Khruangbin Make Everyone Weak in the Knees on a Steamy Brooklyn Night
August 05, 2022
Khruangbin – Lena Horne Bandshell – August 4, 2022
It was a steamy Thursday, another hot and humid New York City night in a string of them, but the energy at the Lena Horne Bandshell in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park was loose and festive for the sold-out Khruangbin show. The combination of heat plus festive didn’t quite work for everyone: One guy near me went wobbly before the set even began, and midway through, the band had to pause to get help for two more despite the Bandshell staff kindly handing out water to keep everyone hydrated. Maybe it was just the Houston trio making the entire audience weak in the knees over the course of their 90-minute performance. They can seemingly turn even the coldest night into a steamy one. Despite all that, the vibe was decidedly chill from the get-go, a compelling easy-to-love opening set from Vieux Farka Touré setting the tone, the gentle slope of the bandshell making it easy to get a good vantage, and the melting-pot Brooklyn crowd in high, decidedly easygoing spirits. A little rain fell the moment Khruangbin — Mark Speer on guitar, Laura Lee on bass, Donald Johnson Jr. on drums — took the stage, but even the brief precipitation was just a chill disassociation of drops, nothing to get worked up about.
The band dropped right into their signature chill sound, backed by cool blue and purple lights, easy grooving instrumentals filling the space. The music was dynamic, but the changes were slow, leaving the audience to find excitement in the nuances and subtle changes. They whooped as Lee’s bass found its funk or Johnson changed up the beat. They roared when Speer elevated the temperature with his guitar, slowly ticking up the black lines on the thermometer. Speer and Lee shimmied and moved around the stage, eliciting the biggest responses from the crowd, giving one a little sense of what it must have been like to be a part of an audience reacting to Elvis’s hip gyrations way back when. Heat lightning off in the distant clouds felt symbolic: exciting flashes but no real danger on the ground. It took about four songs before anyone in the band opened their mouths (“It’s warm!”), but by then they’d already said plenty.
The set built momentum through the summertime-appropriate “August 10” and then “Lady and Man,” with its spiraling exotica guitar riff and slyly complicated drum-and-bass interplay, the overhead double disco balls in full effect as the trio futzed with the tempos, fast then slow then fast then slow. Khruangbin were a self-contained episode of Soul Train for the second half of the show, with medleys of cover vamps and familiar riffs from the ’80s and ’90s sandwiched inside their own originals, bigger reactions and sing-alongs from the crowd for some of these, bonus points if you could catch and name them all. The one that stuck out the most to me was Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love,” the Frantz/Weymouth resonance with Speers/Lee too intriguing to ignore, although the audience’s enthusiasm for singing Spandau Ballet’s “True” or Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It” was quite infectious.
An extended encore opened with Touré guesting, fleshing out the hidden desert blues in Khruangbin’s sound and roping the whole bandshell into singing along. A couple more deep-groove favorites — “Time (You and I)” and “People Everywhere” — with maybe another cover or two popping up within, kept the steamy Brooklyn crowd wobbly just a bit longer, extremely chilled, but still plenty hot. —A. Stein | @Neddyo
(Khruangbin play Thompson’s Point in Portland, Maine, tonight.)
(Khruangbin return to New York City to play The Big Climate Thing at Forest Hills Stadium on 9/16.)
Photos courtesy of Maggie V. Miles | @Maggievmiles