There were two great metal shows going on last night. Protest the Hero was performing over at the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown and there was a local metal show going on at The Hook & Ladder- a venue I don’t get to as much as I would like. Both would have been perfectly acceptable ways to spend my sleepy Sunday night but, let’s be honest, after three heavy shows in a row last week, I was ready for something different. That’s how I found myself at the Turf Club for Brasstracks being serenaded by computers, horns and rappers. Sounds weird, I know, but honestly I’m glad I chose that show over the others.
Kicking off the show was Spencer Wirth-Davis– better known as Big Cats. Big Cats is a local DJ with a huge amount of creativity and a very distinct style. Although he was spinning as the crowd was grown, his music was the perfect mood setter for the night. Although it was subtle and acted as background music for majority of his quick set, there were moments when every conversation seemed to pause and continue on with someone in the various groups of friends mentioning how great the beats were. Big Cats has several albums out and has collaborated with too many people in the local scene for me to list. Although I knew about him through his collaborations with Toki Wright, seeing and hearing him alone was completely different and I enjoyed it almost more than the collaborations. His creativity was able to shine a bit brighter and, although his music stayed more in the background than foreground, it was truly impossible to ignore it altogether.
Following Big Cats was S’Natra. Now don’t feel bad if you don’t know this kid’s name but make sure you take note. I definitely had never heard of him prior to walking into last night’s show but within the first song of his set I was in love and found myself putting my phone back in my purse and putting my drink down so I could give him all of my attention. Although he’s from New York, S’Natra’s brand of rap had a very Midwest feel to it. I could honestly see him fitting in perfect with the Doomtree or Rhymesayers clan here in the cities and do hope to see a connection or collaboration there some day. You could feel and see the passion as he stalked from side to side of the small stage. His raps, like the Minnesota rap/hip-hop I’ve come to love, were about real life things. At times his music seemed a bit brash and aggressive but that was just the passion talking. The balance between aggression and a unique sense of tenderness was beyond impressive and had myself and the rest of the crowd falling head over heels for his music and his down-to-earth personality.
As the stage was turned over, the neon light spelling out “Brasstracks” turned on and instantly there was a sense of excitement throughout the venue. Honestly, I was a bit shocked at how busy it was for a Sunday night and for a band that I figured was a bit more “unknown” than most. I watched as people hurried to the bar to get one more drink before making their way into the space in front of the stage. As soon as there was any sense of movement on stage, the crowd went wild. Again, the shock of just how many people had actually come out on a sleepy Sunday and how excited they were for this group blew my mind and I couldn’t help but get myself all wrapped up in the excitement.
Brasstracks is Ivan Jackson on trumpet, keys, and computers and Conor Rayne on drums. Now, I know what you’re thinking– duo? I mean, cool but how fun can that actually be? Well first off, there was no way to fit many more members on the stage so it actually ended up being perfect. Secondly, there was so much going on just between the two of them (and S’Natra when he was brought up to help out) that anything more would have been insanely overwhelming.
Brasstracks’ music is funky and absolutely makes you feel the need to dance. With electronic samples and sounds going alongside the drums with a live trumpet on top of it all how can you hate it? There were songs that had a very rap-pop sound that you could easily see being on any top-40 radio station and then other songs that had an almost sexy-funk- jazz sound that made you want to grab someone to dance real close with. Regardless of it was an upbeat party song that made you want to jump up and down or a more somber, sultry sound, there was a sense of energy from the stage that easily radiated to the audience.
Although Ivan was clearly busy what with flawlessly switching between keys and computer while keeping his trumpet in one hand and taking sips of his beer, he still found a way to fit in funky little dance moves that matched his charming smile. He truly knew just how to get the crowd moving and he made it looking completely effortless. For just two guys and with one of them being confined to behind a drum set, I really can’t explain to how much energy they actually had. I’ve seen full metal bands that can’t get that kind of energy going with a crowd three times the size of what Brasstracks had last night. It was one of those shows where, even if you had just stumbled in because of the promise of a cold drink, you found yourself drawn to the stage with a smile in your face and a boogie in your step.
I could have gone to one of the two amazing metal shows going on last night or I could have gone to see a friend’s band that was playing at my new favorite venue that was just a couple blocks from my apartment. Any of those choices would have been predictable for me. That’s how I found myself at a Brasstracks show last night and, honestly, I feel like I absolutely made the right choice.