'Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’ can barely fit on the Thekla stage; each of the nine-strong Chicago band has to hustle room for their various instruments, flat-peak hats and their cool, über-American personas! Combine that setup with a crowd invigorated by the ultra-funky warm-up act, ‘The Souljazz Orchestra’, and your result is a bustling scene dripping with heat and charged with expectancy.
‘Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’ open with great energy, swaying and bouncing rhythmically as they pierce the sticky air with music that animates all it reaches – likely the whole neighbourhood. The ‘Salvation Army’ Marching Band this ain’t!
Young, cool and exciting, they fuse the brass-band sound and technique of old with the rhythms and material of a modern hip-hop crew. Well, sometimes. That’s the great thing about them; one minute the crowd are bouncing like a scene from ‘8-Mile’, the next the height of the audience is swiftly reduced by half as everyone is invited to ‘get low’ during one of the more experimental, funky numbers. Whether it’s engaging rapturously in the ‘call and response’ verses with the lead vocalist, or swaying to the more serene offerings, the crowd are well catered for, and this is reflected in their age and appearance; quite the melting pot.
An endless enthusiasm pinballed around the venue throughout the night, creating a unique and memorable atmosphere. Particularly crucial was the sheer involvement of the band in their music with performances that would rise and fall organically, forming a real spectacle when the stage was pulsing with so many different energies, movements, styles and sounds. Remarkably, with such a cacophony of activity, the sound remained incredibly tight, as if being played from a CD. A CD that plays very loud and very charismatically!
I had already decided this was one of the most unique gigs I’d ever seen before the excellent encore, which added an extra value to the night. The lights went off, the phones and lighters went up and the glimmering brass instruments carved their final smooth sounds over the spellbound assembly. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble do exactly what they say on the tin, and then some. This is a gig to be experienced.
9 / 10
Darren Paul Thompson