Snarky Puppy Concert Review: New Haven, CT, September 5, 2019

Doug and I are ready to start reviewing shows once again! We plan on covering every show on  from this show on the 5th of September until the Nuremberg show on the 30th of November. This was the second show of the second half of the US tour as the first show in Philly on September 4 was not recorded on audio. However, here’s a partial video from Philly on our YouTube Channel.

This New Haven show took place at ‘Toad’s Place”,’ a nightclub with a more casual atmosphere and a particularly rowdy crowd. The pup’s played a varied and high energy set with lots of older tunes. What’s interesting about this show is that Justin is the only trumpet player. As Mike says, Justin is on ‘triple duty’ due to him having to play all the trumpet and flugel parts whilst also not neglecting the Bobby/Shaun keyboard section. Hard work!


Beep Box – Mike brings this one in very gently on the Moog bass. Justin gets eerie very early on with some luscious, reharmonized Rhodes chords. Marcelo’s percussion work adds the cherry on top here. McQueen’s volume swells coupled with some subtle tremolo adds a lovely warmth and pad-like texture. Chris’ flute melody is doubled by only Zach on violin as Justin sticks to the keys. JT’s groove picks up slightly in the siphonic section with lots of reverb on the toms. The drop is really high energy and features a synth sound I’ve never heard from Justin before. Bobby and Mike destroy the bassline on the Moogs! Shaun gets colorful with his keyboard accompaniment with an acoustic piano patch. McQueen takes a very edgy guitar solo with a ton of angular lines and a crunchy tone. The outro is super funky and gets lots of reharmonization from Justin on the Rhodes and synth. The crowd goes nuts!

Flood – Mike sets this tune on bass for a change. He starts with some double stops and chords using the Lydian mode. JT adds some subtle cymbal work here too. Mike ends with an ascending, chromatic chord progression before adapting the main Flood riff for the bass with just intervals 1 and 5. Things simmer along at a slower than usual tempo. JT comes in with a simple cross-stick groove and Marcelo keeps this funky with some wonderful bongo playing. McQueen and Shaun add some nice textural and atmospheric ideas on top. Justin uses the Harmon mute with the trumpet for the main melody with Chris on tenor and Zach on violin. The first time through the head is very sparse but this changes very quickly to become very busy and funky. McQueen introduces the original flood riff here. The B section is smooth thanks to some beautiful organ comping from Bobby and lots of delay and reverb on the horn melody. JT’s drumming is so sensitive here. McQueen lets each note ring out to its fullest. The return to the 7/8 section is playful thanks to JT’s fills. Justin takes a trumpet solo under a quieter and more acoustic sounding solo section. Zach plays a rhythmic accompaniment role here on the violin by plucking some one-note lines switching between 2 notes. Justin plays lots of motivic phrases and leaves lots of space. After the mid-solo break, everyone picks up the groove enormously. Bobby starts sustaining his organ chords and JT starts incorporating the crash cymbal more frequently. Justin leads perfectly into the 5/8 section where the band settles down into a beautiful and sensitive soundscape. JT’s drum solo is quite frantic which contrasts heavily against the simplistic chord progression, melody and guitar line. Bobby builds his organ comping ever so slightly throughout this section and Zach meanders with some super high notes. The crescendo is huge! Shaun jumps in with an acoustic piano keyboard patch and keeps everything together harmonically as well as texturally. JT gets super virtuosic here and Justin shows off his screech trumpet chops. Shaun adds some tasty fills just before the ‘drop.’ Mike’s bassline is simplified quite a lot here, but it works really well against Bobby’s busy and ridiculously funky clavinet comping. The refrain gets some ‘slap bass’ from Mike with the wah. The outro gets lots of really high notes from both Justin and Bullock. Mike takes everyone to a dance club with some super heavy sub-octave basslines.

