Following a complete metamorphosis signaled by the addition of vocalist Ziek McCarter and a reinvigorated live show, Con Brio is being powered by pure momentum. The band swiftly worked their way up the full spectrum of venues around the Bay and then decided to toss a few songs our way with last year’s Kiss The Sun. Only in the past year did they set off on their first tour outside California. Soon after, they’ve acquired some kind of golden ticket on the festival circuit that has had them performing at major festivals form North America (ACL, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza) to Japan (Fuji Rock) and Australia (Bryon Bay Bluesfest). At some point during all of this they managed to work on Paradise, recorded in Berkeley right behind 924 Gilman. You can download the record or take home a real live physical artifact on Bandcamp.
Now seven members strong, all the moving parts are now mirrored between their live show and new record — horn section and all. The immediate howl of Benjamin Andrews’ guitar doesn’t gently lead you into the album but kicks down the door for McCarter to moonwalk through and command anyone listening nearby to their feet. Fans of the 23-year-old frontman’s overwhelming stage presence can jump straight to “Hard Times.” Those that came for the James Brown and Curtis Mayfield influences can hit play on “Liftoff” and “Money.” If you prefer something slower for a change, there’s always “Honey.”
Their most recent preview of what was to come on Paradise took the form of their first non-live music video for “Free and Brave.” The song has been heard by fans for awhile now and regularly provides one of the more dramatic stage introductions, later leading to some serious call and response between McCarter and the crowd. Captured in Oakland by local director Frank Door, the video and its message can be strengthened each week you check the news.
The twelve song collection touches on love, economic status, racial discrimination, and optimism combining it all to look at both the struggles and celebrations of contemporary life. It’s a record that should now keep longtime fans at bay finally able to listen to many of these set list standards on demand while luring more people out to their wider travels on the road. I mean, come on, when’s the last time you saw someone do continuous splits after performing for an hour?
If you missed the last time Con Brio delivered their gospel in town, you can live vicariously through this version of “Sundown” recorded at The Independent, or make sure you have your schedule cemented for Outside Lands next month. They’ll be drawing a crowd on Saturday, August 6.