“Where Did All the Dance Parties Go?”
Boombox, Eliot Lipp and Bitch Please put variety back into electronic music
Delivering a fresh dose of their distinctive brand of jam-inspired dance music, multi-instrumentalist duo Boombox stopped in Knoxville again on Jan. 27 at the Valarium as they passed through on their “Souvenirs, Novelties and Party Tricks” winter tour. Opening acts Eliot Lipp and Bitch Please set the mood early with some hip-hop and dub-oriented DJ sets. Though the venue only reached around half-capacity, the show was not lacking in energy and enthusiasm. By midnight, the crowd was bubbling, ready for the main act to begin. Adorned in their signature fuzzy top-hats and feather boas, Boombox took the stage to an uproar of applause.
Smooth and laid back, yet delightfully sophisticated, Boombox’s music is infectious. Unassuming at first, it starts in your head and quickly goes to work bringing limbs to life and propelling the body to fall in sync with the perpetual house beat that carries their sound. They keep things light with upbeat tempos and a relatively minimal approach to instrumentation, which distinguishes their sound from most other jam-electronic fusion artists. Guitarist Zion Godchaux is far from heavy-handed. He uses harmonics and rhythm tastefully, keeping the sound cohesive and balanced with keyboardist Russ Randolph. Godchaux’s vocals are equally laid back like his personality, reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s gentle tones, which make the overall sound that much more approachable to patrons of more traditional rock and roll tastes.
Slated to end by 2.a.m., Boombox played straight through to closing time without a set break. Setting the mood off right, they opened the show with “The World,” a funky brass-laced track you won’t find on either of their available albums. Other cuts from the evening include “Round and Round,” “Kool-Aid Smile,” “Mr. Boogey Man” and the crowd favorite, their own special dance rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street.” Several unreleased tracks were tested out successfully as well, including “Lost Ya,” the title track from their upcoming EP due out later this year. After more than two solid hours of sweat-inducing grooves, the show ended with a double encore which included their recently released single, “Me and My Baby,” a track they also intend to include on their upcoming release.
After visiting Knoxville on tours many times during the last eight years, playing much smaller venues like the now closed World Grotto on Market Square, Boombox saw proof this time that that their fan base is definitely growing. Keyboardist Russ Randolph admitted, “Finally moving to the Valarium was a big move for us. That means that we’ve covered enough bases here that we have as good a chance anywhere for lightning to strike.”
Both members of Boombox call Muscle Shoals, Alabama home, and the influence of the area’s blues, R&B and rock left its mark. Randolph explained that even though they definitely feel they share a common path with many of these other jam-tronica artists, they have chosen a unique approach that harkens back both to the early 90’s San Francisco house music and also to the 1960’s psychedelic rock. “We’re on that same road,” he said, “trying to combine that DJ world and the band world, but we’re just going the completely opposite direction.” Particularly in young fans that entered the world of electronica through dubstep and other more recent forms, there is a nuance to Boombox’s style.
“So when these new fans get to our world, there are a lot of questions. And I like that,” Randolph admitted. “When you look at a crowd, and you look out and people are paying attention and they’re having a good time, but there’s question marks—they’re processing things. And that’s cool, because I feel like we’re having a conversation with the crowd.” Godchaux agreed, reiterating that bringing jam and electronic music and their respective scenes together was the original inspiration for their music. “That’s the vision right there,” Godchaux said. “But getting the wheels to turn and their feet to move, that’s the trick. …This is Boombox, further down the road.”