Even though the room boasts an ample 1600 person capacity, Concord Music Hall felt like a glorified sardine can last weekend. As we clamored back from coat check, a friend reminded me that it used to be worse. Before the soundstage was pushed to the back of the venue, the audience arrangement was literally shoulder-to-shoulder. I quickly realized how right he was and thanked my lucky stars that there was space to dance, as Chicago welcomed rock duo BoomBox on Friday the 24th of January.
BoomBox at Concord Music Hall
When they finally ambled onstage donning their signature top hats and feather boas, the pair of Russ Randolph and Zion Godchaux launched into a fifteen-minute jam that evolved gradually into “After Awhile,” a song bursting with rapid beats and groovy synths. With Randolph controlling synths, drums, bass and most of the band’s pre-recorded tracks, Godchaux was free to improvise on lead guitar. The squealing, if not slippery, solos compliment his high pitched croon that permeates throughout the group’s entire catalogue. It’s hardly the voice you would expect from a man with such a grizzly fu-manchu.
Once the ice was broken, BoomBox followed-up with a particularly upbeat track, “Planetary Mirror,” and from there segued seamlessly into “Lost Ya,” “In the Forest,” and “Sahara.” Schizophrenic lasers and intricate light displays only added fuel to the fire. At this point, the audience was dancing so intently that it was tough to call it a rock show. If anything, their sound harks back to the days of disco that should rightly be missed. Godchaux’s jangly guitar unmistakably evoked Bee Gees sensibilities and Randolph’s sprinting bass lines would’ve made even Bernard Edwards proud.
The set progressed, growing from single-celled disco tracks into more complicated life forms, and an eager crowd was treated to some newer samplings from the BoomBox arsenal. From their latest studio album Filling In The Color, (for which they raised production funds via Kickstarter) they offered the endlessly funky “Waiting Around,” complete with heavy brass and talk box guitar effects that scream both Steely Dan and Peter Frampton. That said, their sound feels consistently contemporary, never asking much of their mainly twenty-something audience. Still, the influences of Godchaux’s roots are easy to pick out. His parents, Keith and Donna Jean, performed with the Grateful Dead for nearly ten years, and those elements of genre fusion are clearly branded in the BoomBox style–and then turned on their head.
As my night came to a close, I was ecstatic to hear to two of my favorite BoomBox tracks off Visions of Backbeat: “Watergun” and “Who Killed Davey Moore.” The former being a loungey ode to their relaxed aesthetic and the latter a flute-filled funkfest that sounds as though it was ripped straight out of some obscure blaxploitation score. As far as crowd rapport, the coupling of Godchaux and Randolph were oddly quiet. Barely uttering a word all night, the pair perhaps chose to let the music speak for itself. The devoted audience responded in the only way that made any sense–they danced their frigid asses off on an otherwise icy January evening.
Article by Mickey Jacobs