Show Review: Chicano Batman, Khruangbin, The Shacks at The Fox Theater – Oakland, 11/10/17

by Daniel Martinez on November 15, 2017

I have been watching Chicano Batman over the past five years, and I have got to say that I am really impressed on how much they’ve grown. Each time they come back to The Bay, they end up playing bigger and bigger venues. It puts a tear in my eye and makes me feel part of their growth. Not only do they deserve it, the world straight-up needs to hear their soulful, passionate grooves filled with positive messages of love and hope. You felt the love in that crowd starting with the first band in the lineup, The Shacks.

One thing I have to say about this band is that I am so happy I got to watch them live before hearing their music online. I think it would have taken the magic out of their live performance. Their recorded music is great, too; don’t get me wrong. But they way they played was great as in it was dynamic and fragile at times. The Shacks’ singer, Shannon, does a great job holding down the rhythm while singing so sweetly and giving the whole band its vibe. They feel like you are watching a late sixties Euro art movie with beautiful colors, given to you in a laid-back feel. I highly recommend their single “This Strange Effect.”

Ok, so I am a huge sucker for any type of music that can take you places. I am talking about when music has the power to take you back to certain times in your life, and when it also has the power to take you places you have never been before. Nostalgia for a place or time you never lived through. This band did that to me. They describe themselves as a Thai-funk-inspired band from the sixties with psychedelic influences, but I find that there is more to that in this mostly-instrumental band. I also hear Afro-beat, 60’s Ethiopian pop, surf, and Indian psych rock. They took me to all of these places of the world and played it all with such coolness. After watching this band, I was instantly a fan.

What was really lovely to see this time around was that Chicano Batman came out with two backup singers, which really filled out their songs quite well. The sharp-dressed foursome, along with their guest singers, came out with “Angel Child,” a chill and groovy song off their new album “Freedom Isn’t Free.” I really enjoy their walking bass line and time changes in this tune.

As they played a song off their previous album “Cycles of Existential Rhyme,” I noticed I had a huge smile on my face and I definitely wasn’t the only one. Everyone around me had the cheesiest grin, including the band. And if you need to know anything about this group, other than how much they shred, it’s that they know how to have a blast on stage.  Bardo, who is the lead singer, organ player, and guitarist of the group, had his smooth and soulful voice accompanied by dramatic and beautiful expression of body movements, smiles, and engagement of the crowd, all while switching instruments almost every other song. Eduardo, the bass player, cannot stop moving while working that fretboard until the wood on that bass neck starts to turn to dust. Carlos, the lead guitarist, is cool and collected in the corner throwing out leads with warm tones. Gabriel, on drums, is an animated drummer. Every drum hit has an expression with his face or body. I will say that I do miss his marvelous, glorious, and shimmering mullet.

When things got switched up to my favorite Chicano Batman’s cumbia song, the crowd went nuts. Everyone in front of me started to dance, clouds of smoke started to go up, and a few couples started to do the cumbia. The charismatic bass player jumps on vocals for an upbeat cumbia song that your crazy tia would get down on the dance floor with, and your old abuelita would attempt to dance to, but would give up and start clapping. The night progressed with more smoothly vocalized, samba-inspired doo-wop psychedelic low rider, vibrato seventies organ music. The organ-heavy and soulful, “Black Lipstick” was executed beautifully, as was “Friendship,” which had the back up singers really shining.  

As they closed the evening off with “Itotiani,” I was still amazed by how this group can mesh so many types of Latinx music and soul to make such a unique sound. Normally, I would be thrown off by the variety of musical stylings, but Chicano Batman sure knows how to package their unique sound in a way that they are not all over the place. I really look forward to the next time they come around to The Bay.

There is a full gallery of the whole night on Daniel’s website!

Read Also:

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: