Turtle Island: SRB, Brooklyn, NY 2/14/13

Valentine’s Day saw an odd and unique outing in the Gowanus club called SRB.  Standing for “Soul Rhythm Blues” the venue seems to be more driven towards DJs and dance parties but on this night the musical palette was split pretty far open. 

Opening for the main act found “world roots music” outfit Brown Rice take the stage and play their blender versions of reggae, Afrobeat and jamband styled tunes. The eight piece group complete with two front men and two horn players resembled a tamer version of Michael Franti and Spearhead. The band was clearly having a ball promoting their organic soap, playing “Brown Rice Radio Station” and conducting their coordinated group shimmies. While the horns were out of tune for a few numbers, the dancers in the crowd didn’t seem to mind.     

The night’s headliners from Japan took the stage pushing midnight and as this was Turtle Island’s first American show (outside of a fashion week gig) the half full venue seemed curious to the massive drums and flock of performers crowding the stage.  Tonight the band played as a nine piece with what looked like 35 forms of percussion on stage. 

The group has a punk rock spine with two electric guitarists, standard rock drummer and bassist who are the motor of the band.  The core rockers keep things upbeat as extra drummers, vocalists and flute players add a spiritual vibe that is palpable. Speaking minimal to no English and singing in a foreign language didn’t limit the band at all, as energy, honesty and power don’t need to be conveyed in words.       

The tribal sounds call to mind Roots era Sepultura (only less metallic) with dirty riffs, yelps and screams which morph into pounding drums, chimes, flutes and straight up rock riffs.  A tune introduced as “Hope” had a distinct “Mr. Krinkle” Primus vibe as the band waltzed around the thunder created on the stage.

 An infectious joyful madness was noticeable from the beginning of their set until the wee hours as the group continued to play a combination of traditional and anachronistic styles that was exhilarating. Here’s hoping Turtle Island returns soon for more shows stateside in the future.

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