We Went There: Surprise Chef Brings Vibes from Across the Globe to The 7th St Entry
Surprise Chef are part of (I’d argue a leader in) the recent musical movement that blends soul, funk and library music into deeply groovy instrumental music. Hailing from Australia, the group have released multiple LPs and singles over the last few years, each sonically rich and musically adventurous, finding a happy medium between a motorik pocket and doctrine soul/funk. Like their peers, they blend music from across the globe into something that is both deeply specific and also beautifully out of focus. What I didn’t know, after years of listening to their music, was if their sound would translate to the stage when they visited Minnesota for what I believe was the first time ever Saturday night at the 7th St. Entry in Minneapolis.
It took about thirty seconds for the very full 7th St Entry to confirm that yes, the groove and vibe translates live. The five piece band were set up in a circle, with drums in the music, flanked next by bass and guitar, and on the outer edge of the U shape a percussionist and a synth/keyboard player who held together the sound. Playing from their previous LPs and their latest Friendship EP, they locked in for a sweaty, resonant 85 minute set that included multiple song encore that was a genuine encore, with the crowd begging them to stay and the band taking requests.
Surprise Chef’s music is subtle but always cascading forward. Sometimes it’s a bass line that gets head bobbing. Sometimes it’s a slinky guitar lick that gets shoulders swaying. Sometimes it’s stabs at the Rhodes keyboard that caused the emotional release that happened many times during the show, when members of the crowd shouting in joy as a beat broke down and a new riff transitioned in. Standing behind the keyboard setup for a good chunk of the show was watching a master class in rich and nuanced keyboard playing that, with the whole band, was a joyful example of a collective sound that would have fallen apart without any component part. Locking it all into place was the dual percussionist setup, which kept the pocket tight but had enough slack to make everything feel alive. It was a powerful show that had me returning to their LPs today and having an even deeper appreciation for music that I already loved very much.
Even before Surprise Chef hit the stage it had been a good night at the Entry, with a great opening set by Alanna Royale and her band. Her music was deeply soulful, but in a a more direct way than Surprise Chef. Her music invokes a new brand of classic R&B, with her four piece back band crafting glossy, modern funk tapestry for her stunning vocals. It was a sound of an artist who I could see making a big splash for anyone who loves retro soul/funk/R&B with a dynamic singer. She was promoting her forthcoming LP that is out this fall, and if her opening set that really drew in the growing crowd is any indication, she’ll be back headlining her own set in the near future.
Writer / co-founder