SXSW 2016: Bombino jam out Hotel Vegas’ backyard

There was a big crowd and a killer age of Aquarius-style projection at Hotel Vegas’ Patio stage Thursday night. It was almost a micro festival vibe that fell right in line with the Levitation Fest showcase happening indoors.  

A huge line snaked around the building, waiting for a lineup that included Yuck, but the buzz seemed to be for Bombino — at least until they ran about a set behind.

In their place at 10:45ish was Noura Mint Seymali, who has a similar vibe. Seymali, from Mauritania performs in full headscarf, which drapes luxuriously over her torso.

This was not completely unlike Bombino, if they were less about rocking out and more about having a Female singer floating above a great rhythmic jam — the guitar strums, sparkles and jams while and Seymali’s voice does much the same thing, often erupting in long sustained warbles.

Above the band on the white tent was an awesome projection made by heating up colored liquids directly on top of old school overhead projectors. And the result is a lava-lamp of circular shapes that the projectionist actually made move in time to the beats. Brilliant and perfect for each of these bands.

In between sets I popped inside to catch the end of a satisfying oddball set by Exploded View out of Berlin. It’s Jefferson Airplane meets Portishead, with a bit of noise guitar thrown in for a laugh. I barely caught any of the vocals but apparently it’s political. Lead singer Anika wandered into the crowd towards the end.

At last though Bombino started outdoors. These guys can do no wrong. Their set was peppered with older familiar material (though, they don’t make the kind of records that you listen to one track at a time, so it’s incredibly hard to tell what they actually played).

Their collaboration with Black Keys was a bit of a misstep for me, as if the band allowed their sound to be corrupted with a scuzzy guitar for no good reason. Not that we shouldn’t embrace change. And a new collaboration with Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth, and his great restless energy will, fingers crossed, be a brilliant and weird undertaking that does Bombino justice.

But their showcase featured their typical tight playing, a couple of blues riffs even found their way in there. There was less focus on vocals and the band laid into nothing but the grooves, making space for sleek guitar solos, hand claps and pulsing drums. 

The bits of blues and jazz, Bombino are so good at ramping up and down, at carving out that space for silence and solos, it’s a result of impeccable communication between the band. Nothing felt formulaic or pre thought. The band are always fixed in eye contact—in constant communication with one another.

Four piece took a triple bow at the end, totally deserved. 


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