Can You Describe the Ruckus?

January 30th, 2012

Rubblebucket – The Bowery Ballroom – January 28, 2012

In between the opener and the headliner of Saturday night’s sold-out Bowery Ballroom show a woman asked us for the name of the first band. When I said, “Superhuman Happiness,” she responded, “They were really good!” I nodded in agreement: Indeed, they had just turned the room into a dance hall, blending Afrobeat with modern touches ranging from the Talking Heads to LCD Soundsystem. It was jamming horn-heavy groove music with claws, gratifying fans in the crowd and winning over plenty more.

Then the woman asked if we had ever seen Rubblebucket, the headliner. We replied that we hadn’t and she got a look in her eye. I know that look. I’ve given it to people plenty of times. It says, “You’re in for a treat and you don’t even know it.” Not many acts can put that kind of spark in someone’s eye. But later in the night—somewhere in between the crowd-surfing guest sousaphonist and the robot puppets (or puppet robots?) dancing through the arms-in-the-air crowd while the band stretched out a jam that had begun with a whiplash version of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”—there was no question where that look had come from because I had the same one.

Rubblebucket picked up right where Superhuman Happiness had left off, taking the organic stuff of the tribal and the electronic and burying it underground until it liquefied into pure party petrol. The music was utterly post-genre—horns, synth, guitars, harmonies—a smile-inducing point on the tangent that connects Björk and Broken Social Scene. If those in the audience were enjoying themselves to the legal limit, the band members were right there with them, amid the crowd-surfing and the confetti cannons and returning for the encore ensconced in LEDs that seemed to blink in time with the drums. By the end of the show, which included material off last year’s Omega La La and even stronger first-time-played material, not a booty was left unshaken and not an eye was left untwinkling. —A. Stein