Making Albuquerque’s Marble Brewery their final stop for this leg of their literally never-ending tour, these ten year veterans of the road, Brothers Gow. brought the heat to a full house consisting of both first-timers as well as repeat offenders. Delivering eighteen songs over two sets of relentless high paced jams filled with syncopated insanity, this performance was a force to be reckoned with.
Listen to the full audio recording, and follow along with the in-depth review below.
Opening the show with “Equanimity”, a spacey reggae number, the band wasted no time showing off their skills at improvisation and technical competence, executing a ten-minute version to the appreciation of the crowd. Continuing the irie vibration, the band transitioned unremittingly into another original, “Wake N Bake”, inducing more to join in the already growing number dancing at the foot of the stage. Guitarist Ethan Wade’s growly voice added an edge of genuineness, making this more a personal proclamation than an overly covered genre piece. Although Rasta at heart, this number impressed by taking turns at high speed maneuvers and exhibiting the honed capabilities of the band’s tension and release jaunts, built around the steadfast structure of the tune itself.
With a shift in tempo and a subtle “Shakedown Street” tease, the band brought out Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” to the audible acceptance of the pulsating dance floor. Highlighted by the trumpet and vocal work of guitarist Kyle Merrill, this got everyone moving. Upping the ante, Merrill provided his version of harmonic scat on the talk box, ala Frampton, that got many of those dancing under closed lid to look up and take notice. Returning to their canon, “Legacy” was up next. This tune hints at softness while also having hard-edged aspects to its structure and the interplay between the two dynamics was played upon throughout this piece. The epic crescendo of the number built and built, and when it could go no higher, it did. At its final lilting moments, the band descended into “The Well”. This properly named tune feels what it would be like to be dropped into a well without a bottom. At first, high-speed terror would ensue accompanied by disorientation, but eventually, without hitting bottom, a timeless, floating aspect would overtake the consciousness, and contemplation of place would return. That is the musicality of this song.
Like a cool breeze of refreshment, the laid back number “Shadow” gave everyone the chance to take a breath and again enjoy the diversity of the band, as they showed off the ability to modulate between hurricane and drizzle. Restored and invigorated, the band launched into their first mash-up of the night: “Atomic Snoop”. Comprised of George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” and Snoop Dogg’s “What’s My Name?”, this great pairing brought both street and attitude, motivating many in the pit to throw their hands in the air and strut their stuff. This also showcased Alex Bastine’s chops on keys as he laid down the funk, while Carson Church laid down the low-end, shaking the rafters, lights, and innards within a four-block radius.
Closing out the set, “Articulated Mush” is a synth-driven instrumental that drives the whole time and feels like an eerie and frantic number off the sound track of an 80’s horror movie, appropriate for the month. It was a surprise to many that at the close of the first set the band had only performed for 90 minutes, as it seemed like they had been playing for multiple hours. Stepping off the stage, there was already a formed line of appreciators dishing out thanks, hi-fives, and hugs to the band in gratitude for setting their souls and feet free, which prevailed only to widen the smiles of the players. One audience member even grabbed the drummer to check for extra arms, swearing he must be a distant relative to the octopus, speaking to his well-timed flailing that had produced so many intricate beats and fills for the first set.
Set two opened with another reggae turned funk track, “Reflections”, again showing off the synth magic of Bastine. This one again showed their versatility to speed up and slow down between the two styles, keeping in perfect time with each other. Mash ups are certainly what help to keep this band self entertained, and the second of the night had members and audience displaying for one another. Connecting three tunes this time around, “Bad L.A. Coke” brought UM’s “Bad Friday”, the Grateful Dead’s “West L.A. Fadeaway”, and Escort’s “Cocaine Blues”, providing seamless transitions between the trio and doing each cover justice to their authors. Another facet of their talent was their ability to divide the band so as to sing the lyrics of each of the tunes, in rounds, around each other in perfect time.
