The Troubadour remains my favorite venue in Los Angeles. Though I had never heard Monophonics before, and was only mildly familiar with Con Brio, the combination of the two bands playing on a Friday night at the venue was enough to convince me to grab a ticket.
And credit to both bands for bringing an energetic show to the post-Thanksgiving audience.
Northern California’s Con Brio make their live show just as entertaining as their music. Lead singer Ziek McCarter dressed like he was in an 80’s funk band and showed off dance moves that would have gotten an approving nod from James Brown. Musically, the group veered from upbeat funk to smooth neo-soul, with some unexpected grunge covers thrown in (Nirvana‘s “Heart Shaped Box” and a short Soundgarden medley). The seven-man group were a strong cohesive unit, but a few members were given extra time to shine. Guitarist Benjamin Andrews let loose a fluid solo during one bridge, and saxaphonist Marcus Stephens wailed on top of a speaker at the set’s close. If you’re in a dancing mood, this is a great live band to see.
The only disadvantage the Monophonics had when following Con Brio was that lead singer Kelly Finnigan is also the keyboardist, so was behind an instrument instead of dancing up a storm. Luckily, the man can belt out a tune, and the group’s solid rhythm section and dual percussionists (Austin Bohlman on the drums, and a guest drummer manning bongos) kept the show lively. The guest drummer helped infuse a bit of Latin music into the more traditional funk-soul the group have mastered. Set highlight was when Kelly brought down his father to join him on the keyboard, as well as bringing in a guest vocalist (I sadly don’t remember her name or the band she was from), who took the room into a raw, rocking rave-up. This is not a band you should see if you’re looking to sit back and relax; they will make you move.
The groups are continuing their tour through California and then beyond. If you have a free night when they’re in your town, do yourself a favor and get a ticket.