On the eve of the decade’s biggest snow storm, Boston was dimly lit and eerily quiet. Downstairs at the Middle East, it was a decidedly different energy. Ignoring warnings, those that ventured out were rewarded by the top flight musicianship and energy-ramping acrobatics of BADBADNOTGOOD.
Taking the stage close to midnight, the trio looked every bit their young ages. That is, until they started playing. Rocking t-shirts and jeans, BBNG immediately began scorching through their catalog with tenacity.
They took their menacing “DMZ” and stripped it for parts, demonstrating agility and experienced interplay between the three instruments. Drummer Alexander Sowinski did a tremendous job of expanding the pocket, allowing just the slightest encroachment of anticipation, but keeping everything wonderfully together, stepping in just in time to keep the bubble from bursting completely.
The back-to-back sequence of “Putty Boy Strut” and an as-yet-untitled new track displayed Chester Hanson’s versatility and virtuosity on the bass. Sporting a simple, high-strapped electric, Hanson alternated between carrying the melody and serving as the low-end backbone, particularly on the new track’s more progressive sound.
The new material varied in textures, but not quality. There was a ballad, with keyboardist Matthew Tavares (brilliant throughout) masterfully tempering the mood from his Korg. Following an emotional “Fall In Love” (The concert took place on Feb. 7, J. Dilla’s birthday. He would’ve been 39.), the last new number of the night incorporated some sampled electronics that portends well for the band’s new album.
But the night’s highlights belonged to their closing covers. I attempted to capture the madness of TNGHT’s “Bugg’n” on video, but the bottom end makes the audio sound like an alien transmission. (Bass!) Picture it as a more claustrophobic version of this.
After the brooding “Bastard,” the band pushed the energy even higher for their version of Gucci Mane’s “Lemonade.” Featuring multiple drops and thunderous playing, the performance registered that rare occurrence for a jazz show – crowd-surfers.
The night concluded with the grandiose “Flashing Lights,” with BADBADNOTGOOD sounding huge and triumphant. And for jazz fans, and music fans, for that matter, we never thought the trio from Toronto would ever take it this far. But then again, what do we know?
Local act earlynineties opened the evening. The show started with an off-kilter DJ set before the project’s mastermind Adam McGinn arrived and dipped into some darkly-tinged R&B. At least I think that’s what it was; the venue’s sound system did the duo few favors. Still, the group’s energy and ideas were noteworthy enough to check on the recorded versions.
Boston-based DJ/electronic producer Durkin took the stage next. His blend of blissed-out drops and hip-hop head-nodders kept the crowd engaged. The setlist ranged widely, including cuts from Outkast to Aaliyah, SBTRKT to Jeremih, but by far the most interesting elements were his original productions.