Ski Beats is the moniker of David Willis, a record producer whose main boast is that he produced Jay-Z’s first album in 1996. This show was a bit of a misfire for them, as they took a while to set up and therefore had a super short set. I was intrigued by their set up that included a keyboardist, sampler, guitarist, bassist, 3 backup singing ladies, but especially the drummer. He had a multi-tiered setup going on with his cymbals that had holes in them. I coincidentally ran into who I learned was his room mate, who informed me that the holes absorbed the impact of the drumsticks in a way that produced a darker sound. The drummer definitely looked like he knew what he was doing, so I was ready to listen.
The soundcheck seemed like them playing around having a jam anyway, so by the time they were ready to start the actual set, they only had ten minutes. They had a young rapper by the name of Dash get on stage with them for 2 songs before the “wrap-it-up” house music started an cut off their mics. They were clearly unhappy about this, but realistically, that is what happens when you’re not the headliner and only have a specific time slot to play in. What they did play had a groove, but let’s be honest, most of the crowd was there to rock n’ roll.
And Rock N’ Roll they did. The London Souls opened with their single “The Sound,” and people took notice. The band hit the floor running with their energy, and were on point from beginning to end. Guitarist/vocalist Tash Neal made those guitar faces he does behind his white-rimmed sunglasses while his fingers fly up and down the neck of his red guitar. Kiyoshi Matsuyama played his bass grooves while singing some vocals and making his own rocking out faces. Chris St. Hillaire got down on the drums, singing the higher parts in the melody and providing the rhythm backbone of the band.
Half the time the lights were going down, rendering the band as ghostly silhouettes in the midst of feedback and raw rock. Tash seems to be channeling Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Led Zeppelin, and really with a whole lot of the 60s and 70s influence in general. These guys have garned attention for “reworking and reinventing classic rock n’ roll,” according to several press outlets, and I agree that their throwback-sounding psychedelic blues gets into your soul and makes you move your bones. Their name fits the as far as the soul part, although they are from NYC.
I can see these guys really emerging soon, not only for the impressive musicianship these guys possess, but also respectful lyrics that have a hard edge but also lend themselves to appreciating women. “Stand Up” is about a woman standing up to her man, and “She’s in Control” is what it sounds like, but like a slow burning buildup with a wild break down at the end.
The crowd was going nuts for all of this – guys head-banging and playing air guitar, girls dancing and going wild. Kiyoshi took lead vocals on a cover of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” which was a perfect fit. When the band walked offstage the crowd kept chanting, “One more song! One more song!” Until the music came on. But wait, psych your mind – they did come back for two more. The London Souls had this ease about them, as if they were born to do exactly what they are doing. When I went home, I immediately had to channel some Led Zeppelin on my ipod, but only because The London Souls have released their album yet. As soon as I can get my hands on that, it’ll be on repeat for some time.
This is The London Souls’ second residency show this month at Brooklyn Bowl, with two more shows every Monday to go. In the summer they play Mountain Jam in upstate NY, but look out for their forthcoming self-titled album. Most likely they will have a bigger tour after that.