The Brooklyn afrobeat orchestra known as Antibalas took over Tipitina’s on Tuesday night, supported by New Orleans’ own Free Agents Brass Band and seemingly on a mission to snake charm the dance floor into some sort of deep hypnotic submission. The set touched on new and old – with songs from the recently released ‘Antibalas’, like Dirty Money and The Ratcatcher making their New Orleans’ debut and old heaters like Battle of The Species (see video below) taking the ship into darker waters. One of the best things about these guys is that they have the ability make such complicated music seem easy, they have a loose and enjoyable stage presence, but also possess the ability to ferociously raise the intensity of the room in mere seconds.
The animated horn-section ruthlessly twists the floor into a frenzy of flailing arms and swaying hips, while the hypnotizing keyboard work keeps the cadenced groove from breaking it’s trance. Easy comparisons to the afro-beat deity Fela Kuti and his groups are first to come to mind, but it’s the music’s resemblance to the breakbeat sounds of early era J.B.’s and even New Orleans brass that really makes them the interesting company that they are.
Front man Duke Amayo is just as spellbinding as the music, whose glowing warpaint and seemingly six armed percussion work absolutely commands the audiences attention. The rest of the rhythm section churns out impeccable polyrhythms, providing the perfect platform for the band’s relentless energy to slam into the crowd without remorse. Every twist and turn of the improv is like the careening last moments of a gazelle with a cheetah hot on it’s tail, or the soundtrack to some sort of ungovernable African gangsters final car chase through the bustling streets of 1970′s Mozambique.
If you missed the show for one of the other two big gigs going on in town, I think you are in luck, as I spotted Jazz Fest’s Quint Davis in the backstage area intently watching the band do their thing. If I had a bet for my sleeper pick for Fest 2013, my money is on Antibalas.