“Tangerine”, one of their newer originals, brought the gentle touch to the set, providing a nice melody with great vocal harmonies in a laid back, bluesy format, allowing each guitarist to shine. In typical Gow fashion, the end of the tune took to the stratosphere, reinforcing the fact that these guys can’t help themselves from the power of the jam. By the time “Brohemian Groove”, an instrumental joy anthem, got moving, anyone who had been sitting got up to move to this piece. Whether it was the great beer or the infectious groove finally taking over, dancers, spinners, and jiggers all were in an un-choreographed sync, enjoying the company of the whole. This number transitioned into the most distinct change of the night. “Brittle Bones”, a swinging country and western number, again showed that these boys are not locked into one genre and appreciate all takes on music. Filled with yee-haws and Wade’s version of country scat, this one out of left field had many laughing.
In great juxtaposition, the group immediately launched into The Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right”, taking the hilarity to the next level. Inducing even more sing along, this brewery gig had surely changed into a party and no one was left out. The battle cry of adolescence for many ended and the band transitioned, turning the crowd back towards space funk as an interlude to the original “I Love This Place”, keeping the dance party going. This gave rise to the first opportunity for Church to take on the challenge of vocals and bass, grinning all the while through the short stanza of lyrics as the crowd took note of his rare enterprise. Without stop, the band slowed the tempo and laid a darker foundation, hinting at and eventually moving into Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”. Wade’s growl and Merrill’s higher range, each taking a turn at verse, seemed more appropriate than the original vocals of Osborne and was saluted, as many played along with head banging and air guitar. The thundering drums of Nathan Walsh-Haines were also of particular note on this tune and were incredible throughout the night. This three piece closer found the band thirty minutes past their designated city curfew, but as they were trying to decide whether they should just go for an encore, management approached and amazingly gave them the green light for one more. The crowd who had started the night had remained throughout and was calling out for more as well. To ensure satisfaction and to depart with a good feeling, both viscerally and in the feet, the band dropped their version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”, which like everything else this evening, was splendid, funky, and played as solidly as the first tune of the evening.
As a touring group, these guys are equals. This includes their official sixth member and production manager, Matt Collier. There is no ego and there is no weak link in this chain. Their timing is impeccable and their playing comes from the heart, as registered by the unending smile carried collectively through each piece. The light show provided by Collier is also nothing to scoff at either, as his knowledge of the music, with its twists and turns, is perfectly matched to the notes played. His use of color is varied and is constantly changing, not only note for note, but from tune to tune. It is obvious that they love this gig and only want to better themselves at it and can’t wait for the next show. At over 100 shows a year, these gentlemen literally work as hard on stage as off. From regular day jobs when they aren’t touring to lugging all their own equipment and lighting each night, these guys are the epitome of work ethic. It is easy to see that they want this life as a collective whole, as they share everything.
As a band, they are regimented in their off-stage practices, such as cooking all their meals on the bus, which works well as many of them are employed in restaurants when not on tour. Practices such as these are measures they have taken to ensure their own longevity to the road that beckons them to continue their pursuit. Although they continue to play smaller venues, they should not be mistaken as a mere bar band by any measure. From outward appearance, this band of musical berserkers are devoid of self-consciousness and conflict, and their level of playing could as easily fill a large stage without hesitation. Friends since eighth grade, these brothers bring a familial aspect to an industry that is typically absent of true connection and for those who venture out to see them might easily mistake their name Brothers Gow for Brothers Wow.
Check out the full setlist and a gallery by Jake Sudek, below.
Setlist: Brothers Gow at Marble Brewery, Albuquerque, NM – 10/22/16
1st Set: Equanimity > Wake N Bake > Sledgehammer, Legacy, The Well, Shadow, Atomic Snoop > Articulated Mush
2nd Set: Reflections, Bad L.A. Coke, Tangerine, Brohemian Groove > Brittle Bones > Brohemian Groove, Fight For Your Right > I Love This Place > War Pigs
Encore: Billie Jean