Okay so for a musician, I haven’t been to as many live music performances as I would have liked. Admittedly, this is because going to shows can add up over time and I’m a student that’s currently focused on saving up to go live in England for 5 months. However, I got to go to a Snarky Puppy show last night and oh my goodness. It was by far one of the BEST shows I have ever been to. Ever.
Now I must confess that I didn’t really know all of their discography but what I did know, I loved and I was so excited to get to see them live.For those who may not know, Snarky Puppy is a contemporary jazz group based out of Brooklyn, NY. While there were only seven members at the show this past weekend, there are more than 30 total members of Snarky Puppy as many of them play with the band in rotation. What makes them so unique is the fact that all of their albums are recorded live in front of an audience. Their commitment to a unique performance is super fantastic plus they’re great improvisors so that helps to create a very distinct performance that cannot be replicated.
The room buzzed with excitement as we waited for the headliners to hit the stage. The opening act was a unique mix of gospel, punk, and surf rock influences making them an interesting choice to open for the contemporary jazz group. As the lights dimmed, the audience began to clap and cheer as the seven members walked on stage and found their places. Starting the show with a song from their 4th album, ‘Tell Your Friends’, they started simple but built up into a rousing, harmonious mix of funky beats, bright horns, and the rich sounds of the Hammond B3. The audience bounces and bobs in their seats cheering and clapping in approval. The song has a crisp finish and the audience cheers and applauds, clearly enthused at what they have heard.
Throughout the rest of the show they take us on a musical journey. They dance and move about while they play and they really seem to enjoy what they’re doing. My favourite moments are when the music comes down and provides a base for an instrumentalist use their instruments to tell their own stories. As each one plays their solo, all the members of the band turn to give their attention to the musician, engaging and getting excited with the crowd as they respond to the music.
At one point, the improvisation goes from being a story for one but a story for two. The bass and the pianist started having a conversation. The bassist would play a few notes, then the pianist would respond with a few different notes that would take it to a different place. They just went back and forth until everyone else had joined in on the conversation. Yet it went even beyond the instruments but the instrumentalists themselves seemed to be connecting and interacting with each other. It was by far one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
Photo credits: Spencer Lupul
Yet before the show could come to a complete close, the group took the opportunity to encourage the audience to support independent artists. As they are not signed to a major label, they rely heavily upon people buying and supporting the music. In fact, they highlighted a note they had found on stage with an apology for torrenting the album and $20 attached. As it turned out, one of the guys I’d met in line had actually left the note on the stage and he cheered when he realized that it was in fact his note. It was exciting to see a band who had “made it” speak out for the little guys. After the show, we had an opportunity to meet them and they were nothing but kind and welcoming. After shaking hands and thanking them for the show, we left the theatre completely amazed at what we had heard and experienced.
Beyond the music, they really seemed to enjoy themselves and have fun! It’s so easy to get so focused on executing the music in whatever way the audience expects it as opposed to embracing the new and unplanned aspects of presentation. These guys were not limited by a set list and instead chose to play whatever was in their hearts to play and in doing so they created a really amazing and unique experience for the audience. And improvising is not the easiest thing to do in the world. It’s a really specific talent to improvise and to tell a unique story that can only be told once. It was for sure an exciting thing to see!
All in all, it was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to and I’m so excited to see where these guys go! I do have to give a shout out to the very talented photographer that I met in line for the show. He took a few shots before and during the show and his photos are featured in the banner and in the body of this post! Plus he was the guy who had given the note to the band to pay for the torrented album and I think that’s awesome! I’ll link his socials down below; check out his work!
Until Next Time,
Peace & Harmonies