The NY Guitar Festival opened its arms and welcomed the Toubab Krewe back to NYC for some West African inspired playing. The venue choice was an odd one, as the hipster haven Joe’s Pub provided the backdrop for the Tuesday night show. The sleek club was cast in loungey light and was late in opening its doors for the bundled masses. Once the house was packed and ready the band came out, but unfortunately they needed some more time. A bit of technical difficulty marred the opening of the concert, which is usually not a problem, but with a late night party nipping at the bands heels ready to take over at 11 o’clock, time was of the essence.
Once things got settled the mellow crowd heard Toubab Krewe open the completely instrumental set with “Djarabi” off of their self-titled debut album. The chicken-scratching guitar, motoring drums, and pecking Kora started off slowly but soon warmed up the fans in attendance. Toubab Krewe might seem an odd choice for a Guitar Festival, but the strings shone with plucking and strumming rhythms. Drew Heller’s electric guitar in particular spoke like a fiddle sporting a hip-hop southern drawl. Heller’s sound was quite unique and for a band that seems very communal his Scofield with soul playing pushed him to the front. The band powered forward continuing to gain moment as it played. The drummers, Teal Brown on the kit and Luke Quranta on various percussion (Djembe, Scraper, etc) interlocked and pounded with rhythm devilish precision.
Tracks such as “Hang Tan” and “Devil Woman” were warmly received and the unique playing of the Kora by Justin Perkins engrossed. David Pransky’s simple bass lines kept things focused as he danced with the music all set. The band’s sound has elements from all over the globe fused into its DNA, a metallic number in mid-set was augmented by tripped out lighting and dissonant strumming. The tune that Luke introduced as “Chasse” saw Perkins join the percussion backdrop. The three drummers created a calypso vibe, while Heller’s guitar lines could have broke into Cash’s “Ring of Fire” at any moment. That seems to be the coolest audio aspect of the band, in one song you can hear flashes of “Bathtub Gin,” “In Your Eyes,” and “Shadowboxin’” often in the same measure, yet the finished product rings unique.
They ended the short show with “Bamana Niya,” which was a shame, because they seemed to be just getting started. Giving the band and fans more room to breath is a requirement for their next New York City show, and two sets of music in a dance friendly environment would be a no brainer. Toubab Krewe truly breakdown all genre barriers and have created their own sound, as they call it, “Afro-Cowboy-Ninja-Surf-Music”. When you catch them live you will call it a blast.