Indeed a though call yesterday at the Highline Ballroom, where the leading (only?) New York City-based Serbian brass band Slavic Soul Party performed a well received show in support of their new CD “Teknocheck Collision” (which I tracked and mixed a few months back at EastSide Sound). Even though I spent a few weeks with them in the studio and they play at the Brooklyn club Barbes every Tuesday, I actually had never made it out to one of their shows, so I am glad I did this time ‘coz I had lots of fun!
SSP is eccentric and tantric and as much into their act as their audience is. The eight-piece parade of instrumentalists jumped around the stage limited uniquely by the position of the microphones. Escaping that rule was the master of ceremonies, conductor and bass drummer Matt Moran, whose clip-on mic afforded him the ability to go bother his band mates and offer visual cues and instructions. Equally mobile but less into mobility was the shy new snare drum and cowbell player, replacing previous percussionist Take (who tragically died a few months ago – R.I.P.). John Carlson and Ben Holmes ripped on their trumpets and made sure the high end was solid and covered while the once-blond Ron Caswell put the low end in the pocket playing his big tuba in his pajamas. The middle grounds are the territory of Jacob Garchik and Brian Drye and their bones/trubas. Last but not least there is the de-facto star of the night and only real true “original” first generation eastern European player Peter Stan, who just loves noodling in all of his accordion’s registers and who midway through the show is joined by his son, affectionately named Repeter, for a gypsy riff battle made of slick licks, cozy father & son love and cocky show offs… people were throwing money at them, and that’s the last thing I’ll say about that. Unfortunately clarinetist Oscar Noriega pulled a no show (literally), which is too bad cause he is a funny cat and perfect complement to Peter’s playing. Also featured on a bunch of songs was singer Eva Salina Primack, who brought her Eastern European flavor to complement the band’s own. I gotta say for being mostly a bunch of gringos they do a pretty damn good job at this!
It is probably fair to say that the real attraction of the night was the crowd. They were totally into it and let themselves be entirely transported by the vibe, bodies and minds! The crowd was very diversified and amongst the unassuming everyday looking people were eccentrics and freaks alike… If to that you add the fact that the members of the opening 25-piece marching band members were circulating and dancing along in their marching band outfits, it really seemed like a scene straight out of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s crazy recording session described by Emerick in his book or scenes from the Coney Island Marmaid Parade or from the opening scenes of the Borat movie. Drunk, high or just completely absorbed by the mood that was set by this music, in the hundreds were tripping on SSP, rubbing their bodies against strangers and dancing around like rubbers… Scenes like that were not new to me, but I must say I had never seen that in the allegedly forward-thinking-yet-really-conservative US of A. I had been to the “Notte della Taranta” once or twice and worked with plenty of Mediterranean and Eastern European bands while I was doing live sound in Italy, however in the US it was new to me and I welcome the freedom of body and spirit that SSP is able to stir up.
SSP is a cult! And their encore set proved that. Once the mics where off and the crowd kept cheering them up, they just all took their instruments and danced around in the crowd while playing a few more tunes, then, while still playing, they slowly retreated backstage with the most die hard of their fans throwing themselves at their feet with hands in the air, on top of each other, in a completely un-choreographed yet worthy of being re-staged show of love and appreciation that looked like a mixture of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and one of Spencer Tunick‘s controversial photo shoots.
I just have one question: where was Zoran?
I missed the other two bands on the bill (Main Squeeze Orchestra and Mucca Pazza) but I heard they were good and that the ydefinitely set the right tone for the headliners.
Check out Slavic Soul Party‘s new record “Teknocheck Collision” and stay tuned for their up-coming remix CD, which will include a remix I did for them of the title track (while they played it, I kept hearing Kenners’ “We want SSP!” in my head!).
One last thing I wanna say is: Highline Ballroom rocks! I had never been there before but it seems to be a great music venue, set up specifically for that, with a good sound system and good lighting. In a city ruined by completely anachronistic Cabaret Laws and majors on power trips, this comes to me as a great and welcome surprise! It almost looks like (or makes me hope that) people are starting to care about (live) music again… We’ll see, I’ll keep my ears (or was it fingers?) crossed!