Finally! New Yorkers; The Budos Band, brought their unique style of funk and afro-beat to Columbus, playing at Outland Live last Saturday. Together since 2003, and playing over 150 shows in the last two years, it was about damn time, but they made it well worth the wait.
Outland Live was the last stop of their week-long tour into the South and Midwest, and there was a celebratory feeling in the crowd and onstage. The band brought out a varied crowd; no age group was excluded and a good portion of the crowd was looking classy, dressed up in suits and dresses. The venue was like something out of Fear and Loathing with colored lights everywhere, couches, and even a 20-ft. tall Eiffel Tower out front. There were two big rooms, two bars, and a stage with mirrors and poles all around it. The band played in the bigger back room with a higher, slightly more normal stage (if you don’t count the painted mannequin bodies around the room). The lighting left something to be desired but when you’re traveling with over ten people, there isn’t much room for a light rig.
The band took the stage over, stretching ten people across. To the left was the driving force of the Budos sound, the percussion section. Big enough to be its own band, the drum section included Brian Profilio on drum kit, conga & drums player John Carbonella Jr., bongo and conga player Rob Lombardo, Dame Rodriguez on cowbell, clave, & tambourine, and Vincent Balestrino on shekere (talk about stamina!). Balesetrino, Rodriguez, and Carbonella were surprisingly present and notable, bringing an African groove out of the Staten Islanders. Lombardo had some incredible solos, bringing every tone possible out of the hand drums. A defining part of the Afro-beat Budos sound, the percussion section is full of subtleties and different layers. It’s uncommon to see such a large band touring, but by trying not to leave out any part of the live performance that fans would hear on the album, the band shows true attention to detail and dedication.
In the middle of the stage were the horns, a trumpet, and baritone sax. The sax has a deep booming tone that adds mysteriousness to their sound and brings some serious power. For being so big, it is surprising how fast sax player Jared Tankel can tear it up. Trumpet player Andrew Greene was somewhat buried when the whole band was playing, but made his presence and talent known when he stepped up to the mic for one of his many solos. Also carrying the melody, and amping up the ambiance, was guitarist Thomas Brenneck. The tone of his vintage Harmony H74 is perfect for the 70’s-style analog character of Budos.
Brenneck, Greene, and Tankel, when they got into a groove, would all step back and forth in sync, but the rest of their stage presence was totally unique. Brenneck was rocking out with one foot on the monitor, head banging, shaggy hair flying, and even crowd surfed with his guitar in the encore. Greene is a sunglass wearing, dirty mouthed badass, leading the crowd in an encore chant of the line he uses with the band, “what the fuck, Budos!”. Tankel came across as an early 70’s rock star, stomping his cowboy boots (tight jeans pulled over them, of course), and pushing his long hair out of his face to take a swig from a bottle of Absolut.
Bass player Daniel Foder’s stage presence came from his interesting style of playing, holding his 1967 Gibson EB-0 bass guitar straight up and playing it like an upright. He and Brenneck work together to build a foundation for the rest of the band, writing their own parts and building many of the songs from there. On instruments that typically take the lead, they are great at stepping back and sharing the lead with the horns and organ, leaving no decisive front-man and making for better variety and complexity.
The final element of Budos’s spooky, driving funk is Mike Deller on a vintage Farfisa organ. The Farfisa brings a psychedelic element and Deller’s playing is on point, whether he’s taking the lead or playing trills and runs in the background complimentary to the band. Usually in a minor key, Deller adds to the dark and sneaky feeling that first drew me into Budos.
They played an incredible set, including songs from all 3 of their albums (appropriately titled Budos I, Budos II, and Budos III). Highlights included the driving force of Adenji, Ride or Die, Up From the South, the fast and spooky Black Venom (“Do you guys like metal?!”- Greene), and the first song of the encore, Volcano Song.
The Budos Band is somewhat indie and underground, but has gotten some great and well-deserved recognition from all over including NPR, The New York Times, and Wakarusa Festival… (they were even being played in the Apple store this winter). They are signed to Daptone Records, the New York funk/soul/afrobeat label best known for bringing us Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings (and Budos, of course). The show was their first time in Columbus, and they had a great turnout. Even with Trey Anastasio Band playing five minutes away, the stage room at Outlands was packed with funk-hungry fans. The band seemed to love the crowd, so hopefully they will be back soon for more. In the meantime, if you see Budos on a festival line-up this summer, consider it an incentive to be there. Their one-of-a-kind style and energetic live performance is not to be missed.
Review by Meghan Bender