Snarky Puppy Concert Review: Portland, OR, May 29, 2019

After another three days off, the pups began the West Coast leg of the Immigrance tour. The first show was in Seattle, Washington, but this sadly didn’t get recorded. They then made their way south and down the coast to Portland Oregon for a packed show at the Roseland Theater; a relatively new building compared to some of the older buildings we saw Snarky play earlier, but this was not a particularly acoustic room. The pup’s did their best to adapt and played a sensitive set to not overload the room. This was the first professionally recorded show of 2019 with Mark on guitar, and like usual, he brings the funk. Bob Reynolds was also on sax in this lineup. The Mark/JT combo in particular is always going to be super funky as they play together so often, and when you add in Bobby… wow, what a combination. Justin’s trumpet playing gets featured heavily in Grown Folks so that’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of his playing – which everyone should be!


Coven – Things begin with McQueen’s spooky tune. The horn intro doesn’t have any reverb or delay on it like normal so it sounds really different to both the album version and other live versions. Mark goes for a subdued, higher-pitched and less aggressive sounding Ebow drone to what McQueen would have done. Listening to this right after the previous shows with McQueen on guitar just goes to prove how much of a difference there is between the guitarists and just how different the songs can sound with a slightly different lineup. The solo section features a drier and more staccato sounding accompaniment from Justin and Mark and a more acoustic sounding violin solo from Zach. Bobby adds some very tasteful chords underneath – he plays the 4 chord over the G# minor. Zach finds lots of melodic phrases and he experiments with rhythmic displacement a fair bit too but without detracting from his smooth lines. He doubles the melody in the interlude section before Justin gets a go on Rhodes under a much quieter and less active solo section. Mark plays a few ‘funky’ chords to put it politely (this was his first time playing Coven live so I forgive him). Justin gets very motivic with a super high register on the Rhodes. The outro gets double Keyboards from Justin; one hand on Rhodes and the other on a washy Prophet 6 sound.

Chrysalis – Bob’s tune is played pretty slowly this time. Mark adds some percussive string noises to the intro before starting the melody with an octave pedal. Bobby’s clavinet chords are super overdriven this time. The second time through the melody see’s Bob Reynolds play up an octave on the tenor with some altissimo. Little things like this make this version sound so different to the previous lineup’s interpretation. The B section features that cool triplet to quaver rhythm and gets pretty washed out. Bob takes the solo on tenor afterwards with some very lush and textural harmonies from Bullock and Maz. Bullock in particular was using his Red Panda Tensor delay pedal for some cool weirdness and choppy textures. Bob’s phrasing is always so flawless and he executes every line with such precision. The following section is also nice and lush. Zach doubles the melody two octaves higher. The second B section has some powerful and expressive wah bass from Mike and Justin uses an acid synth patch on the prophet. Bobby adds to this soundscape on the Mellotron adding in some new chord extensions. The drums return and Bobby and Mark get super funky in between the outro melody/bassline.

Bad Kids to the Back – A nice solid version of Bad Kids early in the set. The balance is a bit off mix wise in this one and you can’t really hear the horns that well (Bullock is almost inaudible). Mark uses the auto-wah for some funky rhythmic comping and he harmonizes with the B section melody. The solo section gets a solo from Bullock (his mic is working properly now). He plays around with both the Dorian and Mixolydian modes and lots of small, fragmented phrases overtop of a very playful and ever-changing groove from JT and Mike. Bullock uses lots of altissimo towards the end and starts connecting his phrases in conjunction with JT and Mike tightening up their groove. The interlude sees more auto-wah from Mark with a very snappy tone. Justin changes up the Rhodes comping slightly and Mark adds some high pitched chord voicings before JT’s monstrous solo. JT starts with the basic drum groove doubled in speed but then occasionally adds in a few moments of another time signature at insanely high speed. Bobby harmonizes the bassline up a fifth by isolating the fundamental frequency of the organ with the drawbars. Towards the end JT goes ‘smashy smashy’ on the cymbals. Mike says hello and thanks opener Roosevelt Collier.

Chonks – This one is super funky with lots of funky guitar playing from Mark and a very behind-the-beat groove from Bobby on clav. The horn melodies have an extra harmony thanks to the extra saxophone. The groove continues with a subtle swing and Mark plays a bluesy solo on guitar with the auto-wah and some overdrive. He uses lots of staccato lines and mixes in some major lines and even some E minor pentatonic over the Eb! The following section sees some reworked chords from Bobby and Justin and they play the final 3 chords in contrary motion to each other. Bobby heavily experiments with the riff afterwards when alone with JT and Nate by throwing in some melodies. The breakdown section features some very different synth playing from Justin with lots of pitch bend and it gets ridiculously funky. Bobby takes the outro on Clavinet with lots of overdrive and use of the famous Castlebar whammy system. The band drops out earlier than usual giving Bobby lots of time alone with JT and Nate. The groove gets really busy as Bobby takes it right outside. Nate and JT eventually drop out too and Bobby shreds on every note that the clavinet has to offer. He ends with a super dissonant feedback loop. Justin creates a very Mellotron-like sound on the Prophet.

