Tag Archives: Mark Speer


Khruangbin Get Spacey at Brooklyn Bowl on Wednesday Night

February 23rd, 2017

Khruangbin – Brooklyn Bowl – February 22, 2017

NASA announced Wednesday that it had discovered seven new exoplanets, some of which could potentially sustain life. Is it a coincidence that on the very same day Khruangbin appeared in Brooklyn, laying down a set of their extraterrestrial grooves for a sold-out Brooklyn Bowl? Does seem suspicious. Looking otherworldly and playing music that might very well come from another solar system where love and peace reign supreme, the actually-from-Austin, Texas, trio were in fine form last night. From the opening slow funk of “August Twelve,” the crowd was locked in, beamed up into Khruangbin’s spaceship bathed in kaleidoscope hues, ready to be probed, prodded and fully funkified.

It’s no easy task to find a completely unoccupied space in the musical spectrum, but Khruangbin have always felt perfectly situated in a just-groovy-enough, not-too-loud/not-too-soft, not-too-fast/not-too-slow space that no one else seems to have discovered yet. On repeated trips back to New York City, each time hopping up a level in crowd size and intensity, the trio has found ways to shed their alien skin, revealing something more elaborate and exciting beneath. On Wednesday, guitarist Mike Speer was given room for hairier solos than the last few area gigs, drummer Donald Johnson Jr. and bassist Laura Lee showing tour-tested comfort in giving him full freedom to explore.

The set gained propulsive energy as it went along, mostly songs from their breakout album, The Universe Smiles Upon You, highlighted by the zigzag melodies of “People Everywhere (Still Alive)” and the out-of-plane weirdness of “Dern Kala.” In a room that can sometimes swallow the more subtle acts, Khruangbin were ferociously funky, overwhelming Brooklyn Bowl as if it were only a pit stop on the way to something bigger. Thankfully for the crowd, the band’s phasers were merely set to stun—because they might not be so lucky next time. —A. Stein | @Neddyo


Khruangbin Leave Them Smiling at The Bowery Ballroom on Friday

September 12th, 2016

Khruangbin – The Bowery Ballroom – September 9, 2016

Why am I still smiling, you ask? Yes, still grinning since Friday night, but that’s just the kind of mood that Khruangbin put you in. Not worrying too much about how you pronounce it, the sold-out crowd at The Bowery Ballroom was too busy dancing and beaming to the trio’s uniquely laid-back funk. Friday was only their second New York City gig, but the trio—Mark Speer on guitar, Laura Lee on bass and Donald Johnson on drums—further proved why they are on a funkified upward trajectory, without losing the intimate living-room groove of their sound.

The show largely drew from their breakthrough album, The Universe Smiles Upon You, recreating its stripped-down sound on songs like the early-set “Mr. White.” The lighting color palette was centered strongly on pinks, a perfect boudoir hue for Khruangbin’s less-is-more funk. The threesome locked into grooves that felt like the bare minimum to be legally called “groovy,” as if they had taken the legendary rhythms and riffs of the Meters, James Brown and their beloved Thai funk and reduced them to their distilled essence. As evidenced Friday night, Khruangbin have figured out a way to build on this foundation without losing the underlying ethos. Speer filled every nook and cranny in the rhythms with just-below-boiling guitar work, an engaging tone with just enough bite, making the chilling-on-the-couch-with-your-lover funk work for a sold-out Bowery, no problem.

The banter was equal to the mood—a story about a song called “The Recital That Never Happened” was more or less what you’d expect from the song title, but all the more entertaining for it. A mid-set medley seemingly drew inspiration as well as riffs and rhythms from funk songs, recognizable and deep-cut. Mostly each piece felt right, like you wanted them to just keep going, get forever lost in Lee’s irresistible basslines, time perpetually kept by the funky tock of Johnson’s snare. Often there would be a temptation to add to something like this, an organ or a horn section, a second guitar player, but they’ve been able to resist thus far. Anything more would make Khruangbin not quite Khruangbin, which might just be enough to wipe this smile off my face. —A. Stein | @Neddyo


Khruangbin’s Groovy, Funky New York City Debut

March 16th, 2016

Khruangbin – Rough Trade NYC – March 15, 2016

“The ’60s” are an all-too-common reference for music that continues to persist even now, 50 years later. “This sounds like music from the ’60s” can mean just about anything. But watching Khruangbin play last night at Rough Trade NYC with the old school liquid-light display from Drippy Eye Projections bubbling behind them, I truly felt like I had been transported to a time when “free love” was a way of life and people said things like “groovy, baby!” Because if Khruangbin are anything, they’re incredibly groovy.

Tuesday night’s show was Khruangbin’s NYC debut, and they explained from the outset that it was one of their bigger U.S. shows to date. If they were nervous, the giddy, sold-out crowd made them feel at home right away as they worked their way through much of last year’s debut album, The Universe Smiles Upon You. Laura Lee’s bass and Mark Speer’s guitar were entwined in a musical romance on songs like “Mr. White,” laying down minimalist instrumental funk with flirtatious melodies and a slow-grind low end. Like his bandmates, Donald Johnson subscribed to a less-is-more style of drumming, settling into a groove and just letting things develop at their own pace. That pace was, by and large, very groovy and very sexy. Dressed in Day-Glo pants and moving as one with her bass playing, Lee blended right in with the undulating colors on the screen behind her.

Midway through the set, Khruangbin strayed from the album material, slowly morphing into a modern-day Meters, Speer’s floral guitar tone gaining a greasy-funk edge to it and finding some room to explore and offering a glimpse at the band’s exciting future potential. But mostly they stuck to their signature boogie-lubricant sound, as addictive for their beautiful restraint as for their deep, unflappable funk. Each song seemed to earn a louder applause from the crowd until Khruangbin ran out of material to play (“We just make this up in the studio … and then we have to learn it again”), but somehow found “one more” to close out the show—and then another for an audience-demanded encore: a Latin-spy-surf jam with rapid-fire guitar riffs while Lee and Johnson kept that characteristic make-love-not-war groove going. It was a heck of a coming out party for Khruangbin and their truly timeless music. —A. Stein | @Neddyo