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Kassa Overall’s Ode to Percussion for Track Zero

The next concert in the Track Zero series was surely not a disappointment with three artists who each brought their own unique sound and energy to the table. A common theme among all of these bands were their use of grooving percussion and rhythm through out their music. Using a mix of percussion instruments from the common drum set to more obscure noise makers. All showing their unique ways of creating music.

Jack Lion performing. Image via Izzy Dorothy

Jack Lion kicked off the show as the opener with a roar of powering bass, trumpet, drums, and syntenic sound. The band is local to Iowa City, and consists of drummer Justin LeDuc, bassist Drew Morton, and trumpeter Brian Lewis Smith. Their use of techno music with jazz instruments created a new, calmer sound. Their music felt like the oceans with crashing waves and peaceful tides to show the build up and release with the music played by the three musicians.

The entire vibe of the band reminded me a lot of Finding Nemo with the calm blue surroundings but also the intense chaos of the fish that Marlin in the movie meets. Maybe I get that impression from the vivid marine lights covering the performers. Through out their performance each member really stood out with solos of their own. I enjoyed the drummer’s interesting use of a scarf and shirts as mufflers for his drums during the songs. The red scarf really made the performers pop out. Overall they were able to create a spectacular opening to the show and established the electronic jazz vibe to continue through the rest of the night.

Tahjia Dorothy reciting one of her poems. Image via Izzy Dorothy

The next performer of the night was Iowa City poet Tahjia Brantley, a large crowd favorite given from the loud applause and yells she received for crossing the stage. Her performance was a bit different from the night’s other musical numbers. She surely did not disappoint with her series of poems, consisting of topics ranging from womanhood, to sexual identity, and to her relationship with her parents.

Brantley’s words came out calm and collected but had such a powerful and influential meaning behind them. She used such an interesting combination of words that can easily set a descriptive scene for the audience. Brantley is not afraid to show the dark realities she faces. Overall her poetry was an immersive experience that had me searching for what some of her descriptive words meant at the end.

Kassa Overall and crew performing. Image via Izzy Dorothy

Kassa Overall and his amazing band brought in a bang with their performance. Overall’s music is heavily influenced by the percussive instruments in jazz. This created a new, interesting sound for the rap lines over it, occasionally showing a chorus of the performers singing a phrase together. This mixture of sound can range from impressing to solemn, and from relaxing to insanity all within one show.

Three other people performed along side Overall at the concert. Each of his band members were extremely talented with their own instruments. On the keyboard was Ian Finkelstein, and playing the congas was Giulio Xavier Cetto, while Tomoki Sanders played soprano saxophone, bongos, and pretty much any other percussion instrument you can think off. All of them sang back up vocals too. Throughout the show while performing, everyone except Ian had a chance on the drum set in each song. It was incredible to see the talent that each member had, Kassa Overall included, performing a killer two minute long drum solo.

The music is not the only attraction to Kassa Overall and his troupe, but their spectacular stage presence as well. Each song never fell into a dull moment with Overall’s high energy and humor. During his opening number he jumped into the crowd while rapping to plop down right next to one of the audience members. In one of his songs he pretended to be floating mid-air, mentioning how he was imagining the show as a music video. One of my particular favorites of his quips was during a call and response song where he ran around the crowd, getting them to chant the word “HOT”, and pointed the mic right at me to shout it. I was shocked but felt so lucky to have picked that seat.

Overall wasn’t the only member to have great stage presence either, but Tomoki Sanders also did so with his fashionable bright orange wig that he sported with a cartoonish purple hat with a pink flower on top, matched with some killer red sunglasses. Seemingly jumping straight out of a Doctor Suess book, Sanders brought the magical energy to the crowd with his impressive soprano saxophone playing, and intense cowbell love. He ran around the stage and audience while aggressively keeping the beat on the cowbell.

Image via Izzy Dorothy

As the show came to a close Overall gave the statement, “Here’s one more slightly coherent one before we make our way away,” before crashing into the jazz song “The Lava is Calm“. As the smooth instrumentals began to play out, audience members made their way onto the floor for a final dance party before the night was over. We were lucky to snag one more song out of the band with their unique remix of the song “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Snoop Dogg. Overall, Overall did an spectacular job at entertaining the entire audience that evening and it was very much worth the five hour drive that the band admitted to just to be here on tour.

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