Snarky Puppy Concert Review: Indianapolis, May 17, 2019

Continuing on from the last recap, the following evening, May the 17th saw Snarky Puppy play the Vogue. The Vogue was one of the smaller venues the pups played during the Immigrance tour. The nightclub has wonderfully tuned acoustics and this particular Live Snarky album has one of the cleanest mixes I’ve ever heard from a live album of this nature. The setting was intimate allowing the fans to really connect with the band, so not only is this a great sounding album, it also feels amazing too. The energy the band and audience were putting out kept growing as time went on and this concert quickly turned into one of the best Snarky Puppy shows I’ve ever heard. I cannot recommend this purchase highly enough. Get it!


Gø – Things begin with the then newly reworked arrangement of Gø starting with an improvised drum solo from Jamison. He explores repetition and variation very prominently in this solo and often keeps returning to some really solid rhythms whilst still playing around with the time earning many cheers from the crowd. Just before McQueen enters with the guitar melody, the dynamics quiet significantly adding to the suspense. After the horn melody, the groove opens right up and the bassline is doubled by Bobby on the clavinet. McQueen and Justin have some great interplay here with their chordal accompaniment. This continues and is explored further during Maz’s solo. Maz uses the wah and some distortion to supercharge his solo. The section before the 2nd solo has more emphasis on the percussion and the articulation of the horn melody than usual, and this is further enhanced by the wonderful mix. Justin solos on Rhodes here and plays a super melodic and motivic solo; one of my favourites of his in recent memory. Jamison’s drum groove is quite different from the original song and keeps it sounding fresh. McQueen takes a quick solo on the outro with some octave fuzz and showcases his awesome shredding and rootsy licks. Shaun adds some high pitched Mellotron to the ending chord progression for something different.

While We’re Young – Mike starts this off gently. Bobby takes his time with the melody and plays around with it on the clavinet. The B section melody gets harmonised by Justin, and Shaun adds some 80’s Mellotron to the soundscape. Everything settles down into a very quiet solo section with a slightly reworked bassline from Mike. McQueen and Justin paint underneath Bobby’s playful clav solo. Bobby gets into some classic bluesy licks and some more angular, chromatic lines as well. McQueen adds some lovely funky underneath the following section before his slide melody. He then improvises a short solo in between the outro horn melody, adding some double stops to his slide playing. The piece ends on the strong last chord like usual before Nate does his thing.

Semente – Nate starts this off quite energetically, and does a good job disguising the song about to be played. Everything is pretty standard onwards. Before the solo, Bobby and Shaun add some lovely little melodies and Justin reharmonises the chords on Prophet underneath the flute Melody, and then surprise… a bass solo! Mike plays a lyrical solo with lots of interaction with Justin playing some splendid Rhodes accompaniment in the high register to stay out of Mike’s frequency territory. Jamison tightens his groove and Bobby adds some very slight, rhythmic chordal stabs. McQueen acts like a third percussionist here with some percussive comping in the background. The following section starts a little quieter than usual but eventually the following sections gain momentum before the spacey outro.

Gemini – Next up is Justin’s inspiring tune Gemini featuring Maz, Mike and Jamison on vocals adding some beautiful harmonies in the background. McQueen’s slide melody is doubled by Shaun on the Moog to give it more presence. Jamison’s groove is simpler than usual but it really works. The collective improvisation section features lots of haunting textural guitar work from McQueen and some tasty flute playing from Bullock. Bobby on organ plays some very subtle ornaments in the higher register that need to be heard with headphones to be properly enjoyed. The return to the main section is just as beautiful as ever and features some lovely slide playing from McQueen. Shaun takes the solo on keys in a virtuosic way and he eventually adds his Moog as well for some very impressive call and response type stuff between him and himself. The solo is slightly extended and more energy is built up. Things cool down and fold into an ambient outro. Mike says hey and instructs the audience on the 4:3 polyrhythm clapping exercise for Xavi. In his words, Indianapolis was ‘absolutely f*cking perfect.’ What a compliment, eh?

