Last Friday April 29th, a giddy mass of about 2,000 jazz cats, funk junkies, grey-haired orchestra freaks, dreadlocked hippies and general music lovers packed into the Lawlor Events Center, the basketball stadium for the University of Nevada at Reno, to see jazz collective Snarky Puppy. The eclectic crowd spoke to the Pup’s allure for performing musical alchemy with a range of ingredients from jazz to samba to rock. Technical yet approachable, the group’s rich sonic concoction has risen in appeal over the last two years with ambitious albums like We Like It Here and Family Dinner Vol. 2, records that show the vast depth of talent the group possesses.
Friday night marked the release of Snarky Puppy’s newest album Culcha Vulcha, and the band celebrated in kind by kicking off the festivities with the album’s opener “Tarova.” Heads bobbed in unison as the musicians locked in on the rhythm’s confident swagger. Percussive blasts from the horns peppered the rock-solid beat as it rumbled across the stadium.
They immediately bounced into Culcha Vulcha’s next track “Semente.” The swirling flute and organ of the Brazilian melody flowed from the band’s instruments like nectar looking to quench our thirst of soulful music. Two songs in the band was on fire and it stayed hot all night as it burned down genre walls and gave to us a vision of music that has no borders.
The groove never took a break during Snarky Puppy’s hour and a half tour de force of musicality. The band functions like the hippest orchestra on the planet, with each hook or coda by the collective branching out into intricate pieces by individuals. “What About Me” was a rush of cascading guitars over furious drumming that showcased a multitude of fiery solos, all eliciting enthusiastic responses from the crowd. The band practically passed the baton around between members on a massive “Grown Folks” that saw cragged guitar solos and rugged horn lines in an abrasively funky jam.
The audience was very responsive to the ensemble’s energy despite being seated. They were quick to cheer the musicians after solos and ingesting sections, giving credit where credit was due. With an infectious wave of African rhythm “Tio Macaco” elicited a collective smile from the audience that the band grow wider and wider as it got deeper into the groove. It even moved some people to unapologetically get up and dance in the aisles. Snarky Puppy held everyone at the edge of their seats in wonder at the wall of fresh sound coming at them.
The band left to thunderous applause, another night of amazing music in the bag. The group is just kicking off its tour in support of its new album so grab your tickets to be inspired by one of the most influential bands of this era.