A beautiful southern California afternoon in 1974. The local bank’s glass front doors burst open, and out you gallop with two huge bags of cash. Sprinting three full blocks to the pastel Mustang convertible where your aviator-donning getaway driver waits, you hop over the passenger side door and speed away. The out-of-breath bank tellers can only watch as you and your buddy turn around to laugh, ripping 90 miles per hour through a red light before disappearing into the distance. The perfect soundtrack to this nostalgic scene? A Staten Island instrumental ten piece group called The Budos Band.
The east coast funksters brought their traveling dance party back to the Bay Thursday for a sold-out, headlining gig at The Independent. In what’s grown customary on Budos Band tours, the band members filled their post-soundcheck afternoon with a local bar crawl – hitting Toronado and The Page, among others – updating their whereabouts on their Twitter page. Pre-game rituals no doubt continued well into the evening, as three impressive opening acts provided ample time before they hit the stage.
Easing early showgoers into the night were Berkeley rock harmonizers Big Tree. Driving female vocals, consciously placed guitar licks, and smart songwriting certainly make anyone who is unfamiliar stop and appreciate their catchiness. With confident comfort on stage and a recently posted Daytrotter session, it might be wise to catch one of their two currently schedule shows – Hotel Utah on March 23rd and Freight & Salvage on April 4th – so, you know, you can say you saw them “way back when.”
Seattle’s Pickwick followed, showcasing their own brand of witty pop rock. Songs like “Staged Names” could easily star in a modern day American Bandstand, while others like “Limelight” carry the soulful, rhythm and blues vibe only honest emotional music can.
Next, we were treated to California surf rockers Allah-las. These guys should write music for Tarantino films; their gritty, retro, too-much-sun-in-my-eyes songs are reminiscent of those lost jukebox gems you’ve heard in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. If you like fellow west coasters The Growlers you’ll really like Allah-las, a perfect segue sound for the night’s main act.
When Budos Band finally took the stage, we had already been treated to nearly two and a half hours of music (an exhaustively positive feature of Noise Pop). Having seen them in a variety of settings out here (Outside Lands, Mezzanine, other Independent gigs), it was clear this wasn’t Budos’ usual “get down”-seeking audience. Rather, their addicting, you’re-crazy-if-you-don’t-dance-to-this material fell victim to a majority of stagnant poses – a sight any San Franciscan will say is too familiar at concerts out here, whether it bothers them or not. The band took note, but never showed frustration or feigned excitement, pausing the afro-funk marathon only once to say, “We love you guys but you’re the quietest audience we’ve ever had!” Maybe folks were just tired, or maybe they were content to keep an internal groove. Regardless, pockets of dancing and shaking were certainly scattered throughout the floor, eventually wearing off on others 20 to 30 minutes in.
Dancing or not, we were treated to one horn-driven, bongo-backed groove after another. The low lit stage and smoke filled room took on a sinister vibe as the funk got deeper, holding court till the encore’s final notes. Nearly a two-hour set, nearly four hours of total music. The metaphorical old-school bank robbery was complete. We got away. Time to plot the next one.