Euforquestra, Martyr’s, Chicago, IL – 2/4
It’s not often you find a band that incorporates more genres in one show than you can count on a hand. But a band out of Colorado—by way of Iowa—is doing just that, and at a very high level. Euforquestra’s self-described brand of “Afro-Caribbean-Barnyard-Funk” might sound difficult to comprehend but all you have to do is hear them perform live to instantly understand their mission. No matter what the influence or origin, Euforquestra will make you dance ‘til you sweat.
This band has been through Chicago quite a few times over the last year and I’ve been lucky enough to watch them mature in that time. Their shows have often focused on a percussion-driven, African theme with splashes of reggae and funk to spike the punch. But on this Friday night at Martyr’s they traveled through their set with a focus on bringing a gooey helping of funk. The set opened with a bluesy jam called “Hopscotch” that received its dose of funk from some howling electric organs courtesy of Matt Wright. Next up was a blast of high-stepping reggae in the form of “Cause A Reaction” that got the crowd engaged with the powerful percussion from Adam Grosso and Matt Grundstad. But then they stepped up the dynamics with a tripped out, slowed down dub jam called “Medicine Bow.” Matt Grundstad’s wildly distorted, Jamaican-accented vocals took the show in a more cerebral direction and put my mind in a spacey place.
But the funk returned a little later on with an awesome cover. Euforquestra plays predominantly original music but, as odd as it may be, they also have a penchant for nailing the Talking Heads. They let loose a perky version of “Girlfriend Is Better” driven by Ben Soltau’s crispy bass and yet again spliced a new dimension into the show. But soon they were back with the raw funk that this show had been hanging its hat on with “Free,” which might just be my personal favorite Euforquestra song. Ryan Jeter and Austin Zalatel’s dastardly saxophone combination drives this full-throttle effort, but Zalatel’s singing-upon-rapping skill shifts this jam into the next gear. This one was awesome as usual, but when “Elegua” came around the bend, I was even more blown away. Typically, this is a straightforward Afro-funk song. But on this night they blew it up and launched into the strongest improv section I’ve heard from them. The most impressive part was the chops of Mike Tallman. This guy is a guitar chameleon, drifting easily between various exotic rhythms, blues-rock riffs, wide-open jamming solos, and distorted improvisational weirdness. The range of genres this band performs puts tremendous pressure on the role of the guitar, but Tallman never fails to shine. This “Elegua” jam took on a desolate energy with clawing guitars and rising walls of saxophone wailing. The sound crept way out on a psychedelic limb only to be snapped back to the song structure in a burst of audience elation. Peaks of a show are felt, not planned, and my bone marrow resonated when this song hit its apex.
One thing I really appreciate about this band is their on-the-fly response to fan requests. Most bands ignore overtures for specific songs, sticking to the setlist like a recipe. But not Euforquestra. When shouts of Soup! and Tromba! came raining in from the audience, they were only too happy to oblige. “Soup” is a crowd favorite thanks to its ability to make you feel like you’re standing on the beach, your toes curling into the sand and sun splashing your face. There aren’t many songs with as friendly & blissful a disposition as this jam. And then there’s “Tromba,” which is eaten up by the fans for its gnarly funkiness that literally won’t let you stand still. This is a staple end-of-the-show song that represents the heavy cream of Euforquestra’s funky crop.
After the standard crowd-teasing, they came back out for an encore of “Instant Coffee.” This wasn’t recognized as well as many other songs but it brought a high-octane end to the night. Euforquestra once again impressed me and showed me a diversity of sound that few bands manage to create. Their ability to melt many genres together into one cohesive until of musical dance fuel is simply amazing. Every July they hold their own festival called Camp Euforia in Iowa and after seeing them blossom before my eyes, I’ve made the steps of already marking my calendar to ensure I don’t miss their summer bash. Euforquestra is most definitely an emerging force in the jam festival scene.