In the movie Broken Flowers, every time the stoical Bill Murray character (Don “Juan” Johnston) drives off in his rental car to visit another of his former lovers (“I’m a stalker in a Taurus”), hoping to find the anonymous woman who wrote to inform him he has a son, he pops a mix CD in the stereo that his suburban Rasta neighbor Winston made to soundtrack the trip. The track that always plays is by Ethiopian jazz vibraphonist Mulatu Astake. A Middle Eastern horn figure wafts over a loungy upright bass groove, lending Don’s reluctant search a disconsolate sense of mystery.
If the Jim Jarmusch film had ever become a full-blown detective noir, he would have had to call on the services of Staten Island’s Budos Band to score the chase scenes and gunfights. Since 2005, the all-instrumental Afro-soul ensemble have built a hard-partying reputation on an amped-up brand of the Ethiopian style, couched in Daptone Records’ neo-vintage sensibilities. Built around bassist Daniel Foder and guitarist Thomas Brenneck (the force behind soul man Charles Bradley’s discovery and debut), the group’s number swells and shrinks depending on available horn players and percussionists, this night maxing out at eight (drums, guitar, bass, organ, two horns and two percussionists).
The band haven’t released a new record since 2010, but novelty isn’t their MO so much as keeping the vibe consistent. Catalog staples like “Budos Rising,” “Chicago Falcon” and “Black Venom” punctuated a set built around the same formula of menacing metal-inspired bass figures, lockstep percussion and eerie horn leads. Bari saxophonist Jared Tankel and trumpeter Andrew Greene handled most of the melodic duties, while the top-knotted Foder flexed arena-rock bass moves and Dame Rodriguez anchored the whole thing with human-metronome clave support. “This is going to get awkward real quick,” Greene warned the seated Helsinki crowd early on but by the end of the night the crowd was up on the floor and the band could hardly stand (from a number of factors).
Hudson’s DJ Effie Asili got things started with a buffet of deep vinyl cuts from his sizable collection of funk and soul.