Deep Banana Blackout gets funky

I think that a good barometer of a show’s quality is how much the floor is shaking, and how the people around you are moving. Using this yardstick, Wednesday night’s concert by Connecticut-based Deep Banana Blackout (DBB) was a rousing success. The Goodrich floor was constantly trembling throughout the night. This was rather hard to notice while dancing, as most people were, but if you could manage to stand still, you would feel a minor earthquake with a rowdy funk band at the epicenter. Even the most inhibited of students felt the groove. The “best dancer” award, however, would have to go to a balding, middle-aged man with dreadlocks and a flannel t-shirt, who spun and twirled his way through the audience throughout the show.

DBB is a band that has gone through some lineup changes. In previous years, they had a female front-woman who belted out soulful vocals over a horn-charged funk base in a style comparable to Janis Joplin’s. I saw her final performance with the band at the Berkshire Music Festival a few years back in Great Barrington.

The current lineup of the band is drums, percussion, bass, keyboards and organ, trombone, saxophone, flute and guitar. Vocal duties are shared by all. What this adds up to is a densely-layered sound that entrances its listeners. DBB had a fairly broad dynamic range within a funk-based idiom, at times rocking more like a jam band with guitarist Fuzz taking some extended solos, while at other times the tight horn arrangements and repeated lyrics reminded me more of funk bands like Sly and the Family Stone or Parliament. Although DBB played songs from throughout their career, there was a generous selection of songs from their newest album, Feel the Peel.

Most who attended the show would agree that it was one of the best concerts to hit Williams in quite some time. Those who missed it should know that they play in the Northeast fairly regularly.

However, the scene that surrounded the concert distracted from the quality of the music performed. First, it was quite disappointing to see Williams students begin leaving the show a mere 30 minutes after it had begun. This exodus continued throughout the night, and the results were painfully obvious as the second set began. Fortunately, the band’s energy did not diminish. Seeing the audience file out dampens the morale of any performer, and it seems shortsighted to leave prematurely from an event of obviously high caliber. Without a strong display of student support, the Student Activities Committee (SAC), who brought the band to campus, will get the wrong message.

More importantly, the end of the show was disappointing. There is a 1:00 a.m. curfew that bands must abide by, and DBB was going about 3 minutes past 1:00 a.m. with their encore song. Security, at that point, turned on the house lights, while the band was still playing. This action served no discernible purpose, since the band was clearly en route to finishing their final song as it was. I strongly urge the Williams Security department to consider changing this policy. It is an outrage to a band that is clearly playing their final encore to cut them short in such a fashion, and it ended a generally positive, uplifting show on a depressed note. When decent bands come out to Williams, we have to present them with a good experience when they are on stage if we want them to consider returning.

Regardless of these few minor disappointments, the show was excellent. DBB is a well-rehearsed band, obviously enjoying their time playing together on stage. Their sound is tight and funky, and they perform consistently high-energy live shows.