Thursday, March 3, 2011

When The Rebelution Comes

So yea, I was checkin' out these cats last night.

The Soul Rebels in London covering "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley

When I first moved to Baton Rouge for graduate school in 2004, I started hanging out with my now dear friend Mark who was a member of my class. He'd traveled down to Louisiana a few months before we all arrived to look for apartments and scope the scene. During his trip he spent a night in New Orleans, where he stumbled upon a spectacular group of musicians that ignited an audience like no other.

So a couple of months into the semester, Mark says to me, "These guys are gonna be in town this weekend. We have to go see them." Generally I tend to be overly skeptical about new musical experiences, but I couldn't think of anything else I had to do that weekend so I was happy to humor them.

We arrived at Chelsea's Cafe (the old location, for all you Baton Rougers) on a Saturday night about 10pm. As we walked in, I noticed a few cats in the parking lot that were having a spirited conversation about SEC football; not an uncommon occurrence in Louisiana. Mark says as we pass them, “I think that’s them right there.” “Really?” I thought. “You mean they aren’t holed up in pretentious isolation behind some VIP screen? Hmmm…”

After we entered the café and milled around for an hour or so, sure enough some of the guys from the parking lot began taking their places on a postage stamp-sized stage. One guy began setting up a bass drum with a cymbal mounted on top. Another adjusted the angle of his snare drum that rested on a stand just in front of his position. The two trumpet players were assembling their horns, the trombone and sax players were tuning theirs, and the sousaphone player took the time to affix a microphone to his bell. It was maybe 10 or 15 minutes between the time they began setting up until the beginning of their set, and boy did they come out swinging.

The Soul Rebels are able to balance the tradition of New Orleans’ unique texture of jazz with an awareness of contemporary musical progression, cooking up one of the most inspired, soulful, and energetic sonic experiences anyone could ever witness. Their music boils up from an ocean of impulses and sensations, bathing the crowd with funkiness. I’ve been checking The Rebels for about seven years now in a variety of venues. Not once have I observed an audience who could resist cutting a rug to these cats. Their sound is refreshingly relentless; the journey isn’t over until the night ends.

Mark and I were gettin’ down to these cats all night long; so were some other friends of ours that came to the show. We shouted, sweated, and clapped for two hours straight. (The Rebels don’t stop playing ever.) At the end of it all, I knew that I needed to be in the place every single time these guys came to town no matter where I may be. Missing a Rebels show is sacrilege.


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