Vintage eyewear, strong hair games, and a crowd more chill-laxed than a cannabis lounge in San Francisco--this, ladies and gentlemen, is a Khruangbin concert. And specifically, the concert I went to last night at the Lodge Room in Highland Park.
I first discovered Khruangbin in 2013 when their piece "A Calf Born In Winter" appeared on the compilation album Late Night Tales: Bonobo. Since then, they've released two full-length albums; The Universe Smiles Upon You (2015) and Con Todo El Mundo (2018), along with two mini releases: The Infamous Bill (2014) and History of Flight (2015), of which HoF is particularly noteworthy.
Based in Houston, TX, Khruangbin is a conceptually simple musical ensemble: a three piece band of all instrumentals consisting of a lead guitar (Mark Speer), bass (Laura Lee) and drums (Donald Johnson). Borrowing notes from soul, funk and Southeast Asian rock, Khruangbin is a feast for the ears. Reminiscent of Jaco Pastorius and Chet Atkins, Speer lets the sound of his 2001 Fender Strat shine as vocals are only added in support of this main star of the show. His command of the guitar is especially impressive in "August Twelve," "The Number 3," and "Ha Fang Kheng Kan" to name a few.
How could an instrumental trio carry on an entire concert, you wonder? Colorful costumes, meticulous hair, and Speer's own lighthearted nod to Michael McKean from This Is Spinal Tap--a serious band that also doesn't take themselves so seriously (or at least I hope). And they are in demand! With three sold-out nights here in LA and plans to return again in the fall...this time, to a much bigger venue at the Greek. I wouldn't be surprised if they play the Hollywood Bowl in another year.
Now with two full albums, two mini albums, and a cult following of coiffured hipsters (I count myself among them), I am curious to see how Khruangbin will continue to reinvent themselves. They seem to have carved a musical space that's unlike any other on the market with copy cat bands yet to emerge as notable enough names. Speer's guitar has carried this band forward through three albums, now adding in vocals on the most recent Con Todo El Mundo. With a sound so distinct (and also limiting), I don't envy the enormity of their next album project, whenever that comes. Will Laura Lee's skills as a bassist be given more spotlight? And will Donald Johnson's artistry as a percussionist be given a solo? Not sure, but I hope so. I'm looking forward to it.
Bits & Pieces
A place for experimentation, a place for pieces unpolished and unpublished, a place to work out thoughts and ideas for larger collections. Typos aplenty. Enjoy (or not).