Whitecap – I was thrilled to hear this classic song. After playing so many new songs it’s always refreshing to hear a new take on the old hits. Mike starts with this one off with some bass harmonics and Mark adds some little textural things. The slide melody starts before Justin’s synth to give the tune room to grow. Mike comes in with a confident (and wrong) bass note for the main groove – my guess is he didn’t tune back up after Chonks, which has a detuned E string. The B section features lots of sub-octave stuff and some washy chords from Justin on the synth once again. Bobby blends in some organ and Mark adds some ‘Flood’ like arpeggios. The return to the main melody is a lot less energetic and more dynamic. Mike keeps the sub-octave bass lines coming and Bobby adds some tasteful Moog licks. The B section sees lots of washed-out chords from Justin and Bobby. As Mark is busy playing the melody, Justin decides to continue his arpeggio’s with his spare hand on the Rhodes. The breakdown has some amazing, overdriven chords from Mark instead of Justin’s Rhodes for a change. Bobby adds a repetitive Moog motif, JT puts a cymbal on the snare for a very solid ‘crack’ sound. JT keeps the groove very simple and Justin adds some sparse synth bass on the Prophet while Mike adds some more harmonics. Very, very funky. The band picks it up just before the horn soli. Mark turns on the phaser and helps out the keyboards with the chords. The groove features more ride cymbal than usual and Mike doesn’t use the octaver. The following section is much more traditional Whitecap with lots of sub-octave bass playing from Mike and a more ‘club’ style groove from JT. Justin cranks the synth once again. The second breakdown section has Justin reharmonize everything on Rhodes underneath the Horn section; no one else was playing. Maz takes the solo on trumpet with the wah pedal on top of a super funky section with the help of Bobby’s distorted clavinet and Mark’s comping. Maz repeats lots of 3 note fragments with displacement and he then moves away from them with lots of stepwise lines. During this time, Justin reharmonizes the chords on Rhodes and again and the other horns add some rhythmic stabs. The following section is still very funky just before the massive outro. Maz continues his solo on the final chord.

Grown Folks – This one starts off super funky with lots of wah basslines from Mike plus Bobby on clav and Mark on guitar playing lots of staccato, syncopated chords. After the call and response melody, Justin adds some tasteful high pitched arpeggios between the chords. The linking section has Maz use the Harmon mute and Justin takes a little solo on Rhodes. The added saxophone is really noticeable with the melody. Justin adds some acid synth to the bassline and JT gets playful just before the solo section. Mark adds some subtle minor6 chords to the background. Justin takes the solo on Trumpet here and he really takes his time. The whole band simmers right down and he plays around with a very mellow and warm tone. He utilizes his super high register a lot more than usual, often reaching really high Eb6’s. He goes for a classic blues/big band screech trumpet approach but with a lot more lyricism. Bobby and Mark take over the chordal riff towards the end of the solo. Justin continues into the C minor section with more classic phrasing and super high notes. The solo finishes with lots of energy thanks to Bobby’s organ sustaining the chords. The outro gets funky with lots of distorted clav action from Bobby and Justin adds more acid synth courtesy of the Prophet 6. Mark takes a really melodic solo with lots of note bending and whammy bar action plus some tapping. He explores his high register too. The groove bubbles away until the unison melody at the end where Mike uses an octaver and some wah.

Tarova – Justin changes the synth sound back to his usual mellow sound for this one; very string-like (emulating the Metropole Orkest very well). Mike comes in with a very ‘club’ bass sound with the octaver and JT uses the cymbal on the snare technique for that cutting sound. Bobby takes his time on the organ starting with a percussive, more classic jazz sound and then he goes to church once JT opens the groove up a bit more. Things continue to boil under JT’s solid groove. Bobby plays the melody solo and REALLY far behind the beat. The horn melody sounds a lot fatter than usual with Bob and Zach playing together. The unison has a super washed out synth sound from Justin and Mark’s guitar tone is super crispy. Maz takes the solo with the wah Trumpet. Sadly he is quite quiet in the mix. Mark plays some very heavily swung chord voicings instead of doubling the bassline like normal. Maz gets into some more out-there lines and his more typical scaelic stuff. The outro is funky and has a nice percussion solo from Nate who explores lots of polyrhythms and sextuplet subdivisions. Justin uses lots of delay on his Rhodes chords which seem to echo on for ages. He plays lots of them super high up as well. Nate explores dynamically too before Mike brings it back in. Bobby says goodbye with the clavinet.

