With the recent addition of Culcha Vulcha to the long list of masterful Snarky Puppy productions, this tour had a great deal of anticipation simply because this was the first purely studio-based album in eight years while all the recordings in between came with some sort of live performance along with the standard release. This did not devalue the album beyond taking a bit of the live feel away, but it definitely did lift expectations for the live renditions of the new album. This show, along with the handful of other Snarky Puppy performances I have seen in recent years, was something worthy of the utmost highest praise and admiration.
After some musical developments from members such as Corey Henry, Bill Laurance, and Michael League, I think it would be safe to call Snarky Puppy a super group of many different genres. The amount of sheer talent in this group is something that I feel is not only underrated, but must be somewhat hard to contain from time to time for everyone involved. This drive and creative brilliance coupled with an obvious and well-established friendship among all the members is what has kept Snarky Puppy extremely productive and so successful over the years. With many bands, a high quantity of albums will often lead to lower quality over time; this is not the case with this group.
Opening their first set with”Tarova” the first track from the new album, the crowd got a fresh taste of their eclectic percussion section and the wonderful talents they bring to the table. The list of influences these drummers derive their talents from has to be as deep as any of the great percussive artists throughout the ages. This track is a great example of how this group can gradually build up a groove into something far beyond the smooth, groovy, dancy feel that it starts out as. About half way through this song they cut the music for a split second and they open up a flood gate that lets an unbelievable amount of sound along with a thick, relentless groove, pour out onto the fans. The eruption of applause after this opening track was probably the loudest applause I have witnessed for them in all the time I have seen them, and the venue only got louder as the night went on.
Just to put into perspective how incredible the chemistry is between the members, these guys have been playing together since 2004 and probably even further back for some. This family of musicians have been altering the very fabric of the jazz community while shamelessly targeting the listeners of the rock, hip hop, blues, funk, and even metal communities as well with their aggressive, progressive, and in many ways subversive techniques towards composition and live performance, all while exchanging wonderfully genuine smiles and a heartwarming vibe overall. To me, this groups is bringing back a sincerity and a genuine expressiveness to music that may have been forgotten by many people over the years. This crew really does it all, and the fact that they are opening up people’s minds to more well rounded and experimental music while still being so easily enjoyable for everyone involved, makes me very excited to see what’s coming next.
After two full sets of non-stop jamming, heartfelt solos, and airtight pocket presence, Snarky Puppy ended their second set with one of my all time favorites, “Sleeper”. For those who may not know, just look up the video. This track is an expressive work of art with a relentless drum and bass groove that will sneak right up your spine and tingle every single sense you’ve got all the way back down to to your toes. From dancing with everyone I walked past, to giving strangers hugs and high fives after solos, to screaming at the top of my lungs and still not being able to hear myself over the roar of the crowd, I can honestly say I have not had this much fun at any other Snarky Puppy show; beyond that, this was legitimately one of the most fun, as well as impressive, shows I have seen in a long long time.
Of course they ended on “Shofukan.” The way this band is capable of ripping into a horn solo while the bass line sits right on top of the beat, and the drummer fills every void you can imagine except for the one that the keys are occupying effortlessly and seamlessly, is all almost too much to handle at times. Certain artists come to mind when I witness Snarky Puppy members and Michael League’s brilliance live and they are all artists that have a legacy for their live performances, such as Esperanza Spalding, Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea, Buddy Rich, Chris Coleman, and of course Miles Davis. This group has enough talent and heart to carry the musical community for years to come and I really hope that they do. If you haven’t sifted through the videos and music available to you online by these cats, please do. If you get a chance to see them live I would do so soon, before the only venues you’re able to see them at are giant ones. They are climbing quickly and you will want to catch them before they are on the top. Thank you Snarky Puppy for all your hard work and everything you give your fans.