Thievery Corporation and The Reminders @ College Street Music Hall, New Haven, CT, 12/14 By Zack Gomez
It was December 14th, 2016. Thievery Corporation was playing at College Street Music Hall. Winter was making its impending presence known. Faced with the prospect of paying for parking, I instead elected to park far away and walk in the cold. I arrived at College Street and got inside just in time to see the tour opener take the stage.
The Reminders, a Colorado-based hip-hop group steeped in roots, soul and electronica, deliver humanist themes of community and family through front-couple Aja Black and Big Samir. They switch fluently between rapping and singing as they trade off bars and verses, Aja effervescently leading the audience in call-and-response segments and Samir performing bilingually in English and French. Backed by Colorado emcee DJ Lazy Eyez,
The Reminders allow their influences to bleed into each other to create feel-good music that avoids being pinned down by a single clear genre label. What is clear, however, is why Thievery Corporation picked them to tour: their stage presence is vibrant and direct, and the two bands project many overlapping themes common to reggae, dancehall and even protest music. The Reminders released their most recent album, Born Champions, in 2012.
Between sets I spoke to Samir and Aja at the merch table and explored College Street Music Hall’s balcony, which had been closed on my last visit.
The balcony is tiered rather steeply, just like much of the main floor, giving everyone a clear, wide view of the stage. I don’t doubt that the roomy field of view was appreciated by many concertgoers that night - I lost count of Thievery Corporation’s performers and crew, who made use of every inch of the stage. The Corporation’s drum kit was placed at stage left, with its usual position at center stage occupied by two DJ risers and microphones for the horn section. At stage right was a veritable laboratory of percussive instruments.
Before too long an army of musicians took the stage and launched directly into “Facing East”. Thievery Corporation is a D.C.-based music collective birthed in the mid-1990s by DJs Rob Garza and Eric Hilton (a noted dining and nightlife entrepreneur). While their defining release, The Richest Man in Babylon, is a smooth, consistent blend of trip-hop, bossa nova, and lounge, they have (both before and since that release) blazed trails into other genres such as reggae, jazz, psychedelia and electronica.
Thievery Corporation is currently wrapping up their 20th anniversary tour, with a stage show featuring performers drawn from across the globe. Vocalists LouLou Ghelichkhani (France, Iran), Sleepy Wonder (Jamaica), Puma Ptah (St. Thomas); bassist Ashish Vyas (Washington, D.C.), and many more artists lend to the group a huge variety of experience, culture, taste and texture that aids Garza and Hilton on their never-ending aural expedition.
I had a blast photographing Thievery, particularly guitarist Rob Myers (who is himself a photographer), and was impressed by both the size and mellow, friendly vibe of the audience they drew. The next landmark on Thievery Corporation’s journey, The Temple of I & I, is scheduled for release in February 2017. Catch them if you can.
Setlist (all abbreviations and shorthand appears as written by band):
If you know me at all, you know I won’t hesitate to spend money on a) food, b) concerts, or c) day trips; especially ones that involve food and concert. So of course I took a train to New York so I could see a handful of my favorite bands at Run for Cover’s Something In The Way Fest.
After trekking nearly two miles in 15 degree weather, watching a friend nearly get hit by a speeding taxi, and being interrogated by security in line about a suspicious-looking water bottle, my group finally made it into Webster Hall. We had decided ahead of time to bounce between the Grand Ballroom, Marlin Room, and Studio so we could see as many of the thirteen bands as possible.
With this in mind, my friends and I made our way upstairs to see Teen Suicide. I was surprised by how quiet and sweet their set was; when I saw them with Elvis Depressedly in Philly, their show involved a lot more yelling and moshing. Sam Ray has a talent for versatility, pulling off both performances from every end of the alt-rock spectrum. Halfway through, we headed to Marlin to see part of Petal’s performance. I’d never listened to their music before and fell in love with the voice of Kiley Lotz. Though it’s rare to find a band signed to Run for Cover with a lead female vocalist, it’s always refreshing.
My friends and I had declared Citizen was one of our Priority Bands, AKA no matter what, we had to make it to their set. Being only five feet tall is both the best and worst thing at shows; it’s usually a con because I constantly take elbows to the face in mosh pits, but on the other hand, I can stealthily sneak to the front of the crowd without obscuring anyone’s view. I was almost at the barrier by the time the band got on stage, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of their live music.
The emotion behind every lyric was just as strong as every time I’d listen to Citizen’s Spotify tracks on shuffle-yes, shuffle; who has money for premium when shows cost so much, amiright? The band mostly played songs off their Youth album, the vocals standing out above all else. Mat Kerekes’ voice being the soundtrack of my first two years of high school, I was honestly awestruck hearing it live and seeing Mat Kerekes in the flesh. My friend talked me into losing my crowd-surfing virginity during The Night I Drove Alone and I’ve never been so grateful for peer pressure.
We decided to get into Marlin as soon as possible so we could get good spots for Our Top Priority Band, the one band none of us had seen live before but were dying to, Turnover. My friend Kayla, a pro at navigating bigger venues, led me through the crowd during MeWithoutYou, a band I hadn’t really listened to before but I got La Dispute vibes from. Once a wave of fans made their way to the exit, we managed to get great spots. Turnover was my personal favorite live performance of the night- their songs sounded practically identical to their studio.
Austin Getz’s voice was just as sweet and sentimental as I expected while he sang every somber lyric. We listened to most of the Peripheral Vision album, which remains one of my favorite indie rock albums because of its melancholic and dreamy sound. We had a ton of fun, even while dodging stage divers (a feat I passed up when I saw Kayla’s swollen thumb from hitting the ground). Turnover’s set was quite possibly my favorite of the night.
My friends and I made it to the center of Grand Ballroom for the final set of the night, Modern Baseball. We had seen them in Allentown, PA in November during their tour with Brand New and The Front Bottoms, and I was excited to finally have floor spots for one of their shows.
Their performance was a perfect mix of their older songs off Sports and You’re Gonna Miss It All, along with the top tracks of Holy Ghost. I was beyond psyched to listen to a Mobo set that lasted longer than fifteen minutes, since the one they played on Brand New’s tour was so short. I enjoyed the pit a little too much. There’s something about being thrown around and decked by a bunch of men twice your size that can’t be explained with anything other than exhilarating.
I left Webster hall soaked with sweat-drenched clothes, busted-up knees, a phone charge of 10%, and not a single regret. It was easily the most fun I've had at a show I’ve been to this year- I’m looking forward to Run for Cover’s next big festival more than anything.
Listen below to the official Bruised Knuckles 2016 holiday playlist.
What we're listening to.