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Review: Greg Phillips. Photos: Khruangbin by Jackie Lee Young, Kamasi Washington by Ian Laidlaw  for Frontier Touring.

Finally Melbourne’s music loving punters could enjoy a gorgeous summer evening of music and wow, did they turn out in droves. Try finding a sit down meal without a reservation in the city tonight … forget it. 75,000 rockers filled the MCG for Guns N’ Roses, while 13,000 music fans with a more discerning musical palette packed the Sidney Myer Music Bowl for a feast of groove featuring Kamasi Washington and Texan trio Khruangbin. This was all before tens of thousands of eager soccer fans were due in town at 5am to cheer the Australian team on in their quest for a win against Argentina.

Unfortunately I’d missed Melbourne-based psychedelic fusion outfit Midlife due to the difficulty in navigating a city bursting at the seams with activity. As I found my seat, Kamasi Washington and his seven piece band were ripping into The Garden Path, the latest recording from the acclaimed saxophonist, bandleader. Patricia Quinn’s sweet vocals, joined by the full force of Kamasi’s fabulous collective swirled around the bowl and were embellished by the enthusiastic crowd.

Patricia Quinn

Sun Kissed Child, a track inspired by his daughter allowed the whole band to shine. Keyboard sensation  Brandon Coleman, versatile bassist Mosley and duelling drummers Tony Austin and Ronald Bruner Jr interwove brilliantly, urging each other on to greater heights. Patricia Quinn stepped up to the mic again, adding her touch of vocal class. Quinn will release her own solo album in the new year, featuring members of Kamasi Washington & The Next Step, aka The West Coast Get Down.

All the while, Kamasi stood front and centre, directing traffic and stamping his own musical authority on proceedings with his powerful sax presence. He then paid tribute to American jazz sax legend Pharoah Sanders with an outstanding version of The Creator Has A Master Plan. A rousing rendition of Fists if Fury from his 2018 double album Heaven and Earth ended his set on a high, after an inspired performance by a collection of gifted musicians, which the Melbourne crowd appreciated greatly.

Three piece Texan band Khruangbin are no strangers to Australia, accumulating an ever-increasing fanbase with each trip. Traveling the world and perfecting their unique craft, their popularity has developed to the point that they can now sell out a huge Myer Music Bowl and a decent sized Melbourne club gig in the same weekend.

The band doesn’t so much burst onto the stage, rather than slink as they ease into a groove, eliciting a gentle sway from the audience. To the uninitiated, their pleasant lounge-style rhythms may seem an unlikely lure to pack the Bowl but the band’s true value will later reveal itself.

Hailing from Texas, the three-piece Khruangbin featuring Laura Lee on bass, Mark Speer on guitar, and Donald Johnson on drums are a classy outfit, not only impressive musicians but with a spectacular light show and their own distinctive fashionable poise, they present a visually stunning picture.

Khruangbin are master mood builders and groove makers. The track August 10 offers the perfect soundtrack to a sultry Melbourne summer night. Speer’s delay and reverb infested guitar tones create a magical vibe. The combination of Laura Lee’s commanding bass notes and DJ’s solid drum beats make it impossible for the audience not to move. Pelota from the band’s Mordechai album picks up the pace as the groove is well an truly entrenched in everyone’s system.

Mid-speech Laura requests a medic to attend to a crowd member in distress as she urges everyone to take care and look after each other. The opening strains of INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart send the crowd into a vocal frenzy, followed by an energetic snippet of AC/DC’s Back in Black. Two massive mirror balls drop and all bets are off, the show becomes a massive karaoke event and the audience goes absolutely nuts. An extended dance medley ensues which includes Tom Tom Club’s Genius of Love, Get Money (Junior M.A.F.I.A Feat. The Notorious B.I.G), Spandau Ballet’s True and Chris Isaak’s Wicked Day, bringing it way back down with Kool and The Gang’s Summer Madness featuring a smooth minute of Tina Turner’s What’s Love Got To Do With It.

Maria Tambien from their Con Todo El Mundo album ups the groove ante again, segueing into Dick Dales’ Misirlou, the theme from Pulp Fiction and The Shadows’ Apache before returning to Marie Tambien and leaving the stage.

From elevator rhythms to dance anthems, the finale was such a stark contrast to the first half of the show and the Melbourne crowd aren’t done with them yet, calling for their return with intent.

Mark Speer’s beautiful guitar work on White Glovers delivers a striking moodpiece. Time (You and I ) gets the audience back on their feet and the band finish up with a funkified version of People Everywhere (Still Alive). As Laura and DJ leave the stage for the final time, Speer hangs a little to play us out with Prince’s dramatic Purple Rain intro. Khruangbin came, saw and delivered all the feels tonight in a Melbourne concert event which won’t be forgotten for some time.

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