Wait a minute, why is there a line around the block? Seriously? Reggie’s isn’t exactly a hoppin club. It’s a great venue, but its location prevents it from being one of the truly great venues of Chicago. And I’ve always said that Snarky Puppy is the best band in America that no one knows about. Well, looks like the jig is up — people have caught onto the magic of the Puppy. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing these guys four times now over the past couple of years and each show has been better than the last. So it’s fitting that this show seemed like the literal breaking point; they couldn’t have squeezed any more people in this place, they need a bigger room next time they come to Chicago.
The night warmed up with Andreas Kapsalis & Goran Ivanovic Duo, which is par for the course for a Snarky Puppy show in Chicago. Only this time the room was almost to capacity for the majority of their set. And they did what they always do: completely mesmerize with their world-jazz soundscapes. These guys are extremely talented and play together as if they communicate telepathically. Their brand of esoteric instrumental music might not be suitable for the masses, but for this intelligent & aware Snarky Puppy crowd, the Duo’s brillance defintely did not fall upon deaf ears. They impressed many, many people once again.
But the warm-up wasn’t finished. It wasn’t totally clear what was going on, but some members from Snarky Puppy came up and introduced a beautiful singer (didn’t catch her name, can’t figure out who she is… apologies), then backed her up for a couple of songs — somewhat of a tweener set that, more than anything, seemed like they were helping to expose a talented friend. This was a nice little set but, ultimately, it kinda just ate up Snarky set-time, which was absolutely needed in the end.
Extra time was needed because the packed house never wanted this show to end. Once again, Snarky Puppy put on a masterful display of music that can only be described as “indescribable.” These guys defy genre as much as any band on the planet. Their jazz-fusion sensibility provides a thought-provoking depth of intelligence and establishes the outrageous technical skill of the band. While their funk and electronic facets drive a deep physical reaction in every one who hears the music. Calling their music jazz-fusion is just completely lazy. Despite the fact that ‘jazz-fusion’ is purposely designed to be a vague, open-ended genre descriptor, it completely lacks any ‘dance music’ connotations, and there is no denying that Snarky Puppy is dance music to the core.
The one area where I can even nitpick this show is their setlist, which didn’t deviate all that much from previous setlists. This certainly isn’t a bad thing, as all the songs they played on this night were fantastic, it would just be nice to see them start to mix it up a bit. But who am I kidding? It’s pretty ridiculous to complain about a “Binky” opener, “Skate U,” “Thing of Gold,” “Whitecap,” and a “Slow Demon” encore. “Binky” is a life-altering song in the sense that it exposes you to the dirtiest, most electronic side of jazz in existence. The last two minutes of this song are spine-tinglingly good, and in this version they jammed it well past three minutes to really hammer home the power of this composition within a composition.
There was one bust-out in this show. I mean, aside from “Little” John Roberts full-time on the drums. Usually “Sput” Searight is back there on the kit, but he wasn’t able to make the trip this time around, so Roberts had to fill in and did so marvelously. His style was definitely different than Sput’s, a simpler, more funky approach that wasn’t any better or worse, but provided some subtle differences that were really cool to hear. The bust-out of the night was an older tune called “34 Klezma,” this Latin/salsa themed song that put a whole new sinister spin on this kind of music. If ‘spicy’ is the lazy word to usually describe Latin music, this song was like Ghost Chile hot — downright devilish. It’s truly amazing how many different directions from which these guys can rage, they can and will hit you from every angle.
Time was running dangerously low, but they still came out for a direct & punchy “Slow Demon” to satisfy the rabid crowd. This might be their most popular song, which is especially awesome because it is such a nuanced & complex composition. While most American music rises because of its catchy, ear-candy nature, it’s a wonderful thing to see Snarky Puppy blowing up because of their highly intelligent, virtuosic big band compositions. Even people who would sneer at the notion of a ‘jazz band’ could (and would) absolutely love this band. Next time let’s hope they play at a bigger venue so they can blow the minds of even more people. Park West, anyone??