Sam Huber-Mondo.NYC at Bowery Electric, Friday, October 4th, Reviewed
I was feeling quite depressed all day; the weight of all possible information to absorb and analyze pressed down on all sides, causing my metamorphosis into a little nugget of worthlessness. But then I saw Sam Huber and the The True Groove All-Stars at Bowery Electric, and the night transfigured from depressant to transcendent. Why the transfiguration? Most probably some combination of Mr. Huber’s honest performance, the band’s poised cohesiveness, and all their enlivening interactions on stage.
Performing on the opening night of the Mondo.NYC Festival (formerly known as CMJ), the set began with “Memories of the Past,” which introduced one facet of Mr. Huber’s strange and mysterious vocal palette, a characteristically unique instrument unto itself. This instrument sang repeatedly the memorable phrase, “Don’t fuck around with the future funk sound,” memorable not least because it exploits two of the most important tools in rhetoric: polyptoton and alliteration! And indeed, this phrase seemed as if it was delivered by the offspring of two (or three?) humanoid creatures from the future. Don’t be an [ ]-ist, there’s nothing wrong with either alien genes or a genetically engineered human.
Five songs into the set, Mr. Huber revealed the extent of his vocal versatility with a rendition of the Talking Heads’ “Heaven.” It was then that I noticed and appreciated how hard Mr. Huber had been working. The multicolored spotlights illuminated the beadlets of sweat inching their way down his face as his voice soared from somewhere deep within.
The set ended with perhaps my favorite song on the album, “Turn Around.” Well, actually, the set truly ended with an epic guitar solo characteristic of Tomás Doncker. He plays in that inexpressibly expressive way which makes one envious one cannot express oneself similarly; in fact, one concert-goer approached Tomás as he sat outside the venue after the show and proclaimed, “That was wild. Can you please teach me how to do that!”
It was a wholehearted performance, and I mean the entirety of it – from the karate kicks to the air guitar solos that mirrored his instrumentalist counterparts to a point where he lowered his microphone stand to the ground with his teeth (a hilarious moment, prototypical of his great sense of humor on stage). He was a package of magnetic energy that I’m not sure the audience was able to handle. But I was. And I was lifted out of my depression because of it – a microcosmic moment of honest music’s power to heal