It is not often that I am able to fully enjoy the opening band in order to give them a proper and honest listen. This time I arrived early enough to catch the whole set from the band Black Belt Eagle Scout, an incredible surprise to what would have been otherwise a 2-song listen from my end.
The band, originally from Washington state, BBES (if I may abbreviate it) is Indigenous in origin, told modern stories of love, queerness and marginalization. The sound coming from the speakers was a mix of gentle lyrics and powerful beats coming (both) from the front person Katherine Paul.
I was captivated by the energy and apparent shyness that irradiated from the band. Soft lyrics (which I couldn’t understand well) and sudden explosions of guitars and every other instrument. It was the perfect initiation into the fun night that laid ahead.
The stage was set and ready for the Devendra Banhart and the band to commence their act. Incense was lit, the lights were dimmed and one by one each of the band members started to emerge and take their place. Finally, the man himself walked out and the set had officially started.
The set had 3 parts to it, first was with the whole band playing hits from the repertoire, the second part was Devendra and his guitar taking requests, which ended up being of songs in Spanish that the Venezuelan and Latino crowd in front of the stage incessantly requested as soon as they had a chance, and final third part were the whole band played once again more fun hits from previous albums.
It was my first time seeing or hearing him live and I was amazed at how well he kept every part of the show in balance, speaking to the crowd, keeping in sync with the band and moving histrionically about the stage. Not only were they all having fun up on the stage but the energy and vibe they had going was contagious. We all felt part of the ensemble and as if the songs were composed exclusively for us.
For me, the show was like seeing a highlight reel of his musical career along with a glimpse of the different styles and personas that he has worn in that same span of time. At the same time, I could clearly hear and see the giants on whose shoulders he stood upon, from Caetano Veloso, Frank Zappa, Simon Diaz and even Bob Dylan could all be heard here and there through the compositions he got to play for us that night.
Among the memorable songs that go played were Is this nice, Mi Negrita, Santa Maria de Feira, Qudate Luna and the encore itself, Carmencita (which seemed that he played a bit reluctantly after so many continuous requests form the same vociferous group up front). In between songs, Zappa-esque sketches about Youtube, Starbucks and some seemingly incoherent play on words added extra layers to the already entertaining concert.
We felt like what was put before us was their wholeheartedly best and that we were the most important audience they had played for and that peace, tranquillity, joy and absurdity had all grabbed an instrument in order to entertain each one of us, even if some of us deserved a slap due to our drunk annoyance and insistence.
Review – Ricardo D. Flores
Photos – Eric Brisson