Oaklandâ€™s Killbossa is a 7-piece that plays beefed up TropicÃ¡lia standards (60â€™s era Brazilian music with a political bent). The vocals are clean, the backbeat hard, and the guitar a bit grungy. The bassist and guitarist brought some heat, it seems that when they are practicing TropicÃ¡lia they are running through Rage Against the Machine songs in their basement.
The band is on-point, they play tight until they fall into a free-form section where the divergent sums equal a strong whole; all the players were endlessly capable. They play standards in such an inventive and original way that I longed to see what they could do with their own material.
Zoyres Eastern European Wild Ferment began their set with a raucous, cymbal-heavy drum intro. Though going by such an explicit name, Zoyres’ heavy Balkan influence is just one side of the coin — you can hear styles that span the spectrum.
Horns over drums is nothing new, but they are able to inject enough juice to leave you reeling. Their music is played with enough emotion to make it feel narrative, and their arrangement and instrumentation is wild and exciting. While the amplified tuba was battling the prog drums, you may have thought you were listening to a Radiohead cut if you kept your eyes closed.
Japonize Elephants is a bit different than the bands it shared a bill with that night. While the other bands played music that you have heard before but in a way that you have never heard it, Japonize Elephants took two disparate styles of music, left them fairly untouched, and then mixed thoroughly. Both approaches felt new, and were undeniably successful.
Japonize Elephants mix country and western bluegrass with klezmer (but, of course they let a lot of other influences sneak in, too). Their sound is powerful, bolstered by big group vocals. Like the other two bands the playing was impeccable.
These three very different bands are brought together by a respect for traditional music, and a devotion to mastery that is commendable. The bands were all from the Bay Area, they all shared players, and the crowd seemed initiated. Fresh music that takes cues from around the globe is alive and well, and it lives in our town. I know I feel lucky.
The Rickshaw Stop Wednesday (8:30, PM $10)