GØ – JT starts this one off immediately after Flood finishes and gets into some serious polyrhythms and a display of his immense technical ability on the kit. McQueen comes in after around 2 minutes with the main melody. He uses a scratchy and lo-fi tone highlighting the articulation very clearly. After the horn harmonies (with some nice additions from McQueen), Bobby and Mike come in very confidently with the bassline. Bullock takes the first solo on tenor and destroys it. There are a few subtle quotations of the melody in there. Zach does some more single note comping here. He ends on a very dissonant major 7th interval. The B section is funky and gets a powerful solo from Bobby on the clav. The clav is so distorted it often starts feeding back. He starts with a few fragmented bluesy licks before going all chromatic and chaotic! By the end, he is shredding like mad. Justin adds some subtle synth comping giving the section a new, space-age sound. After the main groove returns, Bobby doubles the keys motif on the clav to give it an aggressive new sound. The horn melody is doubled by Zach with an overdriven sound just before McQueen takes the outro solo. This is one of my favorite solos from McQueen on this tune. He dials up a very aggressive octave fuzz tone and plays some crazy lines following the chord progression perfectly. The final horn melody gets some interjections from McQueen with the same tone. The outro gets spooky thanks to some marvelous organ playing from Bobby. Zach, McQueen and Mike all get tweaking their effects to make the final chord as washy as possible.

Bad Kids to the Back – This one starts off like normal with JT’s drum fill and lots of wah guitar from McQueen, but the big difference here is that Justin steps away from the Rhodes as he’s on trumpet duty. Zach’s violin is pretty loud in this mix. Bobby handles the majority of the chordal accompaniment on the organ and McQueen gets super funky with some swinging, percussive playing. After the melody and accompaniment roles get switched, Zach turns on the Wah, possibly to emulate McQueen’s accompaniment from earlier on. Zach also takes the solo here and showcases his unbelievable chops and love for experimentation. He uses a slightly overdriven sound with a phaser. The end of his solo is extremely climatic with searing and ridiculously fast, ‘outside’ lines. After the main tune returns, McQueen and Zach harmonize with each other on the interlude melody. JT harnesses the power of the galaxy for his drum solo. He starts with pretty ‘out-there’ with some wild polyrhythms without ever losing the beat. Towards the end, he starts smashing the cymbals and Bobby joins in with an organ drone note which helps to lift the energy even further. A Truly impressive performance. After the final horn melody and heavy groove, Mike says hello to New Haven and thanks Alina Enginbaryan for opening the show. He praises Justin for ‘holding down the double duty’ and explains that the buttons he presses before the song are to let the Pup’s lighting engineer know which song is about to be played, not pre-recorded pro tools tracks!

Even Us – McQueen starts this one off very gently with a clean, middle-pickup tone at a slightly faster pace. Shaun comes in with the main melody and Bobby adds some tasty, high pitched organ licks. Zach takes on the main melodic role here as opposed to Bullock. The tune builds slowly under some very sparse drumming and percussion work from JT and Marcelo. The horn harmonies don’t sound as present as normal due to the absence of Maz or Jay on flugelhorn, but Zach and McQueen do their best to fill up as much space as needed to generate a thicker texture. Justin takes an incredible, extended flugelhorn solo with a very mellow and warm tone. For a change, McQueen steps away from doubling the bassline and instead adds some choppy tremolo chords on top of the bassline. Bobby plays around with the harmony too on the organ. Zach adds some drone notes on the violin too. Justin picks up the energy immensely and plays much more outside lines. McQueen doubles the Bassline near the end, but with the overdriven, tremolo sound and even includes a bit of the whammy bar for some wonderful weirdness. The energy settles down slightly just before McQueen and Shaun end the song with their dark riff.

Xavi – Mike was very impressed with New Haven’s clapping. They were able to play the 4:3 polyrhythm without hearing how the two rhythms sound together, something Mike says has never happened before. As mike says, “That was f awesome. I guess the secret is to tell someone they can’t do something.” This version starts off briskly after the usual horn intro. Justin adds some Rhodes swells during Bullock’s solo flute melody for something different. Things continue gently until McQueen’s guitar break with the overdrive cranked to the max. Afterwards, Bobby comes in loud and clear with some heavily overdriven clavinet. Zach doubles the melody up an octave with lots of phaser and distortion. The groove continues to bubble away underneath a very funky guitar solo from McQueen. He starts with some rhythmic chordal playing and some tasty outside licks. After a note-bending frenzy he starts shredding a mix of chromatic and pentatonic lines. He closes the solo with some sweep picking and some more chords. The second solo section is super funky thanks to Bobby and Mike’s syncopated clavinet bassline and McQueen’s wah rhythm guitar work. Zach takes the solo here with some wah and a generous helping of overdrive. He starts shredding very early on this time and slowly builds up a thick wall of dissonance and unusual textures thanks to his pedals. He ends the solo with the harmonizer on about 3 different harmonies and some insanely wide vibrato notes. The band fades out into just the percussion section before Mike and Bullock introduce the new melodic theme. Bobby’s organ comping following on from this is just spectacular. As a nice change, Bobby takes the outro solo on the organ. McQueen takes over the main harmonic comping role here, however, Justin adds some lovely washy Rhodes chords underneath everything. Bobby’s bluesy lines are just the smoothest things one could imagine and the solo builds perfectly with the rest of the band. Zach, Bullock and Justin bring the melody back in just before the usual chaotic outro.

