Monophonics and Con Brio

Date
Friday, March 27, 2020
Time/Doors
Doors 7 | Show 8

POSTPONED

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With these two bands, you should definitely believe the hype—two of the most promising live acts in America right now will be sharing our stage for one-night-only. 

When the owner of the legendary STAXX Records says you’re “one of the best live bands” he’s ever seen, you’re onto something good. And that’s what Al Bell himself has said about the Monophonics—who bill themselves as Psychedelic soul from the Bay Area. 

In their own words: “The band delivers cinematic songs with timeless hooks anchored by Kelly Finnigan’s soulful organ and powerhouse vocals. Their sound is inspired equally by classic soul, heavy funk, psychedelic rock, and classic American songwriting.”

Con Brio is a musical direction that means “with spirit” or “with vigor.” 

Young and with appropriately relentless energy, Con Brio is a soul-funk-R&B band that answers the question you never asked about what would happen if someone combined James Brown, Michael Jackson and Prince (may they rest in peace).

After taking Austin City Limits by storm last year and generating headlines like, “The Best New Live Band In America?” and “Soulful Powerhouse Con Brio Proves ACL’s Value.” Whoa, right? No pressure, guys.

Monophonics

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Monophonics have risen up again from their California studio Transistor Sound to offer the world a new album via indie label giants Colemine Records. Their new record entitled It’s Only Us, due next year reflects what they see as the current direction in the world, it's an expression that leans on the theme of humanity, that strives to speak to a wide range of listeners.

It’s a message of unity, strength, resilience and acceptance. Often known as a group that is keen to create a heavier version of classic soul, Monophonics are back with their trademark sound while introducing a healthy dose of new and warm textures that will saturate speakers. It’s easy to hear their years of record digging and being under the influence of rare sides by Brothers of Soul, Rotary Connection or Dee Edwards.

Bay Area based psychedelic-soul band Monophonics announce their upcoming album It's Only Us out early next year on Colemine Records..

The first single, “Chances” is an uptempo track that glowingly walks the line between deep, northern and sweet soul. The groups formula that fans have fallen in love with time and time again, is there once again knocking on your cerebral. Sitting atop drums that would make Pete Rock turn his head, the rhythm section is anchored deep in the pocket with a bubbling bass line, quivering vibraphone, shimmery guitar and honey thick horns. It’s all the support that background singers the ‘soul mates’ and lead singer Kelly Finnigan need to exhibit why empathetic lovers should think twice about giving “so many chances.”

Con Brio

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There’s a moment before each Con Brio show — before the backflips, the guitar solos, the buoyant horn lines over bass, drum and synth — when all seven band members come in for a huddle. It’s a way to say grace; an acknowledgment of live music as a team sport; a moment of stillness before they explode.

“Let’s work,” they say, their heads bowed together. And then they do.

Named for an Italian musical direction meaning ‘with spirit,’ Con Brio is a San Francisco Bay Area band that plays soul, psych-rock and R&B as fresh and freethinking as the place they call home. With charismatic singer Ziek McCarter bringing “the dance moves, splits and all, of James Brown” (KQED) and a band that “comes across like a party punk version of Sly and the Family Stone” (Consequence of Sound), Con Brio is known to convert anyone who sees their electric live show.

Founded in 2013 by veteran players with vastly different musical backgrounds*, the band quickly became a favorite up and down the West Coast, then across the U.S., and then overseas in places like Japan and the Netherlands. In 2016, Con Brio’s debut LP Paradise paired uplifting dance party-starters (and some psychotropic electric guitar work from Benjamin Andrews) with powerful lyrics about inequality and the Black Lives Matter movement, instantly putting the band on the map for their earnest, inspiring, and thoroughly American ethos.

Explorer, out on July 6th, both builds on the success of Paradise and serves as a travelogue of sorts — a reflection on the two years of nearly nonstop touring that followed their first record’s success. (The band, known in the industry for their tireless work ethic, has played high-profile sets at Outside Lands, Lollapalooza, Bumbershoot, Austin City Limits, Japan’s Fuji Rock, the Montreal Jazz Festival, Australia’s Bluesfest Byron Bay, and the Netherlands’ North Sea Jazz Festival, to name just a few.)

Having proved themselves on an international stage, Con Brio breaks new ground on Explorer, expanding beyond raw energy and retro sounds toward a more contemporary, layered production style, all delivered with road-tested confidence.

On “I Wanna” — a lusty, mischievous ode to the art of catching a stranger’s eye across a crowded club — McCarter pours his voice, richer than ever, over a thick, irresistibly danceable rhythm from Jonathan Kirchner (bass) and Andrew Laubacher (drums). “Body Language” slows that theme to a simmer, with a nimble, lyrical horn line from Marcus Stephens (saxophone) and Brendan Liu (trumpet) front and center.

Songs like “United State of Mind” and “Royal Rage,” meanwhile, reflect on America’s current political moment, urging strength and perspective in the face of cynicism and apathy. Over a cheerful guitar lick from Andrews, the former track sings the praises of travel, the ways it can make the world feel bigger and smaller all at once — and how sometimes you have to leave home to see it with fresh eyes. “Rage” is a rally cry, a call to resistance, with Laubacher’s kick drum leading the march: “Feeling the world pulling apart, where is the we in who we are?” asks McCarter. “When will it end, where do we start?’

Then there’s Con Brio’s tendency to upend expectations: they’ve never been afraid of a little genre-bending. “Heart Shaped Box” began as a fun cover the band arranged on a whim on a rare day off on tour; within weeks it became one of the most exciting moments in the band’s live show. On the record, it’s a playful yet potent tribute, served surprisingly well by horns and a smart, slinky synth line from Patrick Glynn.

Ultimately, Explorer is a leap for Con Brio in more ways than one. It’s a big record, with plenty of joy, a few growing pains, and more questions than answers. What does it mean to be an American band traveling the world in the year 2018 with a message of hope and tolerance? The record sounds, unsurprisingly, like a band on the verge.

Wherever Explorer takes them, they go with open eyes. They’re ready to huddle up, take the stage, and get to work — where they’ve found that, night after night, the things that divide us don’t stand a chance on the dance floor.