Review / photos: Bonobo redefines the DJ show at Crowbar in Ybor City
There's one thing I really never did understand about seeing DJs live: No matter how technically proficient a mixer may be, no matter how complex and catchy their creations sound, it's really not all that interesting to watch someone onstage with a couple blacktops, a keyboard and a soundboard.
Enter Ninja Tune's Simon Green, better known to the surprisingly dense Sunday night crowd at Crowbar as Bonobo.
On tour to promote his fourth full-length album, Black Sands, Green brought a few friends with him -- a guitarist, a drummer, an electronics man, a keyboardist, a woodwinds player, and most notably, Brighton vocalist Andreya Triana -- to fill Crowbars tiny stage with what could only be described as a modern-day jazzy soul septet. And here I thought this was going to just be another head-nodder.
Opener Tokimonsta filled that bill, bringing Suzi Analogue (with whom the DJ formerly also known as Jennifer Lee collaborates for their Analogue Monsta tracks) for a technically complex but decidedly minor spectacle. Analogue sometimes sang with her own backing vocals as Lee twiddled, eyes glued to her laptop.
Tokimonsta is part of the Brainfeeder label, so if Flying Lotus thinks she has the chops, she does. There was no question whose show it was, as Lee mostly seemed oblivious to Suzi's presence. It seems much of the crowd felt the same way.
Green had no intentions of boring the crowd. Since his Animal Magic days on Tru Thoughts, the 34-year-old has continued to develop his production skills. His famous linear layering methods have grown to the point that he seems at first glance to be a minor player in his own music, manning the electronics or playing his own lines on a real electric bass. Careful observation reveals that he's still the conductor, and he constantly pushed the freight train that is his stage show harder and faster.
Working through the popular cut Flutter on his way to introducing Triana, woodwind master Mike Lesage proved his chops, switching between flute, alto and soprano saxophones and clarinet through Triana's songs Eyesdown, The Keeper and Stay the Same. Drummer Jack Baker and guitarist Ewan Wallace joined in to create what you want to hear in a DJ show: The actual music, being played in front of you.
The final ingredient to Bonobo's success was the crowd, who wedged onto Crowbar's floor after standing in a line down that was down the block at 9:30 p.m. They knew songs like Kong and El Toro, and they knew having Brighton's best in Ybor was a treat.
Green himself even noted it was his first performance in Florida (solo, that is; his band was at last week's Bear Creek Music Festival in Live Oak) and he was impressed with the crowd. He promised to return, and return soon, which may have been the best part of the entire show.
-- Review and photos by Joshua Gillin/tbt*
More photos: That's Simon Green on bass above and below. He's on the laptops on the third image. That's Tokimonsta and Suzi Analogue at the bottom.