Bennett Wales, front man for Bennett Wales and the Relief, kicked off the evening with his voice and acoustic guitar, both of which were welcome ‘relief’ (see what I did there?) from the drab dreary that has been Virginia Beach in winter.
During the recently held Veer Local Music awards, Bennett Wales and The Relief won the Live Performer category because they bring it, and even without his mates, Bennett did not disappoint in the ‘bring it’ quantity. He performed a mix of covers and originals, giving each his own special treatment of loops, effects, and harmonizers used to perfection, casting an outsized sonic presence to his singularity on stage. Which is vital in a large space like Cadence Hall. While his instrumental talents are obvious and unmistakable, it was his voice, especially on cuts like Fire, that reinforced that fact that Bennett Wails (sorry, couldn’t resist….). He is one of ours here in 757 so go see and support.
This event was part of the ongoing LAVA Minifest series that is the brainchild and labor of love of Josh Coplon. LAVA uses various venues around the area and is quickly growing as a brand for a quality night out. Josh is the epitome of what it takes to grow a scene, 757 owes him much. And we can start to pay him back two ways: 1. Attend a show and 2. Tell others about LAVA. At the start of Bennett’s set, Cadence Hall was probably at 70% capacity or so, during the intermission more people joined the party with a final attendance somewhere around 80% of capacity. To say it was a mixed crowd does not do justice to the term. Ages ranged from school kids to seniors, every demographic I could imagine was in attendance, including parents who brought along their high school (and maybe junior high school) aged kids with them. No better way to pass along a vibe and scene that jumping in feet first at a young age, kudos to the cool parents who saw through the thousands of reasons people said to not bring kids to a concert.
At 10PM, 10 members of No BS Brass Band (sax player was missing this evening) hit the stage firing on all cylinders and didn’t hand it back for 90 minutes. Cadence Hall shares a structure with Peabody’s on the Oceanfront, between songs you could hear the thump of Peabody’s. Co-founder and front-man Reggie Pace likened it to the sound of two washing machines having intercourse. No BS hails from Richmond, VA and swung through during their current tour, off you missed them on this stop through Virginia Beach check their website to see where you can catch them. Because you need to.
No BS has a decade long and well documented heritage that I won’t rehash here (check their website for more background) but the TLDR version is that they are the real deal on a national stage. The name No BS is the guiding rule for how the band operates, both musically and operationally. During the evening, one of the attendees at the front of the house was getting a bit too far into the proceedings and was called out from the stage. Not in a threading rock star type of way but from a chill, bro type of way. Situation averted, party commenced. No BS.
Musically, No BS Brass Band is the true definition of a brass band in that it contains only drums and instruments made of brass (3 trumpets, 4 trombones, and one tuba on this night). Genre-wise, though, it is a bit more of a moving target. While there are many influences, I’m going with modal hip hop/funk as a genre, at least to these ears. When No BS is playing their originals, it is a horizontal progression of melody that has a melodic center but relies on some traditional modal jazz techniques to form the structure in which the music breathes, such as mixed meter between rhythm and melody. During several of the solo sections, instrumentalist would riff over a 3/4 meter while the drums and tuba would hold down the 4/4 funk beat, all of it colliding on the downbeat of 12. This defines the funk, you have to be death or soul-less to not physically drop on that one. Coltrane is an obvious influence, but it isn’t a stretch to hear influences of Frank Zappa when he was arranging/writing during the Best Band You Never Heard era of his career. To summarize, this is music that is thoughtfully put together and emphatically performed. Subtlety took the night off, this was in your face dirty swagger at its absolute finest.
The set list contained all of what you would expect from No BS Brass Band, including 3 AM Bounce (I’m still split whether the title is referring to a particular style of New Orleans hip hop or what happens on the VB oceanfront at 3 AM when you hear the sirens getting louder), Khan!, and Get It On. Also included were some covers, Every Wants To Change The World (Tears for Fears), Take On Me (Ah Ha), and Thriller (Michael Jackson). At first, these seemed to have no place in the lineup. Make no mistake, these were performed with exactly the energy and treatment you would expect from No BS Brass Band but still, why? A day later as I was reflecting back and putting notes together for this review, it dawned on me: This was the more traditional vertical harmony and melody that is more familiar to the ears of popular music. In essence, this was the re-center for the audience, the cleansing sip of water between courses of the meal. For in order to appreciate and live on the edge of the modal stylings of the night, it is almost a requirement to revisit the center and make the journey outward again.
The familiar filthy nasty funk of Brass Scene Kids marked the beginning of the end of the night. If you have never heard No BS Brass Band before, I suggest looking up the Audiotree Live version of this on Youtube. If you are a trombone player, you will rewatch the first 1 minute 20 seconds of this and count the number of welts your chin has from hitting the floor. Truly generational talent.
As we shuffled out once again into the dreary winter of Virginia Beach, i saw two swirls of cigarette smoke swirl out from Peabody’s: The washing machines had apparently finished up their dirty nasty well before we did in Cadence Hall.
The No BS Brass Band
RVA. Brass Band. Duh.
Va Beach. Blues Rock.