The Texan trio's biggest UK headline show shared the fluidity and curation of a DJ set
Nearly 5,000 miles from their roots in Houston, Texas, psych-funk trio Khruangbin have curated an appeal in the UK over the past five years that has pulled in everyone from the BBC 6 Music lover to trendy, crate-digging NTS enthusiasts. Their headline show at North London’s Alexandra Palace last night celebrated this on an epic scale, packing the Great Hall to the rafters with around 10, 000 fans for their biggest UK headline show to-date.
Though the lofty acoustics of Ally Pally initially seem at odds with the band’s trademark clear and close sound, it’s not long before the ears acclimatise — clinging to the crisp and unwavering beat of Donald “DJ” Johnson’s understated drumming. Once immersed, Mark Speer’s guitar sound seems to have a cosmic shine as he lets it rip through the likes of ‘August 10’ and a hypnotic cover of Kool & The Gang’s ‘Summer Madness’.
Spicier numbers from their last full-length Mordechai such as ‘Time (You and I)’ and ‘Pelota’ are especially brought to life thanks to Laura Lee’s animated rhythms on the bass and arresting groove.
The set is spliced throughout with medleys, spanning everything from Sister Nancy’s dub-heavy classic ‘Bam Bam’ to A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Electric Relaxation’, The Isley Brothers’ ‘Footsteps In The Dark’ and, in homage to their host city, a bizarre but brilliant funk-rock rendition of the EastEnders theme tune. Often these come mid-way through one of their own numbers, veering off from the likes of ‘People Everywhere (Still Alive)’ into Snap!’s ‘Rhythm Is A Dancer’ so unexpectantly that we forget where we’d left off in the first place; in this flow, the set feels closer to a DJ set which, given the Gilles Peterson-esque world that they play such a big part in today, feels quite natural.
Though these medleys stir in a party vibe amongst the caramellike wooziness at the heart of their musicality, they actually bring those more sedate moments to life, emphasising their beguiling simplicity and timelessness.
Khruangbin play Glasgow and Manchester next before returning to the UK this summer. Tickets can be found here.