Words & Images by: Annelise Poda
Battlehooch with Man in Space :: 01.07.12 :: Slim’s :: San Francisco, CA
Slim's hosted a night of jamming and elaborately performed funk rock from Bay Area bands Battlehooch and Man in Space. The venue was filled with friends, family, and fans dialed into the local music scene, and Slim’s took on the feel of a welcoming backyard house party. Younger people crowded up to the front to absorb the maximal amount of noise blasting from the speakers, but the heavy grooving tunes spread throughout the room, ensuring that everybody danced the night away to both sets of eclectic, genre-bending music.
|Battlehooch by Annelise Poda|
The seven-piece Man in Space played an upbeat set that incorporated everything from funk to reggae to rock ballads. Members cycled through different instruments throughout the performance, working together to create a heavily layered sound of rhythmic and melodic notes that all built upon each other. At one point, they had three guitarists and their bassist standing in a line at center stage all playing impressively intricate riffs and singing together at once. A different band may have had someone start to play a little off-tempo, or sing a little bit off-key, and the whole thing would have degenerated into cacophony of too many conflicting noises, but Man in Space played together very tightly and precisely, and all the different parts came together to complement each other and create a big, exciting sound. To make this collaboration work, it probably helps that every member of this band is currently studying music at various colleges, focusing on everything from undergraduate minors to Master’s degrees.
Most of Man in Space’s songs had a funk feel to them, minus the traditional horn section, bass-centric tunes laced with rhythmic guitar and synth parts with various instrumental solos always leading back into a huge chorus sang by multiple people. During a select few songs, they brought out guest rapper Roberto Antonio, who added a different element to their sound. The strong rhythm section provided a solid base for his flows, and it was a good way to switch up the stream of their set. He ended his appearance onstage with an excitedly happy shout out to his mom, adding to the house party vibe of the night.
|Man in Space by Annelise Poda|
After the set change, Battlehooch jumped into a wild performance of groove heavy songs with pocket driven bass lines that consumed the room and shook the audience into frantic dancing. The band started out with a song that had processed and echoing vocals that floated over a rocking mesh of synth sounds, heavy-hitting bass parts, solid 4/4 funky drum beats, and clarinet notes that gave the song a slightly Eastern European sound. Wind instrument specialist Tom Hurlbut switched off between playing saxophone and clarinet, and even miraculously played both at once at points in the night. Bassist Grant Goodrich would crouch down onto the ground, kneeling fully backwards, and explode up again in a burst of energy, not missing a single note of his steady bass line that glued Battlehooch’s songs together. Many band members contributed to the vocals, which were often woven into ornate, complementary harmonies.
Spirits and excitement levels were high in the room as the band suddenly stopped playing and exited the stage without a word to the audience. People were confused at first when the projector screen came down, the usual signal that a show is over, but once a video started playing it became clear that this was all part of Battlehooch’s master plan. In fact, the group had chosen this night to debut their new music video for their song “Pickin’ Fields” (see below), which got a great response from the audience, especially during cameo appearances from a bobble head Bill Clinton figurine. When the video ended and the screen retracted back into the ceiling, the band was revealed to have changed into all white outfits, which included big fluffy feathers affixed to their foreheads by different homemade headbands. They finished the rest of their set in these festive getups, and even had time to stop and get the whole audience to sing “Happy Birthday” to Hurlbut, complete with cake and candles.
|Battlehooch by Annelise Poda|
Battlehooch was definitely firing on all cylinders during this action packed night. They have an upcoming shows scheduled on February 23rd at the New Parish in Oakland (as well as an opening slot with Harry & The Hit Men at the Great American Music Hall on February 3rd), but you might get a chance to see this band sooner than you think, as they often set up and start playing on street corners or other public areas in cities across the country. In fact, I first came across them on 16th and Valencia in the Mission, and I recommend experiencing both the outdoor and indoor versions of chaos that this band creates, as their multi-instrumental, built-up sound manifests itself differently in each setting. So, keep it in mind as you wander your city on a busy Friday night heading out to a bar, because you just might get to experience an impromptu Battlehooch show and get carried away on a much crazier night than you had previously expected.
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