20 Watts

Rubblebucket at The Bell House by cweeks88

Dancing the night away

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The lounge and bar area of Brooklyn’s The Bell House had less people sitting on the stools and chilling on their couches Friday, August 7, than usual. Instead, most of the people were in the back venue listening to some extraordinary live jams while chowing on waffles (Funk ‘n’ Waffles that is).

By a quarter to midnight Syracuse’s own Sophistafunk had ended their high energy performance that included a guest horn section from Utica whose saxophonist was especially feeling the groove. They blew the audience away with her insane improvisations. After such a finale it was hard to see how anything could follow up such a tour de force. Yet based on this writer’s experience, Rubblebucket Orchestra (or Rubblebucket—as they seem to be calling themselves now) have developed reputation of always miraculously exceeding expectations as they did in this show.

The way they entered the stage at The Bell House was uncharacteristically low-key, as the nine-piece band simply walked on stage by midnight and put their instruments on. My encounter before, with Rubblebucket was much different. It was at Syracuse’s Funk n Waffles and the show started with lead band members Alex Toth and Kalmia Traver entering from the front door — with a confident swagger that personified cool as they blew into their respective instruments and banged on a bucket, heading toward the stage and jamming into their first number as if it were nothing.

Despite their more modest demeanor this time around, they more than made up for it by breaking into an amazing opener entitled “Afro 5.” In this new song, bandleader/trumpet player Alex Toth drove the heavy rhythm by banging on a tom-tom drum in a style that channeled Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief classic “There, There.”

What soon followed was a rendition of their debut-album track “World is Gonna Drown” which took a darker and more intense tone than what was heard on Rose’s Dream. This was the first evidence of the night that, after tireless touring, Rubblebucket have developed already well-done songs into performances that can blow away year-old original recordings.

This was also evident in their fourth number, the classic “Kuma,” which was played an even more powerful and fierce horn section — as well as a more harmonized call-and-response part to “Who shot your leg down” than what’s on the studio recording. Touring has clearly made them a tighter and more entertaining band.

Although there were brilliant and well-revised renditions of their older songs, this show was more about getting the audience ready for their upcoming album Rubblebucket. Ten out of the 15 tracks performed were new and all of them showed how the band had been influenced by timeless artists — yet are crafting their own distinctive sound out of those influences. Their third number “Time” has a guitar riff which sounds as if you could find it off of “Thriller,” while another song “Landing” is led by keyboards that sound similar to Depeche Mode.

Nevertheless, as the show ended, Rubblebucket didn’t fail to do their trademark routine. Towards their last song, trombonist Adam Dotson and trumpeter Alex Toth walked off the stage and into the crowd where they ran around and battled each other with their respective instruments. All while the audience surrounded these seemingly possessed musicians doing what they do best in amping up a crowd and putting on a spectacular finale.

Look out for these guys on their upcoming Northeast tour that’s going on in the coming months — especially at Funk n Waffles September 5 where you’ll find me among the many dancing and jamming away.

— Story and Photos by Charlie Weeks

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