This was a really fun show with many amazing twists along the way. This recording features some amazing playing from Justin, Mike and Jamison in particular. The recording sounds very clean for what was probably a challenging room acoustically; the Orpheum in an old theatre with not much sound deadening and other acoustic treatments. This was the last Wisconsin show for the pups for 2019, and the last of this particular lineup. Shaun and Jamison were heading off back home after this one and Zach Brock and JT would join the rest of the team for the next show. My highlights would probably include the insanely good versions of Chrysalis, GØ, Young Stuff and Xavi. This show features a lot of Maz so trumpet players and fans of his playing should hopefully really enjoy this setlist.
Beep Box – The show creeps in with Bullock’s haunting tune Beep Box which I always think is one of the coolest show openers. Mike starts this off on Moog bass and Justin adds some super sparse, ambient Rhodes accompaniment. Nate uses lots of his chimes and other high-pitched percussion to experiment with texture. McQueen adds some nice tremolo to his unison melody with Bullock on flute. Maz and Justin switch to the Harmon mute for the B section melody on top of just Jamison and Nate’s percussive base. Justin quickly returns to the keys for the acidic sound that makes this track so iconic. He reharmonizes a few of the chords too. Mike’s synth bass sound is so huge. Bobby adds some tasty little Moog melodies and Shaun plays some piano stabs and rolls. Maz takes the solo on wah trumpet with some angular lines with lots of variation in articulation. The energy spirals ‘out of control’ before returning to Bullock’s ambient flute melody.
Chrysalis – This is one extremely funky version of Bob Reynolds’ awesome tune. Jamison starts it off with the regular drum groove and McQueen and Justin join in with their melody pretty soon afterwards. Justin adds some ambient Rhodes chords in contrast to Bobby’s distorted clavinet chords. McQueen adds some tremolo to the chords. In the B section, Mike changes the bassline to something more staccato and displaced than usual and Jamison and Nate experiment by shifting between quaver and triplet subdivisions of the beat. Chris Bullock takes the solo on tenor sax with a ton of delay. Maz is left alone on flugelhorn to add his accompanying sustained notes. Bullock gets into some really long lines with some nice chromaticism. The final B section features the normal bassline and no drums/percussion. Justin goes for an ultra lush synth with the resonance filter cranked. Jamo and Nate pick up the energy immediately after the rest of the band stops playing. McQueen and Bobby add some staccato comping before playing the grungy melody. Mike takes a quick bass solo with the envelope filter and octaver and Shaun adds some high pitched, staccato D7#9 chords. Very Meters-esque just before the end. This was a really cool version of Chrysalis.
Tarova – Justin starts this one off on synth with the smooth synth sound courtesy of the Prophet 6. I noticed this a little bit after he started playing, but Justin’s Synth appears to be tuned a fair way lower than the other instruments, maybe around A 432HZ rather than A 440HZ. So when Bobby, Shaun and Mike start playing for the trading section, there is quite an unusual clash of frequencies! Justin notices and switches to Rhodes for the last few bars before the solo melody. Synth weirdness and things I don’t know much about would explain that. Bobby and Shaun’s trading after Justin switches off the Prophet immediately feels more secure and they get into some amazing trading; some of the best I’ve heard from them even. The groove picks up and then leads into the unison section. Shaun joins in on vocoder playing an octave higher than he normally would. Chris Bullock takes the solo and explores displaced and straight-over-swung semiquaver lines with lots of altissimo. The B section following on is more intense than usual due to a stronger bass section. Nate does a nice little percussion solo on outro in between Justin’s lush Rhodes chords and Bobby and Mike’s bassline. Shaun adds some awesome synth comping during this as well. Nate goes ballistic with the sextuplets. Mike says hello to the audience and gives a shout out to Alina Engibaryan who opened the show.
