When most people think of Saratoga Springs it’s visions of horse racing in August. Tiffany and Jonathon Albert, Bob Millis and Jarrett Hartstone and the staff at the Putnam Den are working hard to make Saratoga known as a place to catch great ORIGINAL music, year-round! Based on the crowd at the Putnam Den on a bitter cold Thursday in January, they may be succeeding. Over 150 people braved the negative temperatures to feel the face melting heat of two talented bands, Barika and John Brown’s Body.
Barika (pronounced body-kah) started off the night with a unique blend of psychedelic charm and West African-inspired beats thrown in, crossing gracefully into the realm of dub. When Craig Myers stood center stage with a large gourd that had a long neck and bright yellow strings, heads turned. The opening act of most shows is noticed for a moment and then conversations continue throughout the room. However, when Craig started to play his Kamel N’goni – a wave of silence washed over the crowd. The Kamel N’goni sounded like two dueling banjos fighting it out to see who could please the eardrums more. Both hands plucked and strummed away at the neon strings, setting off a magnetic vibe through the Den. As Barika played, the crowd started to creep toward the stage to find out what foreign magic these strangers from Burlington, Vermont brought to Upstate New York. Craig wasn’t alone in playing the funky groove. Barika has six other talented musicians: Caleb Bronze (Drums), Rob Morse (Bass), Andric Severence (Keyboards) and on horns are Dave Purcell (Trumpet), Gordon Clark (Trombone) and Deva Racusin (Tenor Sax). Deva didn’t make it out to the Putnam Den, but you can hear everyone on Barika’s new CD, Remember, available on iTunes and other outlets.
Just as things were getting warmed up nice and toasty, John Brown’s Body came on stage and turned the heat way up. John Brown’s Body has Upstate roots in Ithaca and have been playing their future roots take on reggae for nearly 10 years. With tours around the world, it is always nice to catch them back in the area with new songs and a new EP, JBB IN DUB. JBB started the show with a song off their new release, “The General’s Ambush.” A nice steady beat and smooth horns come into play in this melodic instrumental number. Bandleader Elliott Martin got to flex his chops with the second song, “Invitation” that had more of a ska sound with the brass section sharing the spotlight with Elliott’s smooth yet strong vocal stylings. The crowd took the “Invitation”, and those fortunate enough to be at the Putnam Den had a hard time not approaching the dance floor. More dub, more funk, more dancing ensued as JBB played another track off the new album, “The Grass.” “The Grass” was reminiscent of the reggae of Marley in that it carried a strong message. The band ended up playing three songs off the new EP.
John Brown’s Body is also planning a new full length album in the next few months and played “Plantation” off that upcoming release. They also played old favorites like “The Gold”, “Resonate”, and “Push Some Air”. Look for them around the festival circuit this summer and keep an eye out for the new album. John Brown’s Body is a treasure that Upstate New Yorkers can call their own and it was a nice surprise to see them at the Putnam Den. Be sure to check out the Den’s upcoming shows and give them the support they need to keep bringing these great line-ups to the region.
Setlist: General’s Ambush*, Invitation, The Grass*, Plantation, Wellington*, Shine Bright, The Gold, Follow Into Shadow, Peace in the Valley, The Cup Dub, Empty Hands, Make It Easy, Zion Triad
Encore: Resonate, Push Some Air
* Off the new EP release JBB IN DUB