Two Times the Fun

August 14th, 2009

NOMO – Mercury Lounge – August 13, 2009

(Photo: Doug Coombe)

(Photo: Doug Coombe)

Is it true that if you’ve got something good, then having two of those things makes it twice as good? That seems to be the principal that NOMO was operating under last night at the Merc. Two drum kits, double-strength saxophones and everything twice as funky and loud as I anticipatied. The music was an instrumental stew with a base of Afrobeat, but the thing that struck me immediately were those two kits, just pounding away with a steady stream of right-left-right-left body blows. The sensation was like listening to the Allman Brothers with horns replacing guitars and dance-yourself-silly grooves replacing Southern rock. Between the drums and horns, a sexy bass wove the low end making the whole sound cut-with-a-steak-knife thick and juicy.

Midway through the set, NOMO showed they’ve got at least two sides, as one drummer traded in the sticks for a guitar and the frontman traded in his sax for keys, electronic beats and samples. The dancing didn’t stop, but the sound took a little turn toward a greasier electro-funk that was peppered with a weird synth-sax and later a wicked electronic, heavily distorted thumb piano. NOMO hails from Michigan and there was a certain “They’re from Ann Arbor? I went to school in Ann Arbor!” feel in the crowd, but this was collective groove music of the highest degree without pretense or boundary.

As the night wound down, the band treated us to a version of Sun Ra’s “Rocket #9,” which was more an intensely dark homage than a cover. They finished with a pulsing dance-party version of the “play in the middle of the room” trick ensuring that everyone had twice as much fun as they could handle. —A. Stein