If you’re a frequent Examiner reader, you may have asked yourself why the hell we included an instrumental jazz band among our top picks at this year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest (FFF Fest) last week. We had good reason. Toronto trio BADBADNOTGOOD (BBNG) performed as a quartet Sunday for most of their headlining set with frequent collaborator, saxophonist Leland Whitty. Simply put, their music is sublime. There is no other touring act that sounds like these guys. Where else can fans hear a band that takes classic and contemporary hip-hop tunes and turns them into jazz fusion gold? Their own compositions are astoundingly sophisticated and precocious when you factor in their youth and relatively short time they’ve been BBNG.
While most fans at Auditorium Shores capped a gorgeous fall Sunday in Austin by heading to the Orange Stage to get a good vantage point for Lauryn Hill, BBNG packed the Yellow Stage with fans who spilled outside the crowded tent trying to join the party. Many were college-aged which is surprising given the complexity of the material. But the band’s own youth and collaboration with Ghostface Killah and other hip-hop artists has exposed them to a younger audience and landed them a gig as the festival’s only instrumental artists.
When we met with the band yesterday prior to their flight to Toronto, Chester Hansen (bass) mentioned the group had been laying down new tracks for their fourth album (out in a few weeks) before flying to Austin for the FFF fest for the one-off performance. The group is not currently touring. They couldn’t wait to show off the new material, leading off with a song so fresh it doesn’t even have a name yet. Whitty stood front and center churning out goodness on sax, Matty Tavares happily banged away on keys and Alex showed off his considerable percussion chops. Chester laid down a killer bass line stage right while psychedelic patterned images and off-beat video loops were projected onto the ceiling.
The party kicked into high gear with Flying Lotus cover Putty Boy Strut. The bulk of the setlist consisted of songs from their most recent release III. Confessions which preceded the lone cover featured Whitty on sax and set closers Kaleidoscope and CS60 all appear on the latest record. The frenetic pace of Kaleidoscope along with Alex urging the fans to jump on cue electrified the tent. While stagehands scrambled to ensure the metal barricades forming the photo pit did not get pushed over in the melee BBNG played on, spurring the audience to new heights.
The band intended to play another new song but ran out of time according to Alex. While BBNG had a headlining slot, they also had the least amount of time slated for their performance of any Sunday headliner. We have our fingers crossed that a new album means a tour stop in Austin will be announced soon. Until then we’ll keep spinning III on heavy rotation while reliving what ended up being the highlight of an incredible FFF Fest weekend.
4. Putty Boy Strut (Flying Lotus Cover)
Special thanks to April Riggs.