Thing of Gold – Justin starts with the Rhodes like usual but he later incorporates some synth. Bullock plays a little mistake with the melody by missing the first two notes, but he cleverly uses this to change the rhythm on it later on. JT shapes the drum groove a little differently. No one asks the audience to sing along with the melody this time so Bobby just plays it on Moog with lots of volume swells. Mark’s guitar lines in between the melody are so different to Chris’. He uses a lower register and leaves a lot of the fills to Bobby on the Moog, but he plays during the melody. The solo section is really funky and gets a tasteful, melodic solo from Bob Reynolds. Mike uses some fifths in his bassline to give it lots of power. Bobby starts shredding underneath Bob on the organ before pulling out the drawbars for some sustained chords. Bob explores with lots of harmonics and growling sounds. The melody afterwards is less saturated than usual as Justin doesn’t use the synth, but instead just the Rhodes. Bobby’s solo starts at a much lower dynamic as gets melodic with the Moog playing over the wonderful chord changes. He picks it up quickly with some brief virtuosity. The horns add some harmonies underneath. Bobby fades away into his solo with lots of delay on the Moog and gets into some lo-fi sounds with heaps of non-diatonic notes. The song fades away into a D minor 6 major 7 chord signaling the start of the next tune.

Ready Wednesday – Justin starts this one off on his keyboard workstation and Bobby soon joins in with the clavinet. JT and Mark get funky with a halftime feeling groove. The second time through the melody has Mike change up the bassline and Justin stops playing rhythmically but ambiently with the Rhodes. Mark and Bobby keep it percussive though. JT picks up the groove just before the breakdown. Justin keeps the tremolo and trills going before the newly arranged section. This section is quieter and has less energy than normal, but JT and Mike quickly change this when Mark takes the solo. Mark gets into lots of melodic minor lines with a searing lead tone. He almost quotes ‘Jingle Bells’ at the start but he stops once he realizes! He gets into some shredding and tapping towards the end before the melody comes back in. Everyone but Justin and the horns drop out afterwards before the last time the main groove is heard. The outro is spacy and Justin gets a little time in the spotlight with some heavily classical influenced harmony. Mike thanks everyone for coming and he introduces the band once the audience cries out for an encore. A favorite quote of mine from this show is ‘his birth certificate says Corsicana Texas, but I’m pretty sure he comes from another f*ckin’ planet.’ Everyone should surely know who he was talking about!

Xavi (Encore) – Xavi was becoming a very popular encore. This one starts with Michael explaining the polyrhythmic clapping. The percussion and drums are quieter than usual at the start so you can more clearly hear Mike’s bassline and Bullock’s flute. After Mark’s guitar break, Justin adds some synth bass on the Prophet 6, and Bobby uses the phaser on the clavinet. Bullock plays flute most of the way through this one as Bob Reynolds has the saxophone covered. The blend between the tenor sax, Harmon mute trumpet and flute is very close to the original album version. That being said, Bullock switches back to the saxophone for the first solo where he plays some really dissonant long notes in contrast to lots of ‘inside’ syncopated lines. He searches and finds many motivic lines that he repeats and explores. Towards the end, he gets right up into his altissimo register as JT and everyone else really picks up the groove. The B section gets some pretty embellished chords from Justin on Rhodes and some overdriven chords from Mark in a swell like fashion. The groove afterwards is extended a bit longer than usual before the next solo. Zach takes it with a very intense phaser sound to begin with, but he then changes this to just regular overdrive and chorus. He plays lots of out there lines with heaps of dissonance, but he still keeps things secure with some really solid phrasing and fragmentation of his ideas. Towards the end, he starts shredding the demisemiquavers. After this, the Audience gets a few measures alone with Nate and JT before Bullock and Mike bring it back in on soprano sax and bass. The rest of the horns join in and Mark adds some lovely volume swells with the chords and Justin plays the chords up higher than usual. Mark drops out during the solo section to let Bobby and Mike handle everything. Justin takes a playful Rhodes solo with lots of angular lines and some block chord comping with his left hand. His sense of time is impeccable here. Mike changes the bassline up quite a bit before the outro. Bobby switches to the MiniMoog Model D for the synth bass for some percussive comping underneath the flute and violin melody. Justin adds some synth bass too on the Prophet and it sounds HUGE! This whole show is worth a listen just for that. Mason Davis joins Michael on the krakebs like usual for the end. ‘YES PORTLAND! Beautiful. Thank you so much you’ve been wonderful. Beautiful job’ – Mike League at the end of the show.


  • Bob Reynolds – Tenor Saxophone
  • Chris Bullock – Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute
  • Mike ‘Maz’ Maher – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
  • Justin Stanton – Trumpet, Workstation Keys, Rhodes, Prophet 6
  • Michael League – Bass, Krakebs
  • Mark Lettieri – Guitar
  • Zach Brock – Violin
  • Bobby Sparks – Organ, Moog, Clavinet, Mellotron
  • Nate Werth – Percussion
  • Jason ‘JT’ Thomas – Drums

Sound Crew:

  • Matt Recchia – sound and engineering (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, I will primarily be writing reviews of my vast and growing Live Snarky and album collection in hopes that my writing will inspire some purchases along the way. All of the money spent on or 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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