So when Mark Speer, the guitarist of Khruanbin, spoke to the crowd at the Fox Theatre on Friday night, it was a weird and wonderful sort of body shock. Because even though you know the band comes from Texas, actually hearing that charming Southern drawl from his mouth felt incongruous with the music Khruangbin makes, a psychedelic kind of funk influenced by vintage Thai grooves. It’s not something that you’d expect to come out of Texas, let alone America.
Secondly, their songs are also mostly instrumental, so actually hearing the band talk when they are so articulate on their individual instruments felt a little surreal. Like we had all assumed instead of human voices their natural sounds were the twang of Speer’s guitar, the groove of Laura Lee’s bass, and the break beats of DJ Johnson’s drums.
Khruangbin’s main sound is influenced by a set of tapes from the ‘60s and ‘70s that featured Thai music driven by funky bass lines, psychedelic guitars, and melodies lifted from traditional Asian folk music. Their first album And The Universe Smiles Upon You was heavy with this sound, while it’s follow up, Con Todo El Mundo, also has influences from Spain and the Middle East.
Live, their even better than you could imagine with room for extended guitar solos and the feeling that you’re witnessing an epic improvised jam. Halfway through the set they even do a medley of covers which gave a nod to West Coast hip hop and a shoutout to Chris Isaak.
It was also a show I’ll remember for having the least amount of cellphones out trying to capture every moment, and rather, more people just living in it and dancing really hard or being brought to a meditative state with one of the slow jams or just being in awe of what three people could do with their instruments. Definite highlights included the guitar shredding on the funky “Dern Kala,” (see the band jamming to it below) and the phone brought on stage so Laura Lee could get on the line for “Evan Finds the Third Room.”
I left the Fox that night with sore legs from dancing and a sore throat from cheering and like everyone else, a little more alive with the magic and surprise of a great live show.