Bad Kids to the Back – Mike tells the story of how he wanted the music video for this song to be recorded through CCTV cameras at a Guitar Center store, but it ended up being too expensive and complex to do so they decided to make the video we all know today with the fancy animations and colorful lighting. This version of Bad Kids features lots more synth than usual and a more percussion-heavy mix. Mike and McQueen are super tight with their unison melody; more so than usual. Shaun takes the solo on Moog and takes his time. At around 2:49, he starts quoting Für Elise earning quite a few cheers from the audience. Justin and Bobby add some tasteful comping with a nice amount of reverb and delay and Shaun gets more motivic and chromatic. Awesome solo from Shaun. The unison synth and guitar melody see’s Shaun turn on his synth for some highly resonant and filtered sustained chords; a very similar sound to what is used on Whitecap. Jamo crushes the drum solo like usual. He uses lots of the snare drum with varying techniques and he gets pretty polyrhythmic. Towards the end, he sets up a New Orleans type groove and then lays out altogether for a moment before shredding with all the energy he has left for the last few measures.
GØ – My favourite version of GØ from this year by far. Jamison sets this one up with another drum solo back-to-back. He uses lots of the snare drum and gets into some cool shuffle-ly and relatively free, rubato grooves. He picks up the dynamics a lot at the 2-minute mark and starts incorporating lots of the tom-toms. He starts the main groove with a quieter dynamic and McQueen follows shortly after with an embellished take on the melody. McQueen adds some nice effect-y chords to the horn harmonies before ending on a feedback loop before the rest of the band enter. Shaun keeps the synth sound from Bad Kids for the majority of this song which gives it a fresh character. The bassline is doubled by Justin on the now in tune Prophet 6 and it gets funky quickly. McQueen leads into the solo section with a long feedback loop and Maz uses it to start his solo on wah trumpet. Maz gets into lots of out-there phrases with some very long notes adding to the atmosphere. He gets more chromatic towards the end. A lovely tasteful solo from him. The second solo section features a completely different groove from Jamison, it’s also a lot quieter than usual. There are lots of intricate rhythms going on with various percussive techniques. Justin takes the solo on Rhodes and gets motivic. He displaces lots of the phrases in different parts of the beat. He finds a nice descending phrase and repeats it enough times for Mike to copy him on Bass and use it in his comping. Jamo picks up the groove when Justin gets chordal. Mike too gets chordal on the bass and Justin plays in between his spaces. McQueen gets mega funky with some very subtle comping underneath the flute and muted trumpet melody. This section is extended. The bassline returns to how it was in the album version for the remaining sections and Shaun doubles it on the synth sound from before. McQueen takes a blistering solo on the outro under an ambient keyboard section. He gets into a nice mix of stepwise and intervallic ideas with his beloved Octave Fuzz tone. The outro chord is extended and Shaun adds a nice, rhythmic synth melody as the cherry on top.
Young Stuff – It’s always really fun to hear this classic seeing as it’s one of Snarky’s rarer tunes. This version absolutely kills. This was Jamison’s first time playing it this tour and he has some fun with the groove. Justin experiments on the Rhodes with some tasty little melodies. The first solo section gets a lovely, motivic and melodic trumpet solo from Maz on top of a super funky rhythm section. Justin’s Rhodes playing is killer and so is Mike’s bass playing. The two of them together hold it down. The second and main solo section sees some nice tremolo accompaniment from McQueen and some delicate fills from Justin on Rhodes. Bobby takes the solo on clavinet under a very sparse chordal and rhythmic base. He utilizes the full range of the keyboard with some insanely virtuosic phrases and expertly sequenced motifs. He turns on the heavier distortion at 6:50 and starts getting a little more chordal and even more virtuosic. Jamison and Mike tighten up their groove to try and match his energy. Bobby turns on the Digitech whammy pedal for some extreme high-register stuff. Justin changes up some of the Rhodes chords before the horns enter. McQueen ends with some surf-inspired choppy tremolo chords. But Bobby decides he hasn’t had enough, and the outro is extended with a spacey Rhodes solo from Justin.
Thing of Gold – Justin’s short intro was a segue into this other Snarky classic. McQueen gets into some tasty lines in between Bullock’s melody. Mike, or maybe Bobby gets into some tasty synth bass stuff and Shaun plays some rhythmic double-stops with his comping using lots of fourths. Shaun tries to get the audience to sing along; he wasn’t too impressed but he knows they can do better so he asks again. The groove and ambience is increased just before the solos with some lush Rhodes comping from Justin and a super tight drum and percussion groove from Jamo and Nate. Maz takes another solo, this time on flugelhorn on top of a super funky solo section. The chorus is awesomely atmospheric with the blend in the washy synth textures and sounds. Mike gets funky before Shaun has a solo on the Moog. He starts right up high in his register and plays some awesome stepwise lines. Mike and Justin hold onto one of the chords a little longer than usual and McQueen adds some beautiful, sparkling clean arpeggios. Shaun continues his magic on the outro with a gentle solo on both Moog and his main keyboard switching from synth to a regular electric piano sound. He teases the audience by playing a fragmented version of the outro melody which typically signals the end of the tune. He doesn’t want to stop!
