Busty and The Bass @ Brighton Music Hall 2.11.17

by Brianna Caleri (Music History & Analysis), published April 14th 2017

busty

Nick Ferraro of Busty and the Bass addresses a buzzing, sold-out crowd at Brighton Music Hall on February 11th: “Last time we played here, there were, like, fifty people.” Fifty people is closer to what I’d expected when we wandered in towards the end of Mo Lowda and the Humble’s set. Vocalist Jordan Caiola looks like a frat boy, but sings like Caleb Followill of Kings of Leon. The comparison scales to include the three-piece outfit as a whole: satisfying alt-rock with vaguely southern charm. After a quick set change the wildly charismatic Michael Blume takes the stage in a gauzy black shirt and bib necklace. He delivers a hopeful sermon of inclusionary politics (leading the audience in a cheerful chorus of “I got no rules, bitch”) punctuated with perfectly-executed, vertigo-inducing vocal runs.

The Canadian electro-soul band Busty and the Bass packs some pretty intense jazz chops into a soul format, with a big-band attitude and pop sensibilities. And what kind of trendy genre-bending pop group of the 2010s doesn’t include a little rap? Not to say the band isn’t unique –they’re unparalleled in their category for slinky positivity. Alistair Blu’s spoken vocals are slick and distinctive, albeit stiffly quirky. Tall but hunched in a white t-shirt, twitching through phrases and clutching his microphone at a downwards vertical, his persona contextualizes the band’s musical style as a mania that isn’t so evident in studio recordings. While Blu spits rhymes out from behind his keyboard, his foil, Ferraro, floats across the stage. He bounces constantly to an internal double-time beat, and wrings out soulful and delicate lead vocals. He’s stealthily sexy – it takes a few songs to notice, but by “The Real” (the closer and shining moment for every member of the band) the audience is infatuated. If Blu is the edge, Ferraro is the elation. The two together have incredible stage chemistry that affords each his own generous share of figurative space.

The crowd chants, “Busty! Busty!” with incredible sincerity before the nine musicians file in to start their set. To someone who’s yet to see the band’s exponential response, the display of fidelity might be a pleasant surprise. To anyone, by the time the chant has arrived at the encore, the mantra is deserving of goosebumps. The following jam does not disappoint. Keyboardist Eric Haynes kicks it off by letting loose his meticulous jazz improvisation chops, before Ferraro picks up his saxophone for a mercilessly face-melting solo. Louis Stein, on guitar, only briefly joins the gratuitous instrumental throw-down. Surprising, maybe, for your typical guitarist, but Stein’s performance is tight and cool from his first note. Scott Bevins, Mike McCann and Chris Vincent bring the same incredible precision to the brass section, but sometimes abandon their choreography to groove with the music. The sold-out house sings Macy Gray’s “I Try” back to the band in a beautifully charged encore, and even when playing someone else’s song, they’re undeniable.

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