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by Raurri Jennings on April 20, 2011

Bearsville Theater, April 15

When Rubblebucket bum-rushed the stage at Bearsville Theater, they unleashed a contagious case of the booty-shakes that lingered late into the evening. The conquest was an education in syncopated dance, filled with jerky Stop Making Sense pops and locks and trumpeter Alex Toth leading a giggling horn section in mock choreography. The mirth and movement from the stage passed freely through the permeable barrier between band and audience. On “Red Line Beat,” one of the few extended jams of the night, lead singer Kalmia Traver invited folks on stage to dance, even ceding the mic to a birthday-drunk fan who unleashed a bloodcurdling scream, instinctively—albeit a bit awkwardly—parroted back by the crowd.
The set was heavy on material from Rubblebucket’s new album, Omega La La, which the band recently released for free through their website. The record is a firm step forward in the progression of an Afrobeat band that has been mistakenly lumped together with many jam bands. Songs like “Raining” and “Triangular Daisies” are closer to Of Montreal and the Dirty Projectors than Lotus and Toubab Krewe. Yet the Fela Kuti bass ostinatos and jittery James Brown-esque guitar lines of “L’Homme” are a welcome reminder that they can still funk your battleship. The sound has been described by SF Weekly as “what it sounds like when eight different freak flags fly in perfect unison.” Amen! But what the band excel at is seamlessly featuring every member of the band without resorting to five-minute individual solos.
Opening with the rock-steady “Breatherz (Young as Clouds),” the band shined without trying to outshine one another or adding extraneous instrumental breaks. Traver lead the horn-section-turned-backing-vocalists to a towering chorus, while guitarist Ian Hersey plucked a kora-inspired guitar line. The bridge boasted flashy hammer-ons from keyboardist Darby Wolf in interstellar communication with auxiliary percussionist Craig Myers’ cowbell and Traver’s reverberated battle cry.
“Bikes,” a crowd pleaser from their “Rubblebucket Orchestra” days, laced together dubbed-out brass and Traver’s channeling of Ella Fitzgerald with a scat breakdown that sent a wave of pumping fists through the crowd and shook the barn to the root of its bootybone. It was a seminar on how to move a crowd, the front woman tearing into baritone sax riffs, manipulating a digital delay on her vocals, and busting some limbo dance moves during Adam Dotson’s ruddy-faced trombone solo.
The closer and album single, “Came Out of a Lady,” showcased Traver’s clarion call and quick-tongued delivery, backed by Toth’s and Dotson’s syncopated brass. Hersey strummed an understated guitar solo while Traver and Toth jumped ship to lead an Afrobeat second line to the soundboard and back, Toth being carried like the groom at a Jewish wedding by six female superfans then deposited on stage in time to deploy a deep hook.
Raved-up renditions of “Phillip’s Van” and “November” came as the encore, leaving the audience sweaty and satisfied. When the house lights came on, some worked out their residual wiggles on the dance floor, while others climbed down to the creek beside the theater to splash their faces with cool water from the mountain stream.