Concert review — Brasstronaut @ Broken City

A quick chat with Broken City’s exceedingly friendly bartender, Adam, reveals that Brasstronaut is short one guitar player and missed out on a full soundcheck — not necessarily a good sign for a band with two wind instruments to mic. Sure enough, the first song — “Lo Hi Hopes,” from the band’s debut full-length, Mt. Chimaera — is a false start, derailed by feedback.
A quick bit of adjustment and things are back on track. They opt instead for “Six Toes,” Chimaera’s standout track, and it certainly seems to be the right choice. The roiling piano and Dixieland clarinet catch the audience’s ears, and the brief snippets of falsetto soul sets the hook. The absent guitar player isn’t really missed, with the bassist pulling double duty (I can’t see whether he’s using a loop pedal or just a backing track).
Encouraged by an incredibly receptive crowd (I hear at least a few people around me commenting that “these guys are amazing”), the set goes on a bit too long, the diverse songs feeling a bit like one over-long epic, but the band ends it on a high note with a song I don’t recognize featuring some intense percussion in the outro.
My main complaint about Mt. Chimaera is that the production is a little too crisp and clean, playing up the band’s already obvious jazz tendencies instead of roughing its sound up a bit to reveal the rockier undertow. Blame that on the producers, I guess — the album was recorded at the Banff Centre, among other places, and it makes sense that those surroundings would inspire a more rarified approach. But the rock club suits Brasstronaut. Hopefully they’ll remember that when it’s time to record a follow-up — if the leap from the band’s first EP to the full length is a sign, the songs won’t be an issue.
(A mild but persistent flu meant I ducked out before Woodhands’ set… which, judging from the last three times I’ve seen them, is probably my loss).

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