Xavi – Mike gives a polyrhythm masterclass before this one. Things start pretty regularly but Justin adds some rhythmic synth chords to the bassline. The B section is even more lush than usual with every keyboard being used! Shaun uses the same synth sound from before; it appears to be a winner. Chris McQueen takes an experimental first solo with lots of percussive techniques, whammy bar shenanigans, dissonant open strings, non-diatonic sequenced phrases and then some more traditional forms of guitar playing with some funky chordal playing. The second solo section is funky with lots of wah from McQueen and a super tight ‘Bobby and Mike’ section with some constant propulsion from Jamo and Nate. Bullock switches from tenor to soprano saxophone for his nice extended solo and he starts right out there before bringing it back home with some motivic pentatonic licks. The audience gets a few bars to test their clapping (Madison was a bit messy!) before Bullock and Mike bring in the next section. Bullock sticks with the soprano sax. Justin takes a polyrhythmic Rhodes solo (possibly hoping that the audience will pay attention and learn!) with a ton of double stops and some outside lines. Mike has some fun with the bass line and jumps in on Justin’s conversation. The outro is very high energy and features lots of clavinet and synth bass. Mike says thank you and introduces the band. Madison was ‘rowdy’ in Mike’s words, but he loved their energy.
Even Us (Encore) – A pretty mellow ending to an energetic show. McQueen delicately hybrid-picks, Shaun adds some subtle embellishments to the piano melody and Bobby adds some very subtle but very tasteful organ comping. After the first melody, Mike plays some simple melodic lines with his delay for a change. Jamison and Nate pick up the groove and Justin adds some ambient Rhodes chords. This piece slowly builds up and up before the enthusiastic second section at a slightly faster tempo. Bobby changes up his Moog accompaniment and Chris Bullock switches to soprano saxophone instead for the horn harmonies. The solo section sees a super melodic and middle-eastern inspired solo from Bobby on the Moog. He gets crazy with the pitch bend before picking up the pace and weirdness. He goes 8-bit towards the end and the rest of the band shifts into top gear. The horns and synth all work together to create a super dense harmony to try and support Bobby’s enormous amount of musical energy. The solo finishes with some gentler and super washy drumming from Jamison before leading into the unison piano and guitar outro melody. A beautiful, high energy version of this amazing and typically very mellow tune.
- Chris Bullock – Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute
- Mike ‘Maz’ Maher – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
- Justin Stanton – Trumpet, Rhodes, Synth
- Michael League – Bass and Moog Bass
- Chris McQueen – Guitar
- Bobby Sparks – Organ, Moog, Clavinet
- Shaun Martin – Moog, Keyboard, Mellotron
- Nate Werth – Percussion
- Jamison Ross – Drums
- Matt Recchia – Engineering and sound (front of house)
- Michael Harrison – Monitors
- Nic Hard – Mixing
About the Reviewer
Howdy readers. I’m Simon. Since 2016 I’ve slowly become enveloped in the world of Snarky Puppy. My obsession started a few minutes into the first song they played at the Melbourne 2017 show (Flood); my first live Snarky experience. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours listening to their albums, live shows and various interviews/articles with/on the band.
What really stuck with me after seeing them perform live was just how powerful – sonically – a large band can be when everything is orchestrated in such a way, especially with three keyboardists on stage. What also surprised me was just how much fun everyone appeared to be having on stage; I never ever expected so much jamming!
On FunkCity.net, I will primarily be writing reviews of my vast and growing Live Snarky and nugs.net album collection in hopes that my writing will inspire some purchases along the way. All of the money spent on Livesnarky.com or nugs.net will go directly to Snarky Puppy’s members, which will in turn support them while they can continue to do what they do best. And… hopefully fund Family Dinner Volume 3.
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