Last Tuesday, The Brand New Life trundled their operation down I-40 to heat up the Carrboro eve at The Cat’s Cradle. The band incorporates elements of different types of music into what materializes as a kind of fusion jazz/rock/world beat amalgamation which is a tremendously refreshing sound to the music lover’s ear.
Reminiscent of some sort of gourmet quiche that hit’s several buds on one’s taste palate, The Brand New Life’s sound is hard to put your finger on, although it is easy to dance and let the sweet sounds of their horns move your body. The band draws on influences from Fela and Sean Kuti, and boasts a diverse array of musicians in order to create a unique sound.
On this evening, bassist Seth Barden was really capturing the energy of the moderately crowded Tuesday night dance floor, shaking his long hair to and fro as he switched between stand-up and electric bass on several numbers. I have had the pleasure of not only observing The Brand New Life’s growth as a group over the past four years, but also of knowing them personally. I have been watching some members of this band perform their craft since high school, in venues like the musty Grimsley High School auditorium, the Greensboro school from which several current and previous members of the group graduated.
One of the defining aspects that has always captivated me is their ability to keep time and rhythm, while seemingly so much is happening on stage. Tuesday evening was no different, as I was again awed at Daniel Yount’s consistency on the drum set, complemented by the band’s array of Conga drums.
The drums and bass are just one prong of The Brand New Life’s attack on the eardrums, as horn players Walter Fancourt and Sean Smith assume the “front man” positions respectively, leading the crowd into and out of their various songs. The horns are like a spiraling whirlwind, capable of creating mass confusion while still pleasurably keeping the rhythm and moving the song along nicely.
The funny thing is, these guys make it look easy, in spite of the potential difficulty with so many sounds and band-mates to account for on stage. Their transitions are fluid; the sound of the band is organized confusion that just invades one’s soul. It is as if the extremities of the crowd members have surrendered their wills to music, while The Brand New Life plays puppeteer on stage. Just when the beat begins to linger, the effects of the lone electric guitar pick up and revitalize listeners and band mates alike.
The Brand New Life is a smorgasbord of musical composition and talent. The music is as diverse as the members who comprise the outfit. As I mentioned, some members of the group bring their talents from right here in Greensboro, NC, while some come all the way from West Africa. In talking to some of the attendees at the show, I was interested to hear some of the average listener’s opinions.
One comment specifically stuck out, to paraphrase: “Popularizing music like this here is like popularizing soccer in the United States: only the intelligent people get it.” While I do not watch too much Futbol myself, I perfectly understood this remark. The sound is so different from anything else, and seems to attract a very appreciative high-brow and intelligent set of ears. Taking in a Brand New Life show is like going to an educational symposium of sound. The attendee WILL come out the other side with more mental stimulation then he or she entered with.
As their set concluded, I thought how lucky I have been to witness the formation and transformation of The Brand New Life’s music. I have first-handedly observed a group of people whom I am honored to call my friends take their admittedly different sound from out of the basement and into the forefront of many North Carolinian’s musical consciousness. The show last Tuesday exemplifies their ability to shake a room with an original flavor, and The Brand New Life can be an inspiration to other bands that shy away from traditional categorization.
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