Sleeper – Justin starts off this classic tune on the Rhodes with a ton of Delay and reverb and some subtle reharmonizations. Shaun comes in with the talkbox and the crowd goes absolutely crazy. Just before the main groove starts, McQueen dials up a choppy tremolo sound to help segue the different sections. Justin remains on keyboard duty throughout the entire song leaving Bullock and Zach to handle the melody which creates a very different sound; less smooth and more aggressive. After the groove picks up, McQueen goes nuts with his comping. Shaun gets a tiny moment in the spotlight just before the final melody before the breakdown is played. The tempo climbs. Justin and McQueen get spacey and reharmonize the hell out of the solo section as Mike introduces the whole band. After this, Shaun gets comedic and vocal with the talkbox asking the crowd to ‘make some noise.’ He brings the original melody back once again and Justin reharmonizes some more on the Rhodes. McQueen gets super funky during Shaun’s solo and Bobby creates a massive wall of sound with the organ. Shaun gets motivic and eventually gets some time alone with JT and Marcelo. During this moment he plays constant semiquavers and manages to play percussively with the talkbox and Moog. JT and Marcelo drop out temporarily and Shaun continues his virtuosity and quotes a little Michael Jackson. The band comes back louder and more powerful than before. JT and Mike go dubstep for the outro.

Shofukan (Encore) -McQueen starts this one off with a slightly warmer tone and a more rhythmic approach than usual. The tempo is faster too. McQueen takes over Justin’s Rhodes role as Justin is too busy killing it on the classic trumpet melodies. Bobby switches from organ to the clav just before McQueen’s guitar break. McQueen adds some washy chords during the start of the solo section and Mike takes a bass solo! Bobby and McQueen shine here with firstly some delicate and ambient comping, and then finally some super funky comping that gives the solo section a new life. Mike plays around with dotted quaver groupings of his lines and Justin joins in on the Rhodes with some very funky comping also. After Mike’s main solo, he turns on the octave pedal for a hugely heavy sounding bassline. The song continues on as normal until the outro where Bobby dials up the most aggressive and heavy sound possible on the clavinet for the bassline. Zach joins the horns with the classic melody and McQueen holds down the arpeggios. During the audience’s turn to sing the melody, Bobby plays some bluesy lines and then eventually Bobby and JT find a Texas shuffle groove they both like and play it out. Shaun sneaks in a Mario reference as well. And, just as you think that they’ve stopped, and even after Mike says goodbye… Bobby starts soloing and also introduces the funkiest Moog bassline you’ve ever heard. McQueen plays some ridiculously funky comping here too, all whilst the audience continues singing the outro melody. JT and Bobby get some time alone and the groove builds. JT drops out pretty soon after and Bobby takes us on a journey. The main outro reemerges, however, Mike doubles Bobby’s new bassline and Zach goes ‘80s with the harmonizer. Shaun leads a mass singing of ‘we came to party.’ The groove still manages to reach new heights. Bobby, Mike and McQueen double each other on a new syncopated bassline and the horns play the melody for a final time. The last note is sustained for ages rather than cut short like usual and everyone in the band joins in. What a fun version!


  • Chris Bullock – Saxophone, Flute
  • Justin Stanton – Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Keyboards
  • Michael League – Bass
  • Chris McQueen – Guitar
  • Zach Brock – Violin
  • Bobby Sparks – Keyboards
  • Shaun Martin – Keyboards
  • Marcelo Woloski – Percussion
  • Jason ‘JT’ Thomas – Drums

Sound Crew:

  • Matt Recchia – Engineering and sound (front of house)
  • Michael Harrison – Monitors
  • Neil MacIntosh – 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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