Kneebody Saturday, December 15, 2007 Dazzle
Better than: Watching High Noon with the sound turned off.
“This is the crazy set,” Kneebody bassist Kaveh Rastegar alerted the audience before the band embarked on its second set with “High Noon,” a new song by trumpeter Shane Endsley, who was inspired by watching the Gary Cooper Western of the same name with the sound turned off. Adam Benjamin kicked off the cut with a groove on his Fender Rhodes, while drummer Nate Wood kept time with hand claps. Once Wood started laying out the beat on the kit, Benjamin turned on the distortion, and the rest of the cats followed them deep into the pocket.
The guys then pushed it up a notch on the rocking “Held,” another Endsley composition, which was followed by “Nerd Mountain.” Wood held down a steady backbeat, with Endsley and saxophonist Ben Wendel tossing in syncopated horn blasts. A few minutes into the song, the time signature seemed to switch into an angular, odd-metered groove, which got progressively harder and deeper until both horn players were dueling it out with intertwining fiery solos, backed only by drums.
Rastegar prefaced Wendel’s song “Mr. Darcy,” by saying, “If you’ve read a lot of books, you’ll know what it’s about.” (I’ve read a lot of books, but I had to do some research later to find out the tune alludes to the character in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.) It began as a slightly dreamy interlude built on the drums, keys and bass parts until it ramped up into grittier territory with Benjamin laying down some brilliant runs on the keys.
On the next cut, Endsley and Wendel teamed up for some off-beat horn shots over the odd-metered groove while drums, bass and keys played in unison. It felt both like the musical personification of a crab scurrying sideways, and then being pushed and pulled at the same time. Or maybe even the sensation of rushing and dragging simultaneously. But the tune finally dissolved into some ambient sax loops created by Wendel.
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Benjamin then got up from the keys and asked the audience, “What did the zero say to the eight?” A gal yelled out, “I like your belt.” Benjamin said the answer could’ve also been, “nice belt.” He then recommended that people Google the deadpan comedian Brent Weinbach, who (I think) inspired Benjamin’s original “Unforeseen Influences.” This was the first tune of the night that I was able to pick out one of the twenty or so musical cues these guys have under their sleeves. See, at any point in a song, one of the guys can play a short phrase that gives the other members a heads up that the song’s about to change key, tempo, orchestration or any other number of things. Early on “Unforeseen Influences” Wendel played a riff, and a moment later the guys switched into lower gear. Later in the song, Wendel played the same lick again and the tempo sped up, and he launched into a long solo that was just plain badass. Dude was seriously working out. After the song, Rastegar said, “We were testing out a spooky secret language.”
Rastegar then joked (at least I’m pretty sure he was joking) about how one time Benjamin was in the shower, lathering up one side of his head with Head and Shoulders, and he looked down to see his entire record collection in the shower with him. And the guy’s supposedly got quite the record collection. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite grasp what the story had to do with the next song, the slow and moody “Desperation Station,” but I’m guessing there was some sort of obtuse connection.
The guys closed out a stellar set by launching into an extended version of “I’m Your General,” which sports one of the boldest and most visceral grooves in their catalog. The whole show was heavy, but “General” was extra heavy. Seriously. –- Jon Solomon
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: The band could’ve played an hour-and-a-half version of “I’m Your General” and I would’ve been happy. Holy crap, that song and those cats are downright amazing. Random Detail: Shane Endsley is a Denver native. By the Way: Endsley will be sitting in with Art Lande and his Russian Dragon Band at CU-Boulder on February 8.