Khruangbin – Live – Patterns, 17/6/16

A modern day hippie kindly pays for my beer and walks off before I can thank him, saving my £2.50 blushes. I’ve got a ticket to come see Khruangbin tonight at Patterns.

I get there just in time for them to take to the stage, introducing themselves in a laconic Texas drawl, coaxing the audience even closer with a few hushed words. The opening tune is off their new album, The Universe Smiles Upon You. They take it soft and slow, bringing in sleek motorik rhythms and whispering funk bass. They all look cosmic this evening – drummer, Donald Johnson is suave and never misses a beat – Mark Speer is wearing a suit that looks a little bit like it’s made of shiny leather, and bassist Lolo is wearing something akin to a kimono jumpsuit – they are fascinating visually as well as sonically.
The sizeable crowd seem pretty dedicated and whoop as the band take the third tune’s fever-pitch back down to a quiet storm. The set rolls through wonderfully – the only criticism I could have is that at times it segued together a little too well – you could miss a song for a beer or a smoke and come back none the wiser.

Still, the blissed out jams hit the spot, taking their dues from native Thai funk jams from the 1970s – their name meaning aeroplane in Thai – elements of the Grateful Dead, Gil Scott Heron’s instrumentals and some of Funkadelic’s more laid back moments – especially guitarist Mark Speer who channels Eddie Hazel and Peter Green at their transcendent best. Usually instrumental, every now and then we are treated to some silky psychedelic Motown harmonies cresting on top of the jam. Halfway through the set they request a few empty bottles from the crowd, and proceed to play them with sticks, which the crowd laps up. I don’t know a jam band as fresh and unpretentious around today who exhibit such clean, tasteful musicianship without falling prey to the easy perils of noodle soloing and egotism. They don’t seem to even break a sweat and it’s wonderful. The crowd cries with more enthusiasm with every song, with ‘White Gloves’ especially gaining favour. The last song sounds like a long lost James Brown b-side, complete with a chicken shit country rock solo coming out of nowhere at the end. I’m bowled over; the crowd too have fallen head over heels. Mark tells the crowd to hit it and quit it, and then the band do just that themselves, leaving with no fuss or fanfare to fervent applause. They really are flying.

Words by Toby Redgrave


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