Xavi – Things begin as usual and the groove bubbles away. Just before the solos, Shaun adds some almost unnoticeable melodies on the Mellotron. Chris McQueen takes the first solo building upon the bassline. He keeps his articulation varied and adds some John Scofield-esque double stops and large intervallic ideas. A really creative solo from McQueen here. Bullock takes the second solo on top of Bobby and McQueens wah heavy accompaniment. Bullock plays more staccato than usual and also experiments with varied articulation. Following on, the audience has a section of just percussion and their clapping. Bullock on flute and Mike on bass bring the next section in just before Justin’s Rhodes solo. Justin finds a note he likes and sticks with it before exploring the outward territories. McQueen uses this to ground his comping. Bobby adds some very nice organ comping too underneath Jamison’s groove. Shaun brings out the mellotron once again and gets playful before the ending.

Chonks – Bobby uses a more intense sound than usual for this super funky rendition of Chonks. McQueen has some fun with the whammy bar. Justin adds some awesome little things in between on the Rhodes. After the B section, Shaun doubles the bassline on Moog for maximum intensity and Maz takes the solo on wah trumpet. Maz is the king of lyricism in this solo. Shaun lays out for a bit, but later adds some luscious Mellotron chords. Shaun and Bobby slow down the bassline so much during their little break in between the different sections, Jamison decides to drop out to let them do their thing. The Mellotron makes an appearance again with its very distinctive 80’s dance sound just before Bobby’s solo. Bobby as usual goes nuts on this one. He eventually gets some alone time with Jamison and Nate before the rest of the band join in at once. If anyone wanted to hear the Mellotron in more focus, the very end of this tune is the place to check it out.

Thing of Gold – A really playful version of Thing of Gold featuring some subtle quotations of Celebrity by Shaun, and some really, really tasty guitar playing from McQueen. The solo section has a super funky groove, and is completely different from the previous night. It’s almost swung, and McQueen and Bobby shine with their comping once again. Bullock reaches for the ‘stars’ if you like hitting some ridiculously high altissimo notes in his Tenor solo. He kills it. Shaun plays another lyrical solo on his Moog with impressive flowing, side-stepping lines and some more intervallic ideas. His outro solo however is something to behold. Words do not do it justice. He uses both the Moog and his Korg Kronos keyboard and goes on a tour of the 1930’s jazz songbook. He finally switches over to an acoustic piano patch and does a scarily good job impersonating Bill Laurance’s classical background.

Ready Wednesday – It’s always a pleasure to hear this song, and it’s also awesome to hear it being played without Bill, and it usually ends up going to new places. This time Bobby starts off on clavinet, and Shaun switches over to the Mellotron. Justin adds some tasty chordal accompaniment. The Metropole Orkest arrangement of the solo section is really nice and has great energy coming out of the very gentle linking section. Shaun’s Mellotron really helps thickens up Justin’s Rhodes chords, and when the horns, bass and guitar come in it really feels like winning the jackpot; there’s just so much energy and it’s addictive. McQueen takes the solo here, experimenting heaps with the melodic minor tonality. A nice mix of shredding and some very lyrical phrases. The return of the A section melody sees a new drum groove (I wish it was extended), and some new harmonic rhythm. The haunting final section is always so enchanting.

Sleeper (Encore) – Mike introduces the band with some nice background music courtesy of Shaun Martin. Justin starts off with the dark, dramatic Rhodes chords like usual. Shaun of course uses the vocoder. Justin switches up the synth sound for something more intense and saturated and it really amplifies the wonderful harmonic content of the piece. Shaun’s solo starts down really quiet and he tells a story, literally with the vocoder. ‘It’s Friday Night.’ ‘It’s a party.’ Justin reharmonizes on Rhodes again before switching back to the prophet. Mike on Moog bass and Jamison on drums get into a dubstep like groove for the final couple of bars. The show finishes with Justin’s Rhodes running into a feedback loop from his delay pedal for an extra layer of dramaticness. What a wonderful version of Sleeper. One of my favourites, if not the favourite from 2019, like this whole show was. Please check it out if you haven’t already, it’s very special.


Chris Bullock – Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Bass Flute
Mike ‘Maz’ Maher – Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Vocals
Justin Stanton – Trumpet, Rhodes, Synth
Michael League – Bass and Vocals
Chris McQueen – Guitar
Bobby Sparks – Organ, Moog, Clavinet
Shaun Martin – Keyboards, Moog, Mellotron
Nate Werth – Percussion
Jamison Ross – Drums and Vocals

Sound crew:
Matt Recchia – engineering and sound (front of house)
Michael Harrison – monitors
Nic Hard – mixing

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