We Went There: Bambara at the 7th St. Entry
I have been trying to think of a clear way to describe this show without sounding like a hyperbolic maniac. Since the more measured words sound false I’ll go with the ridiculous: this was one of the best shows I’ve been to in recent memory. The only findable fault was the show not being full, and that’s on Minneapolis.
Bambara is nominally a three piece with the live band expanded to a group of five. The expanded group of musicians are all fantastic, capable of transitioning from long vamping sections, and back to overpowering frenetic pulsing. The larger group also allows singer Reid Bateh to be alone with the microphone. When he wasn’t brooding from place to place, he was conducting the band, writhing on the stage, and radiating charisma.
They were all business. Briefly introducing themselves, Bambara only paused to tune, and compliment openers Wax Lead and New Primals. The lack of direct interaction with the audience meant they could cram 14 songs into their set. The songs were fairly evenly split between tracks from the new Stray, and 2018’s excellent Shadow On Everything. Critically, the band played everything with the slightly faster tempo, and the relentless cadence meant every song built to a riotous crescendo. Choosing to play with faster rhythms is a big part of what made their performance so impactful. Already fast songs like “Heat Lightning” felt more intense to the point where Bamabara could conjure mosh pit in a goth show. Mid-tempo selections like “Death Croons” felt more driving, and compelled a standing-inclined audience to dance. Tracks like “Made for Me” or “Stay Cruel” are transmogrified from torchy death ballads into pounding dance songs. I was initially annoyed that the drummer was so high up in the mix, but the driving pace of the show had me convinced that the recorded versions had it wrong. One of my favorites was “Ben & Lily” from the new album, as it really showcased the benefits of the more aggressive presentation. The show closing “José Tries to Leave” has such a well-crafted internal crescendo that it was the perfect capstone to the evening. The lack of an encore was also a big plus.
Setting aside Bambara’s stunning amount of talent, a lot of the credit needs to go to the Entry’s booker for wrangling the perfect local openers. Wax Lead follows the same tight musical performance, and has several similar western goth inclinations. The songs I enjoyed the most was the weirder songs that trafficked in heavily looped noisy tones. New Primals brought a performative frenzy that would find echoes in Reid Bateh’s style. I enjoyed their noise-forward dance punk music more than the show they put on, but I blame that on me getting ancient. I winced when lead singer and guitarist Sam Frederick poured water over their head while shouting, “stay hydrated,” because I felt fear for the fragile life of the gear that was getting wet. New Primals’s presentation built up the crowd’s impulse to move. I doubt Bambara would have been able to get a mosh pit of goths had New Primals not set them up to do so. The group also deserves credit for closing their set by handing out their instruments to people in the crowd, and then going out on a looped Alan Rickman from Harry Potter sample. It was good show craft, and had the genius benefit of making their tear down process faster. As someone who always hates loading and unloading equipment, making that part of the show deserved almost as much applause as the excellent music.
— Thomas Kwong