LIVE REVIEW: Youngblood Brass Band @ The Cluny, Newcastle (20.8.15) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Hot dang! Sweat! Beats! Brass! This night had it all! The Cluny is rapidly gaining a reputation for itself as one of the finest purveyors of top quality New Orleans brass bands. The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble recently tore the roof off, Youngblood just blew the place away and the Hot 8 are coming to finish the job off in November. The three little piggies at the Cluny may have the best built of houses but those badass wolves from across the pond keep knocking the sucker down. Mind, if they keep building it, they are gonna keep coming, so pick up the hod and let’s get mortar!

Support came from the Smokin’ Coconuts, and I think their name sums them up pretty well; they were smokin’ and they were completely nuts. They played a heavy mix of guitar-based rock, with strong ska flavours creeping in and shades of an early Chili Peppers vibe. What really made them stand out for me was the trumpet, which gave them an extra dimension and turned them from a rock band into a jazz-rock-funk-ska-attitude outfit, plus vocals almost verging on the manic (not street preachers). As proud Geordies, I expect them to follow in the footsteps of all the other class Novocastrian bands and get thesell’s on the telly an’ that.

The Youngblood carry such a reputation that luminaries from the brass world as far as the Tyne Valley made the trip. I saw guys from Alter Ego, Boys of Brass, Northern Monkeys, KumaYama and even Kosoti and Whapweasel there last night. They weren’t disappointed. Especially when the 10-piece whacked us smack in the face with Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody to start proceedings. The crowd were instantly hooked and even at this early stage arms were swaying in the air (like they just don’t care etc.) Led by drummer and vocalist David Henzie-Skogen, the band features a triple-double horn frontline, you’ll see what I mean, with Adam Meckler and Charley Wagner on trumpet, Zach Lucas on alto and tenor saxophones, Tony Barba on tenor sax and the super-cool bass clarinet, with Matt Hanzelka and Joe Goltz on trombone. This well-stocked front-line is supported by the single-triple drum back-line of D. Henzie-Skogen on drums and vocals, Conor Elmes and Tom Reschke on drums and the single-single (although I am unaware of his marital status) sousaphone, flourished tongue-trillingly triumphantly by Nat McIntosh of the McIntosh tribe.

“they were tighter than a Yorkshireman’s wallet in the pocket of a spandex lycra clad Giant Haystacks on a 1990’s Tokyo subway at rush-hour”

But what about the music? Well, they were tighter than a Yorkshireman’s wallet in the pocket of a spandex lycra clad Giant Haystacks on a 1990’s Tokyo subway at rush-hour and about as sweaty too. They really are supreme musicians. Their unique funk-inspired jazzy hip-hop brass sound manages to sound modern and authentically New Orleansy at the same time. ‘Now Orleans’ I guess. When Dave stepped up to the mic, he reminded me of Eminem. Quickly spit lyrics, especially in album title track ’20 Questions,’ flowed apparently effortless from his oesophagus as he repeatedly asked “who are we?” “Youngblood Brass Band” came the gleeful reprise. To nobody’s surprise every time, we were weak at the knees.

I know that individual band members shouldn’t really be singled out from a group loved in equal proportion by all their fans, but damn it, I’m a trombonist and I know a goodun’ when I see one. Joe Goltz was in danger of stealing the show. His control of the untameable beast formerly known as a sackbut was masterful, reaching the upper range of pitch with not inconsiderable speed, he was funky and powerful. I’ve seen the undisputed king of the ‘bone Fred Wesley, not to mention Nils Landgren and Trombone Shorty, but this guy has what it takes to challenge those guys on an equal footing. It’s kind of hard on Matt Hanzelka, who I thought was fantastic as well, along with Maynard-esque high notes from Adam Meckler on trumpet and awesome creativity from Nat on the sousaphone.

Having said that, there wasn’t one fella in that group who didn’t play a blinder. It was wall-to-wall quality funk and hip-hop, brass-stylee. An oft-used phrase in the jazz world is ‘hot’, jumpin-hot, hot jazz biscuits etc. but last night it was seriously hot, 18 degrees at midnight outside and about 100 inside.

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