Such a great concert!
Roosevelt Collier opened with a nice set. Collier plays lap steel and the instrument sounded best when he took a long, legato, quiet solo. I teared up! At other times I found myself distracted by the mix -- specifically the low end that sounded muddy to me -- and I was trying to figure out how I'd mix the kick and bass to sound more clear. Jen tells me some sound engineers prefer the bass to be "felt, not heard", so maybe my taste is just different. Jairus Mozee sat in on one piece and sounded wonderful playing off of Collier. His sound was a bit lost when the full band was in.
Snarky Puppy began with a few gentle pieces, and save for the last two pieces, all of the music was new... I assume from the band's new album, Immigrance. (But as I write this I'm listening to the album and I'm embarassed to say I don't recognize much from the show.) The audience was really loving the new music and the woman behind me was singing along to almost every song, but I wasn't particularly taken by the new stuff. I didn't dislike it or anything, but the melodies feel a bit over my head. There was one piece toward the end of the set that really captured me but generally speaking, the melodies are less "pop" and more jazz, and resonate with me a bit less than the classic Snarky Puppy rock-pop stuff. That having been said, the musicianship and solos are so absolutely fantastic that even without catchy hooks, I'm loving everything. The music is so rich with interesting breaks and changes, and everyone is just a master at building patiently behind the soloist. It's so satisfying to have a 5-minute solo that just builds and builds and builds in intensity. I wish I were half as good!
Jason Thomas was on drums. He's apparently a regular with the band but most people are probably hoping for Larnell Lewis who is featured on so many Snarky Puppy videos. Thomas was great! He did two solos and both were musical and really powerful. (And I like his extra snare set up to the left of the hi-hat.) Band leader, Michael League, announced that three previous Snarky Puppy drummers happened to be in the house and he called them up to stage. One joined Nate Werth on the percussion set and the other two awkwardly played shakers for a bit before taking turns at the drumset. They were all amazing and the audience was on their feet at the end. There was a lot of "melodic" playing, with insanely fast runs between the hands and kick. I wanted that kind of craziness to blossom into a clear groove, but maybe I'm a simpleton. I also wanted more clicky-clacky short sounds but Thomas seems to quickly move to toms, kick, cymbals, and other long notes.
Bobby Sparks was on keys and played the whamminet (clavinet with whammy bar) in a few pieces. It was awesome. He also took a really nice synth solo on one piece with notes that bent multiple octaves. It was one of the more effective uses of unapologetically synthy sounds I've seen in a jazz-style solo. (It was about the size and shape of Minimoog Model D but I couldn't tell what it was.)
Lights were by Francis Clegg and it was too much for me. They were artfully done and original -- you can tell that Clegg has a good sense of taste -- and changes were amazingly well timed with the music. Is a percussionist running the board?! But while I appreciate when the lights help highlight the soloist (sometimes when a trumpet is really effected, for example, it almost sounds like a guitar, so the lights help) and I like continual changes in the overall lighting mood, I'm not a fan of moving lights and flashes. I feel bad saying anything that would limit a lighting designer's artistic vision, but I don't want to notice the lights much. My goal instead would be "subtly bold".
The sound was great! (I wish I'd caught the engineer's name... According to the Snarky Puppy website, it was likely either Michael Harrison or Matt Recchia.)
Oh and for the last piece, League said, "Let's welcome Cory Henry to the stage! He's never heard this piece before but... he's Cory Henry!" Indeed, his solo was amazing. It's so nice that Snarky Puppy prepared these kind of extra surprises. It felt like such a treat to see it all.
The show was absolutely inspiring. I'm looking forward to seeing more Snarky Puppy shows from here on!