Seven months ago, BadBadNotGood performed to a modest crowd during the early part of Metropolis Festival’s inaugural evening. Earlier this week, having recently played at Bonnaroo and Glastonbury, the Canadian quartet played two sold-out shows in The Sugar Club, taking time out of festival slots to put on a show where their music was the sole focus.
BBNG are known for their innovative approach to composing intricately textured, experimental jazz infused hip hop instrumentals that speak to even the staunchest purist of either genre. Their debut release on Bandcamp, I, caught the attention of Odd Future leader Tyler, The Creator back in 2011, subsequently granting the band several varied collaborative opportunities. Their impressive – and diverse – collaborating partners have included Samuel Herring of Future Islands, Mick Jenkins, Charlotte Day Wilson, Ghostface Killah, Doom and KAYTRANADA which has helped broaden their fanbase over the years. The variety of their fans was evident at The Sugar Club, where in close proximity one could see students in their early twenties grouped beside a couple in their mid-sixties. Both demographics displayed equal levels of enjoyment throughout the night.
Lesser Pieces, a duo comprised of Diane Badie from New York and Dubliner Mike Slott, played to an audience that had gathered from early for the sole purpose of seeing one of the most invigorating bands of the last decade. Surely that has to be slightly intimidating. Once Badie resolved issues induced by her microphone stand and the levels on Slott’s mixer were met the pair performed seven songs – old and new. Their set included ‘Washington’, ‘White Flag’ and their yet to be released single entitled ‘Ghost of You’. Despite the newness of the latter there was a brief moment of community amongst the audience when Badie invited the crowd to sing along to the chorus. The enthusiasm of the participation waned quickly and the impatience for the main act became obvious.
As BBNG prepared their instruments, audience members congregated close to the stage. While Whitty placed his saxophone on a stand on stage left an incense stick was carefully placed and lit atop the bass drum behind him. The aroma added to the atmosphere throughout the night, which it surprisingly continued to persist deep into the twelve songs played. Once everything was in order Matt, Alex, Chester and Leland emerged once again, took their spots and launched into a brief and energetic rendition of the classic James Bond theme. Before they had played one of their songs – let alone been present on stage for more than five minutes – they had the audience in the palm of their hands. The quartet have a warmth to them, they are instantly likeable. They take their music seriously (in both how they write their music and then in their focus when having to perform those compositions before an audience) and yet they don’t let their professionalism get in the way of their fun. On the second night of the Sugar Club gigs, Leland and Matt wore glistening shoulder length white wigs for the entirety of the show, meanwhile Alex commented on enjoying Guinness and being able to spend time walking around Dublin.
The set was densely populated with tracks from IV and III, songs with featured appearances were omitted, making it an exclusively instrumental evening of music. ‘Speaking Gently’ came first, the chime of the synth easing the ears of the audience into what would become an enraptured display of their musicianship. There was a good balance of their high-energy, rambunctious songs like ‘Confession Pt II’, ‘Kaleidoscope’ and ‘Lavender’, (the latter being the undisputed highpoint of BBNG’s performance on the night especially with Whitty’s hip popping dance moves and simultaneously playing of tambourine and cowbell) and mellow moments, ‘Chompy’s Paradise’ and ‘Confessions’. They transitioned effortlessly between tempos, never losing a jolt of momentum between songs. Improvisation is one of the most beloved idiosyncrasies of jazz, and during the show BBNG excel in the moments where they take a song further sonically. ‘And That, Too’, and ‘Cashmere’ were just two instances of when the band indulged in expanding their compositions, making songs bigger and engaging.
The rapport between the band and audience was one built upon an immediate feeling of inclusiveness and fun which was established from the moment they began playing. The camaraderie between the band and audience occurred so naturally and instantaneously, perhaps, because the relationship amongst the guys appeared to be one where they clearly respect each other’s talent and enjoy playing music together. There were times during the night when members would leave the stage and give it to whomever was a key player in a song, and then rejoin when it was their time. One such instance was when Alex and Leland depart for the intro of ‘Cashmere’ and returned requesting the crowd to put their arms in the arm and allow them swing with abandon, which then leads to the pair engaged in a form of improvised dancing before promptly taking their positions at their respective instruments.
As the incense stick burned out and the fragrant aroma did its best to mask the smell of sweat, BBNG entered the encore segment of the show. Their reintroduction to the stage came with a cover of The Champs classic ‘Tequila’, another moment which elevated the playfulness that characterised the night. To close the show, ‘CS60’ brought the intensity of the performance to a heightened climax and a crowd that looked incredibly fulfilled by a band brimming with musical sophistication, fantastic stage presence and incredible songs that continue to get even more dynamic and accessible to all. Zara Hedderman