Sunday, July 2, 2017

Jazz Fest 2017, Day 9: Daniel reviews Balkun Brothers and Bonerama

Posted By on Sun, Jul 2, 2017 at 4:00 AM

click to enlarge The Balkun Brothers played a free show Saturday night at the XRIJF. - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • The Balkun Brothers played a free show Saturday night at the XRIJF.

When the band playing consists of only electric guitar and drums, somehow you just know it's going to be gritty. Such was the case when the Balkun Brothers, Steve and Nick, took the stage with their Southern-style blues rock. There's something about a rock duo that can sound incredibly full and satisfying, despite the lack of additional instruments.

There was rock 'n' roll fire coming from the band; I half expected smoke to come out of Steve Balkun's guitar. The feisty, in-your-face style was refreshing in a festival lineup that included only a handful of rock acts. In addition to rowdy originals, the brothers played classic rock covers, like The Jimi Hendrix Experience's "You Got Me Floatin'" and Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild."

The riffs were down and dirty, and the vocals had a touch of the down-home blues. The Balkun Brothers were a great choice to help close the festival on this breezy, comfortable summer night. If you were at the show, and you weren't at least tapping your toes, I don't know how you did it.

Balkun Brothers can be found at balkunbrothers.com.

click to enlarge The Balkun Brothers played a free show Saturday night at the XRIJF. - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • The Balkun Brothers played a free show Saturday night at the XRIJF.

Unfortunately, the second set of Gard Nilssen's Acoustic Unity at the Lutheran Church was canceled due to the illness of a band member. I decided to head over to the Big Tent to hear the New Orleans-based Bonerama. The group's name says it all. When your group has not one but three trombonists, what else do you call yourselves?

On paper, Bonerama may appear to some as gimmicky; the unusual horn section is an entertaining if unsustainable gambit. Live, nothing could be further from the truth.

The distinctive instrumentation gave the music an unexpectedly taut sound with bold and boisterous attitude. Additionally, I wouldn't have necessarily expected a band with a sousaphone to be funky, but it was. The cohesion of the horn section alone was impressive, but as a whole, the group was just as lean and precise. Bonerama was just as unbridled as any rock band.

Another bonus was hearing the trombone filtered through various effects. If I ever wondered what a trombone-sitar hybrid would sound like, I found out. The vocals were more hit-or-miss, but the overall musicianship was strong enough to override any minor miscues.

The band closed the evening with Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," a thoroughly left-of-center choice that at first sounded too jubilant be an effective cover of the original's dark mood. But after hearing that descending, chromatic hook, I was convinced. If I wasn't sure before, I knew then: Bonerama was yet another hard-working rock band -- with a killer trombone section.

You can hear the band's music at boneramabrass.com.

Another talent-packed jazz festival has come to a close here in Rochester. There were some familiar artists revisited, and many more new favorites discovered. Is it crazy that I'm already looking to next year's artist lineup?

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