Khruangbin rip up The Wiltern with heavy grooves

Khruangbin Wiltern 2018 mainbar

It’s really refreshing to see a band like Khruangbin selling out shows a couple albums into their career. The Houston trio play a unique brand of rock that’s often without vocals, while usually utilizing their voices as additional instrumentation. Sunday night, they brought it to a sold-out crowd at The Wiltern on a chilly night.

Bass player Laura Lee was dressed in a disco ball-like shimmering jumpsuit. Guitarist Mark Speer was in a brilliant looking suit. Drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson was the only one without a black wig, keeping the tempo moving in every which way direction Sunday night.

The band doesn’t need lyrics to convey emotions. The guitar licks of Speer and alternating sorrow or warmth of Lee’s bass told you exactly how to feel. The song “August 10” has an almost Sade-like vibe to it. If you’ve ever been curious what acid feels like, listen to “Mr. White” and while looking at the cover of the album it came from [2015’s The Universe Smiles Upon You].

Few performers have the on-stage swagger of this band. Lee shot smiles into the crowd — and as high as the balcony — while doing a little shimmy. She probably has some really strong calves. Speer showcased his amazing guitar skills with a ton of confidence. There was one song where Speer played while changing the guitar’s tuning mid-pick. I’ve never seen that before.

The song “Evan Finds The Third Room” sounds like an unreleased Fleetwood Mac tune that’s missing the vocals. Lee shouting “Yes” over and over had the crowd in the palm of her hand.

Khruangbin ran through a medley of snippets, mostly from classic hip-hop tunes. That was one of the more popular moments of the show, using “The Next Episode”, “It Was A Good Day”, “Regulate”, and even some Chris Isaak (“Wicked Game”).

Afterwards, the band left the stage with Johnson returning to his drum kit. He played a little keyboard riff before being rejoined on stage by Speer and Lee. Lee was in another sequined outfit — this time in camouflage.

In their encore, they were joined on stage by opening act Will Van Horn on his pedal steel guitar for the final two songs. Van Horn added some nice depth to their already incredible soundscapes.

Khruangbin is the kind of band that makes me believe rock and roll is still alive and kicking. It’s really its own unique thing, not obviously biting their sound from anyone else. And surely they will be inspiring future bands for years to come.

Words by Mark Ortega
Photos by Danielle Gornbein