An eager, tight-knit crowd impatiently awaited a double header of CT-rooted funk-fusion Friday, February 24 at Putnam Den, straight from the talents of lespecial and Kung Fu, who were both recently announced on the heavily-awaited bill for Disc Jam 2017 last Sunday.
Fresh off the heels of a sold-out double header at Vermont’s own Nectar’s and Bishop’s in Northampton, livetronica act and festy favorite, lespecial, is riding their wave of growing fame. Last year at Disc Jam they offered an unforgettable late night set to their fans in Stephentown, NY, just 40 minutes out from the Den’s home. Kung Fu made a return to the Saratoga Springs venue in less than a year, after their last run around performance with Particle to a 330-person crowd. Acting as their first show of 2017, the five-some will soon after embark on tour before hitting the summer festival circuit, incorporating one original set and one Steely Dan set each night of The Fez Tour.
lespecial hopped on stage with an impressive amount of gear to warm things up for a Saratoga crowd. As the aggressive, death-funk dance trio exploded into the first set of the night, gentle improv ensued but not for long. Completely unforeseen, the genre-spanning musicians swiftly ditched light and airy tunes and kicked into high-gear heavy metal paired with matching facial expressions. The intensity was written all over drummer Rory Dolan’s face as the grit grew stronger, so did the jam face.
Dipping into afro-latin fusion with “Harambe Zombie” and funky, self-explanatory acid jazz improv, they took the crowd by storm with Star Wars’ delights as the opening notes of “Imperial March” had all ears perked up. Jonathan Grusauskas and Luke Bemand swapped their guitar and bass to face each other on synths and samplers for the Darth Vader theme. Another treat of the night came wrapped up with a Beau Sasser sit in. The Kung Fu keyboardist aided the trio with a Beatles cover, bringing the naturally slow and emotional “Because” into an unforgettable reggae jam with sprints of polka sprinkled in between. Cowbells were broken out during “Jackwise” ahead of a “Feel it in the Air” cover that segued in and out of what sounded comparable to R.L. Grime/DipLo and Friends mix samples.
Their hard-hitting and glitch-hop tunes have a way of capturing you inside of a real-life video game as each level-up introduces you to yet another genre or sample. Conventional isn’t their game– and that’s why they’re so captivating. Their ability to span multiple genres in one song and effortlessly transition between them makes you wonder why these guys haven’t gotten the blown up recognition they so rightfully deserve. Yet at the same time, you cherish the fact that they’re still loved in a small, niche group and not popularized to the masses for your own selfish reasons.
An already amped crowd moved forward and tightly packed together for Kung Fu’s introductory show of 2017, which quickly and almost instantly incited an electro-fusion 70’s dance party. In addition to recent waves of global warming, Kung Fu brought the heat, making Den dwellers feel as if they stepped into a groovy time machine.
Beau Sasser, Todd Stoops’ keyboard replacement, Adrian Tramontano and Chris DeAngelis of Fu have all been recently found in the Albany/Capital Region area playing with side projects and supergroups at local pubs and restaurants, offering smooth tunes at Speakeasy 518 or getting funky at the City Beer Hall for what used to be Funk Night Wednesday’s. Although this Putnam Den stop wasn’t scheduled as part of the Fez Tour, fans certainly got a treat of what was to come with two Steely Dan songs, “Black Cow” and “Peg” sandwiched throughout the night’s tunes of “Scorpion>Gungho” and “Bopcorn,” before closing out with an encore of “Getdown.”
Imaginations were left to roam wild and wonder what Steely Dan bust outs will make their way to the national, 28-date Fez tour.
If Friday night was anything close to what fans can expect from both groups on tour and on festival bills, summer 2017 is one to be cherished. lespecial will continue their current tour with four more NY dates in Ithaca, Buffalo, Rochester and NYC while Kung Fu embarks on their inaugural tour of 2017, making their Putnam Den stop feel like an ultimate launch party.
lespecial Set List: Improv> Pentachronic, Harambe Zombie, Pressed for Time, Acid Jazz Improv, New Fish, Imperial March>Force>Lamp, Because*,Sound We Do, Jackwise, Bugg’n>Air>Bugg’n
Kung Fu Set List: Hammer>Paragon, Black Cow*, Scorpion> Gung Ho, Bopcorn, Peg*, Do The Right Thing, Saul Good, Samurai