That’s the last time I’ll ever be late to a Stepkids show ever again, and not just because the coat check was full. By the time I bullied through the crowd at Brooklyn Bowl, pulling my best concert crowd navigation tricks to get myself to the front, the band was just about finishing an extensive jam session before introducing themselves to their hometown crowd. I have to admit, my extent of Stepkids knowledge pretty much spanned to the fact that one of my favorite hip-hop labels, Stones Throw, recently picked them up. But after snapping their fingers and ba-ba-ba-ing into Cream’s “I Feel Free” as their true opener, The Stepkids had primed the crowd for an evening of rock and roll, funk, electric soul, and pretty much anything else that the term “groovy” can be used to describe.
The Stepkids at Brooklyn Bowl
The night could be described best as an interstellar voyage, with The Stepkids leading the crowd on a dance through various musical atmospheres en route to a final funky showdown. On our journey, the trio that is Jeff Gitelman on guitar, Dan Edinberg on bass, and Tim Walsh on drums, continued to defy genres in an effort to bring out a sound that can only be called their own. Tracks like “The Art of Forgetting,” which covered the crowd into a syncopated blue haze, served as a showcase for the free-form jazz prowess of the band. Between the choruses of “Bound and broken he sings / Knowing the art of forgetting,” Gitelman and Edinberg let their fingers dance off in a perfect combinations of slides, scales, and fret picking solos. Ending the track on a spaced out note, Gitelman, along with the crew, returned to Earth and said “Let’s get back to the funk.”
On “Sweet Salvation,” the kids channeled their innermost Parliament, bringing out out a funky, electric sound that not only had the crowd moving and grooving, but also saw Gitelman and Edinberg perform synchronized dance moves. As all three members crooned “Sweet salvation is a tangible divine,” I’m sure everyone in the crowd could feel an understanding of something that most certainly came from beyond, but was strangely emitting from right in front of us. That feeling was strong enough to motivate the entire crowd into a side-stepping slide – seriously, the entire crowd was doing a two-step slide at one point – on Gitelman’s request.
The night continued with funky ups and downs, with every song evident of a dynamic range of influences from traditional West African beats to neo-soul to 20th century classical. On “Moving Pictures,” the trio hit a perfect compliment of slow soul (strangely reminiscent of Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach) mixed with a 70s big band funk sound. “Desert In The Dark” featured main vocal contributions from way back behind the drum kit, with the two showmen in front performing backing harmonies, all the while swaying with choreographed footwork. The band even took a a moment to interlude into a cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” which put the crowd into an awesome frenzy.
Finishing their set abruptly, the band left the stage, the sound of Gitelman’s raw wammy continuing to resonate as he walked away from the crowd. Thankfully, less than a minute passed before they came back out, ready to dish out more funk for their fans. Tearing up the stage with more choreographed dance moves, Gitelman and Edinberg hit a final coordinated jump-and-strum and the band left the stage once again.
Some of the already satisfied crowd started heading out, but most of us kept cheering for more. Claps and woos came from the audience until finally, The Stepkids came out for their second encore, decked in royal red capes with the letters “SK” embroidered in gold on the backs. They rocked-out a final tune, culminating with Edinberg’s destructively wobbly solo and Gitelman losing himself on the ground, spinning on his back as he began his final notes. I was left wondering whether the “SK” on the capes stood for Stepkids or Stepkings, because by the end of the night, the trio really were the undisputed kings of groove.
The Stepkids, who looked as if John C. Reilly, Demetri Martin and, um, Ethan Hawke (?) joined together to form a funky fresh band, brought down the house at Brooklyn Bowl. It was a homecoming for the books if there ever was one. They’re more than performers – they’re entertainers, sending out infectious dance vibes tied in with their irresistible tunes. Their Stones Throw debut, Troubadour, is out now so be sure to check it out and don’t waste a minute to get cheap Stepkids tickets if the kids are coming through to your town anytime soon.
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Article by Arpan Somani