THE HORN IDENTITY: The Kamikaze Thundercats / LeSuits / His Merry Men / Kingston Stompers
Review by Sam George-Allen
The Zoo, Saturday August 4
Nine months after the success of Ska Tissue, the God of Puns (Brass Division) has blessed us with another brash, ‘bone and bari bonanza: The Horn Identity.
Reggae revival eight-piece the Kingston Stompers get the evening off to a swinging start with a set designed to get the crowd skanking, and they are obliged. In keeping with the punning theme, the Stompers augment their tuba and tenor sax with “the Brasstards” on trumpet and trombone. We’re treated to a ska version of Redemption Song, a steel drum solo, and Defenceless, a solid original penned by the keys player, who appears to have come straight from his day job as a mid-priced accountant. Everyone else in the band has sideburns, mohawks, trilbies, and variations on the black-and-white chessboard that’s synonymous with ska, and at the end of the set, after the tuba’s mic has finally been turned on, there is that warm, satisfying feeling of getting what you’ve paid for.
As the room begins to fill, His Merry Men (alto sax, baritone sax, trumpet) beckon in the loiterers at the back of the room to absorb their excellent demonstration of How To Put Horns In Pop Music. Synchronised dance moves: check. Bitchin’ solos: check. Swapping the bari sax for a soprano: check. Everyone in this band has formidable chops, and lead vocalist Megan Crocombe fronts the eight-piece with verve. Alto saxophonist Sean McKenzie augments the pop-funk fusion with some sweet bleeps and bloops via MacBook, and the whole set is a great argument for jazz-trained musicians to make the transition to the mainstream. Bonus: the smoke machine behind the keys means that Daniel Grindrod looks like he is literally on fire.
Crowd favourites LeSuits (bass clarinet, trombone, two trumpets, baritone sax) open with a cover of the Pokemon theme song, and the urge to approach the stage and convulse while gazing into the crazed eyes of frontmen Barnes Mackay and Rob Zosars overwhelms this reviewer. Every member of the band is dressed as a Pokemon character and this is enough, I think, to make everyone’s entry fee worth it — but LeSuits go on to be a blaze of frenetic, ultra-tight, horn-driven metallic phunk. Highlights include a hula hoopist/fan dancer/choreographed fighter (Panda Wilford — also LeSuits’ costumier) in a Pokeball bra; a filthy-sexy rap; and the lyic, “I’m gonna eat your face, Jeff Goldblum.” There was much head banging and wailing of guitars and horns — and the God of Brass saw that it was good.
After the multicoloured fist-to-the-face energy of LeSuits, the Kamikaze Thunderkats (two trumpets, trombone) have a lot of living up to do, and they almost get there. This is trad-ska, Americo-ska, following faithfully in the chequerboard footsteps of Reel Big Fish, which is enough to get a safe-distance-spaced crowd skanking spastically, but not enough for me. After the showy and technically outstanding brass of LeSuits and His Merry Men, the basic one-line of the horns in the Thunderkats leaves something wanting. They shine best in their cover of the Arthur theme song (always going to get them points) in and their last number, Burnt Out — the horns get to have some limelight, there’s a sweet guitar solo and a solid reggae-feel change. The crowd have almost worn out their suspenders and their mohawks are on the droop; it’s been a good wrap up for a classy, brassy night.
SAM GEORGE-ALLEN is a Brisbane writer, postgrad student, and musician who can be found being disappointing @samga