Before the clapping robot puppets and confetti cannons even appeared on Saturday night, the sold-out crowd at New York’s Bowery Ballroom on Saturday was well immersed into a regimen of enthusiastic vocal cord punishment. Opener Superhuman Happiness‘s tone-setting tribal drum jams and marching band brass left the audience jazzed to wail out improvised harmonies and emit pirate grunts at saxophonist Stuart Bogie’s request. During the 20-minute interval between sets, unprovoked chants of “RUB-BLE-BUC-KET!” and “Let’s get weird!” rebounded about the empty Ballroom stage. Things would get weird. They’d also get loud, sweaty, ebullient and adorable, in that order.
Rubblebucket‘s eight members swarmed the stage a little after 11, placing singer/saxophonist Kalmia Traver, trumpet player Alex Toth and trombonist Adam Dotson front and center behind a fleet of microphones strapped with fluorescent yellow scarves. Wall-shaking bass, drums, suave palm-muted guitar, a military-grade Roland synthesizer and a halo of auxiliary percussion (nobody was left with a fever for more cowbell) filled the stage rear. The exuberance of the crowd matched the exuberance in the band while Rubblebucket played and danced through hits from its first two albums including “Landing,” “Bikes” and the singalong-demanding “Silly Fathers.” Inevitably, the two energies coalesced when Toth leapt into the crowd with his trumpet in hand, followed by a flash mob of Traver and her mic, Dotson and his trombone, and the guest sousaphone player who materialized onstage for the band’s debut hit “November.” Dotson was apparently surprised to be borne aloft by the ecstatic crowd, as he later sent out an APB for his misplaced “very special hat.”
The patently adorable moment of the evening came when trumpeter Toth dedicated a song to his mother, who he said was supposed to be somewhere in the audience. Toth’s eyes bulged three sizes larger when someone pointed out the gray-haired woman swaying with a plastic beer cup in the front row. “There she is!” he yelled mid-hop. Fueled by the mama-kin bump, Toth plugged the lulls between his trumpet parts during the next song with giddy, jerky, swing dance side-steps.
Though Rubblebucket returned for its encore performance of “Down In The Yards” decked in blue LCD wreaths—effectively adding the adjective “cosmic” to its already psychedelic tribal horn fiesta—it was the show-stopping chorus to “Came Out Of A Lady” that the audience members took with them onto Bowery.
Photos by Brandon Specktor