s only an added bonus he can sing.

The enormity of the stage almost swallowed up the duo up as they took the stage, but luckily the constant assault of flashing neon lights was enough of distraction. Warning: Don’t bring your epileptic friend. Concert could induce seizures.

Only a true Timeflies fan could appreciate the set list. A perfect mix of mixtape faves, Timeflies’ Tuesday YouTube covers and of course their hit singles “Swoon” and “I Choose You." Sly Cal had a lil' something up his sleeve, though. Armed with a white sheet of paper, he busted out one of his famous freestyles, but better. This baby was an OU edition. The audience roared every time Shapiro referenced something specific to our homey Appalachian nook, such as: OU Crushes, Tony’s Hot Nut, Strouds and Fugitive Fest.

After pretending to end the show, Timeflies retook the stage conveniently finding their most popular songs still left to play, and alas, the true end to the show. There was nothing left for me to do but capture one last duckfaced Snapchat and head to the bars, all the while thinking of all the dirty things I’d do if to Cal if I just so happened to casually bump into him on Court Street.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

ACRN Birthday Bash / April 4, 2013 / The Union

By: Xavier Veccia, Staff Writer

Thanks a lot, Mom.

What do you mean why am I being snippy with you? You know damn well why. You never throw me any good birthday parties! I mean, pin the tail on the donkey? That's some baby stuff. You know what ACRN had at their party? Freaking indie bands! Where's my indie bands, huh, Mom?

One of them, The Saturday Giant, even did a cover of “Gangsta's Paradise” and “Where is My Mind?” And all I get is grandma singing me “Happy Birthday” on the phone. Off pitch, too, might I add.

And it was at The Union. There were a bunch of people there, just fooling around and having a good time. That's much better than our moldy basement and my cousin with the sticky hands.

Oh, and ACRN even had a dance party. Overwaves a.ka. Kyle Rutherford a.k.a. “The Mixologist” a.k.a. The Mr. 11Fest runner-runner-runner-up played a killer set while a bunch of drunk people danced the night away. And no, Mom, the chicken dance doesn't count as dancing the night away.

You know what, I'm just going to live with ACRN from now on. They know how to party. Unlike you, Mom.