Friday night Kongos rolled into town to play the Teragram Ballroom. The antepenultimate show of their winter tour for new album 1929, Pt. 1, the four brothers were their usual well sorted groove machine with hints of world music and Eastern European flavours thrown in along the way.
Not surprisingly the new album got a fair shake in the setlist with about half the songs getting played live along with a mix from throughout the band’s career. “I Am Not Me”, “Something New”, and “Keep Your Head” fit in seamlessly with already established hits “Hey I Don’t Know” and “Come With Me Now” (Which of course got the biggest cheer and sing along of the night). While the band has always had elements of various genres in its music “Stand Up” from the new album is a particularly intriguing new song along those lines, and it was a major highlight of the night.
While bassist/singer Dylan Kongos and drummer/singer Jesse Kongos are at the center of most songs, “Stand Up” centers on the Accordion of Johnny Kongos who squeezes life into the song with tango-esque melodies floating over a dub-ish groove that all combines for a hypnotic and entrancing experience. And then there’s a killer synth solo too. Johnny Kongos has skills.
Other highlights included epic and dynamic “I Don’t Mind” with its African sounding guitar melodies and huge sing along chorus, uptempo and energetic “Pay For The Weekend” which saw the most clapping-along of the night. The encore-starting cover of “Eleanor Rigby” with rappage by stage manager/long-time crew-guy Mo Gordon also stood out, long a part of Kongos shows.
This was my first Kongos show in person and I went into it thinking mainly about the steady drums and four on the floor kick that I think of as a trademark of the band but I didn’t realize the extent of the rollercoaster of dynamics and emotion that goes on top of that rhythm and it really was something to behold. No wonder several of the audience members I spoke to were at their fifth or sixth Kongos shows. Already planning on attending my second one as soon as they come back to LA.
Also, singing drummers are the coolest. I know you all already know that but it has to be said.
Words and photos by Tim Aarons