The other night I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing a musical melting-pot of reggae, punk, ska, jam-band and rock turn the restless Metro crowd into an anxious sea of troubled waters. Even though they'd appeared in Chicago on several occasions over the past year, I'd yet to see the reputed glory of the RX Bandits, live and in concert.
When I arrived at the show, fashionably late as usual, Portugal. the Man had traveled beyond their warm-up and were moving quickly towards climax. Tight drums, penetrating clean guitar riffs, and a good balance between tame, flowing melodies and crunchy, emotional breakdowns all contributed to a good first impression. In fact, the few songs that I saw made me slightly ashamed that I had only checked these guys out to such a minimal extent -- and not for lack of hearing good things.
The main attraction, the evolving and genre-transcending RX Bandits, took the stage in a fury of jam-addled lead guitar riffs and blurred drumming. I shit you not; Christopher Tsagakis plays his set so fast that he's nothing more than a blur. Matthew Embree's vocals pierced the musical chaos calmingly while Steve Choi's erratic ivory-tickling was certainly a sight (Choi switches often between playing guitar and keyboards mid-song).
The live chemistry this band has was everything it had been built up to for me; they took control of the crowd and rocked us straight through to the encore.
If I could do it again, I would. I would.
"Am I crazy because I want to touch your skin? / Is it ludicrous that I've got nothing to believe in / that was built by human hands or controlled by demand?"
- Matthew Embree, "...And the Battle Begun"