only natural, after cycling through new wave, postpunk, and
grunge these past few years, that the hermeneutic spiral should
deliver us back to the mid-’90s right . . . about . . . now.
The time has, indeed, come for cosmically conscious groove
bands to (again) get their proper due, and the Macpodz have
taken it upon themselves to win back syncopation from the
dark place it’s been pushed off to by the tight-slacked, flatfooted
apologists of the late-’80s.
Arbor, Mich., quintet dub their sound “disco-bebop,” but it
sounds a lot like New England 10 years back, namely the Moog-heavy
and grossly underappreciated Percy Hill. The Macpodz are a
dance band in the truest sense: Almost everyone onstage last
Thursday took their turn on the mic, but the whole ensemble
seemed to balance on Brennan Andes’ airtight bass lines. An
ain’t-nothin’-but-a-party mentality underscored the two-set
show, moving bodies first before launching into adventurous
instrumental work. While most bands of their ilk rely on often-gratuitous
guitar slinging, the Macpodz lean on a trumpet player well-versed
in ’70s Miles Davis. It was clear, however, when keyboardist
Jesse Clayton took a solo, that the band owe far more to Herbie
Hancock’s brand of exploratory funk than they do Davis’. Tight
disco grooves gave way to frenetic interpolations where alternate
time signatures were suggested against the 4/4 pulse.
a penchant for improvisation, Macpodz know what they do well
and stick to it. Never did they jam into ethereal ambiguity.
Instead, each tune kept its feet electric-sliding across the
floor. At their best, knowingly sleazy shuffles literally
had the crowd doing the worm. Some tunes went more the way
of Philly griddle-funk, with none-too-timid forays into falsettoland.
It was here that the band seemed to have more in common with
white soul artists like Jamie Lidell than the bands Macpodz
performed with the prior weekend at moe.down. But in a single
turn, they dropped a straight Afro-Cuban tumbao to take their
place with the likes of Mongo Santamaria.
night went on, the percussionist played a beat-box rendition
of the Inspector Gadget theme through a flute, and a dirty
rendition of Dale Hawkins’ “Susie Q” gave rise to a good old-fashioned
soul-train on the dance floor. Amid all the boogaloo and break-dancing,
one woman took advantage of the moment to glissade in on a
set of wheels, and effectively turned the party into a roller
they were nodding to New England bands of the ’90s or fusion
bands of the ’70s (or the latter by way of the former), Macpodz
undoubtedly were situated presently in the pocket. It’s lucky
too, because in the game they play, it either works or it
doesn’t. (Unlike the rock game, where posture often trumps
musicianship.) The dance floor draws consensus, and Thursday
night, the verdict was unanimous.