This past Friday night, the Joseph McCarthy Co-op House hosted four bands to celebrate Halloween. The bands were Aminal, The Lounge Rats, Porky’s Groove Machine and BrassVisions. Each band brought their own sound to the concert and kept the audience dancing and singing for the entire time they were there. This was Aminal’s and BrassVision’s first concert and The Lounge Rats’ second. Porky’s Groove Machine has been grooving since 2011.
The first band, Aminal, is a four-piece rock band with heavy jazz influences. It is made up of a guitarist/bassist/vocalist, a bassist/guitarist, a keyboard and drums. Each member comes from a jazz combo background on their respective instruments. Coming from this background, with all its inherent influences, made their music fall into its own category. It was a rock band, but focused heavily on interaction and improvising.
Although difficult to classify, they are similar to such bands as the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Grateful Dead. Aminal took basic forms from rock—consisting of choruses, verses, bridges, etc.—and peppered them with jazz-like improvisation. What made their concert rock but still sound hip and unique is that their music contained elements of jazz but was still accessible to the average listener.
Next up was a set from ska band the Lounge Rats. The Lounge Rats have all the things a typical ska band has—driving tempos and rhythms, heavy horn playing and the distinctive shout-singing that fills the room with energy. I don’t believe I saw a single still audience member. Everyone was bobbing their head, tapping their foot or moshing.
The Lounge Rats are particularly good at making ska covers of popular tunes—so far their sets consist completely of covers. Among their most memorable covers are “Take On Me,” by a-ha, “Time Warp,” from Rocky Horror Picture Show and what seems to be their theme song, “Okie Dokie” by Copy Machine. While these songs are all incredibly energetic and exciting on their own, the Lounge Rats breathe even more life into them, creating the fun and festive party atmosphere.
The Lounge Rats were followed by Porky’s Groove Machine. Since its creation, the band has changed its lineup a few times but despite that, has maintained a funky and hip sound throughout. Porky’s Groove Machine does mostly original tunes with a tasteful balance of composed material and improvisation. Their songs typically have jazzy instrumental jams sandwiched by often humorous lyrics and vocals.
Like the Lounge Rats, they played party music. However, this was a different kind of party music. It grooved well, as their name claims, but was more relaxed and repetitive. It gave the audience time to be laid-back while also being able dance. Porky’s Groove Machine could jam for as long as they wanted while maintaining an interesting sound and keeping the audience moving.
The final band was BrassVisions, a brass band that blended the New Orleans jazz sound with hip hop, funk, soul and other genres. A great example of this was their cover of “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Kool. The original song samples horns so when BrassVisions played it, it was easily recognizable but specific to their instrumentation. Also, playing what was originally a sample live makes the song feel more organic and natural, capturing the spirit of New Orleans jazz.
BrassVisions also proved their versatility and creativity by arranging the viral video “Tunak Tunak Tun” by Daler Mehndi. It’s not everyday you hear a brass band play an Indian pop song. They did it justice, though, and I’m excited to hear what other unique music they decide to play.
Overall, all four bands made for a fantastic night of diverse music. It’s great to hear such original music from new and old bands. I applaud them for taking these risks and I look forward to seeing them all in the future.