Concert Review: Black Masala @ Pearl Street Warehouse (2/2/18)

Black Masala
Black Masala (Photo from FB @BlackMasala)

Your favorite local brass band, Black Masala, didn’t just leave the crowd breathless, they filmed it for posterity.

Black Masala played their first show of 2018 in the sparkling new Pearl Street Warehouse down at The Wharf. The venue is bigger than one might guess looking in from the street in the freezing night air. They promised those of us warming up in the crowded venue that they had a bunch of new music to play and soon won the crowd over with an energetic and fun night of music.

The band itself is large and utilizes the whole stage. None of the members ever stood still for long or (seemingly) caught their breath, whether they were dancing on stage, or jumping down to the floor with the churning crowd or hightailing it up to the balcony and other corners of Pearl Street to play their instruments from every possible vantage point from every possible position.

Assuming the primary goal was to entertain us immensely, Black Masala’s second goal was to film a music video for their new single “Trains and Moonlight Destinies”. When the video drops, it’s easy to guess it will be hot, based on the waves of motion and the incredible volume of beats they exuded throughout the night.

Black Masala incorporates many influences in their music, like Balkan brass, New Orleans funk and Gypsy punk Bhangra. They started off with an instrumental song, and threw in a few more throughout the night. Kristen Long (vocals) also sang in a few different languages. Unfortunately, I can’t say which languages or assess which influences made it into every song. I had to give up trying to identify each song in writing this, but they did play a hardy 18 in total.

Every song was a chance to dance and sing without inhibition. There were plenty of instances of band members getting down and dirty (like sitting) on the dance floor with the crowd. Midway through the set, one especially vigorous chant ‘hey hey mama, yeah, yeah ah’ led to jumping up and down – by everyone! The audience was in to it, and the band kept on relentlessly.

Not long after, Mike Ounallah sang the punkish, Gypsyesque “I Love You Madly” (from their second album), before they moved to a new song which didn’t yet have a title, so Kristen dubbed it “Brendan’s Tune”, presumably for Brendan Schnabel on sax.

A key feature of the early songs was a rotation where each band member could show their stuff solo; until everyone got one or more moments of glory. Trumpet solo? Check. Trombone solo? Check. Drum solo? Check. Check. Check. These surely will find their place in the video.

They closed out the main set with a lively number that had the band march in every direction into the crowd, including Kristen and Chris Lee in the balcony, jamming on the guitar and beating a percussion instrument right in front of me.

Stay tuned for the upcoming video, and the release of their new crop of music!

They next play in Pennsylvania, before returning nearby to Baltimore on Feb. 17th. Check out the tour dates here.

Black Masala is Kristen Long (vocals/percussion), Mike Ounallah (drums/vocals), Duff Davis and Chris Lee (guitars), Brendan Schnabel (sax), Kirsten Warfield (trombone), Michael DiCiurci (sousaphone), and Jacob Dalager (trumpet) but only seven members played this show.

Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

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