Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Tortured Soul

By far the most amazing band I saw at this years Jazz Festival was ‘Tortured Soul’. I had never heard of them before but once I saw their name on the schedule I had a felling they would be worth checking out. Unlike the ‘big name’ bands like Incognito, Brand New Heavies, and Kool and the Gang; Tortured Soul was not a pay per view act. They played on a smaller stage in a smaller hall and for free. This area allows the audience to get a lot closer to the players and actually vibe with them.

On the first night they did not seem to draw much of a crowd and when I went to see them on Saturday I was able to walk through an empty room all the way to the stage where they were doing their sound check. I was quite disappointed that they might not receive the reception they deserve and that would in turn affect their performance. However, once they started jamming the room quickly filled up.

The band is composed of 3 members, songwriter/drummer John-Christian Urich, Ethan White on harmony and organ, and JKriv on bass guitar. They entered the stage all wearing white shirts and simple black ties. Urich’s drum kit is set up front and center with Ethan to his right and JKriv on the left. There are no pretensions about them and the artists immediately began to interact with the audience using the few Indonesian words they picked up over the last few days. This breaks down the boundaries that would usually stand between the artist and the audience paving the way for a much richer and personal concert experience.

Urich instantly kicks it off with a fast passed drum beat. His kit is only made up of a pedal bass, high hat, snare, one tom, and a couple of cymbals. Majority of the beat is played in continuous rapid fire on the snare and high hat and occasionally he makes use of all his tools. His talent is mind blowing. Ethan dishes our harmonious overlays while JKriv busts out smooth bass guitar riffs that make your body vibrate. Although the drums dominate the beat at first, once the music settles in you can feel the bass guitar setting the tones and emotion of the music. Urich’s added vocals are mellow and his voice is silky. Although I hate to compare them to any other artist, the sound seemed reminiscent of Jamiroquai but still substantially different.

They played for a little over an hour and the music was non-stop. They even continued to hammer out beats while talking to the crowd and fishing for energy. Half way through the performance, Urich’s shaved white head was beaded with sweat and his eye lids were drawn back as he stared aggressively into the audience. His agonizing dedication was clearly visible. At some point he had lost, dropped, or broke one of his sticks and continued to play equally fast with only once stick on the drums and the other hand raised in the air. The crowd cheered and his exaggerated expressions conveyed his approval. The other members were equally passionate and this all resonated in their break out solos. They really enjoyed what they were doing and they wanted to make people dance. And they did. JKriv with his charisma and Ethan with a style that reminded me of Ray Manzerek from The Doors.

Their music was clearly infectious and the crowd loved it. Watching a live band play such fast paced music that you would only imagine to flow from a DJ booth or a computer is quite a rush. The energy they play with passes through the audience and those who were not moving to the beats stood there in awe with their mouths hanging open. What kind of music is this? Well I remember the exact statement Urich made at this concert. “Some people call our music pop, some say its dance… We call this, LIVE-HOUSE!!!”

They fucking rocked! It has been ages since I heard music that has excited me as much as these guys have. I honestly feel fortunate to have seen them in such close quarters and even if I had not enjoyed anything else at the Jazz Festival, this one performance would have made it worth while. Go out and BUY their CD. From Brooklyn, New York… Tortured Soul.

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