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The Budos Band at El Rey Theatre: Live Review

The Budos Band's Vincent Balestrino letting loose on his shekere.
The Budos Band's Vincent Balestrino letting loose on his shekere.
Jessica Watkins DeWinter

[Originally published 1/15/2011]

Who: The Budos Band

Where: El Rey Theatre

When: 1/14/2011

By 9:30pm last night the El Rey Theater was packed full of people ready to get their groove on. The twinkling chandeliers were dimmed and the air was thick and hot with conversation. On stage KCRW DJ Jeremy Sole expertly set the mood with his turntables. Pumping out a mixture of vintage and modern dark, slinky blues over the speakers which seem to pulse from the ceiling, Sole got people slowly grooving.

A relatively reliable indicator of how full a show is can be measured by the amount of people packed in the smoking area. Last night there was no room to turn around. People crowded around in tightly formed clusters with their hands tucked in close to their bodies, desperately trying not to set their neighbors on fire. It's hard to look nonchalant when your arms are pinned to your sides, but a number of people managed it.

The crowd loves a good solo.
The crowd loves a good solo.
Jessica Watkins DeWinter

Well, so does everyone really.
Well, so does everyone really.
Jessica Watkins DeWinter

Being that it was Friday night in Los Angeles the crowd was dressed to kill. I mean, you could go out on any night of the week and odds are the audience will be sharply turned out, but I think on Friday nights people give it a little extra oomph.

For the gents, fedoras were out in abundance as were ties and vests. The ladies however, took no prisoners. Nothing was out of bounds: elegant evening dresses, fiery red leather pants, astronomically high heels, and my personal favorite one young lady with a mohawk, bikini top, and chainmail booty shorts. Her outfit was so flashy she managed to get herself on stage at the end of the set. Kudos to you, lady, for unabashedly going big.

The horn section giving it all they've got.
The horn section giving it all they've got.
Jessica Watkins DeWinter

Los Angeles greeted the East Coast's The Budos Band with warm sloppy affection usually reserved for local heroes. Before the curtain rose, the crowd squealed with excitement as the sounds of them tuning drifted through the fabric, chanting "Budos! Budos! Budos!"

Eventually the band was ready and was revealed in a dramatic sweep. Every nook and cranny of that stage was filled with instruments and musicians. It begged the question...how the heck did all of these guys fit on stage at the Echo two years ago? Like a sponge, this band seems to be able to expand and fill to whatever size stage they're put on with horns, guitars, and an abundance of percussive instruments.

Hands in the air!
Hands in the air!
Jessica Watkins DeWinter

The adoration was well deserved. The Budos launched into a set that lasted for an hour and a half of nonstop old school funk rhythms, commanding horns, and irresistible Afrobeat percussion. The kind that gets your pelvis moving before your brain even releases what your lower half is doing. That potent combination got the crowd dancing so furiously that one had to pity the security guards who had to keep everyone inside the lines painted on the floor. In one instance a young man was standing where he shouldn't, but was also wailing on his air trumpet so passionately that the guard just laughed and said, "You do your thing."

A statement which proved an appropriate motto for this show in general. Encouraged by the occasional expletive-laden announcement from the band ("LA get your hands in the fucking air!") these guys from Staten Island released the crowd from all inhibitions.

With varying degrees of grace, people tried out every rump shaking dance move they had and even some new ones that had yet to be tested. This band which appeared as a curiosity six years ago is now a well-oiled, force to be reckoned with. Which can be taken as further proof that if you expose people to quality funk, regardless of what's popular at the time, they will respond enthusiastically.


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